Monthly Archives: May 2009

Twitter and the Cleveland Cavs

Well, we made it to another Don’t Worry, Be Happy Friday. Woot. And none too soon. The Cleveland Cavaliers won last night, meaning just about everyone in Northeast Ohio can climb back inside from the window ledge until game six Saturday night. I managed to watch the game for three quarters, following along in my little Twitter echo chamber. (Like LeBron, I had a triple double. Only mine was Jameson. And yes, it did negate the benefits of a great afternoon nap. I digress.)

And wow. Wonder how many mental health professionals are followers in that Twitter venue. They should. Business opportunities abound. Change the hash tag from #cavs to #manic depression. Talk about mood swings — up by 20, down by a field goal, CC Sabathia opining, Charles Barkley actually making sense. Phew! Folks. Chill. The Cavs are going to win this series. Then they are going to thump Kobe and the Lakers. Mo Williams guarantees it.

Don’t worry, be happy.

And smile while you have the opportunity. There is a trend emerging that may tag all of us with a collective frown face.

For instance, in the great state of Virginia, you can no longer smile while having your picture taken for a driver’s license. Here’s from The Washington Post:

Few places in Virginia are as draining to the soul and as numbing to the buttocks as the branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yet, until recently, smiling was still permitted there.

No more. As part of the DMV’s effort to develop super-secure driver’s licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a “neutral expression” in their portraits, thereby extinguishing whatever happiness comes with finally hearing one’s number called.

The driver’s license photo, it seems, is destined to look like a mug shot.

DMV officials say the smile ban is for a good cause. The agency would like to develop a facial recognition system that could compare customers’ photographs over time to prevent fraud and identity theft. “The technology works best when the images are similar,” said DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen. “To prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we’re asking customers to maintain a neutral expression.”

“To prepare for future security enhancements.” LOL

I’ll never get a driver’s license in Virginia.

And it strikes me, security issues and enhancements aside, that this runs counter to our national interest. As a nation, it’s important that we keep smiling. Otherwise we’ll be in a never-ending funk, what with Government Motors going belly up next week, North Korea demonstrating that it does have weapons of mass destruction, the Republicans self-destructing in their attempt to scuttle the SCOTUS pick, no hope of repealing baseball’s designated hitter rule and so on.

So when it comes to the Cavs this weekend,  for all of us tethered to Twitter and to those still living in the real world, don’t worry, be happy.

And keep smiling.

The Cavs and Oscar Robertson

I managed to run five miles yesterday morning. This morning I’m pretty much limping along. I guess I should be worried about that. Or about the fact that Government Motors is going belly up next week. Or the fact that North Korea really does have weapons of mass destruction. And so on. But instead, like most in NE Ohio, I’m pondering the rise and potential fall of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they lose to the Orlando Magic at home tonight, the community will be sucking a collective tailpipe.

That’s a shame — given the great season the Cavs have had. And I’m reasonably optimistic that they will win the next three games and advance in the playoffs. (Does basketball season ever end? I digress.) But regardless, the Cavs demonstrate the unifying effect that sports — professional and quasi-professional (college in the upper divisions) — can have on a community.

I’ve written about that previously from the standpoint of Pittsburgh: City of Champions — the Steelers and Pirates.

Cleveland — and Northeast Ohio — could use that kind of community relations boost right now, given the economic and other problems we face here. Yet maybe that’s too big a burden for one team — and one player — to carry. We’ll see.

And if the Cavs don’t make it beyond the Magic, a good explanation can be found in a NYT column written by William Rhoden (before the Cavs lost Tuesday night): “In LeBron James, Oscar Robertson Sees a Star with a Familiar Plight.”

Robertson was the James of his era — but in all the years with the Cincinnati Royals, he never had a strong enough supporting cast to win an NBA title.

“When I played for the Royals, when I look back on it, there’s no way we could have won,” Robertson said Monday in a telephone interview from his home in Cincinnati. “We played the Celtics, and they had three or four superstars playing in their lineup. We had one.”

Robertson played for Cincinnati from 1960 to 1970. The team was carried to whatever heights it attained by Robertson. The Royals never reached the finals during Robertson’s tenure, but he was an actor in a great individual rivalry. Oscar Robertson and Jerry West were the Kobe and LeBron of their era. There certainly were other great guards of the era, but Robertson and West defined the position: black-white rivals in the racially charged civil rights era of the 1960s. They were the same age, shared similar backgrounds — “Jerry had a tough time growing up, and I grew up in a ghetto in Indianapolis,” Robertson said.

West was the cold-blooded, stop-on-a-dime clutch shooter, so deadly that he made his way into a Richard Pryor monologue. Robertson was the exquisite technician who ran the team, scored, rebounded and made each teammate better.

West, like Kobe Bryant, had the better supporting cast. Robertson, like LeBron, was his team’s everything man.

Mo Williams — you reading this?

And full disclosure: I really don’t like professional basketball and won’t watch another minute of any game if the Cavs go belly up. But saying that, I hope they win. Hey, it’s good for the community.

