Archive for January, 2011

Conference Championship Sunday

January 24, 2011

A few thoughts on yesterday’s football games and a look ahead to Super Bowl XLV.  John Clayton in analyzing the game gave Roethlisberger an advantage because Super Bowl balls tend to have more paint on them, making them slicker, and Ben has been in the rodeo twice before.  I promise to not get quite that precise!

The major topic of the past 28 or so hours has been Jay Cutler’s premature departure from yesterday’s NFC Championship Game with a lot of current and former players taking to Twitter and other modern media to throw him under the bus for quitting on his team.  Personally I think 90% of that is rubbish.  I realize we live in an era of instant analysis, but this analysis was without many facts to go on.  And what are we learning 24 hours later?  We are learning that Cutler and the training staff decided he could test the knee the opening drive of the 2nd half and that it failed the test.  We are learning today that the injury was an MCL Grade II tear.  I’m not a professional quarterback but I can imagine that a lack of stability in the knee would make the mechanics of throwing more problematic.  Based on that, it was the coaching and medical staffs, not Cutler, that made the decision to send in a substitute.  A lot of people have invoked Phillip Rivers playing the AFC Championship Game with a bad knee.  That performance was the week after the injury, after a surgery was performed on it, and the injury did cause him to miss the final quarter of the game the previous week.  Cutler was hurt during this game and will presumably go under the knife in the next few days.  With no upcoming games of vital importance we won’t know how soon he could’ve come back.  So lets not rush to judge too much.

One thing I will say about Cutler yesterday that did bother me was his non-involvement in the game after he left the field.  Why didn’t he have a headset on listening to the offensive coaches?  Why wasn’t he helping his replacement, especially when the decision was made to go with the seldom-used 3rd stringer?  He needs to make himself an offensive assistant, help the new guy look over the Polaroids and think through what he was seeing out there.  But I honestly think he didn’t play because he couldn’t.

As for the actual game the Packers missed any number of opportunities to make this game a laugher, but the Bears were usually too timid or too incompetent to take advantage of it.  I really was not a fan of Lovie Smith’s tactical decisions.  Twice the Bears punted from inside the 35 yard line, once from the 31!  Except for some specific end of game situations you simply DO NOT punt from your opponent’s 31 yard line.  If you don’t like the field goal of that length in that weather, you go for the 1st down.  A punt gains a mere 11 yards.  For all of that, the Bears might’ve pulled it out if not for the interception that prevented points at the end of the 1st half, and Hanie not seeing Raji drop back into coverage in the early 4th quarter.  Bottom line the game was great defense.

The Jets are historically and currently a slow starting team; yesterday was the 10th straight Jets postseason game where their opponent scored first.  Conversely, the Steelers have done well all season on their opening drive of the game.  What was surprising was how effective Pittsburgh was at running the ball in the 1st half.  People I talk to will know how much it drives me crazy to hear fans and experts talk about the need to get back to “Steeler football” meaning ground and pound.  The offensive line isn’t very good but we have a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback; why waste time running the ball?  Yesterday it was no waste of time.  Mendenhall was inspired and Ben got some important plays with his feet also.  The Steelers had 4 first half possessions not counting a kneel down the last few seconds; 2 touchdowns, 1 field goal, and 1 turnover on downs from inside the Jets 40 gray area.  Not bad at all.  As it turns out, though, the decisive play was probably the strip sack scoop score late in the first half.

The 2nd half was all New York.  Took the opening kickoff down for a score and didn’t let the Steelers score the entire half.  Obviously the drive that stalled at the goal line in the middle of the 4th quarter gets a lot of scrutiny.  First of all I’ve heard some like famous Jets fan Mike Greenburg question the pace of that drive, the consumption of time.  I frankly don’t understand why.  If that drive hits the end zone the Jets are within 7 points with half the 4th quarter remaining.  Absolutely no reason to be panicky about the clock.  One can certainly question the play calling in the goal to go sequence.  Even there, the 2nd down pass was catchable and the 3rd down pass was knocked down by good defense.  The 4th down call was rather bland for that good of a run defense, but the other plays made sense.

