Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Simply Having a Wonderful Chirstmastime

Dear Santa,

I've been a moderately good person this year. I'm sure there was more I could have done in several circumstances, but I also tried to volunteer and be better this year than I was last year.

I don't want a lot for Christmas this year. Continued health and happiness for me and my family, a Cubs World Series appearance (and if you're feeling generous, a win in the World Series) and for more people to embrace Stephen Colbert's "Another Christmas Song" as part of their holiday music should about cover it this year.

Have a safe trip this year.


Today's Christmas-themed links:

Where to Say Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

FiveThirtyEight mapped the War on Christmas to find where people prefer Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas.

The Forgotten Story of Peter Paul Dolata and the Worst Christmas Ever

The newspaper headline in this story from 1937 was is "Santa Claus drops dead as 100 children await him." This is a tragic story, but also one of some quick thinking by other adults there.

Yes, Virginia, there is a NORAD

The story of how NORAD came to have a Santa tracker (which, more than anything else, is my kid's favorite part of Christmas.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

What's in a name and the best journalism of 2015.

I was born in what should have been a prime time for naming boys Luke. Between the release of Star Wars (and Luke Skywalker) in 1977, the Dukes of Hazzard (and Luke Duke) debuting in 1979 and Luke and Luara drawing 30 million viewers for their wedding on General Hospital in 1981, the name Luke was primed to be incredibly popular, drawing from geek, country and stay-at-home mom demographics simultaneously.

But in 1976, just before Star Wars burst on the scene, the name Luke was the 222nd most popular name in the United States. By 1980, the name still showed considerable growth, jumping up to 97th, which, while impressive, isn't nearly as much of  a jump as I might have expected. Shouldn't the name have crossed demographic lines to become more popular?

Yet, somehow, I was the only Luke I knew growing up. Never had any other Lukes in my classes or even that I remember in my schools. I was the lone Luke out there, having the responsibility to shoulder all the expectations for that name for years and years.

It fell back below 100 in 1981 and stayed around there until finally cracking the top 100 again in 1992. From then on, it has slowly marched its way up the naming charts until 2014 when it was the 28th most popular name in the country. Now my kid has two friends named Luke in his grade.

One man's picks for the 150 best journalism of 2015

Just one link today, but if you like to read, you're in for a treat. Richard Dietsch (Richard was the 19th most popular name in 1976 and has tumbled down to 141 in 2014) is the media reporter for Sports Illustrated and compiles some of the best articles in his weekly media column. For this week's edition, compiled his 150 best links of the year. I've read about 40 of them and saw a dozen others that I'd saved at some point but never found the time to read.

For those celebrating this week, have a wonderful Christmas and/or Kwanzaa.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A reading App recommendation, then Trolls, football and dog mushing in NYC

One more batch before my break starts.

One of my favorite Apps on my phone is Pocket. It basically lets you save articles and read them later rather than going "what was that article I saw that looked interesting?" and then hoping Facebook hasn't changed their algorithm when I go back to look for it.

It lets me read while I'm standing in line at the grocery store or if I'm early for a meeting. It's also got a feature that will read the story to you, though the lack of inflection in the voice makes it difficult for me to listen to.

Anyway, if you've found yourself thinking that any of these articles I post look interesting but you don't have time, save it to Pocket and read it later.

You Can't Just Ignore The Trolls

I can't imagine being a woman in an online world filled with the vile insults women regularly get. And being a woman of some prominence has to make it even worse. So how do you deal with trolls? Julie DiCaro takes a look at how she and others in similar positions handle it.

One Man's Quest to Bring Dog Mushing to New York City

Because, why not?

 How Football Pulled The Trigger: Zack Langston's Family Reflects on His Tragically Short Life

Patrick Hruby, the author of this, has been writing about the dangers of football for a while. Here he looks at the life of Zack Langston and how it changed after his college football days were over. Zack shot himself when he was 26 and was found to have similar brain injuries to that for former NFL player Junior Seau. Set aside some time for this one.

A quick programming note

So a programming note.

