A Stupid Way to Lose a Football Game

With age comes experience [hopefully seasoned with a smattering of wisdom 😉 ].  Given the clear current danger to American democracy arising from illiberal officials and the significant segment of our polity consciously choosing to ignore or deny truth, the Russians massing at the Ukraine border, the evident and accelerating consequences of Climate Change, the continuing health and economic effects of COVID, human beings suffering from persecution and deprivation across the globe, etc., etc., etc., my pleasure at the triumphs and disappointment at the travails of the professional teams I root for has become pretty tempered.  Many of the pro athletes shown blinking back tears in the closing moments of losing playoff efforts will make more money in their short careers (some, in one season) than a significant percentage of our citizens will earn during their entire working lives.  Therefore, I note more in exasperation than despair that the Packer kicking game miscues last Saturday night were, truly, a stupid way to lose a football game, but symbolic of three decades of dominance that should perhaps have yielded four or five Lombardi Trophies and brought only two. We Packer fans nonetheless have every reason to be grateful for the wonderful distraction from life’s cares that the team has provided.

P.S.  After this was scheduled to run, a late postscript:  Reports have started to circulate that Tampa Bay Buccaneer and former New England Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady is considering retirement after an unmatched illustrious career in which he won Super Bowls with both teams.  I’m taking the liberty of suggesting this before at least I have seen anybody else do so:  What are the prospects that if Mr. Brady does indeed retire, next year Tampa Bay will have a different extremely-accomplished starting quarterback wearing its No. 12 jersey?

Scaling a Dam of Doubt

With a 12 – 3 record, the Green Bay Packers continue to cling to the No. 1 seed in the NFL’s NFC, the position which entitles the team that secures it to both a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the Conference’s playoffs.  As Green Bay squares off against the Minnesota Vikings in Lambeau Field this evening, a few impressions emerge:

Say what you will of his personal idiosyncrasies — and there is plenty that can be said 😉 — Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers seems, at 38, to be as good as he has ever been and is obviously the difference between the team’s current standing and, I would suggest, around a .500 record.  I don’t know whether a 3- or 4-year deal with record money will hold him in Green Bay after this year, but if it will, I’d pay him.  It is not a large stretch to suggest that the team would fare better next season fielding Mr. Rodgers and the Little Sisters of the Poor than it will by playing Backup Quarterback Jordan Love with the rest of the current team.

Although I thought the team performed well enough overall on December 12 – despite atrocious special teams play – against a weak Bears team, the team has regressed over the last two weeks:

Much has been made of Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh’s decision to go for a 2-point conversion and the win on December 19 — an attempt which failed, providing Green Bay the 31 – 30 victory.  I haven’t seen as much said about Mr. Harbaugh’s decision, at the culmination of Baltimore’s first drive of the game, to forego a certain 3-point field goal to try for a touchdown – an effort which also failed.  If Mr. Harbaugh had taken the chip-shot 3 points (which I would have in his place; I’m an advocate of setting strategy by the game situation rather than by statistics), and all things being equal, Baltimore’s late touchdown would have won the game.  Green Bay was in large part lucky not to have been beaten by a team fielding a second-string quarterback and a fourth-string secondary.

On Christmas Day, as much as I credit Cornerback Rasul Douglas’ contributions to Green Bay’s defense over the last half of the season, it was obvious that Mr. Douglas was guilty of pass interference on his last interception that sealed the 24 – 22 victory.  If instead of letting that last interception stand, an official had made the correct call against Mr. Douglas, the Browns would have had a first down on the Green Bay 40 yard line with over 40 seconds left – seemingly providing Cleveland ample time to set up a victory-clinching field goal.  Green Bay could well have lost despite intercepting Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield three times prior to the last drive.  Arguably, the Packers were, again, more lucky than good.

Of course, in an NFL game, “all things” are never “equal.”  If the Ravens had taken the field goal early in the December 19 game, it might have affected game strategy and altered outcomes throughout the contest for both sides; and a final Browns field goal cannot be taken for granted, given Mr. Mayfield’s uneven performance and the number of field goals that have been missed across the NFL this season.  Even so, as the Packers enter the last two weeks of the season they hardly seem the juggernaut that their record would imply. 

May we Packer fans see championship-worthy performances against the Vikings tonight and on the road against the Detroit Lions next weekend.  Wall Street has a term, “Climbing the Wall of Worry,” to describe financial markets’ sometime tendency to keep rising in spite of negative indicators; until we see more dominant play from the Green and Gold, I would submit that optimism about Green Bay’s prospects of winning a Super Bowl is tantamount to Scaling a Dam of Doubt. 

