Friday, April 24, 2015

Bruce Jenner on Being a Role Model

Obama Tosses a Pick When Greeting Patriots on the White House South Lawn

Barack Obama on Deflate-Gate

President Obama, fresh off a Florida photo-op in the Everglades for Earth Day, resumed his role as Celebrity in Chief by greeting the New England Patriots on the White House South Lawn in honor of their Super Bowl victory.  Mr. Obama must have been warming up for the Nerd Prom (a.k.a. the White House correspondence dinner) as he tried a few jokes that fell flat.  

It certainly is friendly banter to wish that Beantown would allow the Windy City to win a championship or two.  Joking that Gronk should keep his shirt on seemed like a hip towel snap. But making a Deflate-gate joke falls flat.  This photo op was supposed to honor the victory of the Patriots, yet Mr. Obama threw a pick and forced his guests to react nervously.

Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show in August.  Perhaps Mr. Obama ought to audition for that role.  At least he might get better writers. But doing the Daily Show might be difficult for President Obama  to squeeze in between rounds of golf.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Fenway is the essence of baseball"

The Boston Red Sox moved to their new ballpark at 4 Yawkey Way in 1912.  Fenway Park was said to be named after the Fenway neighborhood, which was created by filling in marshlands (the fens) in the back bay.  However, that explanation may be somewhat suspect as owner John Taylor's family also owned the Fenway Realty Company.

Fenway Park in 2014

The Red Sox first game at Fenway Park was on April 20th, 1912 in an 11 inning 7-6 win against the New York Highlanders (who were renamed the Yankees the following year).

For Fenway Park's centenary, the building was designated as a National Historical Landmark. As of 2012, the Red Sox spring training facility, Jetblue Park in Fort Myers Florida is known as Fenway South as the facility has the exact same dimensions as the so called "Cathedral of Boston"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wounded Warriors Ride to the White House

For the seventh year, the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride started from the South Lawn of the White House.  

The Wounded Warrior Soldier's ride is an annual, nationwide event which allows veterans and wounded servicemen to bond by cycling.  It was conceived in 2004 by Chris Carney, a Long Island bartender, in order to raise money and support our wounded warriors through a coast-to-coast bike ride.  Today the Wounded Warrior Project can claim 68,000 alumni who have found some solace from their injuries by cycling with their Warrior comrades.

For the White House stop, over 50 riders from all branches of the armed forces took the three day, 60 mile cycling challenge. Many of the participants rode adapted bicycles.  

      USA Today

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Wolverine Football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh Fights for The American Sniper Showing

It is as rare as a rocking horses manure that a campus screening of a Hollywood major motion picture makes the news, much less the sports section, but we live in interesting times.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was scheduled to show "The American Sniper", the 2014 highest grossing motion picture about a Navy Seal who served four combat tours .  But the "American Sniper" screening was cancelled because of an open letter published by some U of M Muslim students which claimed that the Chris Kyle biopic ab that the film about the decorated Navy Seal was about “a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians.” Aside from that blood liable, the letter worried that  American Sniper "not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim … rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.”

So what does the University of Michigan, an institute of higher learning which sports the motto: Artes, Scientia, Veritas, do in a civil clash of ideas. The first instinct of the U of M Administration was to censor the controversial.  University officials canceled the showing and apologized for potentially making Muslim students feel unsafe.  The University planned to show Paddington instead, no joke.

After the Ann Arbor University Administration suffered from widespread derision over the politically correct pusillanimous decision, U of M backpeddled and promised to eventually show "The American Sniper" but only in a "safe space".

So allow for protests and ideological indoctrination afterwards.

Even this University of Michigan equivocation did not score well with incoming Wolverine football coach Jim Harbaugh.  Harbaugh took to Twitter to unabashedly show support to Chris Kyle and "The American Sniper".   Harbaugh played college football at "The Big House" of U of M before spending 14 seasons in the NFL then coaching in the NFL, including the San Francisco Giants.  Haurbaugh's bold proclamation about Wolverine Football gives the impression that he will not countenance safe spaces on the football field.

An early scene from "The American Sniper" depicts a life lesson given to a young Chris Kyle about the three types of persons in the world.

It is clear that Coach Harbaugh emulates a sheepdog.  What remains to be seen is if the team which he inherits, which went 5-7 in 2014 (including a Big Ten 3-5 record), are going to transmogrify into Wolverine Sheepdogs or remain collegiate sheep on the sports field?

