35 years ago today

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The Anthemgate we deserve

As usual, Mike Rowe gets to the crux of the matter about Anthemgate:

In democracies, we the people get the government we deserve. We also get the celebrities we deserve, the artists we deserve, and the athletes we deserve. Because ultimately, we the people get to decide who and what gets our attention, and who and what does not.

Right now, The NFL, the players who choose to kneel, the networks who choose to broadcast their protest, the advertisers who sponsor the games, and the President of the United States, are all eager for our attention. And they are all using football to get it. That’s all well and good, right up to the point where it isn’t. In my view, the real controversy here isn’t about patriotism, social justice, racial inequality, or free speech. It’s not even about the flag or the national anthem. It’s really only about one thing – what we will tolerate, and what we won’t.

I was disappointed … to hear President Trump encourage owners to fire players who refuse to stand for the anthem. Not because I dispute the owners right to do so, or the players right to protest. I was disappointed because the President’s comments presuppose that the owners are in charge of the game. They’re not. We are. We decide what to watch, and that decision – far more than any other consideration – will determine the what the owners choose to do. And that in turn will affect what the players choose to do.

As the leader of the country, the President had an opportunity to remind us that The NFL, the networks who broadcast their games, and all of the players – standers and kneelers alike – work for us. He might have also used the occasion to remind us that he too, serves at our pleasure.

I felt a similar bemusement when the Commissioner issued his response, followed by the President of the Player’s Union. Their comments – along with the comments of many of the players themselves – were perfectly reasonable, perfectly understandable, and perfectly in keeping with their first amendment rights. But they were also perfectly arrogant. Because they too, presuppose that millions of fans will continue to watch them play a game – no matter what.

Perhaps they’re right. Historically, football fans have shown a collective willingness to ignore and enable all sorts of dubious behavior. The players have agents and unions, the owners have money and power, and the fans are always caught in the middle. The resulting strikes and the constant uprooting of teams from broken-hearted towns proves beyond all question the overall lack of regard for fans in general.

… The fans of professional football are not powerless – they’re just not yet offended enough to turn the channel. Should that ever change in a meaningful way – if for instance, a percentage of football fans relative to those players who chose to kneel during today’s games, chose to watch something else next Sunday – I can assure you…the matter would be resolved by Monday.

Two views on Anthemgate

Proving itself not a monolith, National Review has two different perspectives on Anthemgate.

First, David French defends the First Amendment against the man who swore Jan. 20 to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States””

Americans do not and should not worship idols. We do not and should not worship the flag. As a nation we stand in respect for the national anthem and stand in respect for the flag not simply because we were born here or because it’s our flag. We stand in respect because the flag represents a specific set of values and principles: that all men are created equal and that we are endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights. These

These ideals were articulated in the Declaration of Independence, codified in the Constitution, and defended with the blood of patriots. Central to them is the First Amendment, the guarantee of free expression against government interference and government reprisal that has made the United States unique among the world’s great powers. Arguably, it is the single most important liberty of all, because it enables the defense of all the others: Without the right to speak freely we cannot even begin to point out offenses against the rest of the Constitution.

Now, with that as a backdrop, which is the greater danger to the ideals embodied by the American flag, a few football players’ taking a knee at the national anthem or the most powerful man in the world’s demanding that they be fired and their livelihoods destroyed for engaging in speech he doesn’t like?

As my colleague Jim Geraghty notes this morning, too many in our polarized nation have lately developed a disturbing habit of zealously defending the free speech of people they like while working overtime to find reasons to justify censoring their ideological enemies. How many leftists who were yelling “free speech” yesterday are only too happy to sic the government on the tiny few bakers or florists who don’t want to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they find offensive? How many progressives who celebrated the First Amendment on Sunday sympathize with college students who chant “speech is violence” and seek to block conservatives from college campuses?

The hypocrisy runs the other way, too. I was startled to see many conservatives who decried Google’s termination of a young, dissenting software engineer work overtime yesterday to argue that Trump was somehow in the right. Yet Google is a private corporation and Trump is the most powerful government official in the land. The First Amendment applies to Trump, not Google, and his demands for reprisals are ultimately far more ominous, given his job, than even the actions of the largest corporations. Google, after all, has competitors. Google commands no police force. Everything it does is replaceable.

In the space of less than 24 hours this weekend, the president of the United States did more to politicize sports than ESPN has done in a decade of biased, progressive programming. He singled out free speech he didn’t like, demanded that dissenters be fired, and then — when it became clear that private American citizens weren’t going to do what he demanded — he urged the economic boycott of their entire industry.

He told his political opponents on the football field — men who have defined their lives and careers by their mental and physical toughness — to essentially, “Do what I say or lose your job.” In so doing, he put them in straits far more difficult to navigate than anything Colin Kaepernick has wrought: Stand and they are seen to obey a man who just abused his office, and millions of Americans will view them as a sellout not just to the political cause they love but also to the Constitution itself; kneel and they defy a rogue president, but millions of Americans will view them as disrespecting the nation itself to score political points against a president those Americans happen to like.

