Tarheeltalker

A Bone to pick with Michael Wilbon

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I am a regular viewer of the ESPN show, Pardon the Interruption or PTI as it is known.The program is co-hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. The program consists of the aforementioned gentlemen good naturedly  arguing and/or discussing sports and sports related issues. I have long enjoyed the show and  in particular those times when their discussions meshed sports and non sports issues. Of course, there is an inherent risk in that approach.One could actually postulate on issues well beyond one’s expertise.

From my point of view that is exactly what took place on a segment that aired  on either Thursday or Friday of last week. The segment was set up with the question about what person one would like to see on a postage stamp. Mr Wilbon launched his answer with a boisterous comment that “stamps are irrelevant.”  At that point, I no longer  cared about the rest of their ” discussion” since Mr Wilbon had ( in my mind) cast aspersions on my profession.

As  a letter carrier, stamps are an integral part of what I do and I heard his statement as yet another example of  bashing the postal service and sort of dismissing us completely.  Dismissing the postal service dismisses its employees as well.

From my perspective, we are not  totally outmoded and outdated and ready for the scrap heap. Try this thought on for size. People often complain about so-called junk mail, particularly if it is unsolicited. There is an analogy in the internet world known as spam. Which of these two, if opened, can potentially ruin your computer and potentially compromise your identity? Hint, it isn’t a letter.

A more learned source puts it this way.  A recent study in the Journal of Marketing  discovered that mail  is the most effective means of direct advertising and is even considered less intrusive. Truly amazing, huh?

Just one last thought. This comes from  a recent Verizon commercial that actually  gave me  a warm feeling. A person dashes to their mailbox  at the end of the driveway and upon opening the door discovers a box from Verizon with their  eagerly  anticipated cellphone. It is hard to top the excitement of receiving that long-awaited or even expected letter or package in one’s mailbox. For me it sure beats that unexpected email.

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September 9, 2011 Posted by | Media | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Slowest Foot in “Sports”

Perhaps it is stretching the definition to call our subject a sport. But I have hard of many strange events falling under this  broad  umbrella and so will borrow the term for this post. What we shall discuss  has been occuring for 25 years so it has tradition on its side. Besides it takes place in a quaint English village known as Congham.  The little town  is located in the eastern part of the country and has a population of  less than 500 folks.

But inJuly  have the world championships of snail racing, an event which is theirs and theirs alone. Somehow, this strikes me as something Rick Reilly, late of Sports Illustrated and now with ESPN,  could include in his next book about unusual sporting events.

The latest champion in the world of  mollusks is Sydney who won the title on July 17 with a time of 3 Grapevine snailminutes,41 seconds. By the way, that  is for a distance of 13 inches. Lest you scoff, Sydney triumphed over a field of 200  of his molluskan challengers. Lest Sydney feel over-confident, he did not match the world record set by Archie in 1995, who set a slime laden pace of 2 minutes. Archie, you are the king  of the gastropods. May Sydney be forever delivered from National Escargot Day, celebrated every May 24th in these United States. Hope Sydney never hears about that!

September 3, 2010 Posted by | Culture | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Backwards, Forwards or Both?

We have at last left the oughts and entered the decade  of the  what, not teens yet. Let’s just call it pre-teens for now. So, we get not only year-end reviews, but end of  decade  reviews. Some actually  have been rather good.  I enjoyed Sports Illustrated’s  issue of the decade and montage that ESPN did this am. How quickly we forget things that make the news. Some of the all decade stuff seemed eons ago.Right now, Tiger Woods still makes headlines for sports and gossip mags.What will his wife do, when will he  play golf, what sponsor will drop him, next(AT&T being the latest) and with whom will they replace him?

What strikes me most is two things. One I have alluded to about the transitory  or near disposable nature of an event. Tiger will like that. Example,Charlie Sheen is arrested for alleged domestic abuse. another in a checkered career. Who cares, not his tv audience or his fans. The second and more compelling is how unpredictable the ” news” really is.

Look back at the decade at images that drew us. Of course, the 9/11 attacks come to the fore. What about the  death of Michael Jackson, or the election of an unknown , minority senator as President. Global warming now  dominates the news in many ways. Alas, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come and stayed.

What about the rise of Google, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook and the fall of General Motors and the worst recession in many a day.  No longer can one live without  a cell phone and  what you have no Ipod? What a heathen you must  be, me too.But what about those things that began the decade with us and are  still here. The intractable Middle East with its Arab-Israeli issue, how we relate to Russia and China and vice-versa. Those are still around but whatever happened to the doomsday of y2k?