Green Bay at the Bye

As all who care are aware, the Green Bay Packers enjoy their scheduled bye this weekend after a tough victory over the formidable Los Angeles Rams last Sunday.  They are currently well positioned in the NFC playoff seeding, trailing only the Arizona Cardinals (whom they have already beaten) by a game in the loss column and maintaining a one game lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  While a higher playoff seed is clearly relatively better than a lower seed, a team’s playoff fortunes are sometimes not all that much a product of its seeding; as the Packer faithful are aware, there have been years in the Favre-Rodgers Eras in which the Green and Gold have enjoyed high seeds and faltered in Lambeau Field, while the team’s last Super Bowl victory, Aaron Rodgers’ only championship, occurred when the team barely squeezed into the playoffs and then rode what had become an outstanding defense through a series of road playoff victories.

What might provide the Green Bay Nation with reason for optimism is the possibility, as noted by former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback and Fox Sports Color Analyst Troy Aikman at the end of the Packer-Ram game, that the Packers, despite their enviable standing, aren’t yet playing their best football.  Notwithstanding yeoman performances by what at times has been a somewhat makeshift offensive line, the team needs to give Mr. Rodgers better pass protection.  Likewise, its defensive pass rush has been intermittent – for which the team has thus far been able to sufficiently compensate through the stellar play of its secondary.  Finally, after years of outstanding performance by Placekicker Mason Crosby, Mr. Crosby has lately been, at best, inconsistent.  I would venture that if the Packers suffer no more serious injuries to key contributors, four primary contributors – Offensive Tackle David Bakhtiari, Cornerback Jaire Alexander, Linebacker Za’Darius Smith, and Running Back Aaron Jones – return at close to full strength for their stretch run (Mr. Jones played against the Rams despite a recent knee injury, but except for one run on what for him were limited touches, didn’t look like his normal self), and Mr. Crosby can get his groove back 😉 , Green Bay has a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl berth, and perhaps a championship.

Those are, granted, a lot of ifs.  Even so, we Packer faithful should enjoy the ride, since this feels mighty like it could be the last year in Green Bay for Mr. Rodgers, and, unless Mr. Crosby improves his consistency, perhaps his last year with the team as well.  If so, judging by what we saw of Currently Heir Apparent Quarterback Jordan Love a few weeks ago, the football talk in Wisconsin at this time next year could center on how the team might best use what could be a high upcoming first round draft pick to begin rebuilding its fortunes in 2023.

On Aaron Rodgers’ COVID-Related Absence

As all who care are aware, Green Bay Packer Quarterback and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player (“MVP”) Aaron Rodgers has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and under NFL COVID protocols has accordingly been ruled out of the Packers’ game this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs (who are led by their own recent MVP, Quarterback Patrick Mahomes) in Kansas City.  As all NFL fans are aware, Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium is renowned as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, arena in the NFL for a visiting team.

While Mr. Rodgers certainly left the impression and acted like he had gotten his COVID vaccination, apparently he didn’t.  He will be replaced this week by Packer Backup and former Utah State University Quarterback Jordan Love.  Anybody who hasn’t spent the last two years in a cave is aware of the friction existing between Mr. Rodgers and the Green Bay front office caused by Packer General Manager Brian Gutekunst’s selection of Mr. Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft (although Mr. Rodgers professes no ill will toward Mr. Love personally, who is obviously an innocent bystander in the dispute).  Three reactions: 

First:  Packer fortunes.  Even the most rabid backer of the Green and Gold will concede that the team has not played as well as its 7-1 record would indicate.  That said, as things sit today, the team has, based primarily upon Mr. Rodgers’ extraordinary play, maneuvered its way into an excellent position in the NFC playoff race.  His absence as the Packers visit an extremely tough venue certainly endangers the team’s current enviable playoff position.  While this is little consolation for a significant segment of the roster who, statistically, will be out of the league three years from now, I’m glad that Mr. Rodgers is out.  The Packer Nation has already had enough discussion to last a lifetime about Mr. Love’s potential to be a fitting successor to Mr. Rodgers and a couple of his predecessors, Hall of Famers Bart Starr and Brett Favre.  On the road against a still-formidable 4-4 Chief team that is struggling to find itself, we’ll finally get a real chance to see if Mr. Love is any good.  Hopefully, the Packer receiving corps – Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and, obviously most importantly, Davante Adams – are back from their COVID-related absences to make it a fair opportunity for Mr. Love.  For me, the test for him is not whether the team wins, but how well he plays.  (Since, as my mother used to say, one swallow does not a summer make, I actually wouldn’t mind if Mr. Love had to start Green Bay’s following home game against another struggling team with a proud tradition, the Seattle Seahawks.) 

Second:  Given Mr. Rodgers’ prominence, perhaps this fiasco will bring home to the vaccine hesitant and resistant among the Packer faithful the consequences that can result from one’s misguided failure to get vaccinated, and cause some to get the shot.  If lives are saved as a result of Mr. Rodgers’ obstinate miscalculation – which, of course, will never be known — it will have been worth it.      

