Saturday, January 25, 2014

Suits and Sneakers Weekend Has Hoops Fans Seeing Pink

As part of the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer  project, many college basketball teams are wearing pink on Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend. While some squads will simply be sporting pink shoes, Marquette's mens' basketball team is all in with vibrant pink uniforms.

It's a good thing that Marquette is playing at home against Villinova, I'm just saying...  Marquette Senior Forward Jamil Wilson's mother had cancer so participating in this ACS effort has special meaning  for him.

While I won't rush out to get commemorative alternate jerseys, the program has raised $87 million for raising awareness of ACS services and promotes how good nutrition and physical activity can reduce cancer risks since 2012..

At least these aesthetic outlier uniforms have more meaning than Ralph Lauren's hideous haute couture for Team USA in the Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Team USA-- Uniformly Ugly in Sochi?

Get a load of the Ralph Lauren designed uniforms for Team USA to wear for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Ralph Lauren designed 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies  uniform

Something seems to have gotten lost in the transition from Ralph Lauren's design studios in New York to the production facility at the Carver's ranch in Bend, Oregon.  The busy design from Ralph Lauren exterior outfit looks reminiscent to the ugly sweater which an aunt gives you for Christmas.

Ralph Lauren designed "Team USA" sweaters for 2014 Winter Olympics 

It is curious that the sweater does not proclaim Team USA but instead Polo?  Are  polo matches part of the Winter Olympiad (sic)?   Obviously, Ralph Lauren is branding his product without regards to promoting Team USA. 

It is sad to see that Jessie Vetter, the Goaltender for the USA's Women's Hockey Team, was forced to alter her mask to not advertise yet Ralph Lauren can shamelessly brand his ugly uniforms during the opening ceremonies.  

Team USA Womens' Hockey Goaltender Jessie Vetter  and her prohibited goaltender's mask 

 Vetter planned to wear a mask designed by Ron Slater which included her surname as well as a prominent graphic of the Constitution's opening proclamation:  "We the People".  The name was prohibited in the spirit of teamwork.  The objection to "We the People" stems from the International Olympic Committee,  as Rule 50 does not allow for wording on uniforms for any Olympic competition uniforms.  Vetter's helmet was allowed to keep the a depiction of the Statue of Liberty, a screaming bald eagle and a USA shield. 

If there is any redeeming virtue from the Team USA Olympic Opening Ceremonies uniforms, at least they are produced in the USA.

In my estimation, the only way these uniforms could be worse is if it incorporated meggings .  But based upon these Opening Ceremonies uniforms, the United States may be accused of winning ugly.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Barack Obama on Football

President Barack Obama gave an extended interview to David Remnick of the New Yorker.  Commenting on the Miami Dolphins-Carolina Panthers game in the background on Air Force One, The President responded to a question concerning the controversy over concussions and football by conceding that he would not let his son play pro football. Mr. Obama  is a big sports fan thus he  begrudgingly blessed other playing pro football as he chewed on some Nicorette gum. 

Two curiosities about Mr. Obama's throwaway football comments.  Firstly, Barack Obama does not have a son, despite demogoging that his son would look like Travon Martin during the George Zimmerman trial.  Secondly, Mr. Obama tried to cast aspersions about individuals accepting risk, like smokers and football players.  

Obama's risk acceptance analogy is tenuous .   Daniel Flynn's recent book "The War on Football: Saving America's Sport" debunks the supposedly unique cranial dangers of football.  Statistically, cheerleaders are more prone to concussions than football players.  Moreover, science can not make a causal connection between football and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).  This factual discrepancy could be cured if one were both intellectually curious as well as being intellectually honest.

But if President Obama honestly felt that people should be free to do what they choose, as long as they understand the risks--then why are almost all Americans being forced into Obamacare approved health plans? Perhaps the Little Sisters of the Poor do not need and feel morally compelled to not pay for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients?   They must comply or they risk ruinous fines unless they comply.  

The other odd phenomenon is Mr. Obama's persistent allusions to a hypothetical scion.  Having an imaginary friend is a trait which most people grow out of in  adolescence . However, Harry Reid has justified Obamacare and the Senate Majority Leader smeared GOP Presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) based on the word of an unseen friend. 

