Thursday, November 27, 2008

Random Japaneseness, pigskin edition

With all due apologies to UBM, who has pioneered the art of posting about random Japanese stuff.

But I learned something today. And I feel the need to share. What can I say? I'm particularly thankful this year.

Believe it or not, American football has quite a following in Japan. The game took root in Japan in the 1930s, when a group of Americans helped to form the first football teams at three universities in Tokyo. In November 1934, the first football game was played between an all-star team comprised of players from the three Tokyo universities and a team of Americans and Britains living in Japan.

The Japanese team won the game. And from there, it didn't take long for the sport to become popular. Within three years, an all-star game between college teams from eastern and western Japan drew a crowd of 25,000.

Not surprisingly, American football came to a stop during World War II. But once the fighting was over, one of the American missionaries - Paul Rusch - who'd help to introduce football in the 1930s returned to Japan to get the games going again.

Today, more than 17,000 players compete for about 400 teams. Most of the players compete on the college level. There are two college football leagues, the Kanto League with teams from eastern Japan and the Kansai League with teams from western Japan. Every December, the two league champions meet for the college title game at the Koshien Bowl.

Imagine that: a true college football champion determined through a de-facto playoff. Sounds crazy, right? How could the Japanese get right what we've willfully allowed to go wrong?

The Japanese also have a semi-professional football league, the X League. That league's championship game is also held in December and called the Japan X Bowl. The X League champion then moves on to face the college champion in the Rice Bowl for a true national championship game. These games tend to be pretty evenly divided; the pro team had won 13 of the 23 games played through 2006.

Player of note? Well, if your team is looking for a running back, it could do worse than to take a look at Obic Seagulls running back Takuya Furutani. Though a little on the small side at 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, Furutani rushed for 246 yards and five touchdowns in the 2006 Rice Bowl. Furutani apparently had a cup of coffee with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League. I'm not quite sure what happened from there because, well, I don't read Japanese.

Anyway, I learned all this today while watching an interview with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on C-Span. He was speaking to a group at the Robert Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

Good times. I can only imagine watching Japanese football is a helluva lot more entertaining than watching the Lions on Thanksgiving.

UPDATE: Just to emphasize the point, if you get a chance and you're a fan of the NFL, please make sure to take a look at the interview with Tagliabue. He comes off as a smart, thoughtful, nuanced man. I had forgotten he was once a lawyer. And I never knew that he remains one of the all-time leading rebounders at Georgetown University.

His only unsatisfying answers came when he was asked about ways to improve the numbers of minorities and women in the ranks of coaches and administrators in the league. I think he believes too much in the goodwill and fairness of the marketplace - that NFL teams will do the right thing without a nudge. But other than that, I came away extremely impressed.
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The annals of bad coaching, Part 1

Happy Thanksgiving, FH readers. I know today is going to be a huge football day. But here's an interesting item about an odd - and ultimately losing - basketball strategy. Call it strategery:

The nation’s leading scorer was held without a point and took only three shots. But the game was never in doubt because Davidson played the entire game on a virtual power play.

All this was courtesy of a bizarre coaching move by Loyola’s Jimmy Patsos.

“We had to play against an NBA player tonight,” Patsos explained. “Anybody else ever hold him scoreless? I’m a history major. They’re going to remember that we held him scoreless or we lost by 30?”

So he knows history - maybe. What about math? You know, the part where his team lost 78-48.

Patsos' job is to win games, not make his team a historical footnote. He might want to start grading his team's success by the scoreboard and not the boxscore. I've gotta imagine that's the standard his boss is using.

In fact, Patsos should consult with a coach who talks a lot about winning games - not that he's had much recent experience.

UPDATE: Speaking of Davidson and Stephen Curry, a friend of mine from work has written a book about their improbable run through the NCAA tournament last season. He's a great writer, so I can only assume the book will be worth a read. Check it out. Continue Reading »

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lame Turkey

Courtesy of Yglesias.

This sounds about right. I'm sure Bush will be pardoning a few more turkeys in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: For the record, John Forte is most certainly not one of those turkeys. I always thought he caught a raw deal.

UPDATE 2: On another note, if there are truly people worth pardoning sitting in our prisons, why would presidents wait until the end of their term to use this power? Justice should't wait. We should pardon the people who deserve it, right? Otherwise, the gesture seems devoid of virtue. Continue Reading »


Karrine "Superhead" Steffans is most certainly not a housewife. But does she have to be a ho?

I had an interesting dialogue with some of my e-friends today after someone passed along this link of her speaking to an unusually unruly group of students at Cal State University, Northridge.
Of course, the tell-all, former video vixen inspires a lot of negative opinions. And with good reason, given how she aired out some of the more unsavory chapters of her life and took down other people with her (um, sometimes, literally).

But I have a problem with calling her a "ho." Here's what I sent to the group:

I have real problems with the use of the word "ho" in that context. I just don't understand why we're so quick to make character judgments about people sleeping around, unless they're married, making babies they can't take care of or passing around disease.

I don't want to be judged on my sexual history, such as it is. I don't think anyone does. What's the number that officially sends a person into "ho" status? 20? 50? 100? I might use those numbers to judge whether or not I can enter a relationship with such a person. But, on a larger scale, I don't know if that would be very useful.

You know, I heard this old joke that sorta summed it up: "A promiscuous person is someone who's had sex with one more partner than you."

Now, as I suggested in another part of the conversation, you might argue that she was - quite literally - a "whore." She had sex for money and other favors, no? I'm not going to make a judgment as to whether that's bad or good or something more complex.

Because then we might get into a discussion about whether prostitution should be legal. And that's a conversation for another time, not the holidays.
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My Life, in music

Avery sent me deep. So, obviously, I had to run it down.

Here's the rules:
1.Put your iPod on (party) shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

What is your Motto? Don't You Worry Bout a Thang by Stevie Wonder

What do your friends think of you? Can't Win for Losing by Little Brother

What do you think about very often? The People by Common

What is 2+2? No Idea's Original by Nas

What do you think of your best friend? I'm the Type of Guy by LL Cool J

What do you think of the person you like? You Move Me by Cassandra Wilson

What is your life story? A Love Supreme by John Coltrane

What do you want to be when you grow up? Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears

What do you think of when you see the person you like? Love Ballad by Jeffrey Osborne

What do your parents think of you? Thanks for My Child by Cheryl Pepsii Riley

What will you dance to at your wedding? Apache by The Sugar Hill Gang

What will they play at your funeral? Nicety by Michelle'

What is your hobby/interest? All Around the World by Jay-Z

What is your biggest secret? Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol' Dirty Bastard

What do you think of your friends? We Major by Kanye West feat. Nas

What’s the worst thing that can happen? The Dream Shatterer by Big Pun

How will you die? Die by Beanie Sigel

What is the one thing you regret? Holding Back the Years by Simply Red

What makes you laugh? Rooter to the Tooter by Sammie Relford

What makes you cry? Walking to New Orleans by Fats Domino

Will you ever get married? Forever My Lady by Jodeci

What scares you the most? You Made a Fool of Me by Me'Shell Ndegeocello

Does anyone like you? Selfish by Slum Village feat. Kanye West and John Legend

If you could go back in time, what would you change? Full of Smoke by Christion

What hurts right now? Home Is Where The Hatred Is by Gil-Scott Heron

What will you post this as? My Life by Mary J. Blige Continue Reading »

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The mythical "Team of Rivals"

Surprise. President Lincoln's "Team of Rivals" may not have worked so well together:

By December 1862, there was a full-blown Cabinet crisis.

"We are now on the brink of destruction," Lincoln confided to a close friend after being deluged with congressional criticism and confronted by resignations from both Seward and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Goodwin suggests that Lincoln's quiet confidence and impressive emotional intelligence enabled him to survive and ultimately forge an effective team out of his former rivals, but that's more wishful thinking than serious analysis.

Consider this inconvenient truth: Out of the four leading vote-getters for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination whom Lincoln placed on his original team, three left during his first term -- one in disgrace, one in defiance and one in disgust.

Look, I'm sure "Team of Rivals" is a fantastic book. The concept actually sounds lovely. I'll even make sure to read it over the holidays or sometime soon after.

But nothing about today's political climate suggests that Obama needs to invite a circular firing squad into the Oval Office. He'll be inheriting enough challenges without creating some of his own. Bipartisanship is a little overrated, if you ask me.

To Obama's credit, I think all this talk of him bringing political rivals into the fold is a bit overblown. It's not like he offered Sarah Palin a position in his cabinet. Just Hillary Clinton, with whom he seems to agree on most major issues. I think trouble can be avoided if, as Matt Y suggests, Obama makes it clear that "it’s his team and his policies we’ll be looking at."

Mostly, I agree with Fallows and TNC that, in many ways, it's just lazy political analysis. We actually could call this approach "inclusive" or "unity cabinet" or "coalition-building." But, no, pundits and such are looking for easy (though utterly useless) analogies on deadline and in front of the camera. So it's easy to rely on the meme of the moment. I think the phenomenon might be aptly described as a "cognitive shortcut."

UPDATE: An old friend humbly submitted that I should withhold judgment about "Team of Rivals" until I read the book. I respect dude's opinion, so I'll be ordering that joint from Amazon pretty soon. Here's a promise: no more mention of the phrase on here until I've actually finished the book. Sounds reasonable, no? Continue Reading »

What's playing in my deck...

Been a long time, no? Let's see what the oh-so-unpredictable iTunes "Party Shuffle" served up for me this morning:

1. The Truth by Pharoahe Monch feat. Common
2. The Lady in My Life by Michael Jackson
3. Green Eyes by Erykah Badu
4. Get It Ready, Ready by DJ Jubilee (an old school New Orleans party joint. This literally turned out every party I ever went to in high school and college).
5. Life Story by Black Rob

Tuesday will be a long day. A very long day. But there will be more later. Continue Reading »

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lil' Earl

False Hustle, now with video. Really, it's shocking how computer illiterate I can be sometimes.

That out of the way, please enjoy 10-year-old Ben Wilson. I'll dub him Lil' Earl, after the most relentless running back of my lifetime. Someday, I hope my son plays the game this way.

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Thought for Monday, Part 2

I've got things on my mind. But I'm not too busy for you. Continue Reading »

Thought for Monday

Whom, exactly, should Americans trust to dispense advice about our nation's economic collapse and general financial matters? Suze Orman?

That's certainly what Larry King seems to think.

UPDATE: We're giving away the farm, eh? "The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago." The numbers and the lack of accountability boggle my small mind.

UPDATE 2: Of course, we could say F-it and let the Somali pirates purchase Citigroup. I'm sure they're good for $25 billie. Continue Reading »

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two-minute drill

For old times' sake, how about some quick thoughts on this weekend in football? Sound good? Well, either way, I'm gonna do it. (Yes, I know I've been mighty football-centric the past couple of days. I'll be switching things up starting tomorrow. Promise).

1st Down - Texas Tech lost in such an embarrassing way last night that I bet Mike Leach moved a little closer to leaving Lubbock. Within a few minutes Saturday night, it became apparent that the talent discrepancy between the Red Raiders and the Sooners was tremendous. And, purportedly, this was the best team in Tech history.

It's just the way of the college game. OU will always have its choice of blue-chippers and Tech will always pin its hopes on turning second-tier recruits into stars. Not much will change in that regard, no matter how long Leach stays in West Texas. But maybe things would be easier for Leach in Knoxville, Seattle or Clemson. (I might note, Leach would be a terrible fit in the SEC. Ask Dennis Franchione about the differences in the level of scrutiny. Hell, Billy Gillespie too).

2nd Down - Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice suggests an alternative tiebreaker to determine the Big 12 South champ: the team with the largest margin of victory over Texas A&M. OU beat the Aggies by 38 and Tech won by 18. If the Horns can eke out a 39-point victory over their in-state rival, they can win a spot in the league title game. Actually, this doesn't sound like such a bad idea. And as Justice notes, "not only does it settle the Big 12 South, but it makes Texas A&M football relevant again." Eh, true.

3rd Down - As I write this, Adam Viniatieri hit a 51-yard field goal as time expired to lift Indy to a 23-20 win over San Diego. The Chargers are, pretty much, out of the playoff race and Norv Turner is, pretty much, on the way out of town. At a certain point, a team's title-contending days come to an end. Looks like for San Diego, it's this year. Much like my Warren Moon-led Houston Oilers in the early 90s, the Chargers will always be remembered as a team that could never get over the hump.

4th Down - I've mentioned this on, like, two other blogs but Philadelphia fans are notorious for stupidly nudging their sports stars out of town. Looks like Donovan McNabb is next up. I just can't understand why the Eagles are so ready to kick off the Kevin Kolb era, even considering the financial implications of swallowing nearly $20 million for McNabb over the next two years. I saw Kolb play in high school and college; trust me, the Eagles should be in no rush to anoint him as the guy.

Extra points - No one really thought the Titans were going undefeated, so it wasn't a big deal to see the Jets knock them from the ranks of the unbeaten Sunday. That said, I'm not so sure Tennessee can be a legitimate Super Bowl contender with Kerry Collins under center. Yes, I'm an unabashed Vince Young fan but I'm being serious here. I still stick by my preseason choice of Indianapolis for AFC champs. ... Why couldn't Grambling head coach Rod Broadway move up to coach at a larger Division I school? The guy worked under Steve Spurrier and has restored order to a Grambling program that was in serious need of it. Let him have a chance. Has a coach at a HBCU ever gone on to coach at a PWI? Floyd Keith, please get on this. ... Who knew Matt Cassel would likely be a more coveted pro qb than the guy that kept him on the bench at USC? ... Glad to see Bill Snyder is likely returning to coach at Kansas State. Means my school, TCU, gets to keep its coach - and K-State alum - Gary Patterson. Continue Reading »