What I loved about the Steelers at the end of the game is they listened to Herm Edwards and played to win the game.  I texted a friend during the media timeout before the drive that they needed to throw the ball.  On 2nd down a pass to Heath Miller for a 1st down which forced the Jets to use their 2nd timeout to stop the clock with about 2:40 remaining.  Run the ball to eat the last timeout, then run the ball down to the 2 minute warning left 3rd & 6.  If Tomlin and Arians run the ball into the middle of the line and punt the Jets to 80 yards or more to go with roughly 65 seconds left, no timeouts, no one would question that.  Even if the Jets get the winning touchdown no one questions how that drive was finished.  I thought before the play that the roll out pass was the perfect play.  By passing for it, to paraphrase John Madden (he said this about going for the touchdown in overtime of the “Ghost to the Post” playoff game in Baltimore) you give yourself two chances to win.  Either you convert the 1st down and kill the clock or you punt and win with defense.  Running the ball again and punting, like kicking the field goal on 3rd down in overtime, gives yourself just one chance to win.  By rolling out, Ben was in position, if no one was open, to try to run for the 1st down.  If that wasn’t open either he can eat the ball to keep the clock running and punt.  Yes an incomplete pass stops the clock, but you are still giving your defense 80+ yards to play with, just with 1:45, and not 1:05, of game left.  As we know the pass worked the pride of Central Michigan made the big late game catch two weeks in a row, and the Steelers iced the game.

So now the Steelers will try to ascend the Stairway to 7 (not my bad pun) in Dallas against the Green Bay Packers.  Coach McCarthy is a Pittsburgh guy.  Ben’s March will be revisited ad nauseum.  Will Pouncey be able to play (he says yes, the book on high ankle sprains says no)?  To me this game comes down to Aaron Rodgers against the Steelers defense.  My working assumption is the Steelers will score some points on offense, but they won’t score at will; they’ll end up with something in the 20-24 range.  The Steelers defense is vulnerable to great passing quarterbacks.  The potential is there for Rodgers to do what he did against the Falcons, in which case the Steelers are probably screwed.  But if Lebeau’s men can craft a way to contain Rodgers then they have a good chance of winning.  With Christina Aguilera (national anthem) and The Black Eyed Peas (halftime) being the music, and the commercials having been a downward slide of late, we’ll be counting on the actual football to entertain.  Well, I always primarily look forward to the actual football, but that is just me.  Also, I’m sure Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will say something so damned corporate it drives me nuts, but at least we won’t have James Brown talking to the e-Trade baby like we did Sunday.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 17, 2011

May you have a harmonious and peaceful MLK Day.  Below is copied his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Published in:
King, Martin Luther Jr.

Championship Games Set

January 16, 2011

After another interesting weekend of NFL playoff action we know who will compete for trips to the Super Bowl on Championship Sunday (the best TV day of the year).  Both #6 seeds are still alive as both #1 seeds are 1-and-done.  Only 1 of the 4 games surprised me, which is a bit unusual.  Lets take a quick look at all 4 games from Divisional weekend.

Everyone knew going in that Ravens/Steelers would outscore the New England game, right?  Obviously the story of this game was turnovers.  I can only hope that Ramon Foster will be more aware to pick up a loose ball the next time it happens.  Great job by the Steelers to put that bad luck 2nd quarter behind them and play perhaps their best half of football all season in the 2nd half to beat Baltimore and remain undefeated all time in playoff games against teams in their division.  Specifically, that likely was Ryan Clarke’s best game, forcing a fumble from Ray Rice, who hadn’t lost a fumble all season, and later in the quarter making the interception when Flacco tried to force the ball into double coverage.  What this game came down to was the Ravens made many mistakes in the 2nd half and the Steelers made very few.  Trailing by 3 late in the 4th quarter Flacco hits Boldin for a go-ahead touchdown but he drops it and the Ravens have to take the tying field goal.  The Ravens defense then puts the Steelers in a 3rd & 19 just above the 2 minute warning, looking at a chance to get the ball back and try to drive for the winning field goal.  But they get beat by a high school play, just send a guy deep and throw it up.  If its intercepted its like a punt.  If its incomplete you punt, which you were going to do anyway.  But maybe it works.  It worked.  But the Ravens still had a chance after Mendenhall’s nifty run for the touchdown; on 4th & 19 the Steelers somehow let TJ get open 20 yards downfield, but he dropped a perfect pass.

I could be imagining things, but I could’ve swore the Atlanta Falcons had a defense?  Not Saturday night they didn’t.  To me, though, the play of the game was the last play of the 1st half.  10 seconds, no timeouts, edge of field goal range, the Falcons left their offense out there.  The Packers defense knew it had to be an out route, get a few extra yards for the field goal.  Then the Falcons inexplicably had Ryan roll out (I guess to lessen the chance of getting sacked?), which then told the Packers which sideline the pass was coming to.  Jump the route, house it, 14 point lead at halftime, take 2nd half kickoff drive the field house it 21 point lead.  Ballgame.

