Thursday, July 19, 2007

Too much Beckham, thankee very much

I just watched a great MLS All-Star game, where the good guys defeated Scottish League champion Celtic 2-0. It could easily have been 4-0 (or more), but the Celtic goalkeeper stopped a penalty kick cold, and stonewalled a wide-open point-blank shot early on. The All-Stars were a good mix of American-born and foreign-born talent, and the pace of the game was exciting from the first minute to the last.

Unfortunately, the whole thing was overshadowed by the idol-worship the ESPN crew was bestowing on David Beckham. Now, Beckham's arrival is exciting and all, and certainly good for the L.A. Galaxy, if not the whole league. And it's a development which probably deserved some comment, and the halftime interview was justified and interesting. Beckham showed in the interview that he is genuinely enthusiastic and was quite the gentleman.

But the ongoing, non-stop chatter about the man just served to insult the quality of the product currently on the field. Every segment of the show somehow found a way to refer him. WHILE THE GAME WAS GOING, we saw him smiling in a booth, sitting in some seats, waving at a friend, walking here, walking there, putting on a microphone, waving some more... It was gratuitous. Rather than augmenting the All-Star Game with some exciting coverage of the Beckham phenomenon, ESPN treated the game as an afterthought, or an accessory to the Beckham Show.

It's not like the players on the field were slouches -- the MLS All-Stars absolutely handed it to a quality European squad. And if the MLS team had the advantage of playing mid-season (it's just pre-season for Celtic), the Scots had the advantage of being a real team that has been through the fires together. It wasn't a fluke -- the MLSers really were better.

The low point of the Beckham idolatry was the interview with the All-Star MVP, a guy named Angel, who scored a very nice goal and has really made a big impression on the league this season. In a quality broadcast, the interviewer would discuss the actual game, the key goal, the European opponent and the player himself for a bit. Then, at the end, it might be worth bringing up a topic like Beckham. Not question #2, for heaven's sake.

It was all just a bit too much.

Beckham will be a great ambassador, etc., etc. I'm not ripping on Becks here -- I'm excited too. But he'll be playing in one stadium, for one team, in front of one crowd each week. The challenge for MLS is to prove to its new fans that the product is a good quality and worth watching -- every week in every stadium. Beckham alone can't do it, and that's why the hero-worship is misplaced. His fame couldn't rescue a flawed product, but tonight's game showed me that the quality is there in MLS.

This was supposed to be a night to show off the talent that's already playing. ESPN lost sight of that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Better late -- even very late -- than never

While it took the New York Times plenty of time to come around to the obvious conclusion, it has finally thrown its voice behind the effort to end the Iraq war now. In a long, well-written editorial, the editors argue for an orderly withdrawal on as quick a timetable as possible. Rather than "bugging out", they advocate a safe, orderly withdrawal that protects American military assets. The Times acknowledges that the bloodshed may increase after Americans depart, but:
"While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost."

The electorate recognized that very clearly back in 2005 or 2006, and registered its feelings in black-and-white terms in November, when Democrats stormed into Congress largely on anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment. And the too-careful Congressional leadership, lacking the courage of their convictions, folded like a tent almost as soon as the President opposed their protests.

I'm very happy that Americans have not, generally, repeated the mistakes of the Vietnam era, when returning troops were blamed for the failures in that war. Americans remain proud of the men and women who serve, and one of the war's most vocal opponents has been the mother of a fallen soldier. But we, long ago, recognized the lack of competence at the top, and the lack of realism among the architects. Our troops were given a basically impossible mission.

So, even at this too-late hour, when so many opportunities have been lost forwever, I still welcome the tardy arrival of the "newspaper of record" into the land of reason.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th.

We ate barbecued ribs and drank beers on the deck yesterday. Tdec31 made icy margaritas with a homemade rhubarb syrup which were absolutely perfect. The Australians and I played catch with a baseball for a while. My nephew Jimmy caught himself a whopper of a smallmouth bass -- at 17+ inches, it was near a big as he is, or so it seemed. After the Tigers won, we took the kids outside and let them run around with sparklers. Just about perfect for the 4th of July... If only our government wasn't so busy waging war, subverting justice and undermining freedom.

This morning, it was back to work for me, but it's shaping up to be a very quiet week, which is nice. We're rounding up a group to go to Cabela's this afternoon. Jimmy will get to look at the live tanks of fish.