Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Bowl Extravaganza Edition

Okay, lots of picks coming here. A few ground rules/general thoughts.

  1. There are too many #@@@&# bowl games. If you are playing in something called the Meineke Car Care Bowl, you really need something better to do. And given the participants in the game this year (noted football powerhouses Wake Forest and Connecticut), if you actually watch something like that, you definitely need something better to do. A Wake-UConn basketball game would be worth watching. Football, not so much.
  2. Any game that takes place prior to New Year's Day is not worth thinking about. Especially when they are named after muffler shops or websites devoted to pizza delivery. And most of these bowls are.
  3. Games that take place in Boise, Shreveport or Mobile are not worth thinking about. If you wouldn't consider the destination for a vacation, it's not a serious bowl.

Anyway, let's get on with the picks.

OUTBACK BOWL: WISCONSIN BADGERS 31, TENNESSEE 27. Of course I'm going to pick my beloved Badgers, but there's good reason for it. Tennessee is a middling SEC team and the Badgers have shown a propensity to beat even well-regarded SEC teams in recent years. If Bucky's defense holds up and they aren't blinded by the garish orange uniforms of their opponents, the Badgers should be able to wear down the Vols.

COTTON BOWL: MISSOURI 34, ARKANSAS 24. This should be a good game. Mizzou has a good team for the first time in about 40 years and the Razorbacks have probably the best player in college football in Darren "Pimp My Ride" McFadden. Since it's on at the same time as the Badgers, I won't see it, but it should be fun.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL: FLORIDA 31, MEESHEEGAN 27. The Gators should win this pretty easily, but I suspect that Go Blue will have one more good effort left for ol' Lloyd Carr. Despite their stumbles, the Wolverines have a lot of talent. Tim Tebow is a good quarterback, but he got more hype than he deserved.

GATOR BOWL: TEXAS TECH 44, VIRGINIA 37. This one should be fun. The Red Raiders can score, and will. Virginia is a solid team but I suspect the ACC was overrated this year.

ROSE BOWL: USC 34, ILLINOIS 21. The Illini are no fluke - Ron Zook has done a real nice job with this team. But USC might have the best talent in college football. And in the end, talent will out.

SUGAR BOWL: GEORGIA 41, HAWAII 38. Colt Brennan, the Hawaii quarterback, put up comic opera numbers again this year. But he hasn't played anyone like Georgia. The Bulldogs can score and defend. They'll need to to do both, but I suspect they'll be able to do just enough of both to win this one.

FIESTA BOWL: OKLAHOMA 31, WEST VIRGINIA 30. If the Mountaineers hadn't lost their coach, I'd pick them. But they have. By the way, can you think of a potential matchup that has less desirable demographics than this one?

ORANGE BOWL: VIRGINIA TECH 31, KANSAS 21. I'd like to claim this pick is based on sentiment, but it's not. It's based on experience. And in my experience, Virginia Tech is a long-time powerhouse. Kansas is a nice story, but they won't have enough firepower to win this game. And Mark Mangino needs to lose some weight. I do too, but he looks like he's going to keel over every time I see him on television.

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: LSU 34, OHIO STATE 28. If the game were in Pasadena, or Glendale, AZ, or Miami, or just about anyplace else, I would pick the Buckeyes. But this may as well be an LSU home game.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Old School

My cheesehead brethren will recognize the logo on the left immediately as that of the Appleton Foxes, the minor league

baseball team that is now known as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, whose logo is represented on the right. The Foxes adopted this logo for the 1978 season, when they had a young general manager named David Hersh. Hersh was only 21 at the time and he was the boy wonder of the minor leagues, turning the Foxes into a promotional extravaganza. The team, which featured several players who would later play in the major leagues, most notably pitchers LaMarr Hoyt and Britt Burns, ended up winning the Midwest League that year and Hersh made quite a name for himself, even though the team didn't draw all that well. He was able to leverage his position to gain a controlling interest in a AAA team the next year, the Portland Beavers, and we never heard from him again. Last I heard he was still running a minor league team in the Tampa area (and no, I don't mean the Devil Rays).

The Foxes logo seemed pretty forward thinking at the time - the team was affiliated with the White Sox in those days and had typically worn hand-me-down White Sox uniforms prior to that point. The idea that a minor league team would try to establish its own identity and marketing image at that point was pretty unusual; while there were a few such examples generally at the higher levels, A ball teams usually operated like the Foxes did. The locals would get a regular dose of the Wausau Mets, the Burlington Brewers and the Quad Cities Angels in those days.

Minor league teams have now pretty much all established their own identities and logos, usually much more flashy than the somewhat prim Foxes logo. The Timber Rattler logo is significantly more attention-getting. It pretty much screams for attention; the Foxes logo, not so much.