The third reaction:  in taverns throughout Wisconsin this weekend, discussions will be nonstop among Green Bay fans regarding various points related to Mr. Rodgers’ inability to play.  These positions will be earnestly and enthusiastically urged.  However, I would venture that even after the state’s most avid progressives and wildest Trumplicans accompany their fish fries with one, two, or perhaps even three refreshers [of course, never more, given the need to drive home safely  😉 ], Packer fans share such a bond – allegiance to the Green and Gold – that no matter how strongly their views of the Rodgers situation may differ, the talk will remain amiable.  Disagreements will be expressed … agreeably. 

Were it so on issues that matter.

Things That Make You Go, “HMMM.”

I’m channeling my inner Arsenio Hall.

Make no mistake:  I haven’t lost sight of the fact that President Joe Biden, by his willingness to run for the most challenging office in the world at an age more than a decade older than most people – including me — retire, showed a level of selflessness and patriotism we’ve rarely seen in our public officials in recent years.  Mr. Biden is a good man.  I remain thrilled that he is in the White House.  That said, for an Administration whose primary foreign policy pledge has been closer cooperation with allies, it’s been Amateur Hour.

Put aside whether our decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was correct; I don’t think so; many do.  It was Mr. Biden’s call; he’s the President of the United States.  What is becoming apparent is that the allies who got embroiled in the Middle East quagmire 20 years ago because of a grotesquely misguided series of decisions by former President George W. Bush felt inadequately consulted and little considered by our decision to so abruptly withdraw.  This seems an unnecessary error in allied relations.

As I’ve already lamented in these pages, it was pretty darn clear to anyone who read any credible news accounts on Taliban activity in Afghanistan during 2020 and 2021 that it was pretty darn likely that Afghanistan was going to fall to the Taliban almost the minute we withdrew.  In fact, it fell to the Taliban before we withdrew, and it was only under its auspices that we were able to get a lot of Americans and our collaborators out.  To not anticipate that such a precipitous Taliban takeover was at least a possibility, and plan for it, I find a disconcerting oversight on the part of the Administration’s foreign policy team.

Perhaps the most glaring:  The grievous insult to France recently perpetrated by the announcement of our AUKUS arrangement with Australia and the United Kingdom.  I think the arrangement itself – providing nuclear-powered submarines to Australia to help it patrol waters in which China has been increasingly aggressive – is exactly the type of step we need to be taking as we adjust our foreign policy to fit current realities.  That said, anybody with a shred of sense – and Mr. Biden’s foreign policy team is supposed to be comprised of professionals – should have seen that in not being advised and mollified in some fashion before it was announced that they were losing a $60 billion submarine contract with the Australians, the French would feel outraged and humiliated.  French President Emmanuel Macron, in tight political competition with right wing political groups sympathetic to Russia that we do not want to see take control of France, was belittled.   It is reported that Biden Administration National Security Advisor Jake Sherman was aware of all of the AUKUS machinations as they were occurring.  Whether he was or not, this was a stunning unforced blunder.

In a separate vein, I am mystified by Congressional Progressives’ indications that they will withhold their support from the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package already passed in the Senate unless Democrats also pass most or all of the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package currently under their consideration.  Since no Republican support is expected for the human infrastructure package, its passage it will require the support of all Senate Democrats and virtually all House Democrats, moderates as well as Progressives.  If I thought that Progressives’ thundering was merely posturing, it wouldn’t bother me; as it is, I am concerned that some of the self-righteous among them may actually be serious.  If so, I would suggest that their harrumphing is akin to someone who threatens to jump off a roof unless others do what he wants.  Progressives should take whatever they can get on human infrastructure, and be satisfied.  It seems that too many continue to be oblivious that the majority of our citizenry – not only Republicans, but moderate Democrats and many Independents (including me) — have misgivings about the scope and extent of some of their policy aims; and that while their seats are mostly not imperiled by seeking the moon, many moderate Democrats’ seats will be at risk if the party is seen as acting too rashly, and the Democrats could end up forfeiting control of Congress to Republicans.  What will happen to their priorities then?  If Progressives indeed scuttle a bipartisan infrastructure bill that has widespread public support because they can’t get a number of initiatives that a significant segment of our people, correctly or incorrectly, have sincere question about, they deserve their fate.