So, another decade launches and those who purport to tell us with any certainty what will  happen should revisit a quote from  a former head of the  U S Patent Office who offered to resign since everything that could be invented had already been invented. His name was Charles Duell and the quote dates to 1899.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Culture, economy, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mikhail Prokhorov and Rush Limbaugh

What could our title subjects possibly have in common? Why, sports, of course. Prokhorov is the richest man in Russia, estimated worth is $9.5 billion and we all know who Limbaugh is, although not nearly that wealthy. Both are involved in efforts to buy professional sports franchises. Prokhorov is attempting to buy a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets while Limbaugh is involved in efforts to buy the St Louis Rams.

Who cares, except maybe fans of those teams or of the NBA or NFL? Why, for starters, the Rev Al Sharpton and the head of the NFL Players Association,DeMaurice Smith. Both of these individuals are opposed to the Limbaugh bid as are a number of NFL players, seven so it is said, none of whom have been named.

First caveat is that Limbaugh’s group is not the only one interested in the Rams. There are  at least  six other groups,including one that has African-American members;Donald Watkins and Dave Steward. Mr Smith is careful not to use the word racist in describing Limbaugh. He also says that the union does not have a say in potential ownership choices. He is encouraging players to speak their minds about this issue and other facets of the league’s  business. No problem with that. But wonder how often, players have expressed their feelings-pro or con- about a potential team owner?

Mr Smith, a Washington attorney, had some other comments in his e-mail.

“Our men are strong and  proud sons, fathers, spouses and I am proud when they stand up,understand this is their profession and speak with candor and blunt honesty about how they feel.”

“…sport is  at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer and  it transcends.Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and reject discrimination and hatred.”

Smith at no point makes any direct accusations against Limbaugh. Reading between the lines,to me at least, are strong inferences against him.

Now, stack up these quotes with comments by Stephen A Smith in  a  CNN    interview. This Smith is well familiar with sports fans for his ESPN work. The host, Christine Romans questions Smith about the  opposition to Limbaugh.

She asked him players allegedly taking a moral stand, implying they would not play a Limbaugh owned team because of comment she has made in the past that had racial overtones. Smith said, “They’re lying. Wasting my time….

If he has the dollars. he should be allowed to do it.It’s not like he’s ignorant to the game of football.The man knows football. He’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.Oh, you’re going to pass up money because …I’m offended by Rush Limbaugh being the owner? Who are you fooling? They’re liars.”

So, it is fine for a Russian billionaire to own a sports team, if he has the money? Sure, doesn’t  bother me. Not for Limbaugh, because he   is   allegedly racist and I mean allegedly?

Back to the head of the players union for a moment. He wants the players to speak their mind. What if several of them came  out publicly in favor of a Limbaugh bid? Would  he feel the same? Seems like  a fair question to me, a lot fairer than the rumor and speculation  about statements Limbaugh has never made.

One last comment which comes  a sports guy I really like. Michael Wilbon is the co-host with  Tony Kormheiser of ESPN’s PTI program and is  also a Washington Post columnist. He had this to say about Limbaugh after some of the initial reaction to his bid. “He is universally reviled by black people in this country and justifiably so.”  That is a comment from a guy who met Limbaugh at a Las Vegas golf tournament just as Limbaugh was beginning his  brief  ESPN tenure. One wonders if Wilbon had the same feelings then and if so, why did he not express them? Just a thought.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Media, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Kicking Off Basketball Season

Nothing like  a good mixed metaphor, is there not? Last night in Chapel Hill, 21,750 fortunate folks got to see some basketball royalty. There was  a Carolina alumni game to start the 100th season of Tar Heel hoops. They actually kept score and the Blue team beat the White team or vice versa. That is strictly a side issue. The fact that the  game  was played is a testament to the family that is Carolina basketball. The current keeper of the flame  and instigator of the marvelous idea for the game is of course Roy Williams. The godfather would have to be Dean Smith who alongwith Michael( New Naismith Hall of Fame member) Jordan got the loudest ovations of the night and deservedly so.

You had NBA   coaches  George Karl and John Kuester coaching the respective squads and Carlina Panther Julius Peppers who was in a basketball uniform but did not play.

Coach Williams said, “In my opinion, there’s no place in the country that could’ve don what we just did.” Viewing it through  a Carolina Blue filter, I will of course agree. Of course, unveiling the 2009 national Championship banner was pretty cool as was the addition of Jordan’s name to those Tar Heels already enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

And you have to feel good that the game proceeds which were significant went to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and the UNCChildren’sHospital. ESPN deigned to show grief highlights this am with a Vince Carter dunk being featured. Thanks to UNC alum Stuart Scott for getting that 100th season mention in there. Sure, basketball season has not officially started yet, but……..

Oh yes, the top ranked  women’s soccer team won at Notre Dame yesterday and that too is cause to celebrate.Oh, some guy named Hansbrough was also in the building. Not a bad day to be  a Heels fan.