My brother got me baseball caps for Christmas this year that feature both these logos (thanks, Pat!). The Foxes hat is very old school indeed; navy blue with the plain logo you see above. The Timber Rattler hat is a plum color a shade or two lighter than the maroon of the University of Minnesota, with a black bill. (I think that Dutch Boy paints offers a similar shade called "Dame Margaret" or some such. The names companies give to paint colors is probably worth another post, although I usually leave that sort of thing to a professional like Dorky Dad.) Having both caps is great; while I like modern images as much as the next guy, old school and retro looks still have their purpose. It's funny now, 30 years on, that the Foxes logo that was at the cutting edge of minor league fashion is now defiantly an old school look.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A cruel, cruel disease

We said goodbye to a woman named Mary Huberty today. Mary and her husband Dick are great friends of my in-laws and their four sons are contemporaries of Mrs. D and her sister. Mary died last week after about a ten-year bout with Alzheimer's. She was only 67.

I met Mary about a year before Mrs. D and I got married. Mary was, to put it mildly, a dynamo. She was smart, organized, extremely gracious and probably could have given Martha Stewart a run for her money when it comes to the domestic arts. Her four sons are all highly accomplished fellows, including one who is a Catholic priest. Mary and Dick did just about everything right in their lives and when Dick was ready to retire about a decade ago, it looked like they would have a wonderful time growing old together. But the diagnosis came.

I didn't see that much of Mary over the last few years; she and Dick spent a lot of their time in Arizona. It was not a lot of fun for them; Alzheimer's essentially strips away those things that make you human, bit by bit. After awhile, the woman who ran one of the most organized kitchens in the St. Paul suburbs would find herself standing there, trying to remember what precisely you do with a saute pan. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like and I hope that I never find out.

It's sad in a thousand ways, but one thing is assured: Mary is, most assuredly, in a better place now. It's been said in this space before -- nothing is promised. Still, no matter what, promise remains.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Snow Emergency Edition

It's been snowing so much lately that ol' Pandora the computer almost got buried under a drift. But it's Thursday, so neither rain, nor sleet, nor any of those other things that bedevil the postal service can stop the blogger from making his picks. Meanwhile, behold one of the 25,000 quarterbacks who have played for the Lions since they last won an NFL championship.

Green Bay Packers 24, Detroit Lions 14. The Packers are in a foul mood after getting beaten by the Bears, with the added bonus of Nick Barnett getting assaulted by an official. The Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991. It probably won't be a very interesting game unless you are a relative of Vernand Morency and/or Craig Nall, but there's no reason to believe the Motor City Kitties will win on Sunday. And for those who want to know why, I'd encourage you to visit, a loving compendium of the 50 years of humiliation that is Detroit Lions football.

ACTUAL RESULT: GREEN BAY 34, MOTOR CITY KITTIES 13. Let's reprise the words of the old Paul McCartney song "Rockshow," (from Venus and Mars, by the way) which does as good a job of summing up this game as anything else. Best of all, you don't have to actually hear it:

In my green metal suit I'm preparing to shoot up the city
And the ring at the end of my nose makes me look rather pretty
It's a pity there's nobody here to witness the end
Save for my dear old pal and confidant, Madamoiselle Kitty, Kitty KITTY!

Packers wear green, they tend to shoot up the Lions, many of the Lions probably should be sporting nose rings. Substitute Mike Martz for Madamoiselle Kitty and I think it works pretty darned well. You don't suppose that Sir Paul might have, ahem, ingested something before he wrote those lyrics?

Denver Broncos 23, Purple 16. High altitude, low expectations. On the bright side, the Vikings have a lot of cap money and it's probably an even money bet that Donovan McNabb will be taking up residence here next year. The Vikes have had some success with castoff Eagle quarterbacks, if memory serves.

ACTUAL RESULT: BRONCOS 22, PURPLE 19 (OT). I thought of another song, this one by the late great Warren Zevon, that might fit this game. It's called "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead." Tarvaris couldn't win it in the end. Troy Williamson continues his Roberto Duran "Hands of Stone" imitation. And the team with 7, count 'em 7 Pro Bowlers finishes 8-8. The good news? We don't have to think about any of these people again until the spring. I would bet that Mr. Williamson may be looking for a new place of employment soon. Based on the available evidence, he might want to try Detroit....

This feature will return over the weekend for the Bowl Extravaganza!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Almost time. . .

to start paying attention to politics again. Iowa and New Hampshire will be doing their ritual vetting in the coming days and once the dust settles, we should have a better idea about who will be the contenders to succeed President Bush. I've really tried not to focus too much on politics lately, because it has been so distasteful. But duty calls. A few quick thoughts:

  • Mike Huckabee does not impress me at all. He's pure Arkansas, almost a doppelganger of Bill and Hill. He's having his moment right now, but my sense is that he's not going to last.
  • I would like to support Mitt Romney, but he hasn't sold me yet. I'm not especially concerned about Romney's Mormon faith; I grew up in a heavily Catholic town that happened to have a Mormon mayor and her faith didn't cause her to do anything goofy. What bugs me about Romney is that he's a little too, shall we say, protean. Since he can be whatever you want him to be, it's like staring at a funhouse mirror. Ever since my surgery, stuff like that makes me dizzy.
  • McCain is still beyond the pale, no matter how reasonable he might look. He's a decent, honorable man who is responsible for one of the worst things that has ever been done legislatively in this country - McCain/Feingold. Free speech is paramount and government should not infringe on it, especially political speech.
  • True confession: I voted for Ron Paul in 1988. I was a young libertarian and George H.W. Bush didn't especially impress me. 20 years on, the world looks very different. Ron Paul is the same: principled, forthright and someone who should never be president.
  • Could I vote for a Democrat? Theoretically, yes. But not for any of the current contenders. Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards are all big-time statists who aren't satisfied with the amount of power the government already has. They are all unserious people. When the most serious person on the port side is Joe Biden, you know that there's a problem.
  • So who does that leave? Rudy? Fred Thompson? Someone else? I don't know. We'll all have to sort it out pretty soon, though.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Togetherness at Christmas

It's Christmas Day and I hope that you are having an enjoyable time with your family. We are having a quiet Christmas but there's a reason for it. One might even call it ironic.

