THE END OF FOOTBALL?

A letter sent to a writer at The Wall Street Journal who wrote a sports-section feature on whether football was on the verge of becoming obsolete in America:

“Well, have to give you credit for touching the third rail of our culture.  The part you neglected, though I am confident you did so for a good reason, was the part about how football is metaphor for life, especially American life.  Not in its presentation of recurring gigantic entertainment spectacle, like a weekly fireworks display with the 1812 Overture as soundtrack, but in its representation of the warrior spirit that allowed us to defeat the British, prevail in two major world wars, and generally scare the pants off people thinking of messing with us.  I am among the millions who consider football a way of celebrating those who are sufficiently strong and fearless that we can depend upon them to keep us safe and secure.  I want my soldiers, airmen, fire-fighters, and policehumans to be fit and strong and brave, willing to give up their bodies and their lives to protect us.  I want my football players to remind us that we have a culture that still has a martial spirit, that can still lead us in important ways.

“In my opinion, if we neuter football, emasculate it, we make a huge mistake.  Yes, there are ways to continue to reduce its risks.  Helmets could be better, or as some suggest, we could outlaw face-masks and make the helmets less safe; lots of former players suggest that the weaponization of the helmet (i.e., the head) resulted from improving the helmet to a point where people were willing to use it as a weapon.  For that matter, we could instantly cut the risks dramatically by strengthening the rules against spearing and by consistently and uniformly and rigorously enforcing such rules.  But in the end, I want football to involve risk, a lot of risk.  Even if one wanted to live in a country without football, we would not exactly be living in paradise; we would be living in a way-less secure nation, one our enemies would quickly re-assess.”

Could We Play Golf a Little Slower, Please?

The essence of a message I sent to a golf writer in response to a piece he wrote on the subject of Jason Day’s lament that he opposes efforts to make him play faster, because he feels the slower he plays, the better he plays:

Interesting comments by Day.  Two thoughts:  (i) I think he is correct in his assessment that he is a better player when he takes longer.  I have the same feeling in my Sunday Nassau game – I wish I had a half hour on every putt, so I could look at it from every angle, try the read-thru-your-feet technique, try Stacy Lewis’s thing with the finger-counting, read the grain, read the grass around the edge of the cup, look for the drainage direction of the green, read the wind, do a plumb job, and then maybe ask my playing companions for their opinions, based on their local knowledge.  For that matter, I wish I had one of those topographical charts that the Tour pros get from their caddies, so I could get the last word on every single slope at any location on the green.   However, if I tried all of that crap, I would quickly find myself trying to remove a pitching wedge from my forehead.  (ii) This might be a good time to remind Mr. Day (and others with similar habits) that they are in the entertainment business, not trying to cure cancer.  Sure, he gets better with more time, and some guys (Snedecker) would benefit more than others by the tour’s installing a shot clock, but what difference would the Day-model make if the result were that everyone played at Day’s pace and eventually no one gave a damn about watching TV golf – which is already at the threshold of wearing out the audience’s patience.  The point of pro golf is not to “identify the best golfer”, as the USGA insists, it is to entertain the viewing audience sufficiently that they will continue to pay for the Jason Days of the world to live like a Saudi prince.

Of course, some day soon, we will have an electronic device, perhaps built into our GPS distance-finder, and all you have to do is say, Hey, Siri, how does this putt break?  And by the way, how’s my launch angle with my driver?  Boy, would that ever make must-see TV.  Of course, Jason Day might still find a way to take 6 hours to play his round.

 

I KNEW RONALD REAGAN, AND . . .

Making peace with oneself in deciding to vote for Trump in November was the easy part; anyone-but-a-socialist (closeted or brazen) is the rational choice for any citizen who got his first smartphone after puberty.  The hard part was, how to appease one’s conscience and disclose one’s decision to others.  Here is how to do it.

