Archive for August, 2012

With the Republican National Convention in full swing, the big players of the party came out to support their cause. Condoleezza Rice, Rand Paul, John McCain, Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Paul Ryan and (of course) Mitt Romney lead the way for the convention speeches. Even Ann Romney came out to throw in her support. One of the major problems is that they, as a political party, have rallied around a misquote by Obama that puts their whole convention into question.

On July 13th, Obama was in Roanoke, VA giving a speech to support his cause for November. In a section of the speech where he was commenting on the success of American business, he talked about how successful businesses have humble beginnings. Teachers help to inspire. Somebody had to build the roads and bridges for access. Then he followed up those statements with “if you’ve got a business-you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He continued to talk about government programs helping to create the beginnings of the internet. The thing is that if you stop right there, it is still easy to misconstrue the context. Even the internet comment falls in the realm of government support is the only way to make big things happen.

If you go a step further, here is what Obama said…

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

“So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

Obama’s speech was focused on a combination of individual achievement and collective support. Our nation will only be successful if great ideas are given community support, even if that means government support. It is here that the debate should have remained, and not on a misquoted sound byte. It is here where the Republican party could show legitimacy in their message. I actually agree that the government, whether federal or state, supports a number of great programs and initiatives that move our nation forward. The GOP could spend their effort talking about private enterprise being the area that needs to step up to help support the growth of the nation and move away from federal support. This would still mean the loss of many beneficial programs, but that is what Republicans believe.

The DNC is not much better in the realm of context stretching and mudslinging, but it is truly pathetic when a party rallies around a misinterpreted quote. Seriously…

While there are a number of vital issues involved in this upcoming election, it is surprising to me how many people are still so strongly against the concept of human rights. GOP members have shown a recent interest on limiting or eliminating the rights of women. Arizona voted to allow doctors to have the right to withhold information from expecting mothers about possible birth defects in order to prevent women from seeking abortion. Mississippi voted to criminalize abortion as murder. Topeka, Kansas lacks provisions for domestic violence that make it non-criminal. Now GOP candidates are saying that women have fewer rights than virtually everyone else.

The first is equal pay. Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker already repealed the his state’s version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects women to earn the same pay as men. Romney already expressed his support of Pete Hoekstra, who called equal pay for women “a nuisance.” Now Paul Ryan as the VP candidate has solidified the GOP as the party that believes women are inferior to men. He has voted on numerous occasions against equal pay, including Obama’s first national bill, which happened to be the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

Next up is health care. Insurance companies are currently prohibited from gender-based discrepancies in their pricing and access. This is all supported by the Affordable Care Act. Paul Ryan is a strong opposer of the ACA, which is just the start of his issues with women’s health care. The most prevalent issue at the moment surrounds women’s rights for life versus choice. Rape is something that is truly a serious matter and causes a significant amount of trauma. One would think that a woman who may have fallen victim to such an attack would have the right to abort the child for both her physical and emotional health. The GOP has decided that not to be the case. Todd Akin, representative from Missouri, came out on record that he believes that a woman’s body has defenses that will protect a woman in the event a “legitimate rape” to prevent pregnancy. His comments also imply that he believes a woman who would become pregnant would not be a true victim of rape because they were accepting of inception.

Honestly that thought is horrible enough, but VP candidate Paul Ryan added a little extra fire to the flame with a combination of his support for HR 358, support for the Protect Life Act and lack of support for Planned Parenthood. HR 358 is a policy that would essentially cut off support for women seeking an abortion anywhere, regardless of her physical condition. Known as the “Let Women Die Bill,” even a woman who is in trauma due to her pregnancy could be denied treatment by anyone for any reason. Add to that the Protect Life Act, which is both the opposite and the same as HR 358. This act allows doctors power to make decisions about human life, including the denial of abortion care. Though only a small portion of Planned Parenthood involves abortion care, he believes that they are undeserving of any federal funding, including the support of basic women’s health care. In the end, Ryan supports the rights of an unborn fetus more than the mother.