Seattle lost today because they aren’t as good as the Chicago Bears.  But I still have two plays by the Seahawks that I question.  Down 7-0, 1st quarter, 4th & 1 at the Bears 40, knowing that you are the prohibitive underdog and you’ll need to make more plays, why not go for that 1st down?  You had some momentum, pick up that conversion, get some points, get yourself in the game.  I guess maybe they started believing a bit too much that they were a good team and not a 7-9 team.  Fast forward about 2 hours.  Down 28-0 facing a 4th down in the red zone why are you kicking a field goal?  Still leaves you down 4 scores.  Being very theoretical give Seattle a touchdown on that drive and zoom forward and the score is 35-28 with Seattle trying an onside kick in the final 2 minutes of the game.  Just sayin’.

Like the Seahawks against the Saints last week, every time the Jets did something wrong, like missing a field goal after the early interception or several other plays, I kept thinking “okay, the Patriots have them now.  New England will win this game and I’ll be on my blog blaming the Jets for doing this, this, and this wrong when they had a chance.”  But a funny thing happened on the way to that paragraph.  The Jets won.  New England was clearly not as sharp as they were 6 weeks ago.  Brady threw behind Branch on a key 4th down play late in the 4th quarter (I just criticized Tom Brady to fill a void that I’m sure will be left by the MSM.  Brady has now lost 3 straight playoff games, 2 of them at home.  Just sayin’).  A fake punt on your side of midfield in the last 2 minutes of the first half which failed and let the Jets lead by 11 instead of 4 at the break?  But most of the story is on the Jets side of the ball.  The defense never let the Patriots hit the big play, and most of the time they found a way to get off the field before points were scored.  The Jets offense didn’t turn the ball over.  Sanchez didn’t hit every throw, but he hit enough throws, and he hit the important throws.  Most importantly, when the Patriots got an 8 point TD to cut the score to 14-11 at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Jets responded.  They went down the field and got the TD back on a great catch by Santonio “Robert Horry” Holmes in the end zone (credit to someone on Twitter for the nickname).

So now we have two 6 v 2 matchups for the the Halas and Hunt trophies.  Green Bay at Chicago will be at 3pm on Fox and New York at Pittsburgh at 6:40pm on CBS.  I’m sure most people will pick the Packers in the early game.  I am not going to disagree, but I would ask people to remember that, while the Bears “tried” to win the game in Week 17 they did not have the same level of motivation as did the Packers.  They will this Sunday.  I think it safe to say neither team will have the point output they had this past weekend.  As for the nightcap its hard for me to separate heart and head where the Steelers are concerned.  I will say that yes they lost at home a month ago to the Jets, but I think that was the Jets best performance until earlier this evening, maybe even including.  Also I would remind that the Steelers didn’t have Polamalu in that game.  I was rooting for the Jets today because I thought that was more winnable than going to Foxboro.  But certainly not easy.

OHSAA Considers New Formula for Tournament Divisions

January 13, 2011

This is a proposal at this point and will be submitted to the member schools for a vote this spring (from ohsaa.org):

