Top 10 Letters
College football, the NFL, gay superheroes, Star Wars, Trent Lott, and more.
11:00 PM, Jan 5, 2003
THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.
Parity stinks. Mediocrity is dull. Excellence will always be the standard to strive for (Max Boot, A Level Playing Field). I have been a die hard New York Giants fan since 1961 (the tail end of the glory years)and watch every week on the satellite. But for many years the Giants were god-awful. In one stretch of about 15 years they never got a smell of the playoffs. But that did not keep me from enjoying top quality football games. When the excellent teams of the various eras chanced to meet, what usually resulted was astoundingly good football. My remembrance of that era was that fans, while still loyal to the local favorite, tended to adopt a better team to follow in lean years.
Football is a sport where the whole team can look bad if one player is weak. The other team needs only to identify the weakness and exploit it. One sided victories occur regularly where the schedule allows one team's only strength to match-up against another team's only weakness. What has disappeared are the classic match-ups between two teams with no weaknesses.
The best example is the conference championship games. This is truly where the two best teams meet. In the NFC championship game at the end of the 2000 the NY Giants (God bless them) matched a relatively strong passing game against Minnesota's relatively weak secondary. The result was a 44-0 (or thereabouts, I stopped counting).
Parity has saved the NFL by giving every team a shot at a much reduced pinnacle. They sell hundreds of thousands more tickets at higher prices, but don't mistake the product on the field as being superior to what used to be.
I enjoyed Fred Barnes's solution to college football's championship dilemma , as it mirrors my own (Quick Fix). But I assume his proposal would call for the rotation of the final championship game amongst the four current BCS organizations.
Barnes refers to the Fiesta bowl as the final game, an option I find quite attractive as I am a native of the Phoenix area and have close relations with the management of the Bowl. However, the BCS was created to accomplish two things. The first was to crown a national champion. The second was to create a system in which the top bowls could share the wealth. Each bowl worked very hard over the years to earn its status and the riches it brings to its local economies, and they will be very hesitant to give up that status, even if it means a fairer and more attractive playoff system. As such, all four games must rotate the top game, and, as logic dictates, the low game. Herein lies a problem:
It took a lot of convincing to bring the Rose Bowl into the system. With its luster based largely on an unmatched tradition, it traded in part of that heritage to bring the chances of undefeated Pac-10 or Big 10 teams to play in a BCS championship. It will be an even larger task to convince them to cash in more of that tradition and play a full week ahead of tradition. The Rose Bowl began as a way to promote the Tournament of Roses Parade. Its very existence is owed to a Pasadena festival that takes place on New Year's day. If the Rose Bowl is therefore entrenched on New Year's (or later), and if the plan does not call for rotation, that leaves the Sugar Bowl in the lower tier, something I do not think they would volunteer to do. But if the BCS bowls were to rotate so that once every four years they played the first round before Christmas, and once every four years they hosted the final game, it could work.
Now we just have to get the NFL to sign off on it since the first week after New Year's is generally the first week of the NFL playoffs.
Concerning Jimi Hendrix's letter to his father, David Brooks seems to be mixing up Jimi with John Lennon, the Grateful Dead, CSNY, etc. (From Jimmy to Jimi). Jimi served in the military, Jimi played the star spangled banner at Woodstock, and when he did, he inserted "Taps" after the "bombs bursting in air," an unequivocal indication that he was mourning the dead who fought bravely for our nation. He wrote songs like "Machine Gun", which lamented his loneliness and despair in the jungle, clinging to his gun. When asked about his version of the National Anthem on a TV show (I forget which one), he simply stated that he thought it was beautiful, it was art.
He was not a politico; he probably knew little of foreign affairs. As Brooks pointed out, he was a dutiful son, and, as his record shows, a dutiful soldier. There were some, I'm sure, who wrote letters home indicating their lust for political change. I could never imagine Jimi doing so. He just loved to play.
In case no one else has pointed this out to Victorino Matus, the Rawhide Kid is actually not the first openly gay comic book hero, but the first openly gay title character of a comic book (Blazing Saddles). Marvel's "X-Men" boasted North Star, a gay Canadian mutant super-speedster (and former Olympic gold medalist). He was the first comic book hero written as gay. DC has the Pied Piper (a close platonic friend of the Flash) and another fellow who is a supporting character in the grownup-oriented "Codename: Knockout."
Regarding the rest of the hoo-ha over the Rawhide Kid's coming-out: As usual the only ones who get upset over positive media representations of gays are those who don't realize that they interact everyday with homosexuals. It's true. At least ten percent of any population in the world is homosexual or bisexual, including the residents of conservative little Bible Belt towns. They may be too frightened of you to tell the truth about their sexual feelings and/or activities, but they're right there next to you, living their own little lives, baby.
Speaking as a gay former resident and churchgoer from just such a place, it's my opinion that our society benefits immeasurably from the happiness, emotional security, and free expression of its citizens. Ten percent of the population is a LOT of citizens. Why shouldn't we see our own faces looking back at us out of the TV or movie screens, popular magazines or comic books? Are conservatives afraid that we'll begin to believe that our lives and feelings are real and important? Why shouldn't we, and why shouldn't everyone be happy for us? It seems "conservatives" really only want to conserve their own small, mean-spirited view of the world, at the expense of the well-being of everyone else. Well, no. It's that simple: no. We're here, we're queer, get used to it.
While it is clear that the Republic is bloated and ineffectual, it doesn't appear that the Empire is any better at keeping order among its citizens (Jonathan V. Last, The Case for the Empire). If the Empire has no effect on the lives of ordinary law-abiding citizens, it is only because it tends to have no effect on much of anyone. Tatooine is a study in anarchy, no matter which regime happens to be in charge. Imperial attempts to thwart smuggling are half-hearted at best. The only evidence of the Empire becoming involved in smuggling operations at all is in the pursuit of the Rebellion. The Empire may say that it wants "order" but it is incapable of delivering it and so it degenerates into mere brute force.
While the Republic may be guilty of overzealously attempting to maintain the unity of the galaxy, it should be pointed out that in this instance the Empire couldn't possibly be much better. The Death Star was built by the Empire to maintain its integrity for the same reasons that the Republic wishes to remain intact.
It should also be instructive that the only person seen to advocate forcefully for maintaining the separatists' membership in the Republic is Palpatine. The Jedi and Senator Amidala seem to take a more laissez-faire approach to the matter. The Senator isn't interested in doing all that much about it, and like the Jedi, seems not to mind that the separatists go off on their merry way.
There is no evidence that the Imperial regime is one that business can be done with. Indeed, there is much evidence to the contrary. Lando Calrissian makes an attempt to do business with the Empire and ends up having to completely shut down his operations. It's interesting that the capitalists of Episode II are composed entirely of aliens. From what we know of the Empire, everyone of any consequence appears to be human. The Rebellion, on the other hand, seems to incorporate many of the alien species that formerly made up the capitalist contingent of Episode II. Perhaps the Rebellion arose from the ashes of the defeated capitalists of the Clone Wars.
As for the Jedi, their meritocracy is indistinguishable from Imperial military meritocracy. Insisting that Jedi hopefuls have the ability to at least use the Force is far less objectionable than insisting that one be cloned and genetically manipulated in order to become a stormtrooper. Moreover, Last's analogy between the Jedi and a royalist Swiss guard is woefully incorrect once since the Jedi aren't supposed to marry or have offspring.
Perhaps the message of Star Wars is not so much that the Empire is bad and that the Republic is good, so much as pointing out that both systems really sucked. I would have to give the edge to the Republic in this instance, if only because its incursions into the lives of its citizens tended to be far less deadly than the Empire's.
While I agree that college football needs a playoff system, the current bowls should not be used. The teams who finish at the top of the polls at the end of the year should get home field advantage for the first two rounds, with the championship game played on a neutral site. All the current bowl games are in warm-weather states: Using them would give schools like Miami and USC an advantage, while penalizing schools like Washington State and Iowa.
"Quick Fix" is written by someone whom, it seems, has not played football at the post-secondary level. Two of the eight teams in Fred Barnes's playoffs will play three post-season games. Football is a brutal game. Three post-season games is, in my opinion, asking too much unless the NCAA forces a shorter regular season on all Division I schools.
Also, I realize that a month with no serious academics (spent concentrating on playoffs) would not seriously affect most players, but there are still some schools (Notre Dame, Penn State) which take college studies seriously.
Jonathan V. Last's article on Star Wars is spot on. I've never bought in the "Empire is evil" stuff either. I've a few supporting points to add.
For one thing, aren't the heroes awfully concerned with royal titles for a bunch of republicans? Everybody is "princess" this or "lord" that. Shouldn't they call each other "citizen," or "comrade," or even "Mr./Ms" instead of being so stuck on titles.
And what kind of a political system allows a teen age girl to be "elected" queen of an entire planet, like Amidala? I'm sorry, but for some reason the thought of Britney Spears as an elected, absolute sovereign fills me with more dread than sense of loyalty to the Old Republic.
Indeed, given the iron hands with which most rulers in this so-called republic run their own planets, the Senate is as much a Council of Five Families as it is U.N. Each family boss seems free to run their planet as they see fit, with occasional turf wars breaking out, despite some nominal supervision from the Senate.
Not only that, these rebels, for all their protestations of morality, are not above taking and holding duly-authorized diplomats as hostages. Then there's that fight between Darth Maul and the two (yes, two) Jedi. Since when is it sporting and fair to gang up and attack two against one?
And then there's all that racial tension between the Nabooians and Jar Jar's group. What's up with that?
Larry Miller should know that ever since the House managers were betrayed by the Senate leadership during the Clinton trial I have waited for Trent Lott to be pushed out (A Tale of Two Selfish Men). I bet I wasn't alone.
I enjoyed Victorino Matus's comments on "Gangs of New York", most especially since he actually bothered to read the appropriate source material (Ganged Up). There is one thing that bothered me, however. He gives the reasons for the Draft Riots of 1863 as being: "The Irish did not want to fight for a country they had just arrived in, while nativists refused to fight on behalf of Negro slaves."
This, I fear, is Scorsese's wishful thinking, not reality. The Draft Riots were a singularly ugly episode, and the participants are undeserving of a latter-day whitewash. The riots were spurred by a lethal combination of racial animosity, class hatred, and political opportunism. The (largely Irish) mobs that stormed the Colored Orphans' Asylum were not protesting unfair conscription--they were attacking black people they saw as the enemy.
(Still, nothing in "Gangs of New York" is half so poisonous as the almost slanderous "Titanic.")
--Andrew C. Batten