The kids woke us up at a fairly reasonable hour, 7 a.m., and then they opened their presents. The big deal this year is that they both now have their very own Nintendo DS, which they have been coveting for some time now. I think they suspected something was up, because they were making a point of "practicing our celebration when we get the DS," per my son. They didn't suspect that they would both be getting one, but Santa was able to rally this year. So they are both insanely happy.

Here's the ironic part - because they are both playing their games and have both retreated to their respective bedrooms to do it, the house is almost freakishly quiet. You can barely hear the clattering of tinny music from their rooms down the hall, but that's it. Mrs. D received two books for Christmas and is quickly devouring one of them, so she's pretty much silent, too. And I sit in front of Pandora the computer, typing away quietly.

Christmas is a time for togetherness. And we are all together. But it's a strange sort of togetherness. Perhaps once the novelty has worn off, we'll actually resume talking to one another....

Sunday, December 23, 2007


It's been a snowy weekend here and right now it's almost a bit Doctor Zhivagoesque. The wind is really whipping around and it looks like a snow globe placed in a paint shaker. On days like this, it's nice to be home, sitting at my dining room table, safe from the elements.

We tend to view holidays with nostalgia, especially this time of year. We've been dreaming of a White Christmas for a long time and it's been a mixed bet lately; many times we haven't had a lot of snow for the holidays. I remember it being different when I was a kid; it always seemed like there was snow on the ground, but that may be an example of memories playing tricks on us. So far this has been an old fashioned winter, as we like to describe it. The kids were out playing in the snow yesterday and will probably be back out there tomorrow, once the wind dies down a little bit.

We travel every other Christmas and this year is one of the years we've stayed home. It's been a different Christmas season this year; things are changing for our family and the kids are growing up quickly. We've tended to spend Christmas Day either at my in-laws, or with my family back in Wisconsin. Many times we've been forced to travel. Traveling on Christmas Day is no good - most places are closed and the only food on offer is what you can buy in a gas station. Several times we've eaten a picnic lunch at a truck stop in Wausau. That's not a memory you want to cling to. This year, Christmas is at our house. We've been here for over 10 years now and it really is time. Mrs. D and the kids are in the kitchen right now, making fudge. There may be Christmas cookies made later today, or maybe tomorrow. I'm not entirely sure how it will all play out, but it feels right.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Porn Star Mustache Edition

In our last edition, an anonymous poster helpfully pointed out that Bears quarterback Kyle Orton sports a porn star mustache. Now, Mr. Dilettante wouldn't know anything about that, of course, because good Catholic boys don't watch such things. And while it's possible that Kyle Orton may be trying to affect the look of an, ahem, adult entertainer, it's unlikely that he knows anything about what such individuals do, having attended Purdue, by far the most socially inhibited school in the Big 10. But if Orton sees the field on Sunday, he's quite likely to put on yet another obscene performance at Soldier Field. And that's why you're here, of course. On to the picks:

Green Bay Representatives of All That Is Good, Decent And Wholesome* 34, Team Harry Reems 16. A Packer-Bear game is always a morality play anyway and the Forces of Evil (EVIL!!! I SAID EVIL!!!!! GET THEE BEHIND ME, URLACHER!!!!) managed to steal a game up at Lambeau earlier this year. (Evil people steal, of course). And like all bad guys, da Bearz likely have something up their sleeve. The problem is that they can't score. Odd, isn't it, that people who look like porn stars can't score. But that's the fate of the Chicagoans, who are, as the great Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Verdi said, representatives of the "City of Big Shoulders and Narrow Trophy Cases." 14-2 is looking more likely by the moment for my beloved Packers.

ACTUAL RESULT: EVIL 35, GOODNESS 7. I could extend the metaphor of this particular posting in a number of ways, but in the interest of keeping this a family-friendly feature, let's just say that sometimes Evil triumphs. On the other hand, Evil will be sitting on its couch in two weeks and my beloved Packers will move on. Merry Christmas, Mr. Urlacher.

Washington Politically Incorrect Sources of Great Frustration to Native Americans Everywhere Who Are Not Currently Preoccupied By the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux 24, Purple 21. This is the game that Tarvaris Jackson will need to win. The guess here is that he won't. The Redskins play pretty good defense and will probably keep Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor from running wild. If that happens, Viking fans had better hope that the defense can score a few times.

ACTUAL RESULT: REDSKINS 32, VIKINGS 21. Guess Tarvaris isn't ready. Not sure he ever will be. I think you could make an argument that the best quarterback in Minnesota is Adam Weber.