Sonia Sotomayor: Play Ball

Well, the Prez got my attention yesterday when he announced his SCOTUS nomination. He said Sonia Sotomayor saved baseball with her ruling that ended the MLB strike in 1994/95. Ah, that may be true nationally and for the long run. But it’s going to take more than that — most likely a late-inning relief pitcher who can actually get an out in a critical situation — to save the season of the floundering Cleveland Indians this year.

Oops. I just wanted to join the chorus opining about Sotomayor — without as yet really giving any thought to whether she warrants lifetime tenure on the high court. My bad. Yet typical.

And there is a point here. Information — accurate or not — moves so quickly these days that you can’t afford to trail the story for even a few hours, let alone days, if you want to shape public perceptions on people and issues. It’s a lesson that businesses need to learn and practice, particularly those prone to shitstorm meltdowns because of customer service lapses and so on.

The public advocacy groups get it. Even before Obama cleared his throat to make the announcement Tuesday morning, those opposing the nomination of Justice Sotomayor were already stepping up to the plate, as reported on a NYT politics blog, The Caucus Blog.

Conservative groups reacted with sharp criticism on Tuesday morning. “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

Wendy, chill. Sotomayor saved baseball. WTF.

Anyway, I have, from Twitter, blogs, TV talking heads, NYT and so on, a perception of Sonia Sotomayor: educated at Princeton and Yale, born in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in a working class family, Hispanic, left of center justice (whatever that means), tough, fair, appointed by the first Bush and so on. But outside of her saving baseball — and shafting former OSU star Maurice Clarett — I know next to nothing about her as a judge.

Maybe that will come later. But I’m not sure it will matter. Unless there is a major skeleton or big tax issue hiding in the judge’s closet, it’s going to be awfully difficult for Republicans — particularly those who cling to the fading dream that they can ever get elected or re-elected — to oppose the nomination. Why?

Justice Sotomayor is a woman, Hispanic, educated at Yale and Harvard, someone who grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in a working class family.

And she saved baseball.

Play Ball!

Memorial Day and Reality

Like most these days, I enjoyed the long Memorial Day weekend without giving too much thought to why we celebrate the holiday. (Originally called Decoration Day, it began in 1868 to honor the Union soldiers killed in the Civil War.) And that’s too bad. We should stop to remember — and thank — the men and women (and their families) who have been killed protecting our freedom. Maybe when you get right down to it this is our most important federal holiday. I was thinking about that again this morning while taking a quick 3 a.m. check of my e-mail.

I had a news alert from The Wall Street Journal indicating that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is saying publicly that things aren’t going very well in Afghanistan and public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves “a perceptible shift in momentum.” Good for Gates. And this isn’t a criticism of the U.S. troops who are fighting bravely — and still dying — in that country.

Here’s from the WSJ article:

The defense chief has been moving aggressively to salvage the war in Afghanistan, signing off on the deployments of 21,000 American military personnel and recently taking the unprecedented step of firing the four-star general who commanded all U.S. forces there. Mr. Gates, speaking in his cabin on an Air Force plane, said the administration is rapidly running out of time to turn around the war.

“People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we’re making headway,” he said. “If they think we’re stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast.”

OK. Back to reality. We appear to be making some progress in working our way out of the mess in Iraq. It ain’t going to be that easy in Afghanistan — ever, and no matter how many troops we send there and how many die as a result. Gates appears to be facing that reality with some truthful, honest disclosure. And I would like to see our troops home before we celebrate another Memorial Day.

By the way, I gained this perspective on Afghanistan by reading Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile, a writer and producer with CBS News. Read the book and you’ll understand why no country — including the Soviet Union — goes into Afghanistan without getting its lunch eaten.

That’s reality.

And don’t rent the movie by the same name and starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. The reality facing our military — men, women and their families — isn’t as funny as that movie made it out to be.

No Swine Before Its Time

Just back from a late afternoon visit to the Cleveland rib cook-off. And one of the vendors that showed up in prior years had the slogan, “We serve no swine before its time.” (Or pretty close to that anyway.) No matter. That guy/gal wasn’t dishing ’em up this year. Maybe it had to do with the lingering concerns about swine flu. (You knew I had to say that.)

IMG00031So I headed to Pigfoot. And the ribs are fabulous. You could make the case for most of the others selling the BBQ — but I like the ribs lean and mild. And washing them down with a couple brews from Great Lakes Brewery doesn’t diminish the experience any.

And just a few observations as this event helps to kick off the summer here in NE Ohio:

  • Saw a guy wearing an orange T-shirt that said: “Pittsburgh Sucks.” Would have said something but figured he was most likely heading to the bus for the return trip to the lunatic asylum.
  • Guy in front of me to get the ribs was wearing a Cavs shirt with the name Hughes on the back. Sentimental value I guess.
  • And even at a venue where people are loading up with pork and brew, there is some good medical advice to be had. To wit:

IMG00034

Cavs, Idols and Presidential E-mails

Oh mama. I guess many of us in NE Ohio will be sucking the tailpipe today. The Cavs lost at home in the first game of the series with the Orlando Magic. And I’m not sure how that happened.

