Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Reaction to Palin

I’ve stayed away from blogging about politics for a while, basically because nothing had changed that much that I thought was worth harping on. I explained a long time ago why I tend to vote Republican (life, judges, and foreign policy), and I’ve taken great pains to not be one of those bloggers who every day picks apart the other guy—in this case Barack Obama—simply because I disagree with him. By way of disclaimer, let me also stipulate that I think that he’s a very likeable guy, and that it is a net positive for the country to have a minority candidate achieve what he has (although I still don’t want him appointing judges). I also have been less than enthused about John McCain. My favorite line about him (not original by any means) has been that McCain is “a great American, a pretty good senator, and a lousy Republican.” Although I respect his stance as a “maverick,” it has seemed like all too often the definition of “maverick” has been that he does things with which I disagree. I’m not a party guy, but I’m a conservative—and there has been plenty of reason to question whether McCain is truly conservative.

But yesterday—WOW! By picking Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, I think McCain really did something worth mentioning. As a short-term, tactical move, the pick had the effect of sucking all the media attention away from Obama’s historic acceptance speech. As a long-term, strategic move, it really reassures conservatives like me that McCain is not taking our votes for granted. In the category of the super-obvious, she has the added advantage of being a woman. And I happen to think she is a fabulous pick.

By now, everybody who has seen a cable news show knows the compelling biography—hockey mom who married her high school sweetheart and came up from PTA to mayor to governor, 1980s beauty queen, state champion point guard, who hunts, fishes, is married to a part-Eskimo blue-collar snowmobile racer. She is the mom of 5, including a son bound for Iraq in the army and a baby born with Downs Syndrome. She is known (like McCain) as a maverick, having bucked the notoriously corrupt Alaska GOP, and as governor she has enjoyed approval ratings in the stratosphere. She is very good on the issue of energy (assuming, of course, you think “good” means in favor of increased production). She is staunchly pro-life, and a life member of the NRA. And unlike somebody like Mitt Romney, she didn’t spend the better part of the last year campaigning against John McCain, so there shouldn’t be any youtube videos of her out there claiming he’s too old, too grumpy, or too liberal.

Of course, it would be disingenuous to claim that it wouldn’t be even better if she had been governor for 10 years instead of less than two. The obvious rejoinder to the criticism that she lacks “experience” is that so does Obama, and that at least her inexperience is at the bottom, not the top of the ticket. And in terms of executive experience, she had more after her term as mayor of a small town than anybody else in the race (including 24-year senator McCain or 35-year senator Biden). As governor, she’s been commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard and run a state government. To paraphrase Jesse Jackson, senators run nothing but their mouths. I think any argument that McCain undercut his message about experience by picking her is balanced by the counter-argument that Obama did the exact same to his “change” message by picking uber-insider Joe Biden. One thing is for sure… it’s pretty hard to get more “outside” of DC than small-town Alaska!

I’ve done a lot of reading of reaction from various pundits in the past couple of days, and the trend among conservatives has been probably 20-1 in favor of the Palin pick. Just speaking for myself, my support for John McCain has gone from resignation that he was the lesser of two evils to outright enthusiasm. I may even get a bumper sticker! Of course, there’s a lot of time left, and anything can happen. But I’m more optimistic about this race and the future than I have been since before the primaries.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympic Musings

Sorry I've been out of pocket for so long. What with political and track news, you'd think I'd be zapping out posts like crazy. But life has intervened--first week of school (which has gone fine, for those who might ask).