And since we have to keep our eyes on the scoreboard, and because it will likely annoy Dan S. greatly, I present a Bonus Pick:

Carolina NASCARs 24, Romo Arigato 21. T.O. has instructed Jessica Simpson to stay away this weekend. But what happens if Jessica Biel shows up? Or Jessica Alba? Or Jessica Rabbit, for that matter? Lots of ways to distract the dashing young Cowboys quarterback, I reckon. If I were Tony Romo, the person I'd watch out for this week is Julius Peppers.

ACTUAL RESULT: COWBOAHS 20, PANTHERS 13. Julius Peppers didn't even play and a bunch of fans with Jessica Simpson masks didn't fool fellow cheesehead Romo. Now if they had all been wearing masks depicting a bratwurst on a semmel roll, maybe that might have made a difference, but I suspect the folks in Charlotte don't know about such things. I must also say that I've been very grateful to have the services of Marion Barber III for my fantasy football team this year.

* No, we aren't going to talk about Mossy Cade, or James Lofton, or Mark Chmura, or .....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ann Marie Talks with the Bishop (apologies to Yeats)

I met the Bishop on the op-ed page
And much said he and I
"Your doctrine's flat and fallen now,
The Vatican I decry;
Speak now of higher values,
Don't make my parents pry."

"So said at St. Joan of Arc,
What's foul is fair," he cried.
"Doctrines denied, but not the truth
Of teachings I've described
Fought in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

"A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent
But love has pitched this mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Understanding your sidebar

As much as a blogger might reveal in postings, I find that sidebars are often a better window into the thinking and the attitude of a blog. I've been working on my sidebar lately and have been adding various elements to it in the past month. It is, I suppose, a form of decorating; some blogs I read regularly have striking visuals - Uncle Ben over at Hammerswing is currently doing some really neat stuff for the holidays. I don't really have the technical chops to do much other than tack stuff up on the side. It was the same approach I took to decorating my dorm room years ago - one year I had vintage travel posters that I stole from my dad, another year I went out and bought Picasso prints, the next I put up a bunch of sports pennants.

Sidebars can be a measure of things, or people, that we value. The bloggers and other links that I've gathered in the "Me Gusta" section are people whose work I admire. We are fortunate in Minnesota to have a strong blogging population and every link that I've posted is someone that I strongly recommend.

I've lately added some images on the sidebar as well; while the images are a bit distorted (again, my technical chops aren't so good), but the three faces you see are all people whom I greatly value. The first image is that of my childhood hero, Roberto Clemente. I was about the age my daughter is now when Clemente dominated the 1971 World Series, the first Series that I remember well. He was a fierce, proud and consistently exciting player and he died a tragic yet utterly noble death, attempting to bring relief to the victims of the earthquake that hit Nicaragua late in 1972.

The second image is that of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Yeats was a force even as he approached the end of his long life; his verse was strong, deceptively plain-spoken yet always brimming with ideas and passion.

The third is. . . Bob Newhart? Doesn't seem to fit, does it? But it does. As much as I admire firebrands like Clemente or Yeats, I've never been one myself. Can't really pull it off. But the gentle smart-aleck thing comes quite naturally. And there's never been anyone better at it than Newhart.

So here's the question. Even if you are not a blogger, you likely have a mental sidebar. Who would be three people that you'd put on your sidebar? And why?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dorky Dad - Highly Recommended

I found a humor blog that's very good, apparently emanating from a guy who lives in New Brighton. It's called Dorky Dad ( and he's quite good, so good that my son Ben was laughing so hard that he we needed to remind him to breathe. Support your local bloggers and give him a look. He's on my blogroll for easy reference.

Four Guys Named Ben Update 121507

The Gold Standard ran up against a hot shooting St. Anthony squad this morning and lost by a score of 42-30 at the SACC. Ben got on the board, scoring on a short jumper in the first half. The boys played tough but in the end the St. Anthony squad was too deep and too tough.

The team is now 2-2-1 and will be taking a holiday break, returning to action in three weeks. Stay tuned to Mr. Dilettante for continuing coverage of the Irondale/St. Anthony/Mounds View 5-6 League.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mr. D begins year three

Some people make a big deal about their blog anniversary; I'm so attuned to such milestones that the two year anniversary for Mr. Dilettante passed yesterday and I completely forgot about it. So let the pigeons loose. Thanks to all who have joined me on this journey.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Overexposure Edition

Suddenly the locals are going to be featured twice on national television in the coming weeks? Is Chilly ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille? We'll talk about that anon. But first:

Green Bay Packers 34, St. Louis Mutton 14. Not that long ago, a trip to St. Louis meant a lot of dread. Not lately, though; these Rams are decimated with injuries and weren't all that good to begin with. The Packers have been awfully good this year and there's little reason to suspect it will be different this time around. Here's the interesting question for Packer fans; Ryan Grant now has 744 yards and three games to go. Will he get 1,000 yards in essentially half a season? The answer to that question may have a lot to do with whether or not the Packers will be leaving Dallas with smiles on their faces in January. So far he's been doing a very convincing Dorsey Levens imitation.