After today, I'll be off work until January and when I get back, things are going to be extremely busy for a week or so. While off work, I'll be doing holiday things and being a semi-responsible parent, which means less time to write and, of equal importance to this blog, to read. The frequency of posts will go down considerably during that time.

I hope you've enjoyed the new format. It does two things for me. First, it lets me share some of the great articles I read, but it also forces me to write, however short, some kind of introduction.

Have a great holiday break and if you're celebrating this season, I hope it's a wonderful time for you and your family.

And with that said, here's what I found most interesting since my last post:

An Unbelievable Story of Rape

An 18-year-old said she was attacked at knifepoint. Then she said she made it up. That's where our story beings. 

Set aside some time to read this story. (It's long.) It's the story of a woman who reported being raped and when people doubted her story, she recanted. But then tried to take back her recanting. It's a powerful story.

The Election and the Death Throes of White Male Power

When you've always experienced privilege, equality can feel like oppression.

How to get the Pete Rose decision 100% wrong

I wasn't quite old enough to know the ins and outs of what Pete Rose. I remember being a 10-year old baseball fan who didn't start following the game until after Rose had retired and was now managing. I remember the Sports Illustrated cover after he was permanently banned and I remember reading the article but not fully understanding it. That we're still discussing his actions and his ban 26 years later is crazy, but this a pretty convincing argument as to why Rose, under the current rules, is not being treated unfairly.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Awakening the Force

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens tonight. Lots of people are excited as they've been waiting for years for a new episode in the franchise that has defined moving going for generations.

I'm not one of those people, but this isn't about me. It's about the people who have had this date circled on their calendar since the date was announced, or more likely, have had the date plugged in their phone as no one hangs calendars anymore.

For people this excited about the movie, my guess is they're going to like it no matter what. And that's cool. While critics have so far been positive about The Force Awakens, they were also positive about The Phantom Menace when it first came out too. So the movie may be great, it may not be so great, but that's not what's important. What is important, however, is that people who enjoy the movie enjoy it without worrying about if it was a "good" movie or not.

Today's links: 

Can Kentucky's New Governor Undo Obamacare?

Short version: Campaigning against something is easy. Actually undoing that thing is hard.

Why is the NFL's most infamous quack still involved in its concussion program?

Or, why you shouldn't believe the NFL when they say they're getting serious about brain injuries.

 Concussion, Inc.: The big business of treating brain injuries

More awareness of concussions is a good thing, but untrained or unqualified people treating concussions can do a lot of harm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Best Award Ever

I enjoy people who are clever. Not people who are clever in the scheming kind of way, but people who think just differently enough to make something fun.

So when I heard that University of Minnesota punter Peter Mortell created another college football award to recognize the best holder in the game and then gave the award to himself, I couldn't help but smile.

College football has a lot of awards. Like a lot lot. But one skill they don't recognize is the holder. You know, the guy who catches the ball and puts in on the ground for the kicker. Mortell saw that position wasn't properly recognized and he sought to fix that.

So let's all take a moment to recognize Peter Mortell, the 2015 holder of the year and the creator of the holder of the year award.

On to today's links:

Death Penalty Dysfunction

Among other facts I learned in this article, roughly 10 percent of people on death row are veterans.

 The "Jihad truck" one year later

A year after it became a punchline, how has the plumber who had his former work truck end up in Syria handling what happened?

Global Supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves

Let these stores know that this isn't acceptable. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

A podcast recommendation and today's links.

This week's "On the Media" podcast as an shortened version of a documentary on the New York Times reporter who contracted AIDS and then used his position to bring the illness more to the public consciousness. It's a humanizing look at what it's like to live and die with the disease. If you've got an hour, I highly recommend it.

For what it's worth, if you have an hour a week, I recommend you listen to every On the Media podcast (or find it on your local NPR station.) Week in and week out, it's the smartest thing I listen to.

Anyway, on to today's links. 

Pay the players, even if they make what you see as poor choices

The restriction on paying college athletes is based on a number of fallacies. Chief among them is that if you pay college players, they'll just waste it, as though adults never waste any money. (The University of Georgia, for example, is paying in excess of $14 million to have Mark Richt not coach their football team.)