I'll probably think out loud about Joe Biden later (and no matter how wordy I am, it will be fitting, as he is one of the biggest bloviating gasbags in DC... but I like that!). But what's on my mind right now is a full week of Olympic track. It's the one time every 4 years that "my" sport takes center stage. And I LOVE it! So here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Usain Bolt is a freak of nature. I think (and hope) he's drug-free. He just takes less steps with those long legs than all the other runners, and turns them over just as fast. Truly amazing. The fastest man on the planet. Ever. And we got to watch him. What a treat.
  2. Bolt had a better Olympics than Michael Phelps. I know that's heresy, and not what NBC has been pushing. But 3 golds with WR in sprints is superior to 8 golds with 7 WR in swimming. The events are physically more demanding (imagine having 2 sprint finals 25 minutes apart... couldn't happen. It does in swimming, because there's no pounding). Moreover, the WR's he broke were superior. Michael Johnson's 19.32 in the 200 was thought by some to be the most untouchable record on the track. The 4x100 record had stood since 1992. There have only been twelve WR performances in the 100 since they started using fully automatic timing in 1968. Compare that to swimming, where WR's are broken all the time. Finally, Phelps basically duplicated what Spitz did, plus one event. Bolt did what no one has ever done... not Jesse Owens, not Carl Lewis. Nobody has ever swept the sprints with 3 world-record golds.
  3. Jeremy Wariner fired his coach, Clyde Hart (of Baylor, formerly Michael Johnson's coach), last year. He thought he was too expensive. LaShawn Merritt hired Clyde. Merritt beat Wariner at the US trials, and beat the heck out of him at the Olympics. Yes, there is a great deal of natural talent at work in track. And when the more talented meets the harder worker, sorry to say, talent usually wins. But when talent is equal, technique, and COACHING, counts. I still am a huge Wariner fan, and would love to see him get the world record someday. But Merritt deserved this one.
  4. Do you know who Bubba Thornton is? He's the relay coach for the USA. And he should be fired, tarred, feathered, hanged, drawn, quartered, beheaded, flayed, and disemboweled... for starters. Both US 4x100 relay teams dropped the batons and failed to advance to the finals. Now, I'll bet the Bolt-led Jamaicans would have still won the men's race. But we should have at least medaled. Those passes would be inexcusable on my high school team. My boys' 4x100 team is currently the SCISA state record holders, and we have won several state titles in relays in my years coaching. And rule #1 is ALWAYS "get the stick around." You do that by practice, practice, practice. Obviously, the world-class athletes we had didn't put enough effort into teamwork and fundamentals. That lies squarely at the feet of the coach.
  5. The USA basketball team is much better this go around. Unlike our sprinters, they seem to have found some humility, and with it, the ability to play as a team. And so far, they have beaten every team they have played by 20+ points. My pick to replace Bubba Thornton is Coach K.
  6. Notice that China is leading in gold medals, even though USA leads overall. Why? China has 4 times the population, a state-run athletic system that takes kids away from home at a young age and puts them in "sports academies" (I need to work at a US track academy!), and is obviously willing to cheat at a national level (providing faked passports for their underage gymnasts). Yet the only reason they have so many golds is because they win in sports that... sorry... shouldn't even be in the Olympics. Come on! Ping-pong? Trampoline? Synchronized gymnastics? Air pistol? Badminton? I'll make a deal... drop our golds in fencing and rowing and other non-sports, and everybody else do the same. Then we'll compare. I guess since poker and spelling bee are now on ESPN, they'll be giving Olympic gold for them, soon. Bah!
  7. Lest I be accused of jingoism for saying the above, let me qualify by admitting that pound-for-pound, the UK and Jamaica are doing even better than the USA. I just have no love for the Chi-Coms. Free Tibet!
  8. Still 4 events left I care about... basketball gold medal game, men's 4x400, men's 5000, and men's marathon. This is a GREAT week!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic Fanfare

Is it just me, or is the Olympic Fanfare one of the coolest songs ever? You know, the one they play before every commercial break during the coverage on ABC. I have to admit it, I'm an Olympic junkie. Obviously, the biggest reason is that it's the most-watched track meet in the world. But this year's version leaves me a little cold. Having the ChiComs barbaric regime host (with all that entails, like the crackdown on dissidents and limiting of foreign reporters' access to the internet) kinda stinks. There is a little room for nostalgia, though... along with the Russians recently invading Georgia, it brings back a little cold war vibe of pulling hard against the Russkies and the Chinese. There's some hope that maybe the USA basketball team will not embarass us again this year (come on--if you have Kobe and Lebron, you had better stinkin' win). A couple of nights ago I had my boys sit down and watch a video of Dream Team I ('92) in their opener against Angola. Ah.... the classics.

Anyway, I grew up on Bruce Jenner, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Mary Lou Retton... who's it going to be this year?

Time and Money, Part 2

Not a blog post; more of an illustration. Over 2 weeks ago I blogged that I was going to write a little about time management, before things got hectic again with the start of the new school year. Of course, I haven't written a word since. In the meantime, life has rushed in to fill the void. I have spent MANY days in my new classroom (I had to move to a new building after 8 years in the same spot... the new place is freshly renovated and bigger, but a move is NEVER fun), and the new cross-country season has begun, meaning daily practice. That practice involves not only a time commitment, but accompanying fatigue and dehydration that comes with the increase in intensity. So blogging (and even thinking deep thoughts about time) have taken a back seat. Maybe I'll come back to the topic later, but that ship seems to have sailed. I'm kinda looking forward to the new school year, if only for the structure and routine that allows "real" time management to work.