ACTUAL RESULT: PACKERS 33, ST. LOUIS 14. Now that's pretty good - I was only one point off. Good result and with the Seabags losing in Carolina, the Packers get a bye and their first playoff victim in Lambeau. Hope it's really, really cold. Oh, and the Cowboys lost today, too and have their last two on the road and an injured Tony Romo to boot. This could still break the Packers' way....

Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 17, Spawn of Abe Gibron 14. The choke is coming. Everyone who has ever spent any time observing the locals knows that it's coming, especially fans of the locals. But these Bears are going to have a difficult time scoring with Kyle Orton as their quarterback. But it wouldn't surprise me if Lovie has a few tricks up his sleeve. And Devin Hester is still lurking. I'm still going with the Vikings, but I would not be surprised to see a close game where Tarvaris Jackson has to win the game. And we still don't know if he knows how to do that.

ACTUAL RESULT: SEVEN LAVENDER CLAD PRO BOWLERS 20, KYLE ORTON NATION 13. And after this game, we still don't know whether or not Tarvaris Jackson can win a game if he has to; I think we can all agree that a team quarterbacked by Kyle Orton doesn't count. We may find out as early as Sunday. The Vikings are in the catbird seat, as Red Barber used to say, but they will need to pick it up considerably from what they showed on Monday night.

Curious George Takes a Dump

George as in George Mitchell, that is. The former senator from Maine has now released his report concerning the use of steroids in baseball. Some of the names are headliners - Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Miguel Tejada. Some are ghosts - Lenny Dykstra, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch. Most are marginal players - Larry Bigbie, Cody McKay, Bart Miadich.

There are around 80 names all told. We know all about Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. I would claim to be a little surprised about Rondell White and a surprising nest of former Braves pitchers, like Denny Neagle, Kent Mercker and Mike Stanton. We continue to suspect other names not listed here - Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez.

So what do we make of it all? Here are a few thoughts:

  • The revelations of the new names may make this news, but it's very old story. This story is simply a variation on the Faust legend that has been told countless times. There have always been people who are willing to sell their soul for transitory glory. Eventually the devil comes to collect. This time, his messenger happens to be a former senator from Maine. (And no, I'm not saying Senator Mitchell is in any way satanic, although he did treat President Bush 41 like hell.) Some 400 years ago, Marlowe wrote the story. Some 175 years ago, Steven Vincent Benet wrote the story. This time, apparently Buster Olney is writing it. But it's the same story.
  • It will be very interesting to see if Roger Clemens garners the same level of oppobrium that Barry Bonds has lived with in the last few years. If what's contained in the Mitchell report is true, their stories are remarkably similar - players who were likely headed for the Hall of Fame on merit, but who wanted to reach further and used artificial means to artificially extend their careers. Bonds may be one of the 10 most hated men in America. Will Clemens face the same wrath? We're about to find out.
  • The question about the Hall of Fame is going to come up, especially since Clemens and Bonds are among the top five players at their positions in the history of the game. I've mentioned Bill James's book The Politics of Glory before, but I would commend it to your attention, because it explains why the Hall of Fame is already a deeply compromised institution. You might think a HOF with Bonds would be tainted. You might even be right. But a HOF that already contains Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Gaylord Perry and many similar rogues is already tainted to some degree. I'm not sure what you do about hygiene at this point.
  • And how do we view this entire era? I would suggest that we view the era in the same way we view the early 1930s, a time of incredible offensive production that has almost no bearing on what happened in the following years. Hack Wilson hit 191 RBIs in 1930. No one has seriously approached that record in many years. The record is on the books, but today we don't look at Hack Wilson in the same way we look at some of his contemporaries, like Gehrig, Ott and Foxx. We'll have to cast a gimlet eye on some of the achievements of the era, but others will likely stand. We might devalue Bonds or Clemens, but we'll likely still be able to sing the praises of Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson. That is, unless Curious George has more names to reveal later on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


You may have noticed this. After taking a 34-0 thrashing at the hands of my beloved Packers, the local professional football team has suddenly won four consecutive games, many of them by fairly lopsided scores. And just as suddenly, the skeptical fan base is becoming interested in the team again.

This has caused some hooting in certain corners. In today's Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan wrote about the notion of people jumping on the bandwagon. Souhan's take is that using the word bandwagon is a sign of mental weakness. So I'm going to prove his point and use the word extensively. I take great pride in being a slack-jawed moron. Really, who wouldn't?

Souhan's argument is that being a fair-weather fan is rational, especially for Vikings fans. Generally I agree with him; no team has teased its fans more. And given the battle for entertainment dollars in the Twin Cities, it's not surprising that the team has had to rely on corporate largesse to keep their games on television most of this year. The cost of attending an NFL game is pretty outrageous these days; if I were inclined to take my family to the Dome for a game and were to pay face value for the tickets, I would reasonably expect that the total outlay for the day would be approaching $400, once parking and concessions are factored into the equation. I can take the family to a Twins game for a tenth of the cost and, not surprisingly, we go to several Twins games each year. I have only seen the Vikings in the Metrodome once and that was in 1989, I think.