Dennis Miller had a more charitable tongue-in-cheek  take on Barack Obama's football prohibition for his "son".

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Puckish Providence Church Sign Affirms New England Independence

Today is Championship Sunday, when the NFC and the AFC determines which teams go on to the Superbowl XVIII at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on February 2nd, 2014.

Ordinarily, football fans have regional loyalties which almost rival religious affiliation.  The Boston Patriots changed their name to the New England Patriots when the AFC team moved to a new stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (32 miles from the Hub) in 1971 to embrace all of New England.  The Patriots string of Superbowl championships in 2001, 2003 and 2004 under the helm of  Coach Bill Belichick and the leadership of Quarterback Tom Brady has solidified Patriots fans for many years. 

Thus it was surprising to see this photograph of the First Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island (20 miles from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough). 

While this church sign was almost certainly put up by a puckish football contrarian, it does elicit some further thought.  The dedication to Roger Williams, the religious leader who founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is significant.  Roger Williams is also well known for the notion that soul liberty and freedom of conscience were gifts from God, and that everyone had the natural right to freedom of religion.   Williams left England and parted ways from the Puritans in  Plymouth Colony in 1634  to not submit to state religion. 

Howard Cosell likened American football fanaticism to being like a secular religion.  The First Baptist Church "sign master" mirrored Roger Williams rejection of state compelled belief in rooting for the Broncos. 

There is no word about the First Baptist Church of Providence's job status at this time.

Sochi Cool Runnings?

The Jamaica Bobsled team of Winston Watts and Melvin Dixon has qualified to participate in the XXII Winter Olympics, but it is still questionable if there will be Cool Runnings (1993) in Sochi, Russian Federation.

Jamaican Bobsled Team of Winston Watts and Melvin Dixon 

Thirty teams can qualify for the Olympics but only 26 teams are guaranteed a spot.  There is some concern that the official Sochi Olympics Twitter page posted that Jamaica had qualified but then deleted the post.

More pressing is the question of finance. Jamaica had to tried to field competitors in 2006 and 2010 in the Bobsled due to lack of funding.  The Jamaican Olympic Association has not given the bobsled team financial support.  Winston Watts has been self funding the team to the tune of $164,000 for the last couple of years, but is looking to outside donations as a trip to Russia looms.   They are hoping to raise $40,000 on PayPal to cover travel and new equipment expenses to get to the Sochi Winter Olympics. Watts indicated: "Right now, we're at zero."

This would not be Jamaica's first time in Olympic bobsled.  In 1988, Jaimaica's unlikely qualifying for the Calgary Olympics is not remembered for their placement after an accident but their spirit in wanting to still cross the finish line.

Jamaica competed in the Albertville (France) games in 1992 but finished poorly.  However at the Lillehammer (Norway) Olympics in 1994, the Jamaicans placed 14th , finishing ahead of the United States, Russia, Australia, France and two crews from Canada.

It is easy to see the Olympics as being the pinnacle of international sporting competition where the best in the world are awarded laurels.  Now that the Olympics are not reserved only for "amateur" athletes, the National Hockey League takes a two week regular season hiatus so their players can compete for their home nations' teams.

While there is much emphasis placed on positioning oneself to win,  as the US Women's Figure Skating Team invited Ashley Wagner, who finished fourth in the 2014 US Nationals, over third place finisher Mirai Nagasu as the USFSA believed the team would be more competitive.

But sometimes just being able to compete and represent is victory enough, as can be seen in the Jamaican Bobsled team. May seem compelled to further Winston Watts and Melvin Dixon's dreams, since the website where one can contribute has crashed due to overcapacity.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pelosi Fool's Gold on '49ers Fandom

During House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th) weekly press availability, she steered the colloquy to sports in order to inject some hometown boosterism in anticipation of the San Francisco '49ers NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks.

 To prove her '49ers bona fides, Pelosi showed off her "14" charm which supposedly in honor of '49ers great Joe Montana.