Managed to stay up way past my bedtime last night to see Kris Allen get the nod as the new American Idol. (Carrie Underwood he ain’t. I digress.) And full disclosure: I was actually trying to keep my eyes open to watch the Cavs, but my wife kept switching the channel when my head was nodding, thinking I wouldn’t notice. Not.

And I pretty much packed it in after Mo Williams launched a three-pointer at the end of the first half from essentially the bar at the Winking Lizard, a few blocks from the Q. Could life be any better?

Well, sweet dreams and a rude wake-up.

USA Today: “Howard, Magic Steal Game 1, Stun LeBron, Cavaliers, 107-106.” Yikes.

And Cavs’ coach Mike Brown opines: “This is good for us. We didn’t expect to go undefeated.”

Good for us. Well, uh, like a colonoscopy, I guess.

OK. OK. Just one game. So I check my e-mail — and there is a message from Barack. Well, not really from Barack. But from President Barack.

Remember during the campaign when I used to get those nice e-mails from Barack and Michelle? Well, now it’s President Barack Obama — but apparently he still needs my help and my money.

Rob —

The chance to finally reform our nation’s health care system is here. While Congress moves rapidly to produce a detailed plan, I have made it clear that real reform must uphold three core principles — it must reduce costs, guarantee choice, and ensure quality care for every American.

As we know, challenging the status quo will not be easy. Its defenders will claim our goals are too big, that we should once again settle for half measures and empty talk. Left unanswered, these voices of doubt might yet again derail the comprehensive reform we so badly need. That’s where you come in.

When our opponents spread fear and confusion about the changes we seek, your support for these core principles will show clarity and resolve. When the lobbyists for the status quo tell Congress to hold back, your personal story will give them the courage to press forward.

My personal story? Well, I still can’t run. My foot feels like it has a nail in it. The muscles and everything else that keep my hip attached to the rest of the leg are in a knot that would make a Boy Scout proud. But thanks for asking. Hope that helps as Congress moves rapidly. LOL

And, sorry, don’t have any money to send this time. Worried that I’m going to have to start paying more for health care. I digress again.

But clearly this is an important issue and in an effort to help contain health care costs I’ll offer this advice to the citizenry in NE Ohio. Don’t  spend the next two days fretting over the Cavs. Got to keep things in perspective.

The Cavs can’t possibly fumble at the goal line.

Obama, Civility and the Pittsburgh Steelers

OK. Second day on the elliptical trainer instead of the concrete. And it’s surprising how your world view changes when your legs are moving but you are basically standing still. Kind of like trying to change someone’s mind about a controversial topic: lots of action, little result.

I was musing over that this morning while watching for the 100th (at least) time news clips from Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame Sunday. You know. The president of the university created a shitstorm when he invited the president of the United States to talk — given Obama’s position on abortion which (at best) is opposite that of the Catholic church and many of the Notre Dame alums and soon-to-be grads.

Obama certainly didn’t alter the game on the abortion issue here. Positions are too set — and in most cases too extreme. But Obama scored some points in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus by addressing the audience — in person and beyond — with a recognition that this is an issue where people are going to disagree and have strong views and opinions .  Still, it’s possible to treat people with civility.

Here’s from a column in The Washington Post by E.J. Dionne Jr:

Facing down protesters who didn’t want him at Notre Dame, President Obama fought back not with harsh words but with the most devastating weapons in his political arsenal: a call for “open hearts,” “open minds,” “fair-minded words” and a search for “common ground.

That sure doesn’t appear to describe the intellectual smackdown that we see nightly by the TV talking head pundits on the cable networks. And anyone with a sense of fairness and intellectual integrity has to despair these days by the comments that flood the newspaper, magazine, blog and other sites online. Pretty neat to have the ability to anonymously yell fire in the crowded cyberspace theater these days.

Here’s from Andrew Alexander, The Washington Post ombudsman, “Channeling Online Rage“:

The Post is correct to encourage anonymous commenting. It makes its Web site a vibrant town square. And it’s a way of increasing site traffic, a key to The Post’s survival as its audience shifts online.

But here’s the challenge: shaping these growing online conversations in a way that encourages civility without restricting speech.

The lack of civility — throughout our society but particularly evident in government and the news media — troubles me. We need to find some common ground on the big (and small) issues. And we are never going to do it without civility — and treating people, even those with differing opinions and views, with respect.

This gets me to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And this is a small matter, but it troubles me. The Steelers are scheduled to show up at the White House Thursday for a round of high-fives and photo ops with the Prez to recognize their Super Bowl win. Complete waste of time, granted. (Note: I’m a lifelong Steelers’ fan.) But it appears to be cemented in our national psyche that the Prez should take time from considering solutions to two wars, recession-level unemployment, Chrysler and GM going belly up, swine flu and so on to do these kind of things. That’s fine.

But here’s the rub. James Harrison — the pride of the Steel City, Kent State and Coventry Township in NE Ohio — ain’t going. He skipped a similar opportunity to glad hand with George W. a few years. So I guess it’s not a political statement.

And Harrison’s an adult. I guess he can do what he wants — although there are plenty of employees with businesses who do things they aren’t particularly thrilled about because they are expected to be part of the team. So this strikes me as being rude — and maybe civility has to start with the little things.