There are a number of issues that Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan may have good discourse on, but the issues listed above should be clearly in favor of the incumbents. Anyone who supports equal rights and even the women of the GOP should be appalled by the stances of some of the GOP’s significant leaders. Though I am skeptical about Romney’s business record, he may have some ideas that would be beneficial to listen to regarding ways to support the economy. To be honest though, I still struggle with Romney’s failure to stick to a position and Ryan serving as his significantly polarizing running mate. This should be an interesting next couple of months.

There have been a number of challenging situations that have happened to the Redskins in the past decade. The carousel of QBs and coaches have been tough to bear. Albert Hanyesworth was a a complete bust and a drain on the team’s finances. Jason Campbell was never going to be a great QB in DC but filled a void when there was a need for a newer quarterback. The league decided to fine the Redskins millions of dollars for following the rules during contract negotiations. During all of this, there were a handful of players that made fans believe in sticking around with the team: London Fletcher who revitalized the defense, Clinton Portis who gave the running game a much needed boost and Chris Cooley who was the spirit of the team.

In much of the way that Ray Lewis represents the soul of the Ravens, Cooley was a genuine devotee to the organization and lived the Redskins experience as both a player and a fan. He would commonly take jabs at Romo and the Cowboys during interviews while also putting in the extra work to be ready for his play on the field. Unfortunately, the recent injuries have sidelined him for too many games over the past 3 seasons. The rise of Fred Davis also created a similar challenge to getting back to his dominance at tight end. This offseason, Cooley had 3 requirements to get back on the field with the Redskins: lose some weight and get healthy, take a new decreased role with the team and renegotiate his contract to reduce his earnings. He did the first part but may have never had the chance to officially complete the second and third. Shanahan decided that the team needed to go a different direction and that Cooley was no longer going to be able to serve as the starter. In order to give him a shot at a starting role somewhere else, he decided to release him.

Cooley may never been able to get back to his starting ways, but it is a real shame that his time if up. His press conference was tearful and one of the classiest exits I have ever seen. He truly loves the team and hopefully will get his shot in advertising. At this time, he even said that he is unsure that he could ever put on another team’s journey, but it is certainly a possibility with the potential to still produce and the desire to still play. Regardless of what he does, I wish him the best of luck and he will always be a Redskin.

To watch the press conference, follow the link below:

http://www.redskins.com/media-gallery/videos/BREAKING-NEWS-Redskins-Release-Chris-Cooley/4b544a8f-920e-4271-b0fa-cdd452847983

So I have been interested for a while about the movement of teams from one conference to another and it can easily be frustrating to see rivalries split up, fines from the conference organizations for leaving and waiting times for teams sitting in limbo. West Virginia, TCU, Missouri, Temple and Texas A&M are just a few changes to the landscape this year, but a trail of addition changes are on the horizon. Syracuse, Pitt, Boise State, Air Force, SMU, San Diego State, Memphis and Houston are only a year or two away from making their changes, but I have to believe that this is not the end of the conversation because there are still some other challenges with these changes.

First of all, the Mountain West conference has been gutted and no longer with have the opportunity to compete at football. Even the commissioner believes that their football days are over for a while after this season. The major conferences are all out of alignment right now as well. The Big East is trying to maintain 16 teams for basketball, but then you have the Big-10 at 12 teams, the Big-12 at 10 teams (although this is changing) and each conference with a different number of total teams. The Big East also has the problem of being one personality as a football conference and another as a basketball conference.

With the addition of the playoff system, there is also a new challenge of determining who deserves to make it to football’s version of the big dance. If there were only 4 major conferences, you could send the top team from each to the playoff. If it was expanded to a 6-team playoff, you could give the voted top 2 teams a bye and run the playoff like a conference playoff in the NFL. The strength of the conferences is currently extremely lopsided whether you talk basketball or football.