So far, the visible part of the upside on Trump is three possibilities:  (1) he would blow up Washington; (2) he would take counsel on economics from a responsible grown-up; and (3) he would fill the Scalia vacancy with a Scalia Conservative rather than a Roberts Conservative or worse.  The first seems like a great idea and pretty much a sure thing, so let’s consider (2) and (3).

Trump has come forward with an indication that he is taking advice on economics from Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore, each of whom grasps the fundamental conservative principles that economic growth is our most important issue other than national security, and that the key to economic growth is the restoration of free-market incentives via tax reform rather than mere tax cuts.  Unlike many self-styled conservatives, Kudlow and Moore know that cutting tax rates is not enough, that you also have to cut or eliminate the vast array of deductions and credits that have turned our tax system into a crony-capitalism system. True tax reform means that the changes are no worse than revenue-neutral but that they create massive new incentives to entrepreneurial activity and business growth.  In other words, resurrect the 1986 Tax Reform Act.  Businesses would no longer have to focus upon ways to manage and exploit their relations with the regulatory state and would be freed to focus instead upon providing better products and services to compete more effectively in the market – especially if the existing regulatory burdens on the market had been removed or at least made less political and more rational.

Trump has not tipped his hand on his selection of judges, but it would seem an easy choice for him to announce an intention to nominate Ted Cruz to fill the Scalia vacancy.  Not only would this go a long way toward winning over the hardcore Cruz-wing of the Republican Party, it would also assure all Republicans that they would be getting a justice who, unlike the Chief Justice, is willing to pay at least some attention to the outcomes of cases.  Roberts, in his unbending nonpartisanship, provides a very valuable service, but for so long as the Court includes four lefties who ALWAYS vote for the litigant they favor rather than the one with the better legal case, judicial balance requires that we nominate a conservative version of Ginsburg or Sotomayor, and Cruz appears ideally suited for that role.  And besides, everyone knows he was the smartest constitutional lawyer to come out of Harvard Law since Louis Brandeis, or at least since Felix Frankfurter.  Try Borking HIM.

If Trump indeed follows and sticks to this path, we could be watching the early stages of a Reaganesque political career.  Look at the similarities:  when Reagan began his political career, and especially when he ran for President, the conventional wisdom was that he should have stuck to something he knew and was good at.  The  Anyone-But-Trump crowd should recall that Reagan was initially considered an entertainer, a former Democrat, not a serious politician, and not very bright, and that many thought his policy views were inappropriate, radical, and dangerous.  He was the original anti-establishment candidate.

HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT?

Peggy Noonan (see the Wall Street Journal of 3/19/16),  in giving us a soft warning that she might provide a soft endorsement of Donald Trump, is disappointing those of us who had thought she was strongly influenced by her former boss and mentor, Ronald Reagan.

Noonan is on the mark when she observes that a big chunk of America is so frustrated by the pols of both parties that it is willing to gamble on a vulgar, ignorant blowhard in the hope that he will liberate us from a hopelessly dysfunctional “establishment” – which it blames for the sorry state of our nation.  Mr. Trump has sold his claque on the fantasy that, despite his smorgasbord of shortcomings, he has the strength and determination to fix things, and that is enough for them – and they couldn’t care less whether he is a conservative, or even a Republican.  We are dealing with emotion here, not reason.

Say this for Mr. Trump.  He has done the nearly-impossible: he has gotten the Republican Party (and a lot of Democrats) to treat his last plausible Republican opponent still standing, Sen. Ted Cruz, as a part of the hated Establishment, even though Sen. Cruz made his bones by thumbing his nose at the entire U.S. Senate and positioning himself as the leader of the anti-Establishment revolt.  This is not necessarily a bad thing for Sen. Cruz, as Mr. Trump might have made the senator seem a bit more tolerable (if not cuddly) to the actual Establishment and to the less-gullible segment of the Republican voters.