Unless I’ve missed it, the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients remains uncertain as parties’ Congressional delegations wrangle over wider immigration reform.  For years, there has been widespread support, including among the Republican electorate, for granting these young(er) people, who were brought here illegally in their youth, a path to permanent legal status.  I believe that the House of Representatives has already passed a measure to safeguard DACA recipients.  Every minute Democratic Senate leadership delays, a law becomes more difficult, since immigration will undoubtedly be a contentious issue in the 2022 campaign.  I don’t understand why that leadership doesn’t put a simple bill on the Senate floor, requiring all Senators to vote, designed to secure legal status for these blameless individuals.  Either the DACA recipients get protection or the Democrats get an emotive issue.  My guess:  it would pass.

Finally, a good friend asked me recently why I haven’t posted on the Packers.  I never watch preseason games, and I missed the 38-3 debacle while we were vacationing, so my first look at the team was last Monday night’s victory over the Detroit Lions.  Green Bay seemed a long way from a Super Bowl champion to me.  Granting that one of its primary rushing threats, Za’Darius Smith, was absent, the defense was underwhelming, and I don’t think that the team can maintain a championship offense with only meaningful production from Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Running Back Aaron Jones (who will tire without the assistance of his former backup, Jamaal Williams), and Wide Receiver Davante Adams.  Hopefully, I’ll prove to be sadly mistaken.  Either way, Packer games will provide a wonderful distraction from the other issues we face.

Channeling my inner Mr. Hall was a good way to end the week  ;).  Have a nice weekend.

On Messrs. Gutekunst and Rodgers

As every American sports fan is now aware, Green Bay Packer Quarterback and reigning National Football League Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers has indicated that he wishes to leave the Green and Gold.  Although Mr. Rodgers has expressed affection and respect for the team’s coaching staff, fans, and the city of Green Bay, it is apparent that he has been irritated with Packer General Manager Brian Gutekunst ever since Mr. Gutekunst traded up in the first round of the 2020 draft to select Utah State University Quarterback Jordan Love.  (Mr. Rodgers has nonetheless also professed his love for Mr. Love personally.)  (An aside:  despite Mr. Rodgers’ positive remarks about the coaching staff, one has to wonder about his true estimation of its competence, given the key blunders it made in last season’s playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  They have certainly made me wonder.)    

Mr. Rodgers is 37 and certainly toward the end of his career, but his performance last season, taken together with the manner in which Tom Brady, 43, led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory, would seemingly indicate that he is capable of several more very productive – and perhaps elite — seasons. 

I concede that I have paid less attention to the machinations between the Packers and Mr. Rodgers than I would have several years ago.  In addition to Mr. Rodgers’ professions of respect and affection for just about everybody in Green Bay except Mr. Gutekunst, I do understand that a number of learned analysts have speculated that Green Bay might garner as many as three first round draft choices from the right bidder in trade for Mr. Rodgers.  It also appears from my limited information that — in my estimation, most crucially — Mr. Gutekunst has done a good job leaving the impression that he wants Mr. Rodgers to start in Green Bay for the foreseeable future. 

If I was advising Mr. Gutekunst, I would suggest that his dispute with Mr. Rodgers is, at bottom, a public relations battle … and that he holds the better hand.  Mr. Rodgers has several years remaining on his contract.  Unless the Packers are confident that Mr. Love will quickly have the necessary skills to lead the team to a championship, the Packers should hold firm and not make a trade.  Mr. Rodgers will then be left with two options:  play or retire.  If he actually gets on the field, no one that has ever seen him perform could believe that he will ever devote less than maximum intensity to his performance.  If Mr. Rodgers plays well, Mr. Gutekunst will look like an empowered genius for sticking to his guns and the team gains further time for Mr. Love to gain experience; if Mr. Rodgers plays poorly, his antics will cause him, and not Mr. Gutekunst, to bear the onus if the team starts slowly.  On the other hand, if Mr. Rodgers retires in the face of consistent Packer declarations that they want him to stay, the perception will seemingly be that he chose to leave Green Bay, not that the Packers discarded him – which will enable Mr. Gutekunst to avoid at least some of the imbroglio that engulfed former General Manager Ted Thompson when he engineered Quarterback Brett Favre’s departure and will perhaps cause generally patient and good-natured Green Bay fans to provide Mr. Love greater leeway than will be the case if they believe that the team could have continued to enjoy the services of Mr. Rodgers.

There is, of course, the contrary notion:  if the Packers can indeed get three first round picks for Mr. Rodgers, squandering that many additional first rounders over a few-year period in the event Mr. Rodgers actually retires rather than play in Green Bay would deprive the team the opportunity to build an elite squad that would consistently challenge for a championship for a decade.  Trading Mr. Rodgers nonetheless seems to me a more dicey strategy.  First — and I may have to eat these words — I don’t think Mr. Rodgers will retire. Second, the NFL is a “Quarterback League”; unless the coaching staff is confident that Mr. Love will soon be good enough to win a championship, the team will probably need to sacrifice a couple of the first round picks it obtains in a Rodgers trade to move up in a future draft to secure a prospective elite quarterback talent.  [Even this will still be a gamble (consider Alex Smith, drafted ahead of Mr. Rodgers, and the six quarterbacks drafted before Mr. Brady)]. Third, Mr. Gutekunst has not shown the drafting acumen to provide confidence that he would effectively exploit the high-level picks he would have at his disposal.  

