June 21, 2004

Looking For the "On" Switch

Today's Musical Selection: "Sleep Walk" by Santo and Johnny

Hello there, all. Exhausting weekend here, for a variety of reasons, so this figures to be somewhat short. My apologies.

The big news on the national desk is that Connecticut Governor John Rowland is planning to resign. Rowland is the same fellow who turned his office into a real money-making opportunity:

When he first took office, Rowland made $78,000 a year, was paying alimony and supporting a large family when his much wealthier friends and state contractors began to give him a taste of the finer things in life.

They fixed up his cottage in bucolic Litchfield, where Connecticut's movers and shakers summer, complete with a hot tub given to him by a state employee. The governor got thousands of dollars in Cuban cigars and French champagne, a vintage Ford Mustang convertible and free or discounted vacations at the estates of his friends -- contractors who won substantial business from the state.

Not bad for government work, huh? Rowland's been very popular in Connecticut (he's the longest-serving governor in the country, having been in office for 10 years), but he's clearly running out the string. The legislature was prepared to begin impeachment proceedings, and he's facing a federal corruption investigation as well. By resigning, Rowland might at least spare himself a measure of public humiliation.

Personally, I think Rowland deserves some credit for reviving the good old-fashioned lost art of selling your office for a piece of the good life. Not too many politicians these days have the chutzpah to trade favors for a classic Mustang. (Rowland also deserves credit for his taste in cars.) So, Governor, I salute you. Enjoy your forced retirement.

Also in today's Post, Sally Jenkins unleashes a rather vicious character assassination on Tiger Woods. As you've undoubtedly heard, Woods hasn't won a major title in a while, and as you can imagine, he's a bit touchy on the subject. I'm sure his grumpiness makes him an unpleasant interview subject, but it seems to me that the last thing he needs is someone like Jenkins ripping him a new one.

Let's look at Jenkins' criticisms of Woods one by one:

- Woods attacked the condition of the course on which this weekend's U.S. Open was played. Um, Sally, everyone else did too. The entire field thought the course was in terrible shape on Saturday and Sunday. Check this out if you don't believe me. Or do you think it's coincidence that no one shot below par in the last round?

- Woods thought the media was being too hard on him. As if he's the first athlete ever to have this opinion. And, you know, if pieces like Jenkins' are par for the course (so to speak), Woods may have a point. Phil Mickelson is the only golfer in recent memory to have his slump so thoroughly scrutinized and picked apart in the press, and now that Phil's won the Masters, the world is in a love-fest with him.

- Woods did not apologize for the bad behavior of his caddy, he seemed to condone it. In this case, what his caddy did was to forcibly remove cameras from the hands of spectators along the course. I thought Jenkins had a point here, at least until she slipped in the insignificant fact that cameras are not allowed on the course. Jenkins is right that Woods' caddie should be summoning the marshals rather than using self-help, but it seems unfair to go after Woods for his caddie not following proper protocols when his accusers aren't either.

- Woods expressed significant displeasure with his former swing coach for making critical remarks about him on television. What Woods said was that if the ex-coach had a criticism of Woods' swing, he should bring it up face-to-face. This is a defensible position. After all, would you enjoy it if your ex-girlfriend took out an ad in the paper telling the world about your shortcomings? I don't think the ex-coach meant his criticisms in an unkindly way, but still, no one enjoys having his problems broadcast for public consumption.

In short, I think what's plaguing Woods now is that he's having his first brush with adequacy. Woods has always been the Golden Child, untouchably brilliant as a golfer, trained virtually from the cradle for this. It's like the straight-A student who gets his first C... he literally doesn't know how to handle it. To make matters worse, he has millions of people who don't have the first idea what he's going through who think they could handle it better. Really, very few people know what it's like to be Tiger Woods right now. But a whole lot of people think they do, or are jealous that they don't, and they're all dying for an opportunity to take a shot at knocking him off his pedestal.

What really gets me about Jenkins is that, for someone who is a reasonably famous sports columnist, she really seems to have no understanding about the mindset of athletes. That's not intended as a shot at her gender; there are plenty of female sports columnists who have a perfectly good grasp of how athletes think. But Jenkins seems to feel superior to or contemptuous of her subjects much of the time. Which causes me to wonder why she went into sports journalism in the first place. Was she just following in her father's footsteps? (Her father is the legendary football writer Dan Jenkins.) I don't know.

My man Frinklin had a few things to say about Friday's ramblings. First, on Ball Four:

Yeah, it took me awhile [to finish], possibly because she tried to read the book and couldn't halfway through. What, just because baseball bores [you], a book about baseball bores you even more?

I can sympathize with this. Most of my girlfriends have regarded my affinity for baseball with amused tolerance, at best, so if I'd ever tried to turn them on to Ball Four, I know how far I'd have gotten with that. Actually, I think the book has interest as a study of people even beyond baseball, but it's hard to get a non-fan to see that (also assuming they don't find the locker-room humor off-putting).

In answer to my question about whether Blues Brothers was his favorite movie, he said:

Blues Brothers...hmm, not my favorite, but probably top 5-10.

Very good. Perhaps you are not my long-lost brother, but I think you might at least be a long-lost cousin. "You're not goin' back out on the road no more, and you ain't playin' in them old two-bit sleazy dives. You're livin' with me now, and you're not gonna go slidin' around with your ol' white hoodlum friends." I've always wanted to be someone's white hoodlum friend.

And about the "Cheney in Charge" article:

Cheney in charge? Isn't he always? Remember kids, I'm a Republican, I can say such things and get away with it. Alexander Haig? In the words of my favorite actor, "Whadda Maroon."

I think Frinklin and I should have our own Crossfire-style show in which we attempt to determine which of us is more embarrassed about what the people who are theoretically on our side are doing. Also glad to see that you appreciate the unrivaled acting greatness of the immortal BB.

Frinklin also wrote a post in response to my C2 review, in which he admits having liked Crystal Pepsi back in the day. I did try Crystal Pepsi, and I didn't go for it... it was just enough unlike actual Pepsi to be maddening. And I had a bit of a mental block about drinking something clear with a cola-ish taste. But you're a brave man to admit it, Frinklin. And it's all right. There are support groups that can help. On the other hand, I don't imagine I have any standing to be making fun of anyone else's culinary preferences, since I'm the only person I know who actually likes anchovies.

That's all for today. See you tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at June 21, 2004 06:09 PM
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