The problem is that Joe Montana wore the number "16" when he played in the City by the Bay.

 Perhaps it is a good thing that Mrs. Pelosi is no longer the House Whip, where knowing numbers and being able to count matters.

Pelosi's home of Pacific Heights and the rest of the CA-12 is so liberal (D +34)  that such a stumble would have no impact on her re-election.  But Pelosi's fandom fumble reveals the fools gold of her '49ers fandom.


Shane Falco on Glory

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Drama with the US Womens' Olympic Skating Team– Go Figure!

[From L to R] Polina Edmunds, Gracie Gold, Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner (photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Figure Skating fanatics who watched the U.S. Championship in Boston this weekend may be scratching their heads at the selection for the U.S. Womens’ Figure Skating squad.  At the competition, Gracie Gold glided into a first place finish, with 15 year old Polina Edmunds coming in second and Vancouver Olympic veteran Mirai Nagasu took third.

Two time national champion Ashley Wagner fell twice her long performance in the U.S. Championships and came in fourth. The 22 year old Wagner, a graduate of West Potomac (MD) High, was so chagrined at her routine that she mouthed “I’m sorry.”  as she left the ice. Wagner labeled her performance in Boston as being a “tearful little wimp out on the ice.”   Yet when the U.S. Figure Skating Association announced its selections to represent the United States in the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia Federation, Wagner made the team and Nagasu did not.

Before the selection committee’s decision, the 20 year old Mirai Nagasu emoted:

 Hopefully, they pick me to the team. I haven’t always been the most consistent skater, but I know I’m always good under pressure – most of the time. The only thing I can brag about now is I’m the only person with Olympic experience. I’ll have to respect any choice that they make.

Nagasu had a few factors which worked against her.  She finished fourth in the Vancouver Games, and she came into the U.S. Championship without a full time coach.  After learning her fate of not making the Olympic team, Nagasu free skate was filled with tears.

Mirai Nagasu Free Skate routine at 2014 U.S. Championships

USFSA President Patricia St. Peter explained that the selection decision making included the most recent nationals but was not ruled by that competition.  The USFSA considers performance over the last year.  St. Peter said: “If you look at Ashley Wagner’s record and performance, she’s got the top credentials of any of our female athletes.”  Wagner finished fifth in the 2013 world championships and won a Bronze medal at the Grand Prix final.

Ashley Wagner
In reaction to being named as part of the Sochi Olympic squad, Wagner said: “"I'm happy that my federation was able to see beyond one bad skate.”  This was after a sleepless night with Face Time, a big glass of wine and watching the film “The Seven Year Itch”.  It was a marked contrast to Wagner’s  pre-nationals statement that:

 "I don’t want to feel like I am taking away an Olympic spot from someone.  I want to earn it.  That’s my goal here. For me, I need to get in the top three to really feel good with myself being on the Olympic Team."

Figure Skating is renowned for being an art as much as a sport, and there certainly are elements of drama associated with it.  Some disappointed Nagasu supporters have proffered that racism drove the decision to exclude Nagasu from the Olympic squad. I am highly skeptical of this charge, but I do think that marketing may have in part drove the decision.

At the XXI Winter Olympiad, the US Womens’ Figure Skating Team was kept off the dais for the first time since the Innsbrook, Austria Games of 1964.  So the USFSA wanted to hedge their bets with a stronger overall prospect rather than a “fluke”.  And Nagasu not having a full time coach might have hurt her in backroom negotiations.

 However Ms. Wagner, with her string of recent wins (aside from the 2014 US Nationals) may be easier to market rather than Ms. Nagasu, who Tara Lipinski noted had a hard year and was not expected to do well.   With US Woman Skier Lindsey Vonn not participating in Sochi due to injuries, having another marketable woman's star would be useful for NBC to hype it's $775 million investment for broadcasting 1,500 hours of the Sochi Olympics.

The wisdom of the USFSA inclusion of Ashley Wagner will soon be evident when the Olympic Games kick off in Sochi on February 6th. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

One Minute Mass So Pastor Could Catch '49ers Playoff Game?