The courage it took to bring down a police officer who sexually assaulted black women

This is as good a review of the Daniel Holtzclaw case as I found.

In the NFL, December is Anything but Merry 

It's a brutal game, and one I still find myself uneasy about watching because that makes me complicit in some way in the damage done to these player's bodies and brains. Here's a first-hand account of what it's like in the NFL at this time of the year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

No one knows what they're doing

One of the writers I follow on Twitter is Jesse Spector. He's a baseball writer for The Sporting News and while he obviously takes his job seriously, he doesn't appear to take life (or Twitter, anyway) all that seriously.

So when he posted that there are times he feels like an impostor when he compares himself to the other baseball writers he meets and has as colleagues, I was kind of surprised. I mean, you don't rise to the level of writing for the Sporting News without having immense talent.

But I realized I do the same thing as an adult. I walk around and act like I know what I'm supposed to be doing, but the truth is I've got no idea how to be an adult. I feel like an impostor in the world of adults, hoping no one realizes I'm completely winging it when it comes to life.

On to the stories. 

My run-in with hate speech at a Minnesota Vikings game

A first-hand account of what it feels like to be the victim of hate speech, and the fear that comes when no one stands up to challenge that speech.

The Cubs are a Destination Club

The Cubs are going to be good and I can't wait and I'm really excited and it's going to be fun and can you tell I can't wait for April and it's going to be awesome and I can't wait.

Life After Baseball

A former major league pitcher went from being a top prospect traded for a future hall-of-famer to battling addiction and being out of baseball opens up about his life now as an Uber driver at baseball's winter meetings.

Enjoy your weekend. Hopefully we'll be back Monday with more of the things I've found interesting. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What's old is new

So are we liking these posts? Have you found anything you've found interesting to read?

Would you rather them be weekly with more links and less of my commentary?

Just looking for a little feedback to see what your thoughts are on this? I enjoy doing them (it helps that work is slow now so I'm actually posting more often than I will once I'm home with my kid for Winter Break, but overall, how's the format?)

Today's stories:

A centruy ago, a popular Missouri newspaper demonized a religious minority: Catholics

"OPEN ROME'S PRISON HOUSES IN AMERICA!" blared one headline for a December 1911 story that claimed the church was murdering the babies of nuns and throwing the infant corpses into a pit."

And later ...

"There was a widespread belief that Catholics were waiting for the day the pope would put into motion a campaign to make the country Catholic, and in the meantime amassing [stockpiles] of weaponry that would be used when that day came," Davies said.

But the entire article is worth reading for the parallels to today.

Black and Blue.

I've never experienced child abuse. But I have no doubt that people I know were victims.  It's likely they, like the writer of this article who now plays in the NHL, grew up thinking it was normal. As he writes, he didn't publish this to get people like his father to stop abusing children, but he wrote it for people who suspect something to stand up and say something. I hope, if I'm ever in that situation, I have the courage to say something. I hope you do too.

What the heck is a catch in the NFL anyway?

I read fun stuff, I promise. To prove it, here's the best explanation yet as to what is considered a catch in the NFL.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Shootings, suicides and stereotypes

A friend of mine was talking to me about college football recently and he had an interesting idea.

"We should bring back the tie," he said.

I told him this was a crazy idea and invoked one of my favorite postgame quotes, "You play to win the game." Someone wins, someone loses. This is how we've set it up. We had ties, we decided we didn't like them and, at least in college football, set up some sort of quasi-football-like structure that kind of resembles football but not really to determine a winner.

"But soccer has ties," he continued.

Yeah, but no one likes ties in soccer either. And no one likes settling championship matches with a shootout, but at least we get a winner out of it.

"Yeah, but sometimes in life things are just equal," he went on.

This is true, but sports aren't life. They're artificial scenarios we've created and since we've created them, we want a winner and a loser. So I'm firmly anti-tie, both in sports and the neck variety.

On to the links:

Arthur Bremer shot Gov. George Wallace to be famous.