A better question is what the University of Michigan learns from this episode.

Nick Faldo on Augusta National

Nick Faldo on Augusta National

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

China's War on Golf

Last week, the Chinese Central government began a crackdown on golf by shutting down 66 "illegal" golf courses, which is 10% of the nation's fairways.  While  Beijing has be officially forbidden the construction of new golf courses since 1984, they have proliferated in the PRC. Between 2004 and 2009, 400 new golf courses were created despite the ban (tripling the number of links). But as the Chinese maxim goes, the mountain is high and the emperor is far away.

Aside from being good for generating yuan for their communities by catering to elites, foreign tourism and sparking ancillary business opportunities, golf courses were a great way to gain graft.
The local officials would line their pockets from the construction (as they expropriate peasants' land and profit from the sale to the golf industry) and they are can be surreptitiously sanctioned as being "ecological restorations".  How conveniently corrupt.

The day after the golf course crackdown occurred, a Commerce Ministry official was investigated (effectively being found guilty) for participating in a golf event, which violated one of Chinese President Xi Jinping's eight rules against extravagance by government officials. From a political perspective, it makes sense for a fledgling government to embrace the game.

Despite the burgeoning number of golf courses in China, it is considered "the millionaires game". Mao Zedong banned golf in 1949 as bourgeois "green opium".  Today, a round of golf can cost $150, in a nation where the average daily salary is $5. So it still remains "the rich man's game".

From a political perspective, it makes sense for a fledgling government not to be seen embracing the game of golf.  Gordon Chang has been warning for years that the Chinese economy is on a precipice and a severe world financial downturn which results in a weak demand for cheap Chinese labor could spark a downfall in the current polity in Beijing.  So a public crackdown from the Beijing government  on golf appeals to the have nots to  quell any clamoring for revolution while President Xi Jinping re-establishes central control over wayward provincial politicos engaged in crony capitalism.

Yet it is unlikely that China's War on Golf will actually forbid the game.  Beijing has been spending serious capital on grooming a team to qualify for the Rio de Jainero Olympics in 2016.  It's a tension between domestic tranquility and international glory.

Dan Washburn, the author of  "The Forbidden Game" (2014) considers Chinese Golf to be apt allegory for the corruption, land grabs, environmental issues and escalating economic disparity that have become hallmarks of New China.

Washburn is ambivalent as to what will result from the war on golf.  Washburn's metric is how the seized fairways are used in five years. Considering China's dismal track record on environmental issues, it is dubious if the seized courses will end up as actual "ecological restorations".

Will they be re-appropriated like the Shanghai Golf and Country Club in Hongqoai Park, which was converted into the Shanghai Zoo in 1954?  Or will the seized courses go the way of Wonderland, a Chinese rip off of Disneyland, which is rotting away due to lack of business and uncertain legalities.  China has a series of ghost cities, which are colossal waste of investment that temporarily pump up the GDP and esteem of a local official while saddling the area with a white elephant and a mountain of debt.

h/t: Dan Washburn 

Post Scriptus 04/10/2016: The Communist Party in China has now declared that teeing off is no longer a crime in China

Friday, April 3, 2015

Geno Auriemma: Men's College Basketball Is a Joke

University of Connecticut Women's Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma had harsh words for Men's College Basketball, pronouncing it a joke.  Auiemma believes that bolstering offense is the key to keep hoops with the times. 

Those were fighting words to ESPN commentator (and former University of Detroit Titan coach) Dick Vitale,who has made his career on college basketball, thus he thinks the current men's basketball game is, to use his lingo, AWESOME BABY.

Does Coach Auriemma think that having a three point line (which is significantly closer than the pros) does not add to the offense?  How about the shot clock, which mooted the Tar Heels infamous Four Corners offense?  Is Auriemma's objection to the recent  NCAA rule on charging which no longer sanctions physical play driving to to basket?  Does the UConn Coach consider that the NBA has drifted away from scoring free for alls that were commonplace during the 1980s?

For me, what makes the college game exciting is the rawness of the talent.  Most men's teams do not sport three starters who will make it into the pros.  Many need to develop their skills and rely on teamwork to be successful.  For men's college football, the strategy coming from the coach is key. If college basketball becomes a scoring-centric sport, strategy will become negligable