A final aside:  I find Mr. Rodgers’ fit of pique absurd.  I would submit that it is of no account, in this context, how well he has performed during his career, or whether Mr. Love will be a worthy replacement.  Many that follow these pages are now retired; many worked for significant operations; all are well aware of the emphasis that sophisticated organizations place upon succession planning.  Hiring someone you believe will be a suitable successor for a key employee who is unquestionably nearing retirement is simply what smart firms do.  Mr. Gutekunst was apparently willing to place a large wager – indeed, one that may well determine his professional destiny – on his selection of Mr. Love.  Despite my misgivings regarding his acumen, that’s his job.  Given the number of years remaining on Mr. Rodgers’ contract, Mr. Gutekunst was presumably — and arguably reasonably — calculating that he was providing his coaching staff several years to groom Mr. Love to assume his projected responsibilities.  Mr. Rodgers is by all accounts highly intelligent; he should understand and have taken no offense at this.  He’s indulging in a hissy fit.  That said, while in the long run, Mr. Gutekunst’s legacy in Green Bay will probably be judged primarily by the performance of Mr. Love, or whomever else ultimately replaces Mr. Rodgers, in the short run, the Packer General Manager’s standing will likely depend upon how adroitly he handles the current contest of wills with Mr. Rodgers.

The Perspective of an Aging Packer Backer

I know; it was extremely disappointing – indeed, wrenching – for many of those that follow these pages to watch the Green Bay Packers lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that the Packers should have won.  I doubt many, if told before the game that the Green and Gold, playing in Lambeau Field, would intercept Buccaneer Tom Brady three times, would have predicted a Packer defeat.  Since I consider the officiating mistakes and the two teams’ physical miscues to have about evened out, I would place the loss at the feet of the Packer coaching staff:  it was inexcusable not to impress upon the Packer secondary, with seconds left in the first half, what any sixth grader would realize – Don’t let a receiver get behind you; in going for two points after a touchdown with a lot of time left in the game, rather than taking the almost certain PAT, Head Coach Matt LaFleur was oblivious to what the late Marquette Coach Al McGuire called the “rhythm of the game” – that more points were certain to be scored by both teams and what was needed at that point was to maintain momentum – i.e., avoid the risk of emotional deflation that would necessarily occur if the two-point attempt failed (as it did); and Mr. LaFleur’s coaching malpractice involved in kicking a field goal rather than going for the tying touchdown in the waning minutes.

Fine.  I’m not sure that this would have as readily occurred to me 20 years ago, certainly not 30 or 40:  it is only a game.  Speaking as someone who our nieces and nephews used to say was as entertaining to watch, watching the Packers play, as the game itself – someone who has recorded the vast majority of Packer games for decades rather than watch them live, since his wife didn’t like putting up with the disgruntlement on Sunday nights that invariably accompanied a loss – Packer fortunes, or indeed those of any team, while providing a pleasant distraction from the many cares we face, are indeed that – a distraction.  On the macro level, even if Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers never plays another game, Packer fans can look back on the last 29 seasons – since then-Packer Quarterback Brett Favre threw his first touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor in September of 1992 – and truly say that while the team has at times been an underdog in a given contest, there hasn’t been a game in almost the last 30 years, with Messrs. Favre and Rodgers at the helm, that at the beginning, the team had no chance of winning.  I doubt another pro football franchise can say the same.  We Packer fans have no kick [so to speak ;)] coming.  Was it disappointing for Mr. Rodgers that he didn’t win last night?  Sure.  Given his salary in the tens of millions of dollars – or the fact that every Green Bay player earned at a rate of over $500,000 this season — does his or their disappointment rank with the millions upon millions of afflicted we have around the world?  Obviously not. Regrets devoted to sport today might better be centered on the passing of Henry Aaron, a giant of a man who I submit remains baseball’s true home run king.

So let us reflect on what I consider the brightest national note of 2020 – that by the virtue of a relatively few votes in the states of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, we avoided becoming prey to a leader I truly consider deranged, and subject to fascist tendencies.  At the same time, we remember the arguably hundreds of thousands of avoidable American deaths and millions of lives needlessly and terribly disrupted by his twisted malfeasance in dealing with the Coronavirus.  Let us look forward with hopes of doing better in this still-new calendar year.  We are led by a good man who truly means well.  The vaccine, despite distribution hiccups, is in the offing.  Most economists cited in the Wall Street Journal believe that our economy will strongly and quickly rebound.  While we cannot bring back those we have needlessly lost, or repair all of the economic loss so many have suffered, as we remember them we can hopefully be part of a renewal that will make the lives of at least some of us, here and around the world, at least a little better.