 This happened before I was born, so other than knowing Wallace was shot, I hadn't thought much about it. The author finds out the gun used in the shooting is for sale and from there takes on a journey through Bremer's life. 


Scott Weiland's Family: 'Don't Glorify This Tragedy'

 The ex-wife of the Stone Temple Pilots singer makes a plea to all of us to not glorify the tragedy of his death, but to take the time to do something for kids who may not have a parent there for them.

Let's choose to make this the first time we don't glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don't have to come with it. Skip the depressing T-shirt with 1967-2015 on it – use the money to take a kid to a ballgame or out for ice cream.

Stop  Immediately Linking Violence to the Perpetrator's Beliefs - Islamic, Christian or Other

People are complicated. I'm not sure I can tell you why I decided to drink a Cherry Coke instead of Dr Pepper the other day. There are simply too many factors that motivate humans. And we're not robots, so what motivates me one day might not motivate me the next. And that's for me. I can't begin to try to explain what motivates someone else to act in their everyday life, let alone when they do something horrific. So let's stop with the simplistic answers to complex problems. We're better than that. 

In an unrelated note, I need to read happier things. Sorry for the depressing set of links today.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Gladiators, Survivors and the Last Black Football Player

I hope you had a good weekend. I got to cover a Class A (smallest classification) Georgia High School semifinal game that saw one team have eight chances with a goal-to-go situation and were unable to get the touchdown they needed. Facing a 4th and 7 with about 90 seconds remaining, the trailing team thought they'd scored the go-ahead touchdown on a pass to the far side of the endzone. However, after officials met to discuss it, they changed the ruling to incomplete. It was a really fun game to watch as someone who had not seen either team play and had absolutely no rooting interest in the outcome. Unfortunately for me, my story doesn't appear to be online anywhere.

Anyway, on to some of the best things I read over the weekend.

Are Football Players really Modern Day Gladiators?

Comparing football to the gladiators has nothing to do with ancient savagery, and everything to do with modern anxiety.

Pretty much all headlines that are questions can be answered with "no." Spoiler alert, this is the case here. But rather than skip the article, read to find out why today's football players are more similar to chariot racers than gladiators.

A Survivor's Life 

When the shooting in Oregon happened, I, like everyone, was shocked and horrified. But as the days went by, we all did what we've been conditioned to do. That is, we moved on with our lives. Or at least on to the next shooting. It's become routine that at this point. We react in horror, we post The Onion story about how we're the only nation where these types of shootings happen and that nothing can be done, and we move on. It's what we do.

But for the survivors of mass shootings, it's not as simple as just moving on. From having to post signs not to knock on the door (because it's still traumatic to hear noises that could resemble gunshots) to people not sure how to act around you and whether they should ask you about the shootings or not, moving on isn't as simple as it sounds. This well-reported story in the Washington Post looks at one shooting survivor's tale.

The Last Black Man in Pro Football

 The NFL wasn't always integrated. But it wasn't always segregated either. Which means someone had to be the last black player in the NFL before it became a white's only league. That man was Joe Lillard. Here, VICE Sports looks back at Lillard's journey to the NFL and his exclusion from it. (This may shock you, but the founder of the Washington NFL team had something to do with it.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sports: shaking us from complaceny, inspiring us and the dark side

Three sports-related stories to end your work week, though truthfully, none are actually about sports themselves, but the role sports play in our lives and the impact those games have on people. Because as much fun as the games are, they are often more than just games.

This is Not A Game -

My sister-in-law works 11 miles from where the shooting in San Bernardina took place. She and her family are safe. It was a little disconcerting to know she was so close to the most recent shooting. But there's going to be another shooting. And another one after that, and another after that. I don't have all (or really any) of the answers as to how to stop this, but doing nothing doesn't seem to be working. More to the point, the mass shootings are now just background noise in our lives. This shouldn't be normal, and it may be up to sports to shake us from our complacency.

Race Against Time - 

Andrea Duke was working in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. A few days after that, a colleague asked her if she wanted to go for a run to escape, briefly, the stress resulting from the terror attacks. That turned in to running marathons for fun. Now, at age 36, Andrea is competing for a spot on the US Olympic team against competitors against competitors 15 years younger. She makes me feel bad about myself for not doing more than going for walks between one and three miles.