At one stroke, thanks to an attempted vulgar display of strength, Trump changed the playing of the anthem and the display of the flag from a moment where all but the most radical Americans could unite to one where millions of well-meaning Americans could and did legitimately believe that the decision to kneel represented a defense of the ideals of the flag, not defiance of the nation they love.

So, yes, I understand why they knelt. I understand why men who would never otherwise bring politics onto the playing field — and never had politicized sports before — felt that they could not be seen to comply with a demagogue’s demands. I understand why even owners who gave millions to Trump expressed solidarity with their players. I understand why even Trump supporters like Rex Ryan were appalled at the president’s actions.

I fear that those who proclaimed [Monday’s] events a “win” for the president — after all, many of the players were booed for their stance, and in American politics you generally don’t want to be seen as taking sides against the flag — are missing the forest for the trees. If we lose respect for the First Amendment, then politics becomes purely about power. If we no longer fight to secure the same rights for others that we demand for ourselves, we become more tribal, and America becomes less exceptional.

I respect Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle (and former Army ranger) Alejandro Villanueva, who — alone among his teammates — came out of the locker room to stand for the pledge while the rest of his team remained off the field. I also respect players who reluctantly, but acting out of the conviction that they will not be bullied by the president, chose to kneel when they otherwise never would. I do not, however, respect the actions of Donald Trump. This weekend, he didn’t make America great. He made its politics worse.

When the history of this unfortunate, polarized era of American life is written, whether a man stood or knelt will matter far less than the values we all lived by. Americans who actually defend the letter and spirit of the First Amendment will stand (or kneel) proudly in the history books. Those who seek to punish their political opponents’ speech, on the other hand, can stand or kneel as they wish — so long as they hang their heads in shame.

Next, Kyle Smith decries how Trump politicized the NFL when he should have shut the hell up:

A few weeks ago, there was nothing left of Colin Kaepernick’s ill-advised national-anthem protest except a few dying embers. Now the twin bellows that are President Trump’s lungs have blown a blast of pure oxygen into the fire. Suddenly, it’s going stronger than ever.

If you’re an NFL fan, you can only be aghast at what Trump has done. His side — our side, the side that said you shouldn’t insult the flag because of the mistakes made by some police officers — was winning. All Trump had to do to secure this small but important victory was keep his mouth shut. Kaepernick had suffered the twin humiliations of being forced to recant his position last spring by promising to end his pregame protests and being snubbed by every NFL team this summer, which left him free to spend the opening weeks of the season protesting injustice from his couch. Copycat demonstrations were dwindling out.

Now, thanks to Trump, Sunday brought the spectacle of more dismaying national-anthem protests than ever before. Players were taking a knee from coast to coast. We were presented with the mind-boggling spectacle of Patriots players being booed by Patriots fans for being unpatriotic.

Or maybe they were just backing the First Amendment. Or expressing solidarity with fellow athletes such as NBA superstar Stephen Curry, whom Trump blasted in a tweet. Or simply expressing the sentiment that the president of the United States should stay out of their business. Trump gave them a pile of reasons to politicize the presentation of the flag.

How can anyone who wanted the NFL to shed its political baggage possibly back Trump this time? Football, and sports in general, had for many years served as a welcome refuge from questions about race. The link between Black Lives Matter and taking a knee during the National Anthem brought racial resentment to the field of play. Trump made that much, much worse.

Trump’s latest move may, as Rich Lowry has suggested, benefit him personally. Broadly speaking, he and the flag are on the same side. But it would benefit him personally if every American were forced to serve Trump-branded wine and steak for dinner once a week. What damage is he doing to the rest of us in the cause of furthering his own party-of-one agenda? If you wince at the way it seems that every awards show, late-night comic, and even horror story is obsessed with Trump, why would you back Trump baiting the NFL and the national anthem to also become all about him? “I never signed up for that,” said Trump supporter Rex Ryan, the former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills coach who is now an ESPN analyst.

Those of us who didn’t vote for Trump because we’re more conservative than he is — not to mention more patriotic, being appalled by his suggestion that John McCain is a loser for allowing himself to get captured — are in the position of perhaps being associated with him simply by standing for the national anthem. Now non-radical liberals, people who would never (as Kaepernick idiotically did) wear a Castro T-shirt or socks depicting police as pigs and who would ordinarily never show disrespect during the national anthem, are tempted to scowl at the flag because Trump has stamped his brand all over it. The simplest, most unifying things become divisive in the age of Trump. America is a lot surlier and more disputatious than it was just a few days ago. This is not progress.

Barack Obama was frequently, and rightly, criticized for wading into cultural areas he would have been better advised to avoid, as when he made himself part of the Trayvon Martin case by saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” He suggested Christians had little moral standing to oppose Islamist terror because of the Crusades. He repeatedly issued off-hand insults when saying things like, “Typically, when people feel stressed, they turn on others who don’t look like them.” The White House formed a partnership with the Academy Awards when Michelle Obama called the 2013 Oscar for Best Picture.

Trump has gone much farther down this road than Obama did. Comparing Obama’s culture war to Trump’s is like comparing a sword to a tank. One did real damage. The other is far worse. Obama chose to do the things that made him an incredibly divisive president. The response to that on the part of those who opposed him shouldn’t be, “Let’s have our guy be even more divisive.”

America doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be the case that we have a president who seizes on disputes from pop culture and entertainment and makes them into sources of national irritation. Football shouldn’t be a political football. May the next president have the wisdom to mollify, de-escalate, and lower the volume. May the next president make America normal again.

Anthemgate

Rich Galen begins by telling the story of how we got to yesterday:

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the traditional playing of the National Anthem during last year’s pre-season games. Kaepernick said, when asked about his then one-man protest:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Over time, as happens so often, it is not the issue Kaepernick was protesting that has become the source of dispute, but the fact that he and others are protesting at all.

The thing about protests is, they don’t do much until they do become the focus of the discussion.

Rosa Parks first got thrown off a bus in 1943 for entering through the front, and not the rear, door.

But, we didn’t know about that at the time. In 1955 she was arrested for having violated Alabama law by refusing to give up her seat to a White man when the bus was full.

“I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home.”By then she was a member of the NAACP which took up her cause and the Civil Rights movement in the United States got a huge boost. And, the 1943 incident became part of the Rosa Parks story.

For the half-century since Rosa Parks was arrested, the Civil Rights Movement has been at least as much of a point of disagreement as civil rights themselves.

Is Colin Kaepernick the NFL equivalent of Rosa Parks? Those are the kinds of things you can’t know until well after the fact.

We do know that Kaepernick was not released by the 49ers for his actions. He, in effect, released himself this past March when he opted out of his contract to become a free agent.

Whether he is still a free agent because of his actions is a matter of some discussion on sports talk programs across the nation.

The other night – also in Alabama – Donald Trump told a political crowd, according to CNN’s report:

“Team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem. Trump added that if fans would ‘leave the stadium’ when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, ‘I guarantee, things will stop.'”

Sounded just like Voltaire.

Before Sunday’s early games just about every team had some players who stood, some who kneeled, some who sat on the bench and one – the Pittsburgh Steelers – stayed off the field until the Anthem was finished.

In the NFL game played in London (9:30 AM Eastern time) several players on both sides knelt for the National Anthem, but they all stood for “God Save the Queen.”

SIDEBAR

Maybe that’s the answer. Play “God Save the Queen” before every NFL Game just like they did before 1776.

END SIDEBAR

… Unlike Rosa Parks – and many other Civil Rights leaders – no NFL player is likely to be arrested, attacked with a fire hose, or lynched.

For his part, Donald Trump got back on Air Force One after his speech, glowing with self-appreciation on the ride back to Washington, DC, reinforced by his staff chattering like a group of bad angels perched on his shoulder: “You were terrific, tonight.”

Thus, reinforcing Trump’s bad behavior.

Do I agree with these protests? No. Nor, do I agree with Donald Trump’s taunting the players because of them.

I have, in fact, put my life at risk to defend the players’ right to protest, and for Donald Trump to be able to continue acting like Donald Trump.

And, so have many of you.

As far as Kaepernick and his lack of employment are concerned: Every time I see someone saying the NFL needs to stop blackballing Kaepernick, I ask whether that person would want his team to sign him. I have yet to get an answer.

This could be said to be one giant diversionary tactic on the part of Trump and the NFL. Trump is trying to rev up his base, perhaps to divert attention on what he hasn’t accomplished — the Mexican wall, immigration reform (whatever his position is on that today), ending ObamaCare, cutting taxes, cutting the federal debt, ending the North Korean and Iran threats, stomping out radical Islam, and all the other things he promised and has so far failed to deliver upon. (Those are Congress’ fault? That’s not something a leader would complain about.) Trump accomplished nothing to Make America Great Again through inserting himself into something he should have stayed out of.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this …

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month,” Goodell said in the statement.

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

… perhaps to get everyone’s attention away from the claim by the attorney for NFL tight end-turned-murderer Aaron Hernandez that he had severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which doesn’t put football in a very good light. The NFL is also being cynical by making players stand on the field for the National Anthem when it could deflate this issue by having the players in the locker room while it is played (as used to be the case).

Facebook Friend Kevin Binversie says:

No doubt most Americans agree with Mr. Trump that they don’t want their flag disrespected, especially by millionaire athletes. But Mr. Trump never stops at reasonable, and so he called for kneeling players to be fired or suspended, and if the league didn’t comply for fans to “boycott” the NFL.

He also plunged into the debate over head injuries without a speck of knowledge about the latest brain science, claiming that the NFL was “ruining the game” by trying to stop dangerous physical hits. This is the kind of rant you’d hear in a lousy sports bar.

Mr. Trump has managed to unite the players and owners against him, though several owners supported him for President and donated to his inaugural. The owners were almost obliged to defend their sport, even if their complaints that Mr. Trump was “divisive” ignored the divisive acts by Mr. Kaepernick and his media allies that injected politics into football in the first place.

Americans don’t begrudge athletes their free-speech rights—see the popularity of Charles Barkley —but disrespecting the national anthem puts partisanship above a symbol of nationhood that thousands have died for. Players who chose to kneel shouldn’t be surprised that fans around the country booed them on Sunday. This is the patriotic sentiment that they are helping Mr. Trump exploit for what he no doubt thinks is his own political advantage.

American democracy was healthier when politics at the ballpark was limited to fans booing politicians who threw out the first ball—almost as a bipartisan obligation. This showed a healthy skepticism toward the political class. But now the players want to be politicians and use their fame to lecture other Americans, the parsons of the press corps want to make them moral spokesmen, and the President wants to run against the players.

The losers are the millions of Americans who would rather cheer for their teams on Sunday as a respite from work and the other divisions of American life.

I understand that this is not technically a First Amendment issue, because the NFL is the employer of all the protesting players, and the First Amendment protects us from government abrogation of free expression. It is certainly an issue in the spirit of the First Amendment, however. (How many people would like to be fired from their employer for doing a non-work activity on work time, such as picking up a child from school, making a personal phone call, or, heaven forbid, making a social media post during work hours?) I also understand that the First Amendment doesn’t include protections from the consequences of someone’s free expression. But on the other hand, the First Amendment doesn’t protect anyone from being offended or feeling disrespected at someone else’s free expression.

Trump fails again here because, unlike everyone else in this idiocy, the president swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That includes the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with him.

It is also true that the U.S. flag is not Donald Trump. (Thank heavens.) I don’t think kneeling is necessarily disrespect. Sitting, as four Packer players did during the National Anthem before Sunday’s Bengals–Packers heart attack — I mean football game — is disrespect, intended or not.

The U.S. flag and the National Anthem frankly are less important than the U.S. Constitution is to this country. Ask yourself this question: What if the United States of America was a Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton/Charles Schumer/Nancy Pelosi wet dream, where the government took every dollar of our work, gave conservatives no right to free expression, allowed us no gun rights, gave us no rights against unreasonable search and seizure and self-incrimination, and didn’t let us elect our leaders? Would you still love your country if it wasn’t worth loving?

Facebook Friend Michael Smith lays out the myriad stupidities:

Fact 1: The “kneeling” fad started with the San Francisco 49ers and this “protest” has spread to the NBA via the Golden State Warriors and MLB’s Oakland A’s. What do all these teams have in common? They are all from California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, where social justice warrioring is less of a hobby and more of a full time job.

Fact 2: The paradox of the wealthy progressive is at play. The “protesters” are by and large, a very privileged group – being millionaire athletes. Their very existence disproves their premise that America is inherently racist.

Fact 3: These “protests” are narcissistic. The leader of the Golden State Social Justice Warrior basketball team’s opposition to “racism” is Steph Curry – the son of a millionaire former NBA player, Dell Curry. Steph went to private schools as a kid and to college on a full ride scholarship (even though his family was of significant financial means) due to his on-the-court skills and who, in June of this year, signed a 5-year, $201 million dollar deal. People accuse Trump of being a narcissist (with good reason) but these protests by highly compensated athletes reek of narcissism as well.

Fact 4: The “protesters” cannot seem to articulate what it is that they are actually protesting other than to mumble a bunch of generalities ending with the word “Trump.” The “protests” are also dripping in hypocrisy – athletes feel free to directly attack certain people but when they catch a little return fire, they claim to be the victims. Yesterday, Curry was quoted as saying:

“It’s surreal, to be honest. I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”

These “protests” aren’t principled – they are purely political. Curry quipped, “I’ve played golf with President Obama,” Curry said. “I’m pretty sure I won’t get a tee time invite during this regime.”

No doubt where Steph stands.

Look, I sort of agree with Curry about one thing – that this is beneath the Presidency – what Steph Curry, Colin Kaepernick or Bruce Maxwell think should not occupy one second of his time. By and large, the professional sports market is just that, it is a market for people with very specific talents, primarily talents possessed by minorities but other than for entertainment, professional sports is inconsequential to the pressing issues of this country. That is why I think it was beneath the office for Trump to engage in a petty and stupid fight with privileged millionaire pro athletes about fake issues.

Facebook Friend Devin Rhys adds three more points:

1. A lot of people whining about have never been in the military and are using the military to justice their snowflake whining. We didnt serve to protect speech everyone loves. We served to protect the speech everyone hates.

2. A lot of people supporting the protests (players and such) arent brave. Doing something that everyone else is doing is being a sheep, not being brave. The Army ranger in Pittsburgh is more of a hero than anyone kneeling could ever be. …

4. President Trump was a jackass for making this bigger than it was. This entire weekend was his fault.

(Yes, the order was correct. Devin is a 49ers fan, and points three and five were about his sad-sack team.)

It was pointed out in our own house that all the NFL Anthem kneelers are accomplishing nothing by their protests. And they’re not. In fact, as Kennedy Democrat Vince Lombardi put it:

“Our society, at the present time, seems to have sympathy only for the misfit, the ne’er-do well, the maladjusted, the criminal, the loser. It is time to stand up for the doer, the achiever, the one who sets out to do something and does it. The one who recognizes the problems and opportunities at hand, and deals with them, and is successful, and is not worrying about the failings of others. The one who is constantly looking for more to do. The one who carries the work of the world on his shoulders.”

Protesters aren’t really doing that merely by protesting.

The real bottom line comes from Facebook Friend Nathan Schacht:

The Packers made $441 million in revenue last year, $244 million came from national TV revenue. Until those advertisers care, the NFL won’t.

Facebook Friend Jason Wisniewski adds (capital letters his):

Out of 1696 players in the NFL only 43 protest the national anthem. That is less than 3%. Over 97% of players DON’T protest. Teams like the VIKINGS, COWBOYS & LIONS to name a few have ZERO players protesting.

I am not going to let less than 3% of players ruin the sport I grew up on and love that keeps me sane. I will NOT boycott the entire NFL over this.

He lost his way by rooting for a Packer rival after that, but he started in the right direction. There is already too much politics in our world, and it’s quite unfortunate that Trump decided to insert more politics into sports.

My Facebook feed was full of promises Sunday to never watch the Packers or the NFL again. Why do you care? Why do you care what Kaepernick thinks, or any of the Packers, or Trump, or Goodell, or what any other celebrity (and politicians are unfortunately celebrities) thinks on this or any other issue? I honestly do not care what NFL players do during the National Anthem, or their reasons for standing, kneeling, sitting, raising fists or anything else.

This is the latest sad example of where we have sunk to as a country, when someone else’s free expression is an affront to yourself if it represents a point of view contrary to yours.

60 years ago tonight

On a Monday night at Milwaukee County Stadium 60 years ago, the Milwaukee Braves took on the St. Louis Cardinals in an effort to clinch the National League pennant.

Here, not in a MP3 file, is how Braves announcer Earl Gillespie called the bottom of the 11th inning.

Foreshadowing alert: Here’s the finish (not narrated by Gillespie):

Gillespie and Harry Caray, then the Cardinals’ announcer, both were known to exclaim “Holy Cow!” They probably both said that this night, though for different reasons.

The next afternoon’s Milwaukee Journal reported thusly:

Sportscasting advice from an old part-timer

I read two websites on sports broadcasting, Sportscaster Life and Say the Damn Score, and there is a Facebook group for sports announcers.

One of the sites has a place where someone can write. That’s what prompted this, which may be shared on the other two sites.

My perspective does not come as one of the network announcers, or a major pro or college announcer. I have almost 30 years experience announcing sports part-time, on radio and cable TV. (Three games so far this season, with another tonight at 7 Central Time here.)

I am good enough at doing this to be employed part-time to keep doing this. I haven’t been hired to do this at a higher level. I’ve figured out that’s probably all right, because I’ve learned that while journalism has poor pay and long and irregular hours, broadcasting adds to it nearly nonexistent job security, where people get fired for no really good reason.

Other part-time announcers I’ve known had day jobs in customer service, a telephone company (remember those?), welding and education. Even though it’s part-time, though, it’s essential to treat it seriously, if for no other reason than to remain employed. That means taking game prep seriously, rather than just thinking you can show up at the game site and not suck.

Broadcasting Ripon College football on The Ripon Channel with former college hockey player Howard Hansen.

If you’re doing this part-time, you’re probably paid per game. The key to getting paid more, therefore, is to do more games. Some of that is tied to how far the team you’re assigned to cover goes in the postseason; that’s out of your hands. Unless I really wasn’t available, I have always accepted a game assignment. That means I’ve done sports I wasn’t familiar with in announcing terms, including wrestling, volleyball and soccer. (Ironically, volleyball is the one sport I actually played in high school, but evidently I learned nothing about the game from sitting on the bench for two years. There is nothing quite like announcing volleyball on the radio for the first time, particularly if you lack the proper equipment and are in a poor broadcast position.) That also means doing games I wasn’t planning on doing when an emergency comes up and the radio station calls me. (And on the couple of instances where I became unavailable for a game, I arranged for my replacement a few days in advance.) Employers will stick with people who may be subpar in other areas if the employee in question is reliable.

Broadcasting Ripon High School football on The Ripon Channel with Marty Ernser, whose voice you can hear on the first video.

Part-time or not, you should always try to improve. That means listening to or watching your games, whether you like to do that or not. It’s not an ego exercise; you are not likely to remember or realize something you did poorly until you hear or see yourself.

A UW–Platteville men’s basketball game on White Out Night, with former coworker Brian Roebke.

You should always try to be more descriptive, to a point. Instead of “ground ball to short,” did the ball roll to shortstop, bounce high to short, dribble to short, roll like a cueball to short, or what? Instead of a three-yard run, did the running back slide through a hole, bang off defenders, spin off defenders, sweep outside, or what? But at the same time your description shouldn’t go over the heads of your listeners or viewers. I know some announcers have a thesaurus-worthy description of plays, but you’re probably overdoing it if your call makes listeners wonder what just happened.

Broadcasters are told to be themselves. (Which brings to mind the question of what happens when your self isn’t good enough, but never mind that right now.) The only way you can discover what your on-air self is, of course, to announce games. That’s easier than ever thanks to Facebook Live, from which comes broadcast example number three in this blog. Early-career announcers are likely to sound something like the announcers they watched or listened to, such as, in my case, Jim Irwin (Packers, Badgers and Bucks), Bob Uecker (who started announcing the Brewers when I was 7 years old), and Dick Enberg (who announced a lot of touch football in my neighborhood, though he probably doesn’t know that).

I’ve watched sports long enough to have figured out what I like and what I don’t like when I’m watching a game, and therefore what to avoid when I’m announcing a game. By now no one is probably completely original in a game call. (For instance: There are probably four acceptable calls for a goal in hockey — “GOAL!,” “SHOT AND A GOAL!”, “SCORE!” and “HE SCORES!” I don’t think I’ve heard any other goal call other than Pittsburgh’s Mike Lange’s “HEEEEEEEEE shoots and scores!,” which is a variation of the fourth choice.) The only catch-phrase I have that I can think of is my three-point call, which started as “Bango!” in honor of original Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette, but became “Bullseye!” because Mrs. Presteblog said no one would get the “Bango!” reference.

Later the same season as the aforementioned White Out game, UWP had an alumni night. I’m not a UWP alumnus, so I tried to figure out a look from my college days, which I guess here is a cross between Sonny Crockett of “Miami Vice” and “The Terminator.” I’ll be bock.

I try not to yell on the air. I think the worst trend in sports announcing is the announcer who screams like a banshee, yells like his dog is about to run into traffic, or adds a fake growl or other pale imitation of boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer. The viewer or listener knows when a big moment is taking place in a game, and to quote the great Vin Scully, you have to announce with your head, not your heart.

I got to do a state soccer match with the house soccer player, which was a better experience than broadcast, though it went to overtime and penalty kicks.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with borrowing from another announcer if he’s doing something better than you are, even if you don’t otherwise care for that announcer’s work or style. Many basketball announcers use the term “top of the key” for a player in front of the semi-circle through which goes the free-throw line, because originally the lane was narrower than the free-throw-line circle, and it thus looked like an old-style key hole. I heard someone use “top of the silo,” and if you think about it the lane, viewed from above, does look like a farm silo, so I use that, since I do games in the agricultural Midwest. (You will not, however, hear me do the “5-4-3-2-1” countdown to the end zone in football, which is bush league and inaccurate.)

I try to remember to give the score at every new first down, or immediately after that, in football, and after every out at least in baseball. Legendary Tennessee announcer John Ward gave the score after every play of a football game.

One more thing: Enjoy what you’re doing. I go into games now mentally assuming the team I’m covering (assuming it’s not a neutral game) is going to lose, so I don’t sound crushed if they lose. But win or lose, there are few things as good as getting to announce sports, even if (maybe especially if) you’re doing it part-time. I’m announcing for people who can’t get to the game for one reason or another (including being out of state or, once, out of the country), as well as the players’ families thanks to the ability to record broadcasts for future viewing or listening. (I became one family’s personal broadcaster, sort of, after announcing a player’s four years in high school and four years of college.) That should be a fun responsibility.

I’ve gotten to announce state basketball, football and volleyball, NCAA tournament games, games on the way to state tournaments, and great regular-season games. More than once in the middle of broadcasting an exciting, thrilling game I thought to myself that I’m being paid to do this. (I’ve never offered to return my pay, however.)

The dumbest controversy of all time

Mark McGuire:

There is always an internal debate over how much political news belongs in this sports section. Such reports and commentary fill the rest of the newspaper and website. And cable news. And our personal Twitter and Facebook feeds. (Man, that high school friend went off the deep end.)

Can’t we have one oasis where we can argue about only the important stuff, such as whether the New York Jets will win a game (yes, but not two), or who is going to take the Travers (no idea; ask Mike MacAdam or Bill Heller)?

But there is no denying politics, partisan and otherwise, crosses into the sports realm, from the ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga and Kevin Durant saying he would not go to the White House if invited to the issue of pay inequality in women’s sports.

Some of these topics are profound, transcending the day-to-day games, and should be discussed. They say something not just about sports, but where we are as a society.

And some are just … stupid.

But they provide fuel to our rage machine, our desire to yell and be outraged and shake our heads.

So Robert Lee, best known locally for his standout work doing play-by-play for Siena basketball, was switched off calling a Virginia football game by ESPN because he shares the name with Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

All this stems from the the heightened sensitivities to all things Confederate in the wake of the unrest earlier this month in Charlottesville, the home of UVA, involving white nationalists.

“We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name,” ESPN said in a statement. “In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”

In an email to writer Yashar Ali that the contributing writer to New York Magazine, Mother Jones and HuffPost posted on Twitter, an unnamed ESPN exec said the move was done to avoid “memes and jokes and who knows what else” and a “potential zoo.”

What ESPN got instead was … that potential zoo realized, and one of the top-trending topics on Twitter.

Rage, snark, head-shaking — it’s all there.

And what Lee — who, by the way, has a hardly unusual name for an Asian-American — suddenly found himself in the middle of our national nervous breakdown.

Lee did not respond to a request for comment. He did not ask for this. He does not deserve this.

You can argue — as many have — that ESPN was being overly cautious if not politically correct. But the truth is the PR people were right in one sense: Lee, who in a nod to his name goes locally by the nickname “The General,” certainly would have been the subject to at least some Twitter snark.

And … who isn’t?

Instead, ESPN made a move to pull him off this game, a move that inevitably got leaked … which put Lee in the spotlight by a factor of 10. …

ESPN, as always, is low-hanging fruit here. If it did nothing and Lee did a Virginia game in Charlottesville, certainly some would have hit the network as insensitive. At best, the easy jokes would have flown.

And by doing something, ESPN looks worse.

But you know who looks worst of all? All of us. The fact this conversation is even going on. The fact that an Asian sportscaster with the same name as a Confederate general is prompting all this angst, this rage and snark, this column. The fact everything has to be looked at now through the political and partisan lens. This story really does say something about where we are as a society.

TAKE me out to the ballgame(s) …

For those interested in seeing the baseball game I mentioned Wednesday, here are the pregame interviews …

… the ballgame (Foreshadowing Alert: make sure you watch the last inning) …

… and the postgame.

The video and sound quality is not the greatest. (Nor is the announcing since the announcer did rudimentary game prep, though more than none.) For whatever reason the videos are in HD on the newspaper Facebook page but only SD on YouTube. Fortunately the game probably makes up for that.

Given how the Brewers’ pitching has been since the All-Star break, you could take the four pitchers in this game and send them to Milwaukee and they’d do better than the Brewers’ bullpen, and some of the starters too.

This started, as I wrote Wednesday, because I came up with the idea where I come up with my best thoughts — in the shower the morning of a tournament championship game. (Wauzeka 14, Platteville 12.) I also did it for two professional (as much as this is) reasons — to improve my baseball play-by-play since baseball is the worst sport I announce due to my having not done enough baseball, and to get the experience of calling my own child’s games, which I might have to do in future years.

Submitted for your approval as well are the first-round game against Shullsburg …

… the first …

… and second parts of the quarterfinal against Kieler …

… and the semifinal game against Cuba City (hint: watch the beginning):

Some boys of summer

An outstanding newspaper editor writes:

Take me out to the ball game: Those of you who have Liked The [Platteville] Journal’s Facebook page (and pushed it over 7,000 Likes) may have seen a few eighth-grade baseball games streamed on the previous three weekends. (I came up with that idea where I usually get my best ideas, in the shower.) Game one was a 14–12 Platteville loss. However, after a nailbiting 3–2 win over Kieler, a win preserved by a bases-loaded two-out strikeout, and a 13–7 semifinal win over Cuba City (it turns out scoring six first-inning runs — after the first two batters went out, the next seven reached base — before your opponent can bat is good for your chances to win), the Hillmen will play at Dickeyville (weather and bandwidth permitting) tonight at 7:30 for the league tournament title.

Readers might say I’m bringing this up because my youngest son is one of the pitchers on the Platteville freshmen-to-be team. To quote a friend and former coworker of mine, who is now a judge: What’s your point?

That’s what I’m doing tonight at 7:30 Central time, weather and bandwidth permitting.

Dylan, photographed at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball camp at UW–Platteville.

Related is what Kate Leavell writes:

A letter to my former self as a new sports parent:

One day you’re going to get in the car with your kid’s water bottle that he left at home for the last time, that sour shoulder pads and cleat smell coming from the back seat, and the little chunks of dirt that have been knocked loose from muddy cleats all over the once new floor mats. You’re going to climb the stadium stairs one last time, listen to his name announced, watch him take the field and shoot a glance up your way and a little wave. You’re going to hear the last whistle, watch the last half time talk, the last hand shake, eat your last stadium hot dog, shade out that last bright sun beam blocking your view, and then you are going to get in the car and you won’t ever be back again.

Today may be the first time he sits in your lap as you lace up his cleats and then walks onto that field, and he may be terrible, he may be fantastic, he will likely have moments of both, but when it’s all over he’s still that piece of you that you love no matter what.

All I care about now at the end of this journey, is that he had fun, that he has memories that he cherishes rather than ones he hopes to forget. His playing time, lack of college offers that he never cared about or wanted anyway, coaches’ philosophies, club teams, stats – none of it mattered. Not one bit. Don’t waste time keeping up with the joneses of sports parents, just love every.single.second.

When he is small, sports will seem like such a milestone and you will be in a hurry to get him into as much as you can. If he shows promise you may start looking ahead, thinking you are depriving him if you don’t get him the training he deserves. Be ready, because the second it starts the comparison and expectations are instantly out of reach. Don’t miss the fun, don’t miss the laughs, don’t miss the chance to reassure when the tears come, hug him tight, hand him an ice pack when he gets hurt and then send him back out there. And when he wants a break, when he says he misses his friends, respect that request.

Don’t worry about what the coaches are doing, how the team is playing, who should be playing, if they are learning as fast as other teams, if they are a super star, or if they are winning. Just look at them – are they happy? Are they growing and learning and reaching and stepping outside of their comfort zone? Because at the end of their sports experience that’s all that matters. You won’t care about anything else when it’s over.

There are so many things outside of sports that he loves to do, that he is so amazing at. There are so many opportunities that are going to get missed if he is training all the time. He doesn’t want to play in college, that was my destiny, not his. But the things he learned playing sports he will use every day when he leaves for college next year.

Don’t let him forget that he has other talents, to explore as much as possible, to focus on the things he loves but to also constantly try something different just for the experience. Don’t let his self worth become directly tied to his athletic abilities. Don’t let your relationship become coach and player instead of parent and child.

Soak in every moment of every game, absorb the cheers, the goof ups, the missteps, the sometimes less than perfect effort, the sometimes mind blowing plays, the team events, the mud, the smell, the tears, the joy, because one day its going to be over.

You’re going to miss the smell that you think you hate on that drive home from practice, you’re going to miss the constant shuttling to and from practice, volunteer responsibilities and team events, you’re going to miss all the time you spent worrying about team stuff instead of just relaxing and watching him love the game, you’re going to remember those band-aid moments, emergency room visits, got cut from the team and then, years later, the being made captain moments. Hold on tight, and remember why he is playing, never miss an opportunity to experience the complete and total joy you get from just getting to watch him play, because it doesn’t last, and it doesn’t come back.

Related is this comment:

Try marching band. It’s a sport. Why?Try lifting a heavy instrument, (maybe a bari saxophone, 20ish pounds) holding it out at the correct angle, counting your steps so you are where you are supposed to be at any given time on the field, blowing through your instrument, and remembering the notes you need to play, wearing a band uniform in hot weather and sweating buckets, bugs land on you? Too bad, you can’t blow them off, you have to keep going, friend passes out, too bad you have to step over them. And that’s after 2 months of conditioning…yoga, stretching, jogging, marching, getting your steps down. Starts in July, ends in mid November. It, unlike normal sports, builds team work, they become a tight knit group. It’s not a 7 minute show where one person shines. It’s either they all score well together or they all mess up together. Most parents are at every performance cheering and screaming, getting their band kids pumped up. All of them. It’s nine weekends of sheer craziness. And it’s an all Saturday adventure. It involves the whole family, if there are affordability issues, they get covered. It is a community. We’ve even gone on to competition when right before our band director found out one of his students died. It took him to his knees. It was awful. Our band director spoke with our kids and they, as a team, decided to go on for their friend. Her marimba was draped in flowers and set where it normally would be.
These kids learn discipline, working as a team, and how to resolve issues. ThiS mom had NO idea the hours it took to go from point a to polished program. Blood, sweat, and tears. Try band, in the 7 years we were involved, I never heard any booing from the crowd and I can say that because I was there, every performance, I was the video person. We cheered for each other. I love all sports but I love band too. Sorry this got long. You just got a condensed version of behind the scenes. Crazy awesome.

41 years ago, and nevermore since

The first game of the NFL preseason is the Hall of Fame Game. Unless it gets canceled due to bad turf …

… or bad weather, as in 1980 when the Packers–Chargers game in Canton, Ohio, ended during the third quarter due to lightning. (Spoiler alert: Maybe that’s happened before …)

The Hall of Fame Game opening the preseason is a tradition of the past 40 years. It may seem hard to believe now, but the game before that used to pit a team of college all-stars (which means other teams’ early draft picks) against the defending NFL champion.

The game was played at Soldier Field in Chicago (from whence came the baseball All-Star Game), back when (until 1971) Da Bears played not there but at Wrigley Field. Soldier Field could seat up to 100,000 until renovations installed end-zone seats that cut off the huge bowl of the original stadium.

Tonight is the 41st anniversary of the final All-Stars game, which ended in chaos.

ABC-TV carried the game in the midst of its Montreal Olympics coverage. (With the Hall of Fame game the next afternoon.)