Being a fan isn't about rationality, however. Especially in professional sports, it's about cheering a bunch of mercenaries who happen to be wearing the colors of the team assigned to your market. It's pretty much axiomatic that people who always stay on the bandwagon do so for reasons that have a lot more to do with emotion than intellect. As a Packer fan, I certainly understand the role of emotion in my support of the team. Despite whatever protestations the team might make to the contrary, the Packers don't need my support at all. If I were to switch allegiances tomorrow, it wouldn't make a bit of difference to the Packers. They have every ticket sold in their stadium, essentially forever; thousands of fans sit patiently on the waiting list for season tickets.

But there I sit on the Packer bandwagon, pretty much in the same seat I've held since I first started following the team as a child. I can quote chapter and verse about former Packers and I've watched hundreds of games in my life on television. Only once have I actually seen a game in Lambeau Field (Green Bay 48, Washington 47, a Monday Night game back in 1983). Is it rational that this team has such a purchase on my time and my psyche? Of course not. But it doesn't matter. I stay on the bandwagon. And I don't begrudge those who hop on and off the bandwagon. It doesn't detract from my joy one bit if people who might ordinarily wear purple, or silver and blue, or even navy and orange, keep a Favre jersey deep in their closet.

So if the Vikings lose this weekend and the all the people jump off the purple bandwagon again, that's fine too. And if they decide to join the Packer bandwagon later on, great. There's always room.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Somewhere in the wilds of Fitchburg...

Mills is smiling. MU 81, Bucky 76. But us Beloit College grads wish to thank the University of Wisconsin-Madison for providing us with our new basketball coach, former Badger great Brian Vraney. I can only assume that Duany Duany was otherwise engaged.

Four Guys Named Ben Update - 120807

Our intrepid basketballers, coming off the brutal scrimmage against the girls last night, took the court against one of what appears to be several dozen Mounds View teams this afternoon at Chippewa Middle School. The boys prevailed 20-14, wearing down their undermanned opposition. Since Ben is on the gold team this year, I think we'll call this squad the "Gold Standard."

As for our particular Ben, he did not score, but took two shots and was "ferocious" on defense, according to one of the other dads. And indeed, Ben was; he forced five turnovers that I counted and he shut down the guy he was guarding entirely. Ben also managed an assist and 4 rebounds. All in all, a good showing. And Ben didn't get trampled, unlike what happened the night before.

Anyway, the team is now 2-1-1 and will take the court next week against yet another mysterious Mounds View team at Chippewa. More details anon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Scrimmaging the Girls

So we just got back from my son's basketball practice. His team was practicing in half of the Highview Middle School gym, while a girls team was practicing on the other side. One of the coaches from the girls team came over to our side of the gym and asked if our guys would be willing to scrimmage the girls. After a little hemming and hawing, the boys agreed and we went over to scrimmage the girls.

At my son's age (he just turned 12), it's not at all uncommon for the girls to be taller than the boys. Girls tend to mature a few years before the boys do and the girls on this team were generally as big, or bigger, than some of the kids on our team, especially the 11-year old boys. And if our guys thought that these girls were going to be shrinking violets, they were quickly disabused of that notion. The girls set up a play and our point guard, who is a thin, quick, talented kid, was attempting to guard the girl playing point guard. As the girl began to drive, another girl came up and set a moving pick that would have gotten a member of the Wild two minutes in the penalty box for roughing. Our guard went flying, knocked almost out of bounds. The pick was most certainly illegal, but in the world of scrimmages no one said a word, although Mrs. D wasn't too pleased about it. Over the course of the 1/2 hour or so that the kids scrimmaged, at least three of our kids were sent sprawling in a similar fashion, including my son.

After it was over, our kids were more than a little surprised that they had been manhandled by a bunch of girls. But I think there are a few lessons here:

First, athletics for girls has changed a lot since the early days after the implementation of Title IX. Girls these days are taught to play the game hard and not to back down.

Second, boys underestimate girls at their peril. Yes, gender roles ultimately remain the same, but this generation of girls is learning to be more aggressive in all sorts of ways. There's been a pretty lively debate about how girls and boys are educated these days. Girls are now overtaking boys in a number of metrics and how this plays out over time will be very interesting to see. It is beyond dispute that there is a major shift underway with implications that we won't understand for some time.

My daughter is now entering this world, too. She will be playing basketball this year in the "Little Dribblers" program, which teaches basic skills and doesn't really involve a lot of scrimmaging or games. My guess is that she and her peers will be taught to be aggressive as well. What will that mean for her? Hard to say. But what she learns on the basketball court will have ramifications for how she sees the larger world. And it's possible that if she decides she wants to stay with basketball, in 3 or 4 years she might be knocking some boy on his butt.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What did the 60s look like?

Here's what they looked like sometime in 1968 or so. The blogger is on the far right, sporting a smokin' polyester Beatles-style Edwardian suit, while his younger brothers feature shorts and black knee socks. All are wearing Buster Brown shoes. And if isn't obvious, my dad was trying to save money in those days by cutting our hair. And there's no easier haircut to administer than a buzz cut.