 Homeless and Mentally Ill, a Former College Lineman Dies on the Street

While I can't say conclusively that football causes permanent brain damage, there's mounting evidence that it does something to the brain. And helmets, for as great as they are, are designed to protect the skull, not the brain. That's an important distinction. So I have no way of knowing if former North Carolina lineman Ryan Hoffman would have suffered from mental illness had he not played football, but I can't say he wouldn't have either. This story (and the linked story within from March) tell of what Hoffman went through following his playing days at UNC-Chapel Hill.

I still watch football, though not nearly as much as I used to. I'm uneasy knowing that a game being played for my entertainment may result in serious mental damage. I can't break myself fully of the habit, but I'm getting closer.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Stat Geeks, Donald Trump, and Feminism.

The goal is to do this two to three times a week. It really just kind of depends on how many things I find interesting and how much time I have to compile it on here.

One thing before I go on. I forgot to include something I wrote this week. It's my attempt to critically deconstruct an absolutely terrible column. Here's the link for that.

Now, on to today's links.

Fast Times at SABR High

 A high school class about analytics or about the history of baseball? I'd have died to get a class like this when I was in school. I tried to sign up for statistics my senior year thinking it would help me understand baseball numbers, but not enough kids signed up for it and the class didn't get offered. I was lazy in college and didn't take stats because didn't have to. I'm remarkably jealous of these kids getting to take either of these classes while in school and hope there's something similar offered for my kid by the time he gets to high school. 

 The Real Reason the media is rising up against Donald Trump

 I was among those who thought Trump would fade as the campaign went along. I've been wrong. Here, David Roberts takes a deep look at why he hasn't faded and how Trump has circumvented the traditional unspoken media rules. I'm not smart enough or politically astute enough to know how this plays out. Like all primary elections, it'll depend on how well organized the Trump campaign is in individual states when it comes time to get out the vote. 

Porn for the Privledged

Still working out my thoughts on this, but an interesting look at Choice Feminism and its implications for sex workers. Certainly worth a little bit of your time.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Something New

I need to write more. I know this.

But I love to read. A lot. Like time I used to spend writing on here has transitioned to time spent reading. Mostly I blame Twitter. As I think I've mentioned before, I follow a lot of professional writers who tweet out not only their own stories, but articles they find interesting. And since I follow them because I find them interesting, the odds are they articles they send out will be things I find interesting.

But I need to write more. So how do I fix this? But collecting some of my favorite things I read and posting them here for you to possibly enjoy. Ideally, I'll have three different articles to post for you each time, with some quick thoughts on what I've read.


How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs

 This remains the best thing I've read in 2015 so it should be the first article I post on here. For everyone who says people can't change their mind because of social media, I tell them that a devout member of the Westboro Baptist Church (the ones who picket the funerals of homosexuals and military members, you know the ones) was led to question her beliefs and ultimately leave the church. It's worth your time.

 Rosa Parks is the name you know. Claudette Colvin is a name you probably should

That teenager, Claudette Colvin, became the first of several women arrested for refusing to abide by the state's segregation laws and social codes of racial deference. Nine months later, Rosa Parks did the same. But today, mention the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the work of integrating public facilities, to anyone — regardless of their politics — and two names are likely to come up. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. That is all.

 I love learning new things about our nation's history. I'd always assumed Rosa Parks was the first person to get arrested for not giving up her seat. That she wasn't was news to me. That Claudette Colvin is a name we don't know is a disappointment. Her actions need to be remembered.

How Mighty Ducks the Movie Became Mighty Ducks the NHL Team

I was 13 when The Mighty Ducks came out. It was a typical Disney sports movie about sticking together and overcoming the evil other team. But even then, I thought it strange that a new NHL team would name itself after a kids movie. Erik Malinowski is one of my favorite writers and he does an excellent job detailing the process of how the Mighty Ducks came to be.

This remains a work in progress and we'll see how it goes. Thanks for reading.