September 5, 2009 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cell Phones Run Amok

What I shall relate in this post concerns 2 events that probably have very little in common, at least on the surface. But, upon further examination, ahh, that is another story indeed. These events involve St Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, arguably one of the greatest mangers in the game’s history and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, D, Tx.

We will begin with Mr Larussa. I was performing part of my morning ritual a day or so ago by watching ESPN to catch up on important stuff. Sports Center replays part of a post game news conference of Larussa’s. I guess this was at the beginning of  the session when his cell phone rings. He stops to answer and begins to carry on a  somewhat involved conversation of a moment or two, all while reporters and cameras are impatiently( I guess ) waiting. He calmly finishes the call, no rush at all. He then explains that it was a visiting relative from Tampa that he seldom sees and he was gonna take the call-period. The ESPN anchors were, astonishingly, almost speechless after showing the clip.

Event #2 was  a bit more serious. It took place at a town hall meeting hosted by Ms Jackson-Lee. In the midst of a person’s question, the Congresswoman’s cell phone rings. She takes the call, walks away from the mike and calmly finishes the call. Again, their is a perplexed questioner, an audience and cameras This time no explanation is given.

But , one brave soul, CNN’S  Rick Sanchez, tried in vain, in fact, tried repeatedly to have her explain her behavior, She ducked and dodged the question, somewhat adroitly for  a time. Finally, she said the video must have been doctored even though she also said she knew nothing about the video. Huh and double huh? Great article on Matthew Bolan’s NewsBusters Blog, complete with a You Tube video link. She basically seems to answer his question about her rudeness  to the questioner by being rude to him.

Well, I think I may have an answer for these some what bizarre actions. Their cell phones were out of control. They somehow went on autopilot and refused to be silenced. Or, they must and shall be answered. An example of how one day, cell phones will rule the world!

Wouldn’t you just love to know, in both instances, who was on the other line.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Media, Politics, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Should We Think About A-Rod?

There has  been an enormous amount of news  swirling around Alex Rodriguez of late.Imagine getting a divorce, a huge new contract and being linked romantically to Madonna. And then, all that is upstaged at once by that ugly little revelation of steroid use(after having previously denied it) from 2001-2003. Those nasty Sports Illustrated writers. Just cant leave things alone can they.

I will admit to some mixed feelings about all of this. Being a lifelong Yankees fan,I should immediately have leaped to his defense and strongly condemned the release of his name from a  list  of 104 players who were guilty. And, to a degree, I did that. Release all the names or none, I thought. But, here is baseball’s highest paid player on the most visible team in the sport and he plays in New York. All of those factors made it a viable news story. To  quote my old friend Super Chicken, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

Today, he arrived at spring training  and held a press conference at which he said he obtained  a substance  over the counter in the Dominican Republic with the assistance of his cousin. Sound good, no anger, no blame.Reactions, predictably,  are mixed.

I checked 2 ESPN reporters reactions. Jayson Stark thinks got a bit better but there are still more questions and  issues that need addressing and the issue is not closed. Buster Onley said and this interesting since he repeated this phrase several times. If this is all there is and there  are no revelations out there, then he did pretty well. Yankee GM Brian Cashman likened the situation, in a sense, to putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. As a Yankee fan and a baseball fan, I hope that the rehab for Rodriguez goes better than it did in the nursery rhyme.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Media, Sports | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back, Back , Back

With apologies to Chris Berman of ESPN, I ” borrow ” the above phrase to talk about a topic unrelated to sports- the humble art of backing a vehicle . Remembering the dusty past when I endured a painful experience with driver training, this skill has necessarily been the strongest part of my driving repertoire . My wife on the other hand has always been proficient at same, even to the point of employing the dreaded technique of parallel parking – something doubtless invented by someone who enjoys tormenting others . Anyway, in my current occupation, there is an interesting dichotomy on backing . Since my job requires driving , myself and my coworkers are enjoined ( correctly so, I must say ) to practice safe driving techniques and to be particularly wary of backing up . Dont do it if you can avoid it . However , when parking we are obliged to back into our parking places . So this of course requires backing at the least a few times every day . Although I by no means would rate my backing skills as highly qualified , I would consider them to be  above average , sufficiently so that I find myself more often than not backing into parking places at malls, church etc . Sidebar, I dont like to park near other vehicles when I can avoid it . Today , we arrived at church late and there being limited parking , I ended up backing into a space and sorta out loud congratulating myself . In a way that only she  can my wife responded to my self congratulatory statement with a ” just shows that old dogs can learn new tricks ” . Lacking a witty comeback, all I had was ” woof ” .

October 12, 2008 Posted by | Culture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment