Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Politics of College Sports

In the wake of the conference realignment and the multiple discussion of how college sports weakens academics, here is an interesting article on the way College Football supports academics and research standards. This Salt Lake Tribune article, by Gordon Monson, which focuses on why BYU hasn't joined a mega-conference, especially the PAC-10 like its rival, the University of Utah, argues that the culture of BYU prevents it from being invited into the Pac-10.

The Utes are a better fit. They’re the kind of research institution that the Pac-10 prefers. Some say they are more “liberal” in their approach to academics, and that’s true, too. Their way of doing business is more in line with what Pac-10 schools do. As for athletics, football in particular, Utah’s accomplishment in winning two BCS bowls since 2005 is remarkable.

BYU, conversely, is conservative and is owned not only by a church, but a church that supported Proposition 8, that won’t allow its teams to play on Sunday, and that keeps a watchful eye on the academic pursuits of its professors. While it’s a stellar institution that’s extremely difficult for students to get into, it’s more limited in graduate-level research. It’s a terrific university, but a different one — unlike any in the Pac-10.

When I worked in Los Angeles, I talked with a number of Pac-10 athletic directors who were in favor of getting BYU into the league because whenever their teams played the Cougars, thousands of more tickets were sold. Had it been up to them, BYU would be in. The holdup was with certain school presidents, for the aforementioned reasons

While many complain that athletics weaken research and teaching at College Football Factory Schools, this suggests that College Football not only offers Research I schools more money for research, it helps support and maintain a certain academic culture necessary for research.

Update: to see how academic standards fall short at BYU, read this on how Jeffrey Nielsen, a non-tenure track professor was fired for his freedom of speech.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This May Be A First

According to Yahoo, The Stanley Cup will be on display during Chicago's Gay Pride Parade.

For a real lesson on tolerance, people should speak to Defenseman Brent Sopel. From the article:
The Blackhawks took pride in bringing the city together during their quest for the Cup; cutting across demographics and eventually partying with 2 million Chicagoans at their championship rally. They also took pride in sparking a revival for hockey in the Windy City, and grassroots organizations like the CGHA are essential to the expansion of the fan base and the growth of the sport.

But above all, it's been a progressive year for hockey and tolerance. The late Brendan Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke who died tragically in an auto accident earlier this year, shared his story of coming out in the hockey world and received an outpouring of support.

Burke's legacy is one of the reasons why Chicago defenseman Brent Sopel(notes), his wife and four children will appear with the Cup at the Pride Parade, according to the Sun-Times:

"When Brendan came out, Brian stood by him, and his whole family stood by him, like every family should," said Sopel. "We teach our kids about accepting everybody. Tolerate everybody, to understand where everyone is coming from."

I am pretty sure that championship teams from the other major sports, Football, Baseball, and Basketball have not stepped out. I am almost certain NASCAR would not do this.

For all of the common tropes of violence and incivility, it is good to see hockey as one of the first sports to make tolerance a virtue.

For a great article on Brendan Burke, read John Buccigross' piece, "We Love You, This Won't Change a Thing."

As the Right Realigns

Even more Conservatives take aim at the Tea Party. Though David Frum has been attacking the Tea Party for sometime, his new article suggests how it will hurt the Republicans this fall, i.e. two-steps forward, two-steps back.

The Weekly Standard has a lengthier piece on the paranoia and conspiracy at the base of some Tea Party Leaders. e.g. Glenn Beck. And, Glenn, you're having a bad day when The Weekly Standard attacks you.

My Rather Conventional Tribute to the World Cup

Shocking I would post this. I Know.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Or, being too incompetent to know you are incompetent. The New York Time Reports.

I have only one thing to say: Juice On!!!

Civilian Control of the Military: The Summer of Our Discontent

In the new issue of Rolling Stone, which will hit stands on Friday, Michael Hastings interviews Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan. The article will be brutal against the Obama Administration and, in some cases, against Obama himself.

Here is a description of article from MSNBC:
In Rolling Stone, McChrystal is described by an aide as "disappointed" in his first Oval Office meeting with an unprepared President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. "I was selling an unsellable position."

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. And the White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.


The article portrays McChrystal's team as disapproving of the Obama administration, with the exception of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who backed McCrystal's request for additional troops in Afghanistan.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House."

It quotes a member of McChrystal's team making jokes about Biden, who was seen as critical of the general's efforts to escalate the conflict and who had favored a more limited counter-terrorism approach.

"Biden?" the aide was quoted as saying. "Did you say: Bite me?"

It seems that even before the war is over individuals are attempting to dissociate themselves from the Country's longest war.

This is not good for anyone involved: the military leadership, the troops, the president. The insubordination in the interview probably undermines civilian control of the military, especially for Democrats. It certainly provides Republicans with a damning critique of Obama, from someone who voted for him, for the 2010 and 2012 elections. It creates a familiar fault line within the Democrats between Obama and Clinton, which has been a developing Republican meme (see Red State and Peggy Noonan).

Update: McChrystal apologized. Obama has summoned him to Washington. McChrystal will probably get removed from his post as it is fairly uncommon for leading military people to call out the Commander in Chief and even less probable that they survive in their position when they do. This works well for McChrystal as he gets to publicly denounce the strategy and is no longer responsible for the implementing the plan. Now that is responsibility.

With the blood in the Gulf, it seems as if it is time to strike.