This picture was taken at our maternal grandmother's house - I am not sure of the occasion; might have been Easter or something, or maybe one of my dozens of cousins (I have over 60 of them on my mother's side - like I've said, I'm pretty Catholic) was getting married. This image was taken with my father's early Polaroid camera, which was a complicated contraption that led him to bat about .500 on getting good pictures; that's one reason why it's all wrinkled and gooey, besides the usual ravages of time that have caused it to fade. A lot of images that we see from that era are similarly distorted, of course, but not simply because of the technological limitations of film in that era. There are any number of people who want to believe things about the 1960s that simply aren't true. These days you are much more likely to see pictures of flowing-haired hippies and psychedelic outfits whenever this era is mentioned. It's worth remembering that a lot of people looked like my brothers and I did then. It may be a crinkled picture, but it's a more accurate one.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Bay Area Edition

As it turns out, the remaining teams on the Dilettante radar are both playing Bay Area teams this week. So what will happen?

Packers 34, Raiduhs 13. I haven't heard if ol' number 4 is going to play or not. But I'd be shocked if he didn't. Don't doubt that Aaron Rodgers could beat the Raiders, though. Or newly re-acquired Craig Nall. Or probably even former Packer great Jim Del Gaizo. At one time the Raiders had a team full of stars. These days, their best player is probably Huggy Bear's kid. No worries this week.

ACTUAL RESULT: GREEN BAY PACKAHS 38, RAIDUHS 7. Last time the Raiders lost a game this badly? When Favre carved them up in Oakland the day after his father died in 2003. Too bad the Lions couldn't have helped out, but as we all know, you can't count on the Lions for anything.

Purple Helmeted Steroid Warriors 31, San Francisco Homeless People 17. I still think the Purple is headed for a stumble, but based on the available evidence it's hard to see how it could happen this week. The 49ers are surprisingly wretched this year and what looked like a challenging game earlier in the year should be pretty easy for the locals. But let's give a shout out to Ray Edwards, busted 4 games for steroid use. Edwards went to Purdue, which is primarily an engineering school. Must have taken that "Better Living Through Chemistry" course.

ACTUAL RESULT: PURPLE HAZE 27, PELOSI NATION 7. Too bad Alan Page retired 30 years ago; he could have gotten an interception like all the other Viking D-lineman, too. I think the Chilly Death Watch is officially over, by the way.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What's in a bandolier?

Bullets, of course. Lots and lots of bullets.

  • Sports Illustrated named ol' number 4 as its 2007 Sportsman of the Year. SI is funny about the people it picks and the reasons; sometimes they reward people for performance, other times for good intentions. Back in 1987, they named a bunch of non-entities (including the immortal Rory Sparrow) under the rubric of "Athletes Who Care." The problem for SI was that the readership didn't care. Favre is a good pick because he is having a fine, record-breaking season. Beyond that, he is personally popular (especially among the jock-sniffers on ESPN) and you can bet that SI could sell upwards of a million copies in Wisconsin alone. And, this Packer fan thinks he's actually deserving.
  • Politics keep creeping in; the Iowa caucuses are now set for January 3, with the New Hampshire Primary soon thereafter. Many of the other states are jockeying for position to have a say in who gets the nomination. I don't have any idea who is going to be the GOP standard-bearer and at this point I'm not overly concerned about it. Based on the roster of worthies on the port side of the ledger, the GOP could nominate just about any party regular who can fog a mirror and that individual would be preferable. Except maybe Larry Craig.
  • Like a lot of people my age, I was politically liberal for a time in my youth. When I was in my 20s I read The New Republic regularly. In those days TNR was a lively, center-left publication that was truly a big tent. They had conservatives like Fred Barnes, libertarians like Charles Paul Freund and idiosyncratic liberals like Mickey Kaus on their masthead. It was a fun, quarrelsome operation even under the aegis of the annoying Michael Kinsley. Things have changed. The current majordomo is a young guy named Franklin Foer and Mr. Foer is in a lot of trouble. You've likely read plenty about the case of the "Baghdad Diarist," a Kurt Vonnegut wannabe named Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who sent in some dubious dispatches detailing a number of grotesqueries supposedly committed by U.S. soldiers. The stories, it turns out, were just that. After nearly five months of stonewalling, Foer and his buddies at TNR now are backing away from what they published, although it took Foer a few thousand words to fess up. It's sad because we need responsible voices on the Left. Increasingly I doubt that there are any.
  • I've been remiss in mentioning it, but there is an excellent new group blog that began operations back in September, named True North ( A goodly number of the best local bloggers post regularly there. While I always recommend that the best place to read local bloggers is at their respective blogs, you can get a good flavor of what's out there by checking out True North. If you are at all concerned about what's happening in Minnesota, True North should be a regular read.
  • A quick update on the health of the blogger - I was in for some more blood work and an MRI last week. The early news is encouraging; my endocrine levels continue to be where they are supposed to be. I'll continue to keep you posted and will be updating the Caringbridge site once I have the MRI results. I appreciate your continued support and most of all, your prayers. They have made a huge difference!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It was 44 years ago today with BREAKING NEWS from today

