Fast Cars & Freedom*

I love markets. Markets generally tell us what people really want and how much they value something. For example, gun rights and fast cars.

For those of you who aren’t NASCAR fans, NRA has sponsored a race tonight, the NRA 500. As a politician opposed to freedom and fun, Chris Murphy (D-CT) stepped in and tried to use the pressure of his office to have NASCAR turn on NRA’s long planned sponsorship. That didn’t work, so Murphy turned on Fox to try and get them to yank it from the air. (Though NASCAR has pledged to review their sponsorship agreements after the race.)

Fox didn’t pull it, but fans are noticing that Fox announcers are going out of their way to avoid saying the name of the race tonight except where they are contractually obligated to do so. (I would embed the tweet on that topic here, but Cameron Gray of NRA News, who reported on the contract requirements, blocks us for some reason, so I cannot get the embed code.) I just can’t fathom how a network that really needs to attract viewers willing to spend money on sponsors and advertisers decides that it is in their best interest to piss off those people ready to spend money.

How do I know they are ready to spend money? Easy, the President of the Texas Motor Speedway tells us that the combined NRA & NASCAR fanbase is spending big, big bucks:

According to a statement by Gossage covered by ESPN earlier, objections to the NRA sponsorship are few and far between. Interestingly, they actually looked up those who complained and found that the vast majority of those few are not even customers.

“We’ve had fewer than a dozen responses,” Gossage said. “Of those, only two had purchased tickets [to other TMS events]. There is no controversy or big uproar or even a tiny uproar.”

But Fox is hardly the only shortsighted business involved in tonight’s race. The same ESPN article notes that the PR directors for two drivers ordered them not to grant any interviews in the media room so that they won’t have to be pictured with the letters NRA behind them. No doubt those same PR pros have probably squashed any efforts by the driver or their teams to use the #NRA500 hashtag tonight on Twitter – you know, the hashtag that’s trending nationwide right now. We wouldn’t want those drivers to turn up for any racing fans searching that hashtag, now would we?

If I was a driver, regardless on my views of guns, I would look at the merchandise sales and the social media opportunities lost, then I would promptly fire my PR person for not knowing a damn thing about my customer base. Numbers don’t lie, but PR directors apparently do when motivated by politics instead of the best business interests of their clients.

If Gossage is interested, this former Texas Motor Speedway customer appreciates the class the Speedway has shown in the face of a hostile media and an lawmaker who forgets we’re a free society. Granted, the last event I attended was a Rolling Stones concert in high school. But I am a proven customer nonetheless!

*Title shamelessly stolen from ExUrban Kevin

Pennsylvania Taxpayers on the Hook for Penn State

The NCAA levied their punishment on Penn State earlier this week, but maybe it’s time for the taxpayers to come down hard on the legislature and Governor since residents are actually the ones being punished. David Post sums up the situation quite nicely in this post at Volokh:

So let me get this straight: The NCAA is ordering the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, because of the misdeeds of their agents, to set up an endowment program for preventing child sexual abuse and fund it to the tune of sixty million dollars?? And oh, by the way, taxpayers of Pennsylvania: you can take it out of lab space, computers, and teaching salaries, but YOU MAY NOT PAY THIS FINE BY REDUCING CURRENT SPENDING ON ATHLETICS!

This would be hilarious, except it is pathetic, and it has real consequences. I happen to teach at a (different) public institution in Pennsylvania, and I can tell you this: $60 million is a decent-sized chunk of a higher education budget that is under severe strain these days, with the Governor having recently proposed a 30% cut in all higher ed funding because, as he put it, “we simply don’t have the money.”

Most of the coverage we read about the news of the punishment on the day it broke didn’t mention that it cannot come out of the athletics budget. Our attitude was that the fine should only be paid by football budget and nothing else. If football staff had to be let go or the program dramatically reduced, so be it.* But with this news, oh no, this is not okay. We plan on letting our local lawmakers know that we find this be quite unacceptable to be on the hook for the civil penalties related to the criminal acts of others. Penn State can work its ass off fundraising for the money, but they should not be able to just toss it off to taxpayers or slash from academic programs to pay off for the bad behavior of the athletic staff.

However, taxpayers in Pennsylvania aren’t just screwed by this fine because insurance isn’t likely to pay off any claims that come from the Sandusky actions or cover-up.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance argues that Penn State withheld key information needed to assess risk, at least after school officials investigated a May 1998 complaint that Sandusky had showered with a boy on campus.

In a memo filed this week in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia, the company argues that Penn State failed to disclose that it had information about Sandusky that “was material to the insurable risk assumed by PMA.”

The company, which has long insured the university, also argues that its policies after March 1, 1992, were amended to exclude “abuse or molestation.” The insurer also argues that coverage for such behavior is excluded as a matter of public policy in Pennsylvania.

Oh, and if that isn’t enough, it appears all taxpayers are picking up the dime for the feds to hire the ousted President.