OHSAA Board of Directors Tackles Competitive
Balance Concerns
Referendum Issue is First Step in Possible Changes on How Schools are
Placed Into Tournament Divisions
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Acting on a recommendation from the Ohio High School Athletic Association
(OHSAA) Competitive Balance Committee, the OHSAA Board of Directors today unanimously placed a
new bylaw up for vote of the OHSAA membership that would be the first step toward possible changes on
how schools are assigned to tournament divisions. The proposed new bylaw, which will be voted upon by
OHSAA member schools during the annual referendum voting process in May, states that “each school
shall be placed into tournament divisions based on its sport-by-sport athletic count.” Schools would not be
separated into tournaments for public schools and non-public schools, nor would a “multiplier” be applied to
non-public schools to increase their enrollment, which a few other states utilize. Rather, the enrollment
numbers for all schools (both public and non-public) would be entered into a three-part formula to establish
their “athletic count.”
The proposed bylaw goes on to say that the formula for determining “athletic counts” and to which
sports the athletic counts shall be applied will be determined every other year by the Board of Directors and
will be listed in the OHSAA’s General Sports Regulations. If approved, implementation of the new formula
would begin no later than the 2013-14 school year. In addition, a standing committee would be formed to
monitor the effectiveness of the athletic count formula and to recommend to the Board of Directors any
changes in the weight to be given to any one or more of the factors in the formula.
At the present time, all schools are placed into tournament divisions based strictly on enrollment
figures that the schools submit to the Ohio Department of Education. The proposed three-part formula to
establish athletic counts would require the OHSAA to also include a school boundary factor (how
students are obtained – non-public schools with no boundaries; non-public schools with limited boundaries;
public schools with statewide open enrollment; public schools with adjacent open enrollment, and public
schools with no open enrollment), a socioeconomic factor (the number of free lunch participants) and a
tradition factor (state championship game appearances, state tournament appearances and regional
finals appearances). The school boundary and tradition factors could increase a school’s enrollment while
— more —
OHSAA Board of Directors Action -2-2-2
the socioeconomic factor could decrease a school’s enrollment. The tradition factor is the only one of the
three that would be implemented on a sport-by-sport basis. Once all three factors are applied to the
enrollment count, each school will have a sport-by-sport “athletic count” for purposes of tournament division
assignments.
“The issue of competitive balance has been discussed for years not only in Ohio but also in other
states,” said OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross, Ph. D. “Ohio is unique in that our public schools have
the option to approve open enrollment policies, but, at the same time, there’s no question that most nonpublic
schools in the state have no geographical boundaries in which they can secure students and the
result has been a disproportionate number of championships won by those schools.
“The meetings we have conducted with the Competitive Balance Committee have been both
productive and professional, and I believe the proposal from the group is fair and equitable and we will see
some leveling of the playing field.
“Competitive balance is a complex issue,” Ross continued. “The formula recommended by the
committee is not as complex as it sounds, nor is it as complex as any of the viable alternatives and the
unintended consequences of those alternatives.”
The Board’s current plan is to propose that athletic counts only be utilized in the sports of football,
soccer and volleyball in the fall; basketball in the winter, and baseball and softball in the spring.
Consideration will be given to add other sports in the future.
The OHSAA Competitive Balance Committee was formed in January 2010 in response to concerns
raised by a group of school administrators in northeast Ohio who conducted a study that showed that 43
percent (146 of 340) of the state championships in selected team sports between 1999 and 2010 have
been won by non-public schools, even though non-public schools make up only 17 percent of the total
membership of the OHSAA. The OHSAA Competitive Balance Committee met numerous times throughout
2010 in an attempt to identify competitive balance factors and to propose changes that would bring the
competitive inequities into balance. The Committee was comprised of 29 school administrators and
coaches from across the state from public and non-public schools both large and small along with members
of the OHSAA Board of Directors and administrative staff and representatives from both the state
superintendents and state principals associations.
In the near future, the OHSAA will place on its website examples of how the athletic count formula
could look when applied.

I think its a laudable goal to try and make the divisions more “fair” than simply dividing the schools into x number of equal sized chunks based soley on enrollment figures.  But I would be curious to see the exact formulas.  While I can see the utility of a socioeconomic formula or a competitive history formula I would hope they carry less weight than the enrollment status of the school, especially the competitive history formula.  My alma mater, East Liverpool, was state runner-up in baseball in 1969; do we get pushed into a larger division because of a randomly good ball club my parents’ senior year?  I think it would be useful to only use more recent history, say the past 10 years or so.  Of course, its a give that 4 teams will make the state semifinals, and 8 teams the Regional finals in a given year in a given sport in a given division.  A school might have a group of kids that are really good at, say, volleyball, and then they graduate, and then the next biannual determination of divisions rolls around and a group of kids that aren’t nearly as good at digging and setting is bumped into a higher division.  So that formula could cause unintended consequences.

The socioeconomic factor certainly makes sense.  A public school in, say, Upper Arlington, has obvious advantages on a public school of the same size in Cleveland public.  But again if this formula is too strong it can create unintended consequences.

The school boundary formula is another way of weighting private schools without coming out and saying they are weighting private schools.  Mind you, I’m not saying its a bad thing to weight things.  I think it manifestly obvious the advantages of being able to recruit kids (and trust me, it happens, I think that point is beyond argument) as opposed to simply playing the hand your dealt in terms of student body talent pool.  Again, however, you don’t want to make the formula too strong.  There are certainly seasons where Youngstown Ursuline football can compete with anyone.  The same is not true of, say, Steubenville Catholic Central.

Bottom line is I am not opposed to this proposal.  I suspect, however, that the devil is in the details.