Where Ms. Noonan loses her way is in implying that country might be no worse off if the Republicans  placated the Trump faction by nominating their man and sending him off to certain defeat at the hands of Ms. Clinton, rather than offending the Trumpsters by nominating someone who might actually have a chance of beating her.  The devil you know vs. the possible wrath of the frustrated Trumpsters.  That seems to be the Noonan bet.

Well, let’s think about the devil we know.  What we know about her is that when the chips are down, her venal, inner-socialist emerges, along with her inner Neville Chamberlain, and what we know about our situation is that the chips are already down.  It is conceivable that Ms. Clinton would not irreparably damage the nation in four years, that the opposing party should be able to un-do the harm we know she would cause.  Thus the suggestion that it is better to buy domestic peace through passivity, to nominate Trump and let Ms. Clinton have her way with a Trump candidacy, than it is to risk upsetting the sensibilities of the pro-Trump cult.

But the hard reality is that in 4 years Ms. Clinton could re-make the Supreme Court into a permanently-leftist proxy legislature, a mere agency of the White House.   (What, you don’t think any more Republican justices could die in those 4 years?) In those 4 years, she could make Pres. Obama look like a tough guy by comparison.  She could treat the Axis of Evil like she treated Benghazi – don’t ask, don’t tell.  She could allow Iran to develop full nuclear capabilities, to dominate the entire Middle East, and to impose a second Holocaust upon Israel.  She could allow Russia to continue to do what it is doing, likewise North Korea – not to mention Venezuela, Cuba, etc. – and she could watch benignly while NATO fiddles, the Chinese permanently take over Hong Kong and the South China Sea and the rest of the west Pacific rim, and Europe and the rest of the free democracies of the world crumble or surrender.

You really want to go for that, rather than messing with the fragile psyches of the Trumpsters by giving the Republicans a chance to win the election ?  Gimme a break.

 

 

GOLF IS NOT FAILING

In response to Brian Costa’s essay on why golf is failing (Wall Street Journal, 3/8/16 edition): Golf is losing popularity because it is a really, really hard game to play and we are a less and less patient society.

There are only two routes to competency in golf: natural gifts, and endless practice. Golf has its “naturals” – 100% of the pros on the PGA Tour or any of the lesser tours are naturals, people who have never had to think about their golf swing except to refine it. And there are lots of other naturals, people who made the college golf team, win their club championship every year, etc., even though they lack the special skill-set to tee it up with the big guys for a living. There are also people (not many) who took some lessons and practiced a lot in order to develop a good game, or at least a decent one, and who have had the time, patience, and financial means to do so. And then there is everyone else.

Everyone else is doomed to having a deficient swing for life. With one exception (Arnold Schwab), no one in the history of golf has ever gone from a lousy swing to a good one. Arnie shot in the mid-90s and had the worst slice I have ever seen, a majestic, parabolic ball flight that started out heading 45 degrees left of target (subject to allowances for atmospheric conditions, the curvature of the earth, etc.) but ended up right on target. Then he got fixed: spent an entire winter of séances with a teaching pro, and started shooting in the 70s. My theory is that Arnie was an ugly duckling whose inner swan was just waiting to be revealed by a perceptive instructor. For the rest of us, a bad swing is forever.

A few of us, through the jackpot combination of an indulgent spouse, children who actually do not miss you at all, and enough time and money to squander, climb magically from terrible to mediocre, and it is no easy climb. But for most normal people who try to take up golf, the results are so ugly, so discouraging, so utterly lacking in anything that even remotely resembles a usable golf swing, that it does not really feel like you are playing golf at all – and if you are, why bother? Why spend 6 hours trying to find your ball in the woods, trying to hit a ball off of sand or twigs, realizing that it takes your very best combination of technique and luck just to escape any hole with less than a double bogey? Especially when you have had to drop a hundred (or two, or more) just for the privilege of viewing – and spoiling – the gorgeous landscaping.

This is a game that will never grow, though it will never vanish, either. Thank goodness.