Saturday, November 18, 2006

Against "Bo-stalgia"

You have to give Bo Schembechler and his doctors credit. Having lived 37 years after his first heart attack, he was a miracle of modern medicine and the determination to live that makes it possible for modern medicine to work.

But that doesn't make Bo Schembechler a great football coach.

Schembechler was to football what General Motors was to cars. General Motors thrived for decades because their only competition was Ford. They didn't have to innovate; they didn't have to streamline; they didn't have to care. After all, they could sell 50,000 units of anything at a good profit. GM wasn't a very good company but they didn't have to worry because they could make a lot of money anyway.

Schembechler didn't have to care either. At a time when the Big Ten was the Big Two and the Little Eight, he was in the ideal position of not having to worry about competition. Sitting on prime football recruiting grounds in Michigan and Northern Ohio, Schembechler was always going to have big-time players. Likewise, Ohio State was the only team that Bo had to take seriously every year. As a result, Bo didn't have to worry about keeping up with new defenses, wishbone offenses, or innovations in the passing game. All Bo needed to do was line up his big, fast, and talented players against the smaller and slower guys at Northwestern and Illinois and call the same run left, run right, and run between the tackle plays he had always called. He won every time. Bo didn't need to worry about Ohio State either because Woody Hayes was just as committed to the stale old ways as him.

In many ways, Bo and Woody were like Bear Bryant and the last generation of segregation coaches in the South--great coaches as long as they didn't have to play outside their particular little sandboxes. Likewise, just as the continued idol worship of Bear Bryant masks a deep nostalgia for segregation among Southern whites, the urge to glorify Bo Schembechler masks a longing to return to the days of effortless domination.

It's unfortunate. If there was anything admirable about college football in the seventies (and that's a big "if" given the huge recruiting scandals), it would have to be found in the Southern Cal, UCLA, and the wishbone teams out of the Southwest. Those were the teams that moved the game forward while the work of Darrell Royal, Barry Switzer, John McKay, John Robinson, Terry Donohue, Dick Vermeil, and Bill Walsh turned Bo Schembechler into a nostalgia item long before he retired.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Philadelphia Blogging

I've been in Philadelphia since Wednesday with a student honors conference. I haven't gotten any sleep to make up for the fifteen hour train ride from Kentucky.

But . . . here we go!

Gotta Love Philly. It's just a relief to see so many people who aren't white and straight. Morehead is 98% white. In Center City Philadelphia, there can't be more than 6 whites out of 10 people you see. And a lot of the white guys are gay, especially in the area near the archives where there is a mostly gay gym.

But who said that ethnicity is everything. Not me. Morehead State University is a real "trudging" kind of town. Students move with about as much enthusiasm as the guys playing concentration camp prisoners in Nazi movies. Outside campus, there's a kind of Eastern Kentucky "I'm not in a hurry because I don't want anybody to know that I give a shit" depression and slowness. In Philly, the only people who have that determined slowness might be sitting beggars. Otherwise, there's a bounce and energy to movement that puts a little more bounce into my step.

Gotta love it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Baghdad on My Mind

Escalating Irrelevance: American troops raided the homes of al-Sadr's aides today as part of their effort to break into the civil war between the Shiite milita death squads and the Sunni insurgents. As the street war in Baghdad escalates, so does the irrelevance of the 15,000 American troops in Baghdad.

Falluhahs as Far as the Eye Can See: "Solving the civil war" this way a losing proposition anyway. Sadr's Mahdi Army and SCIRI's Badr Brigades can be defeated, but only at the cost of turning Baghdad (and several other cities) into another Fallujah or Ramadi.

The Best Bad Solution to Date: I'm beginning to think that the best bad solution is for the U. S. Military to give up Baghdad to the Shiite death squads and focus their efforts on clearing as many insurgents as possible from Anbar before the whole revolting mess causes us to withdraw.

Out of Our Leagues: Pres. Bush has been out of his league ever since the insurgency took route in 2004. But the situation is so bad now that the entire U. S. political apparatus is struggling to find its footing. Michael Kinsley points out in Slate that the Baker/Hamilton Commission isn't likely to come up with anything very fruitful. Maybe it's time to start planning for the bad consequences of failure.

A Pox on Both Their Houses

John Murtha vs Steny Hoyer for the Majority Leader in the House. What an awful choice!

Murtha is a card-carrying member of the Republican culture of extortion. Before he became an anti-war hero, Murtha made a living coercing Democratic reps into voting for bad Bush administration legislation in exchange for earmarks.

Hoyer isn't any better. As minority whip, he used a lot of his press availability to talk about the Democrats' need to be more like the Republicans.

All of this illustrates the weakness of the House Democrats--a thin leadership bench, the poor public relations skills, and the legacy of kowtowing to the right wing. That's why it was important to elect more Ned Lamont types to Congress--Democrats who wanted to act like Democrats instead of Republican wannabees.

Wait a minute. It's time for liberal bloggers to start "carrying the water," to use Rush Limbaugh's phrase, for the Democratic leadership.

Murtha vs Hoyer--two great statesmen and patriots. You couldn't ask for better men.