Media Matters Fox News Aiding Republicans Who Want to be POTUS

January 9, 2011

Below is a re-posting of an email from Media Matters for America:

Media Matters: Fox’s 2012 GOP Influence

In a November ad for their special series “Fox News Reporting: The Challengers for 2012,” Fox News promised “unrivaled access” to “the GOP’s top White House contenders.” Such access, however, isn’t hard when correspondents just have to walk down the hall.

That Fox News helps Republicans get their message across to their conservative base — long documented and publicly acknowledged by Republican officials — is nothing new. But what’s unprecedented is the level of influence one news organization can exert on a party’s presidential primary, and the rest of the media’s coverage of that primary, by simple fact of who is on its payroll.

Fox News employs five Republicans considering runs for the GOP nomination: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and John Bolton. All five regularly appear on the network through exclusive contracts and all five have used their employment to position themselves for their respective runs.

Take the cases of Rick Santorum and John Bolton — two potential candidates who have so little chance of winning the nomination that Fox didn’t even include them in their twelve challenger profiles.

Both would largely be out of the public spotlight if not for their Fox News contracts, yet Santorum — who lost his Senate seat to Bob Casey (D-PA) by 17 points in 2006 — has appeared on the Fox programs America’s Nightly Scoreboard (twice), America’s Newsroom (twice), The Willis Report (twice), America Live, On the Record (twice) and Varney & Company (twice, as a “special guest”) in the past two weeks.

During the same time, Bolton has appeared as a foreign policy and national security expert on America’s News HQ (where he has a regular weekly slot), Follow The Money, America’s Newsroom (twice), America Live, Fox & Friends, Hannity, On the Record, and Varney & Company (as a “special guest”!).

On the other side of the spectrum is Sarah Palin, who has little trouble attracting attention. But as her TLC program and public comments indicate, Palin prefers a certain type of attention in which she can tightly control the messaging. It’s no wonder then that her media appearances have mostly come within the friendly confines of Fox News, where she can pass on debunked theories and pal around with conservative opinion makers like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

After leaving public office in disgrace, Newt Gingrich signed his “first television deal since leaving Congress” with Fox News in 1999. Since then, Fox News has treated him like royalty during his attempted rehabilitation. Gingrich has hosted Fox News Specials on college costs, religion, international gangs and bird flu (yes, bird flu). On one day in 2009, Fox dispatched a reporter to provide round-the-clock coverage to a Gingrich-convened “Jobs Summit.” Last year, during a typical softball interview, a Fox “straight news” program directed viewers to Gingrich’s GOP tour and website.

Mike Huckabee is the only Fox candidate with a regularly scheduled show, the weekend talker Huckabee. Huckabee’s show has always been closely tied to his political machine: the show was first announced in a statement posted on his political action committee and, according to the New York Post (via Nexis), “not, as is customary, from the network.”

Since then, Huckabee has unsurprisingly used his program to position himself for a potential political run. The former Arkansas governor has used Fox News’ airwaves to grow his PAC and email lists directly (he touted the address of an email catcher website run by his PAC) and indirectly, through regular solicitations to give “feedback” to MikeHuckabee.com, which conveniently links to his PAC and an email signup page. Huckabee has also used his program’s guest list as an extension of his PAC.

But why wouldn’t Huckabee run? Again, Fox News’ influence comes into play.

In November 2009, Huckabee remarked on Fox News Sunday that if he doesn’t run for president, it’s because “this Fox gig I got right now” is “really, really wonderful.” Last month, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote that there’s “growing buzz” that Huckabee “may not run because he’s got a big new contract with Fox News in the works” (a Huckabee aide responded that there were no Fox talks). Financial considerations could also come into play for Palin, who reportedly makes $1 million a year with Fox News.

According to Politico, Fox “indicated that once any of the candidates declares for the presidency he or she will have to sever the deal with the network.” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos noted that the Fox candidates may actually delay their announcements to reap the benefits of the Fox cocoon for as long as possible. Reporter Claire Shipman replied that Fox’s “very healthy platform” allows the Fox candidates to keep visible without spending money early.

The potential delay of their “official” announcements means that the Fox candidates can also compile staff and resources while still cashing a paycheck.

Huckabee, Palin and Gingrich have Fox-promoted groups ready to convert to campaign mode if each chooses to run. Santorum has already hired a staff member (for his PAC) in the important primary state of New Hampshire and, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader, is “expected to formally” announce “in the spring.” And Bolton is reportedly “very serious about a presidential bid and has begun to speak with potential staff.”

During this non-“official” period, the Fox candidates can also cite their Fox contract as a reason to decline appearances on other news organizations who may offer a tougher environment than Fox (a low bar). Indeed, Politico reported that “C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox’s permission — which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences.”