I recognize that this note sounds less like the vehement lament of a dedicated Packer backer than the ruminations of an aging citizen; I confess that my thoughts didn’t cover as wide an expanse in the moments after the Packer game as they do as I type this; but age does have its benefits.

Stay safe.

Snow Shoveling Reflections

It’s snowed some in Madison during the last week.  Enough to require tending, but insufficient to require focus; the kind of chore that allows one’s mind to wander.

In order to be a successful President, one needs many qualities; some need to be visible, others perhaps best kept from public view.  I would venture that one of those that needs to be apparent to our people, whether real or feigned, is empathy for them.  President-elect Biden clearly genuinely possesses this attribute, to even an unusual degree.  That said, there are other qualities that a President must manifest to our people and the world in order to be successful:  among them, that s/he is decisive; and that s/he is a winner.

When the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) staged a strike in 1981 not allowed by law, believing that President Ronald Reagan had no choice but to accede to its demands, he instead fired the strikers and installed substitutes.  His presidency was then undoubtedly in psychological peril – if a plane had crashed due to the incompetence of a substitute controller, all would have justifiably blamed Mr. Reagan, and his Administration would have been figuratively over. No plane crashed.  Whatever one thinks of what he did – there is much educated commentary to the effect that PATCO’s unauthorized action and Mr. Reagan’s aggressive response had a sharply deleterious long term effect on the American labor movement — the general public perception at the time was that Mr. Reagan had “stood tall”; and – since no plane had crashed – that he had prevailed, was a winner.  After what was considered too much well-meaning but ineffectual equivocation by President Jimmy Carter, the majority of Americans supported it.  It set a tone that despite an outwardly amiable manner, Mr. Reagan was not to be trifled with – an impression that served both him and the country well throughout his presidency.   

Current media reports indicate that Mr. Biden is electing not to “weigh in” on Congressional Democrats’ impeachment efforts.  I would suggest that if such reports are accurate, the President-elect is making a strategic mistake.  I believe that he should indeed carefully weigh, and then weigh in upon, whether he wants the Senate to conduct an impeachment trial of then-former President Donald Trump during the first days of the Biden Administration.  More important than the time that the trial will syphon from Biden priorities, if the trial goes forth, Mr. Biden must win to maintain momentum with the American people, and Mr. Trump must lose – i.e., Mr. Trump must be convicted.  (I give little credence to the argument that no matter the outcome of the impeachment trial, Republicans need to be “put on the record” for supporting Mr. Trump.  Any Senate Republican who places political considerations above Constitutional duty when voting to acquit Mr. Trump will have first calculated that there will be no significant adverse consequence to being “put on the record.”) 

By all accounts, the President-elect enjoys a reasonably amicable relationship with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.  Mr. Biden should call Mr. McConnell directly, and essentially say this:  “Mitch, you want Trump gone as much as I do.  You know he should be convicted.  One thing neither of us want is to have him acquitted at trial – it’ll look like he won and we lost.  If you can guarantee me 20 Republican votes to convict [note:  only 17 Republican votes are needed if all 50 Democrats vote to convict, but in such a toxic environment, a little leeway would seem vital], I’m going to tell Pelosi and Schumer that I think they should get the ball rolling right now, while the iron is hot.  If you can’t, I’m going to tell Pelosi that I strongly believe that she should hold the impeachment article for a while.” 

If Mr. McConnell would say that he could deliver the 20 votes, the impeachment track would be clear.  If he would say that he couldn’t guarantee a Trump impeachment conviction, if I was Mr. Biden, I’d call Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and strongly encourage her to hold the impeachment article – not send it to the Senate – until a more propitious time; that the important thing was to avoid a political imbroglio that would endanger the COVID relief package and perhaps delay or derail Administration Cabinet appointments.  If Ms. Pelosi at first demurred – either out of understandable desire to see Mr. Trump punished, or out of concern for her ability to hold her caucus in line – I’d point out, as incoming President of the United States, that I considered it to be in the nation’s best interest for her to temporarily defer; that I saw no value in “making a statement” in a losing cause that would give Trump oxygen; that we needed to win — and McConnell couldn’t assure me we would.  If she needed cover, I was ready to say during my inaugural address that while I would put the full support of the Biden Administration behind all law enforcement efforts to immediately bring to justice all those responsible for the storming of the Capitol, I had asked the House of Representatives to delay for a period in forwarding the article of impeachment against Mr. Trump because I didn’t want any attention diverted from Congress’ need to pass a COVID package to combat a disease that had already killed 400,000 Americans. 