So this means that a major realignment may be in need across the landscape of D-1a sports, at least one large enough to match the needs of the current landscape. I played this game a bit during the drama of the Big East and the movement of multiple schools in 2011, but I would like to try again and recognize that the problem expands to more than just the challenging Big East arrangement, but consider the survival or conversation of some of the mid-major conferences. Here is my attempt:

ACC

  • Atlantic: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest, Syracuse
  • Coastal: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pitt

Great American Conference – GAC (formerly the Big 12)

  • North: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, West VirginiaTempleCincinnati
  • South: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU

Big 14 (formerly the Big Ten)

  • Legends: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Connecticut
  • Leaders: Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana, Rutgers

Pac-14

  • North: Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Boise State
  • South: USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, Utah, San Diego State

SEC

  • East: Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisville
  • West: LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M

Big East (basketball only; independents for D1a otherwise)

  • Notre Dame, St. John’s, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, Depaul, South Florida, Xavier, George Washington, ODU

Conference USA

  • East: UAB, SMU, Houston, Tulane, Northern Illinois, North Texas
  • West: Rice, UTEP, Colorado StateWyomingUNLV, New Mexico

Mid-American

  • East: Ohio, Bowling Green, Miami (OH), Buffalo, Akron, Massachusetts
  • West: Ball State, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Central Michigan, Kent State

Sun Belt

  • East: FIU, FAU, Middle Tennessee State, UCF, East Carolina, Memphis
  • West: Troy, Western Kentucky, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss

Additional Independents

  • BYU, Army, Navy, Air ForceMarshall

This organization allows for a couple of interesting things. The power conferences (ACC, GAC, Big 14, Pac 14 and SEC) all even out at 14-team, 2-division conferences. This could also result in extra consideration for how to move forward with the playoff system. The 4-team playoff seems to push for there to be a dissolution of the ACC and possibly the Big East, even after putting the effort into realignment. Both conferences are currently vulnerable to getting picked apart and turned into 18-team conferences. With this 14-team setup for each conference, there could be 5 automatic qualifiers and an additional slot for an independent, mid-major or 2nd deserving power conference team. Many of the rivalries in football are still maintain and some are actually revitalized with the addition of new teams (Louisville/Kentucky in the same division and Maryland/Syracuse reconnecting to develop a new focus for the Terps’ athletic focus). Boise State finally gets into a deserving position to prove their value as a power conference team.

The problem is that the current movement with the 4-team playoff would suggest that the ACC and Big East are going to be left out in the cold. Their television contracts could fizzle and die out, causing both conferences to get picked apart by the remaining 4 power conferences. Since the Big East has no chance of stepping up as a power football conference with their current presentation, the ACC would have a shot at using a partnership with Notre Dame to also solidify the foundation of the ACC, keep FSU from bailing and possibly also attract Connecticut to come over. If the ACC fails to attract Notre Dame or prove its ability to compete with the SEC and Big 12 teams, the new makeup (at least with the power conferences) could look like this…

Great American Conference – GAC (formerly the Big 12)

  • North: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, West VirginiaTempleVirginia Tech, UNC, Duke, Pitt
  • South: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, South Florida

Big 14 (formerly the Big Ten)

  • Legends: Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Connecticut, Boston College, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Connecticut
  • Leaders: Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia

Pac-14

  • North: Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Boise State, Nebraska, Iowa
  • South: USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, Utah, San Diego State, BaylorTCU

SEC

  • East: Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Louisville, Wake Forest, NC State, Missouri
  • West: LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Texas A&M, SMU

I think that some big conversations need to happen, and if there is going to be some sort of support for this big four setup for the playoff system, then another option would have to be considered. Realign the teams by region and eliminate the current conferences. This would be the new alignment…

Eastern Atlantic Conference 20

  • North: Army, Boston College, Connecticut, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
  • South: Cincinnati, Duke, Maryland, Navy, NC State, Ohio State, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Pacific Mountain Conference 20

  • Coastal: Arizona, California, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, San Diego State, Stanford, Washington, Washington State
  • Mountain: Air Force, Arizona State, Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming

Southeastern Conference 20

  • North: Arkansas, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
  • South: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Florida, Southern Mississippi

Big Heartland Conference 20

  • North: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue, West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • South: Baylor, Houston, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

I would be curious about anyone’s thoughts on these variations of the landscape of college sports.