Fox’s 2012 situation has a parallel in something that happened in the 2010 midterms with former Fox News host and contributor John Kasich.

After leaving Congress in 2001, Kasich openly considered running for higher public office and joined Fox News to keep himself in public view. A former Kasich pollster told the Columbus Dispatch in 2002 that Kasich was “leaving himself in a position so that if something happens, he is as well-situated as somebody else.”

On March 27, 2008, the Dispatch reported that Kasich announced “he is paving the way now for a gubernatorial bid” and quoted Kasich stating: “I’m going to go forward even more aggressively, and we’re going to continue to ramp it up (for a gubernatorial run).” But Fox News didn’t take him off the air — presumably because he still hadn’t “officially” announced his candidacy — and by the time he formally announced his bid on June 1, 2009, Kasich had logged more than 100 Fox News segments as a guest host or contributor.

In a column last November, Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race author Dick Morris wrote that the “GOP primaries of 12 will be held on Fox News. … we will see all the candidates on Fox News. Not just in debates, but in frequent appearances on the opinion and news shows on the network.” For once, it seems Morris is right.

Jim Joyce

January 8, 2011

Excellent espn.com feature article on Jim Joyce, the umpire whose blown call cost a Tigers pitcher a perfect game last June:  http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5993137

NFL Playoff Thoughts

January 8, 2011

In less than 3 hours time the 2011 NFL Playoffs will have their lid-lifter in Seattle.  A few semi-random thoughts and predictions.

It would not shock me at all to see all 4 road teams win on Wildcard Weekend with Indianapolis and Philadelphia being the home teams more likely to succeed.  Even with New Orleans figuring to not have much, if any, of a running game, having the defending champs play a 7-9 team looks like a mismatch, even given Seattle’s 12th man advantage plus having a dome team play in the chill and damp of January Seattle.  Its just really hard to conceptualize the Seahawks winning this game.  The night game tonight I can truly see going either way.  Both the Colts and Jets had a shaky November only to rebound with strong Decembers, especially Indy.  I expect the battle between the Jets defense and Peyton Manning to be about a push with the Colts scoring roughly 20 points.  The question in my mind is if Sanchez and the Jets offense can outscore that.  I am going to guess they do.

Sunday afternoon will see the Ravens visit upstart Kansas City.  I just can’t help but look at this as Baltimore being the better team all the way around, and the Chiefs also dealing with the distraction of the news that Charlie Weis is leaving at the end of the season to take the same job with the Florida Gators.  Look for Weis to be in Gainesville Monday.  A month ago everyone in their right mind would have said the Eagles would handle the Packers with no problem.  But except for the last 6 minutes of the New York game the Eagles did not play very well at all in the last 2 games they were trying to win.  And I realize you can say what if with a lot of teams but I’ll say it about the Eagles; if they lose that Giants game, even if they beat Dallas in Week 17 because they cared about the game, they miss the playoffs.  The Giants would win the division at 11-5, putting the Eagles in the wildcard mix at 10-6.  They lose said tiebreaker with Green Bay and Tampa Bay.  As for the Packers, even though it was a loss, coming as close to beating New England with Matt Flynn at quarterback seems to’ve given them a ton of confidence and they won what was in essence for them 2 playoff games the last two weeks of the season.  I like the Packers here.

If those picks are right it means divisional weekend would be Baltimore @ Pittsburgh, Green Bay @ Atlanta, New Orleans @ Chicago, and New York @ New England.  The stat the past few seasons is that the Steelers beat the Ravens if Roethlisberger plays, and lose to the Ravens if he does not.  The balanced football the Steelers have been playing I think they are in good shape to win the Divisional round game against any possible opponent (Indy, KC, or Baltimore).  Green Bay at Atlanta would be a good game if it does happen, and I think I have to favor the steady Falcons offense of Matty Ice to get it done.  Allow me to join the list of people that are not sold on the Chicago Bears; I see the Saints getting consistent pressure on Cutler and scoring enough on the Bears defense to win.  If the Bears did somehow win the Super Bowl they would have to be the worst championship offensive line of the Super Bowl era, even worse than the Steelers of two years ago.  But the only possible Division round matchup I would like the Bears in would be against Seattle.  The Jets wouldn’t get beat as bad by the Patriots as they did a few weeks ago, but the Patriots are playing very sound football since their early November loss to Cleveland and I can’t imagine they would lose to New York at Gillette Stadium right now.

That would set up New Orleans at Atlanta and Pittsburgh at New England in the conference championship games.  In Atlanta the Saints could finally be running into a team good enough that the lack of a running game is a problem.  Advantage Falcons.  While the Steelers are certainly capable of beating New England; they have been playing better of late than they were in mid-November when the Pats handled them, its still certainly true that New England is a bad matchup for the Steelers defense.  Also, I have no doubt in my mind that if the game were close, the Patriots would get the call from the refs late in the game.  James Harrison would get flagged for being near Brady, a Steeler drive would not get a deserved flag for roughing Ben, something would happen in New England’s favor.  Call it fatalism, call it me being permanently scarred by the raw deal the Steelers got during the Oakland to at Baltimore corridor of their schedule, but its my working assumption.

Which leaves a Super Bowl of New England vs Atlanta.  As much as it gags me to say this, Brady/Belichik get their 4th rings and tie Bradshaw/Noll but get a lot more love than Bradshaw/Noll ever get.

Final NFL Standings and Playoff Schedule

January 3, 2011

Here are the final standings.  Below each conference I will put that conference’s complete playoff schedule.  Keep in mind that the Pro Bowl will be Sunday January 30th at 7pm and that Super Bowl XLV is Sunday February 6th at 6:25pm.  As usual we’ll start in the AFC.

1. New England (14-2)

2. Pittsburgh (12-4) (tiebreaker for North title on Baltimore record in division games)

3. Indianapolis (10-6) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Kansas City)

4. Kansas City

5. Baltimore (12-4)

6. New York (11-5)

7. San Diego (9-7)

8. Jacksonville (8-8) (head-to-head on Oakland)

9. Oakland

10. Miami (7-9)

11. Houston (6-10) (division record on Tennessee)

12. Tennessee

13. Cleveland (5-11)

14. Denver (4-12) (strength of victory tiebreaker on Cincinnati & Buffalo)

15. Buffalo (head-to-head tiebreaker on Cincinnati)

16. Cincinnati

AFC PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

6. New York @ 3. Indianapolis Saturday January 8th at 8pm NBC

5. Baltimore @ 4. Kansas City Sunday January 9th at 1pm CBS

Highest WC winning seed @ 2. Pittsburgh Saturday January 15th 4:30pm CBS

Lowest WC winning seed @ 1. New England Sunday January 16th 4:30pm CBS

Lower seed @ higher seed Sunday January 23rd 6:30pm CBS

As it turns out Baltimore lost the North division back in September when they lost at Cincinnati, causing a worse division record (4-2) than what Pittsburgh ended up with (5-1).  Basically, the bad luck of playing the Bengals when they started the season 2-1 and not during their 10 game losing streak.  On the other hand, the ranking of the two wildcard teams was determined back on the first Monday night of the season when the Ravens beat the Jets.  Kansas City won the West division despite going 2-4 in division games and only 6-6 in all conference games; they took care of business against the NFC West whereas everyone else took at least one loss in cross-conference play.  Oakland became the first team since the merger (1970) to miss the playoffs despite going undefeated in division games.  Oakland lost all 6 conference games played outside the division and went only 2-2 against the NFC West.  Also impressively, if that is the right word, Miami went 6-2 in road games but missed the playoffs by a substantial margin due to going only 1-7 at home.

And the NFC:

1. Atlanta (13-3)

2. Chicago (11-5)

3. Philadelphia (10-6) (division record tiebreaker on New York)

4. Seattle (7-9) (division record tiebreaker on St. Louis)

5. New Orleans (11-5)

6. Green Bay (10-6) (strength of victory tiebreaker on New York and Tampa)

7. New York (record in common games tiebreaker on Tampa)

8. Tampa

9. St. Louis (7-9)

10. Detroit (6-10) (division record tiebreaker on Minnesota; conference record on Dallas <ranked ahead of Washington within division on record in division games> and San Francisco)