I submit that such a declaration would show both empathy and a clear exertion of leadership of his party by Mr. Biden, who at times has appeared an affable “Not Trump” figurehead. It’s hard to believe that Ms. Pelosi would disregard a request from the incoming President of the United States that he indicated he felt was in the best interests of the nation (which I consider a clear contrast to the obsequiousness of the Congressional Republicans over the last four years, who constantly kowtowed to the illiberal actions of a grotesque psyche that they well understood cared only about what was in his own best interest.)  The delay in proceeding with the impeachment trial provides the added benefit of a sword over Mr. Trump’s head, and does nothing to delay the many criminal investigations reportedly hounding him.

To use one of Mr. Trump’s favorite phrases:  we’ll see what happens.

Two ancillary, yet particularly distressing impressions: 

The most grievous accusations I have heard relating to the events of January 6, save those leveled at Mr. Trump himself, are that Republican members of Congress may have assisted rioters by facilitating their reconnaissance of the Capitol layout in the days before the attack, and may have been texting seditionists during the attack regarding the location of Ms. Pelosi.  If/when authorities establish that these accusations are baseless, such should forthrightly be announced.  If, on the other hand, investigators uncover sufficient evidence of such a conspiratorial relationship between any member(s) of Congress and the rioters to support an indictment against the member(s), such member(s) should be immediately expelled from Congress, face the maximum charges – including sedition – that such evidence will support, and if convicted receive the severest sentence allowed by law.

We have heard multiple reports that a number of Republican House members believed impeachment of Mr. Trump was warranted, but nonetheless voted against the article because they feared for their personal safety or that of their families.  I would submit that such failure, although understandable in human terms, nonetheless constituted Constitutional malfeasance.  These politicians, despite their oath of office, seemingly think they have a seat on Student Council rather than in the legislature of the most powerful nation on earth.  They have forfeited the moral standing necessary to render judgment on any President’s recommendation to send our troops into harm’s way.  Although perhaps harsh, I believe that given the importance of their responsibilities, those that have openly admitted that their fears influenced their House impeachment votes should be encouraged to resign and if they refuse, should be expelled for dereliction of duty.

Although it was snowy this week, it wasn’t too cold.  Hopefully, next weekend, it will be very cold and very snowy in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  While there is no chance that Tampa Bay Buccaneer Quarterback Tom Brady, given his years in New England, will be intimidated by Lambeau Field conditions when the Bucs battle the Green and Gold for the National Football Conference Championship next Sunday, hopefully Mr. Brady’s teammates, more acclimated to temperate playing conditions, will be.

In any past year in which the Green Bay Packers were only a game away from the Super Bowl, mullings of their prospects for another Lombardi Trophy would have dominated shoveling ruminations, rather than being mere afterthoughts.  Hopefully, the affairs of our Republic will have stabilized sufficiently during 2021 that customary and more congenial thought patterns will primarily accompany snow shoveling in January, 2022; after all, Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will then be but 38, and Mr. Brady continues to perform at a championship level at age 43.

The driveway and sidewalk are clear.  Time for some hot chocolate. 

Awaiting Opening Day … 2021

In January, 1942, a little more than a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball – the team sport which then dwarfed all others in terms of public support – and indicated that if the Judge wished, baseball should continue despite the war.  The President wrote:

“I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going….  [U.S. citizens] ought to have a chance for recreation …. [Baseball players for whatever reason not able to serve the war effort] are a definite recreational asset to … [millions] of their fellow citizens – and that in my judgement is thoroughly worthwhile.”

An abbreviated MLB season opened a few days ago, to the completely understandable delight of millions.  I appreciate the point that Mr. Roosevelt was making 78 years ago, but for me, baseball’s relaxed pace and old world allure will need to wait a bit.  I don’t begrudge — indeed, I envy – those for whom the game provides a distraction in these times of political, health, and social crisis.  Perhaps, if the National Football League plays games this fall, I will be able to immerse myself in the short, intense once-a-week 3-hour distraction of the Sunday football rite ;).  As for baseball … hopefully, by next spring, the Coronavirus will no longer be raging, we will have put the blight of the Trump presidency behind us, and I can return to the languid charm of the game I love best.  So I’m hesitantly anticipating the prospect of the first pitch of Opening Day … in spring, 2021.  Hopefully, for me, it’ll then be time … to Play Ball.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part XII