That I made my debut on a cold, snowy morning, just after midnight, at Macneal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn, Illinois. The nation was still reeling from the assassination of John Kennedy 10 days before. The Warren Commission was already at work, interviewing witnesses. I was the first child born to Ed and Mary Jane, a young couple from Wisconsin who had married in January and had come to Chicago to seek a new life. It didn't work out too well and they ended up back in Appleton, where I grew up.
44 is kind of an odd birthday. It's not a milestone, but there's an obvious symmetry to the number. It occurs to me that, based on the average life expectancy in the United States, I'm probably playing the back nine. Demographically, I'm considered a Baby Boomer, but I don't really fit with that generation. My siblings are all younger and they are considered Gen X. Those of us who were born between 1960 and 1964 are in a sort of demographic limbo. I can only dimly remember the 1960s; I remember weird things, like watching the 1968 election returns with my dad, or seeing the weekly body counts from Vietnam, which in those days included the numbers of opposing soldiers killed, something we don't get in the current war. I remember the astronauts; I sort of remember Woodstock, or more to the point, my dad's disgusted reaction to the news reports he was seeing on the television. This larger world was out there; one of my uncles was a POW and I remember my cousin wearing a bracelet with my uncle's name on it. But my experiences aren't the same as most Boomers. And that's okay.
This has been an eventful year and despite some of the setbacks and struggles we've faced I'm grateful for a lot of things. I suspect that my 45th year will be better than this one has been. And that's the best birthday present a person can have.
UPDATE: So, turning 44 has already paid immediate dividends. My family and I went to the Culvers in St. Anthony tonight to get an ice cream treat for my birthday. I ordered the items and then paid for them. After we left the counter, Mrs. D said "did you notice that they gave you the senior citizen discount?" I hadn't. Glad to see that I'm aging well! Some people get really offended by stuff like that. I think it's hilarious. See you tomorrow afternoon around 3:30 for the early bird special!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Grab a Tray, Archbishop

I'm a Catholic boy - says so right under the name on the blog. I understand that there are people who are Catholics in name only, or in a cultural sense. There are plenty of "EC" Catholics - the ones who show up for Mass on Easter and Christmas only. They are usually easy to spot, because they are dressed to the nines and look nervous upon entering. We live in a secular society and I prefer it that way. No one other than my kids has to answer to me for how they live their lives. If someone wants to be an EC Catholic, that's fine.

I have more of a problem with "Cafeteria Catholics," however. A Cafeteria Catholic is someone who picks and chooses which parts of Church doctrine he chooses to believe and ignores the others. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece the other day about Nick Coleman, the annoying Star Tribune columnist who fanices himself an expert on all things. I don't know if Coleman is actually Catholic or not, but he decided to take the incoming Archbishop, John Nienstedt, to task for having the effrontery to actually offer Church teaching on homosexuality. The Archbishop responded to Coleman's column in Friday's Star Tribune and his response speaks for itself. Today, of course, the responses to the response came in. And that's what I'm going to write about today.

The Star Tribune letters section is usually a Greek chorus of leftist magpies - often the complaints aired there are Daily Kos boilerplate or variations on the emanations that issue from college campuses these days. Although it's usually not said explicitly, the primary purpose of these pronouncements is to ensure that those who are not in favor on the Left are punished for their sins. Because the Church has stood foursquare on the wrong side of the abortion debate, and has not endorsed whatever lifestyle a liberal might want to live at any given time, any churchman will automatically face suspicion. And a fellow like Archbishop Nienstedt, who came of age under John Paul II and who has evidently taken what JPII's teachings to heart, is an enemy to be confronted.

Typical is this letter, written by a gentleman in Minnesota Lake, who thinks he's found a hole in the Archbishop's armor:

Did any other reader notice that in Archbishop Nienstedt's response to Nick Coleman's Nov. 28 column regarding the church's and archbishop's lack of compassion toward gays, none of Nienstedt's biblical references included a direct statement by Jesus?

Oddly enough, Jesus never addressed racism or envirnomental degradation either. So are we to assume that it's okay to be racist, or to trash the planet? After all, Jesus never addressed the matter, so it must be okay, right? But the writer goes on.

There of course is a reason for that, [which is what?-Ed] leaving open the question: What would Jesus say? Many of us Christians faithfully believe that Jesus would be open, and, yes, compassionate and accepting toward his homosexual brethren.

Jesus did address the subject of adultery, of course. He told the rock-toting Pharisees, "whoever among you is without sin may cast the first stone." But he also told the woman who was to be stoned this: "Go and sin no more."

Is homosexuality a sin? That's a subject for debate in the overall secular society, as it should be. But within the Church, it's a matter of doctrine. And the Archbishop's primary charge is to teach and, when necessary, enforce Church doctrine. One can be compassionate and even accepting of homosexuals and homosexuality, while still decrying homosexual behavior. That's been the Church's stance for many, many years now. But that's not what this letter writer, and the Rainbow Sash people, and Nick Coleman want. They want an endorsement of homosexual behavior from the Church. Harry Flynn has been finessing the matter, tolerating the antics of places like St. Joan of Arc (Minneapolis's finest pagan Catholic church) but banning the Rainbow Sash people at the Cathedral. Nienstedt won't play that game. So the game is on.