11. Minnesota (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco)

12. San Francisco (record in common games with Dallas)

13. Dallas

14. Washington

15. Arizona (5-11)

16. Carolina (2-14)

NFC PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

5. New Orleans @ 4. Seattle Saturday January 8th 4:30pm NBC

6. Green Bay @ 3. Philadelphia Sunday January 9th 4:30pm Fox

Lowest WC winning seed @ 1. Atlanta Saturday January 15th 8pm Fox

Highest WC winning seed @ 2. Chicago Sunday January 16th 1pm Fox

lower seed @ higher seed Sunday January 23rd 3pm Fox

Obviously the topic du jour is Seattle being the first team in NFL history in a non-strike shortened season to make the playoffs with a losing record.  Then add to that they will get a home game against New Orleans, a full 4 games better record, because they qualified by winning their division.  I have not weighed in publicly on this topic over the past few weeks, but it has long been my feeling that division winners should make the playoffs regardless of record.  However, I would like to see a system where the teams are seeded based on record (one could use division champion status as a tiebreaker with teams at the same record).  In other words, let Seattle in but seed them 6th and send them on the road.  But that is not the system we have and now the Saints will try and contend with the “12th Man” in the Pacific Northwest Saturday afternoon.  Of course, those that lobby for leaving the Seahawks out entirely can look at the fact two teams with 10 wins are left out of the playoffs entirely.  The NFC had 7 “good” teams, basically, and then little mediocrity, as no one finished 9-7 or 8-8, and only the Seahawks and Rams finished 7-9.  Fully 9 of the 16 teams in the conference finished either 10-6 or 6-10.  Tampa missed on having weak tiebreakers and that Week 17 against New Orleans was the only time all season they beat a “good” team.  However, what really kept them out was losing a home game late season to Detroit; if they beat the Lions they are 11-5 and in the playoffs.  Carolina was the only team in the NFL to fail to win a division game.  San Francisco, like their Bay Area brethren, miss the playoffs despite doing well in division games.  The 49ers, like the Raiders, went 0-6 in non-division conference games, and in the case of San Fran that included a loss to lowly Carolina.  Theoretically, if they beat the Panthers and you change nothing else, the 49ers are the team that wins that division.

What I would like to conclude this blog post with is a piece of supposition.  What I will do is rank each conference purely based on record but using the same tiebreaking rules used to rank the division winners 1-4 and the rest of the conference 5-16 currently.  It might make for some interesting food for thought.  We’ll start with the AFC.

1. New England (14-2)

2. Pittsburgh (12-4) (divisional tiebreaker on Baltimore)

3. Baltimore

4. New York (11-5)

5. Indianapolis (10-6) (head-to-head on Kansas City)

6. Kansas City

7. San Diego (9-7)

8. Jacksonville (8-8) (head-to-head on Oakland)

9. Oakland

10. Miami (7-9)

11. Houston (6-10) (division record on Tennessee)

12. Tennessee

13. Cleveland (5-11)

14. Denver (4-12) (strength of victory tiebreaker on Cincinnati & Buffalo)

15. Buffalo (head-to-head tiebreaker on Cincinnati)

16. Cincinnati

As you can see it moved the wildcards into the home on wildcard weekend positions but nothing else changed.  Lets check the NFC

1. Atlanta (13-3)

2. New Orleans (11-5) (conference record on Chicago)

3. Chicago

4. Green Bay (10-6) (conference record on Philadelphia <division record tiebreaker on New York>, record in common games on Tampa

5. Tampa (conference record on Philadelphia)

6. Philadelphia

7. New York

8. Seattle (7-9) (divisional record on St. Louis)

9. St. Louis (7-9)

10. Detroit (6-10) (division record tiebreaker on Minnesota; conference record on Dallas <ranked ahead of Washington within division on record in division games> and San Francisco)

11. Minnesota (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco)

12. San Francisco (record in common games with Dallas)

13. Dallas

14. Washington

15. Arizona (5-11)

16. Carolina (2-14)

A little illustration of the importance of achieving the higher ranking in your division.  The Giants have tiebreaking advantage on Tampa but they don’t get to use it because they are behind the Eagles and the Eagles lose their tie with Tampa.  Or, we could go with what I suggested above and use division title as a tiebreaker and guaranteed playoff entry:

1. Atlanta (13-3)

2. Chicago (11-5) (division title status on New Orleans)

3. New Orleans

4. Philadelphia (10-6) (divisional record tiebreaker on New York; division title status on Green Bay and Tampa)

5. Green Bay (strength of victory tiebreaker on New York and Tampa)

6. Seattle (7-9) (division title status)

7. New York (record in common games tiebreaker on Tampa)

8. Tampa

9. St. Louis (7-9)

10. Detroit (6-10) (division record tiebreaker on Minnesota; conference record on Dallas <ranked ahead of Washington within division on record in division games> and San Francisco)

11. Minnesota (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco)

12. San Francisco (record in common games with Dallas)

13. Dallas

14. Washington

15. Arizona (5-11)

16. Carolina (2-14)

Bottom line is: methodology matters!  Enjoy the playoffs!