While President Trump’s mishandling of the COVID crisis appears at this point to have hurt his reelection prospects, it would seem that in Republican U.S. NC Sen. Richard Burr’s decision to temporarily step down as Chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, due to allegations that he traded stock inappropriately shortly after he received information in classified Senate briefings about the pandemic’s prospective effects on the economy, the virus may by carom have tossed Mr. Trump a high card. Throughout the President’s term and to the Administration’s evident displeasure, the Senate Intelligence Committee, under the leadership of Sen. Burr and the Committee’s Ranking Democrat Member, VA Sen. Mark Warner, has consistently reported on a bipartisan basis that Russia, and not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. The Wall Street Journal reported on May 15 that the last installment of the Committee’s findings, expected in coming months, is focused on whether the Trump Campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential contest. Mr. Burr’s vacation of the Chair, even on a temporary basis, may have given the Administration the opportunity to stifle and politicize the Senate Intelligence Committee in the same manner that for a couple of years it neutered the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee through its Republican Chairman stooge, CA Rep. Devin Nunes. Any Senate Intelligence Committee Republican that would even temporarily replace Mr. Burr as Chair is either a straightforward Trump supporter – ID Sen. James Risch, AK Sen. Tom Cotton, TX Sen. John Cornyn, and MO Sen. Roy Blunt – or has maintained a namby-pamby profile with regard to the President’s claims and antics — ME Sen. Susan Collins, FL Sen. Marco Rubio and NE Sen. Ben Sasse. None can be expected to resist the intense political pressure to downplay Russia’s involvement in the 2016 or 2020 elections certain to be applied by Mr. Trump and his cohort. To be sure, whether or not untoward behavior by Sen Burr is ultimately established, and regardless of whether the Trump Administration is exerting greater rigor in investigating Mr. Burr’s actions than it is similar behavior by Trump supporter U.S. GA Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Mr. Burr’s trades created an obvious appearance of conflict of interest and constituted a colossal failure in judgment. Since Mr. Burr, 64, has already indicated that he will not seek reelection in 2022, one can sympathize with any uneasiness he might have felt at the damage the virus would inflict on his retirement portfolio, but his lapse may have materially weakened our country’s security just as Mr. Trump calls for an investigation into an “Obamagate” that he cannot describe and craven U.S. SC Sen. Lindsey Graham has announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs plans to hold hearings on – with the obvious intent to discredit — the Russia probe.

This past week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a lead member of the Administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, indicated in testimony to the Senate, “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control” if the economy is opened too quickly or inappropriately. Later in the week, Mr. Trump – who had earlier toured a Pennsylvania mask-manufacturing plant without wearing a mask — declared at a news conference with Dr. Fauci standing behind him, “Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back.” This dichotomy is obviously just the latest in a long line of conflicting messages sent by the two men (although I – presumably unlike the President — consider Dr. Fauci to have been extremely tactful in marking out their differences). What are the odds that either during the campaign, if the spotlight no longer shines so brightly on the government’s virus response, or after Election Day if the President wins a second term, that Dr. Fauci will be peremptorily removed from his post? The only saving grace: since he turns 80 this year, Dr. Fauci will be able to look back on a full career of service – rather than a career destroyed, like so many others, by Mr. Trump’s malevolence.

There’s a restaurant not far from our home. We first went there a number of years ago on a bitterly cold January Wisconsin night right after it opened, simply because it was too cold to go too far. Rick was our waiter. He and I hit it off immediately. There weren’t many people in the place. The food was excellent. We went back often. Over the years, the business has flourished – a product of wonderful food, excellent service and reasonable prices. Because we were early patrons, we are always treated like VIPs. Rick’s daughter is one of the hostesses. We are seated at one of Rick’s tables. We inquire about his family; he, ours. Since the pandemic hit, we have ordered out from the restaurant every weekend (before COVID, we went periodically, but far from every week). Since March, I, masked, have appeared in the parking lot at the designated time, and Rick, masked, has come out with our dinners. Last weekend, I asked him how it was going. His response: “It depends upon the numbers [of Wisconsin COVID cases]. If they stay stable, we’ll probably be all right [presumably, because traffic will pick up]. But if they go up [which will presumably keep traffic at its pandemic levels], we’re screwed.” For years, we’ve watched this team work hard, seen their efforts slowly bring success. This is just one of millions of groups that either has or soon could see years of effort wiped out … in a matter of 90 days.

This is a difficult time. It seems best to conclude with something I saw recently that although not COVID-related, may, given the time of year, bring a smile to baseball fans with long memories [and who don’t mind extremely blue language ;)]: the late Orioles Manager Earl Weaver in an exchange with longtime Umpire Bill Haller. (Umpires hated Mr. Weaver :)]. Part of the fun of the clip: Mr. Haller expressing doubt that Mr. Weaver would enter the Hall of Fame (he did). Others: the “Sigh; Here we go again” demeanor of Hall of Famer Oriole Firstbaseman Eddie Murray (No. 33); and the occasional views of Tiger Coach Dick Tracewski, a three-time World Series Champion.

https://twitter.com/Super70sSports/status/1261451987733839873

Stay safe.