Graham Spanier might have been ousted from his post at the helm of Penn State over the sex-abuse scandal that engulfed the university, but it seems he’s found a backup employer: the American taxpayer. …

His lawyer confirms to the Loop that Spanier is working on a part-time consulting basis for a “top-secret” agency on national security issues.

I guess they knew he was good at keeping secrets and leading cover-ups of government employees behaving badly.
Continue reading “Pennsylvania Taxpayers on the Hook for Penn State”

What I Know About Sports – Tim Tebow Edition

Tim Tebow is terrible & awful. Tim Tebow is amazing & a blessing. This my understanding of professional football based on Twitter, Facebook, and sporadic headlines I might catch of a sport I don’t actually follow. I know we have a Broncos fan in Philly who appreciates that the team didn’t hire dog killer, and one of my close friends from college is a lifelong Bronco fan.

The friend from Colorado recently posted a link to a story that puts some of the crazy headlines about his shortcomings in perspective.

Do you know what else Tim Tebow has never done?

Tim Tebow has not climbed all Seven Summits. He’s never built an invisible jet or hosted the Country Music Awards. If he has solved the mystery of Loch Ness, or washed dishes at The French Laundry, it’s never been written about. Tim Tebow’s portrait does not hang in the Louvre. Sandra Bullock has never made a Tim Tebow movie. Tim Tebow has never made a Sandra Bullock movie.

Sure, Tim Tebow has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but has he been on the cover of Dwell or Bon Appetit? That’s right: no. Loser! …

That’s embarrassing. Why do people care about him?

Yes, Tim Tebow beat the Miami Dolphins, the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets and the Chargers of San Diego. But Tim Tebow has not beaten the Detroit Lions. Or the Detroit Pistons. Or the Detroit Red Wings. Or Manny Pacquiao. Or Dara Torres. Or Real Madrid. Or Gary Kasparov.

It is even better from the opening until the end, so go read the whole thing.

As for me, I’ll go back to ignoring the NFL and ignoring the fact that my favorite college team completely bit the dust mid-season – again.

It’s Time to Fire Joe Paterno

For those of you who don’t follow Pennsylvania sports, there’s really only one team that doesn’t completely suck and plays in something close to what the rest of the country considers real college football. It’s Penn State, and their head coach has been there since 1950 (though only as head coach since 1966). The man is revered in Pennsylvania. I don’t understand why, either. Joe Paterno has only got such a high number of wins because he’s been doing the job so long. He doesn’t have the highest percentage of wins, and earlier this decade, he led the team in a severe losing streak.

This weekend, conveniently on an off week for Penn State & released on a Saturday, the state AG’s office announced that one of Paterno’s now-retired coaches has been sexually assaulting very young boys for years. The charges aren’t just for minors, but for minors under the age of 13. The guy also had a charity set up for troubled young boys that served as his easy source of victims.

To make the news for Penn State even worse? Paterno knew and decided to simply tell the school’s athletic director once he heard from an eyewitness that his coaching staff was raping a boy who appeared to be about 10 in the stadium’s showers. The athletic director & a school vice president are now being charged with perjury and not reporting the incident to police. Yet, prosecutors seem to be ignoring the fact that Paterno and a graduate assistant in the football program also knew and did not report it to police, instead only reported it to college officials. (Granted, not reporting the crime seem to be only a summary offense. In that case, I believe that’s actually a better reason to use the charge – it won’t end someone’s life, but it will reiterate that they should have reported it.)

Of course, this is not the first time that Paterno has ignored the consequences of sexual assault allegations. When a player from another team was alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman, here was Paterno’s response:

“There’s some tough — there’s so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do?”

Here’s a hint: If a cute girl knocks on a door, don’t sexually assault her. (Though, it would seem the case against the player ultimately didn’t go anywhere, the accusations were fresh at the time he was asked.)

So, what do you do when someone tells you your former staffer who you allow to access your stadium & allow to attend games & coaching meetings with these young boys is seen raping them in the showers? Here’s a hint, Paterno: You don’t go to your boss and then leave it alone. You call the police. If your boss won’t do it, you do it. You follow up every damn day. You encourage the guy who actually witnessed the assault to go to the police.

I find this most appalling because I’ve seen local media & commentary applauding Paterno for his great response of not calling the police when he hears that young children are being raped by his coaching staff in his team’s showers. WTF?

I look back to my memories of the most popular coach I can recall in Oklahoma – Barry Switzer. (Please keep in mind that I was 9 years old when the guy resigned, so I’m having to go off news reports I’m finding now.) Switzer had to resign from OU (with a higher percentage of wins than Paterno, thankyouverymuch) after several players were arrested for various crimes and the NCAA launched an investigation into the program. Yet, Paterno is still at Penn State with full support after ESPN reported that in a six year period, 46 of his players managed to find themselves with 163 criminal charges. That comes out to more than three criminal charges per player in trouble in a few short years.

I don’t understand how this guy still has the support of the school, support in the media, and support of alumni. According to media reports, the Board of Trustees didn’t even entertain the question of whether Paterno should be forced to resign or retire. I come from a state that is far more serious about their college football, and I’m pretty sure that after this kind of record, we would be calling for the heads of everyone who knew and didn’t report it to law enforcement.

Joe Paterno’s career should end, and he should not be revered as some amazing football coach. He should be remembered as a guy who looked the other way while children were raped and assaulted on his watch. Of course, should he leave on his own terms, Pennsylvania taxpayers will likely be on the hook for a very generous retirement package to reward his behavior of looking the other way for criminals in his program.

UPDATE 11/8: The NYT reports that inside sources say Paterno’s time is up at Penn State. They are supposedly working on an exit plan now.

Olympic Laser Tag

It was announced last week that the 2012 London Olympics will feature laser guns instead of an air pistol for the shooting portion of Modern Pentathlon. The announcement was made at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore by Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) President Klaus Schormann.

Modern Pentathlon requires competitors to compete in running, fencing, shooting, swimming, and horse riding. The event was introduced to the Olympics by Baron Pierre de Coubertin to simulate the experience of a cavalry soldier behind enemy lines – riding a horse, fighting with sword and pistol, swimming, and running. One famous pentathlete from the past was General George S. Patton who competed in the event for the United States in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. He finished fifth overall in the event.

Over the years, the shooting portion of Modern Pentathlon has evolved from 25 meter ISSF rapid fire to 10 meter ISSF air pistol to combining shooting with running (like a biathlon).

In announcing the change, Schormann said:

Based on this new technology, all countries in the world can compete in our sport.

We can hold competitions in parks and even shopping malls. Safety issues will no longer be a big concern

Jim Shepherd of The Shooting Wire interviewed people with the US Shooting and the International Shooting Sports Federation abou these changes. They dislike the changes saying that it will take the external element out of the shooting competition as the pistol, pellet accuracy, and wind conditions will now be irrelevant. One went so far as to characterize it as “turning shooting into an arcade game.” They also view it as a threat to the shooting sports.

If safety is such a parmount concern for the UIPM, then I would suggest in addition to the laser guns that they hold the running event on treadmills so that competitors won’t breathe in polluted air, use a Wii for the horse riding and fencing competitions because horses are unpredicatable and can be dangerous, and finally use an endless pool to minimize the risk of drowning.

Coolest Hobby Ever

I am intrigued by this wingsuit jumping, but it looks highly hazardous, and I think I enjoy life a little too much to try it. Plus, I’d imagine I’d have to get my flabby ass in shape first, since I’m guessing my ballistic coefficient could use some work.

On another note, I never understood why suicidal people didn’t take up sports like this. I mean, if you think life sucks so bad you want to die, I would imagine strapping on a wing suit and parachute, and throwing yourself off a fjord is going to clear things up for you mighty quickly.

A Good Day to be a Sooner

I just have to brag

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford arrived in Norman three years ago with modest hype and low expectations. The Sooners’ coaches acknowledged that they had recruited him for depth behind Rhett Bomar, who had been the country’s top quarterback prospect.

But Bradford’s rise from relative obscurity to national pre-eminence was sealed Saturday night when he won the Heisman Trophy, which is given annually to the country’s most outstanding college football player. …

In leading No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) to the Bowl Championship Series title game against Tebow and the Gators, Bradford orchestrated the most prolific season in the modern era of college football. The Sooners scored 702 points, the first modern team to break the 700 mark. They finished with a flourish, scoring more than 60 points in each of their final five games.

Bradford led the nation with 48 touchdown passes and threw only 6 interceptions. He finished with an average of 14.78 yards a completion.

I’ll be looking forward to OU kicking Florida’s ass in the Championship.

The Reid Drug Emporium

With Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid’s sons in jail, and with media folks of all stripes throwing him a giant pity party, Kansas City Star and Fox Sports commentator Jason Whitlock hits the nail on the head with this column that eviscerates Reid & his wife, the “drug emporium” that became of their house, the sports media, and the War on Drugs.

America’s morally bankrupt war on drugs, a cause that has killed and destroyed more lives than Vietnam and Iraq combined, has finally put Andy Reid’s kids on the front lines (incarceration), and Andy Reid doesn’t have a damn meaningful thing to say about it.

That’s unacceptable. It’s cowardly.

Andy Reid knows my pain, and he’s too worried about a freaking football game to verbalize it. He could make Middle America and the power structure understand the helplessness and the pain you feel when people you love get caught up in America’s political ploy called a “war on drugs.”

Echoing Whitlock’s sentiment, is a piece in the Ed/Op section of today’s Philadelphia Inquirer by Douglas Marlowe.

For too long in this country, the approach toward substance-abusing offenders wavered between incarceration without treatment and treatment without supervision – one or the other, rarely both. The incarceration-without-treatment approach is an outgrowth of our “war on drugs,” a nationwide response to the scourge of drug addiction that failed miserably on a number of levels, not the least of which being the flawed assumption that jails are an effective response to the problem of drug-related crime.

Marlowe applauds the judges use of the combination of treatment and monitoring with small jail sentences. It’s time for Andy Reid to step up, do the same, and insist that it the norm for everyone, not just for the affluent.

But, oh yeah, he’s got a game to prepare for.