Rev. Tim Christensen, Pastor of Gold en Hills ECLA Church during one minute Mass
Sunday was the the conclusion of the National Football League's divisional playoffs.  The early game pitted the Carolina Panthers hosting the San Francisco '49ers.   On the East Coast, it was a 1  pm kick-off.  Alas, further inland, the starting time conflicted with some church services.

  The Right Reverend Tim Christensen, pastor of the Golden Hill Evangelical Lutheran Church in Butte, Montana, had a dilemma.  Christensen is an avowed '49ers fan and apparently nothing would get in the way of  this priest watching this playoff game, not even his ministerial obligation of an 11 am CST service (1 pm EST).

Someone on social media shared a jocular post about Christensen conducting a severely short service and quipped tongue in cheek that unless Catholics could get a "Microwave Mass" done in under three minutes, she would convert.  Prima facia, rushing through a rubric to watch a secular sporting event seems quite misguided. However watching the video made my jaw drop.


Christensen conducted his "service" in less than one minute, giving an abbreviated absolution of sins.  Perhaps it was cute to show his 49ers t-shirt under his vestments at the conclusion of the sham Divine Service.  But kissing his biceps in closing ala San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is less than reverend.  More importantly, inviting the congregation to a Eucharistic buffet of bread and wine seems sacrilegious, showing no respect for the sacramental union which is the real presence of the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in which even Evangelical Lutherans profess to believe.
It is ironic that the iconic ABC-TV sports journalist Howard Cosell once observed that: "The importance that our society attaches to sport is incredible.  After all, is football a game or a religion?  The people of this country have allowed sports to get completely out of hand."

It seems that rearranging one's schedule to fit in both church and a Superbowl party is one thing and a pastor holding a flimsy pro forma Mass to watch football is quite something else.
There is some suggestion that Rev. Christensen staged this stunt  to go viral as a joke or in an attempt to reach the unchurched through the internet.  If this is the case, then there is no clarifying afterword on the official church posted Youtube video, the Golden Hill ELCA Facebook page or the church's website.  Supposedly,  the Pastor texted "To The Win" that he did not let his congregation off that easily and gave a full homily.   But mocking the Mass without context is not "kosher" for clergy, especially up on an altar.  If it was a 'teachable moment", why was the apologetic also captured on video to put it in proper context?  


Post Scriptus-- Per the Montana Standard, Rev. Christensen intended the one minute mass as a prank and then conducted a traditional Divine Service.  His 18 year old son videotaped the tongue in cheek whirlwind worship session as he knew that his Dad would reveal his 49ers t-shirt.

Christensen thought that he would share the video on his personal social media page along with the Church's Facebook fan page, where people would understand the inside joke.  Yet the video went viral.  So let this be a lesson to anyone on the internet--inside jokes posted on the internet NEVER stay private and remain on your Permanent Record.

What do you think of the "One Minute Mass" by Rev. Tim Christensen
It fulfills a Sunday Obligation.
It fails to keep holy the Sabbath.
It shows a pastor leading his flock astray.
It makes a mockery of the Mass.
It reflects the day's priorites.
Who am I to judge?
Poll Maker

Monday, January 6, 2014

Twelfth Night Toss

For years, ABC TV hosted "The Wide World of Sports", which was an anthology series highlighting sports from around the globe which were seldom, if ever, broadcast on American television.  The eighth annual Christmas Tree Throwing World Championship a.ka. Knut-fest held in the southern German city of Weidenthal certainly would qualify for coverage. Knut-fest references St. Knut, who is considered to be the saint of Twelfth Night, when Nordic cultures takes down Christmas decorations.

Competitors are asked to strip their Yuletide trees of all lights and other decorations before seeing how far they can throw them.  There are three classes of competition: 1) Weitwurt (or javelin style) 2) Hammerwurf (or hammer style) and 3) Hochwurf (or high jumping style).

While some may dismiss the not so serious competition, Frank Schwender, a 48 year old local from nearby Frankeneck, had been the three time champion of the competition, by throwing his tree 22.45 meters over the three throwing disciplines.  That's a long way to toss a tree!