Save us Brandon

“I gotta do it my way
Or no way at all.” — Mike Reno

Much has been written about the “Let’s go Brandon” phenomenon. In the show “The Simpsons” there was an episode where Homer joined a barbershop quartet. They wanted to come up with a name that would be hilarious at first and then lose its edge with each passing mention. They came up with the B Sharps.

Let’s Go Brandon is the political equivalent. It’s absolutely juvenile on any number of levels and demonstrates a kind of lack of respect that we have come to expect from conservatives. Leave it our state’s leadership to join in on the fun.

Abbott is now playing the role of the prodigal son. Of course, that would only be true if Abbott, Dan Patrick, and the rest of the Texas leadership were a little more respectable. At least the prodigal son from the Bible didn’t punch his father in the face or knee him in the crotch on his way out the door the first time.

See, we didn’t need any of these mask mandates, quarantine rules, rapid testing supplies, or anything like that. We are big, rugged Texans that love being on our own figuratively and literally. We have our own electricity grid. We have our own science when it comes to the pandemic. Just stay the hell out Brandon and let us live our own lives.

Oh wait a minute. Not so fast Brandon. Did I say I wanted you to get the hell out of Texas? I meant that we needed you to come save us from ourselves. It seems Abbott has come back and asked Brandon to save us. Sadly this wasn’t the first time and if he is reelected in 2022 it likely won’t be the last. Hell, if we have another winter storm like we had last year we might be going back to the well again.

In fact, Texas leadership did little to nothing to prevent that from happening. Thus, we see the pattern with Abbott’s leadership style. Insult everyone around you, do nothing to avert disaster, and then come crawling back when times of desperate. Except Abbott is incapable of crawling whether we are being literal or metaphorical. He seems too obtuse to realize the predicament he has put himself in.

This time it is in regards to Omicron variant of the corona virus. We didn’t need to be careful with this stuff. It was always a hoax until it wasn’t. So thanks for your help Brandon. I’ll stop insulting you long enough to accept it and then we will go right back to insulting you. I think I’d rather hear the B Sharps in concert.

What Responsibility does Amazon have?

“I have no responsibilities here whatsoever.”– A few Good Men

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of the debate from the previous two articles. This article represents the last one in the series. This post will make more sense if you read the previous two posts first.

The third and final question we asked in the first post is to determine what responsibility if any that Amazon has in this situation. Of course, that will end up being extended to any and all publishers, but as I will soon outline, Amazon is in a unique place in the marketplace. I’ll outline exactly why that is and will try not to bore you.

When I looked for a spot to publish my last book (The Hall of Fame Index Part II) I settled on Amazon. There are really three kinds of publishers. There are traditional publishers. They agree to publish your work and either give you an advance and royalties or just royalties. There are some costs associated with publishing that they may or may not assume.

A part of that process includes editorial control. The publisher has the absolute right to accept or reject parts of the story or the entire story. My first two books worked this way. The publisher did not like the general idea of the book I pitched, but liked a small portion and asked me to write an entire book on that subject.

The second kind of publisher is what we normally call vanity publishers. They charge people money for the rights to publish their book. The publication process is similar to traditional publishing, but they charge you for every step of the process. Obviously, they are not going to publish anything that is going to make them look bad, but they don’t particularly care if the book makes money or not. They earn their money with the services they provide.

Amazon is the largest of what we would call self-publishers. They provide very little in terms of services. The cost for them to produce the book is minimal. That means the cost to the author is also minimal. I chose this route because I had lost money with traditional and vanity publishers. It also meant that I could get the book out faster. No one was there to monitor the content. That meant it was on me to catch grammatical and typographical errors. It also meant there was no oversight as to the tastes of what I wrote.

A book about the Hall of Fame is certainly not going to offend many people. Books about killing left-leaning politicians certainly might. However, since Amazon doesn’t restrict who publishes with them then they could be said to be operating differently than a traditional publisher. It would be more accurate to say they were a publishing platform.

We have seen issues with platforms before. Twitter and other forms of social media are platforms. Platforms ideally do not make value judgements about whose point of view is correct and whose isn’t. Yet, they all have terms of service. Those terms of service can limit what we might call misinformation. It also would limit calls to violence or hate speech that might lead to violence.

Here we have to immediately make two distinctions. First, we should note the difference between fiction and nonfiction. It’s one thing to suppress speech which is factually incorrect and could lead to people being misled into believing things that aren’t true. It’s another to suppress someone’s creative work. Now, we are talking about taste.

The second distinction is made based on how those other platforms usually deal with their issues. The usual course is for someone to notify the administrators to a problematic post or tweet. Once notified, the administrators can then make the call on whether the post in question needs to be taken down or have a warning label attached.

Obviously, people aren’t profiting directly from tweets or Facebook posts. So, Amazon is slightly different on this front. However, those that argue that Amazon should police itself aren’t exactly sure of what they are suggesting. When Amazon (or any other self-publisher) has gatekeepers that judge what goes through or not they cease to be self-publishers and become either traditional or vanity publishers.

With the change comes all kinds of unintended consequences. First, it should be noted that any and all costs associated with the use of gatekeepers would be passed onto the authors. So, Amazon would cease to be an inexpensive option. Secondly, in order for the gatekeeping aspect to work, the production process would slow down considerably. Then comes a battery of questions. Is the gatekeeper simply saying yes or no or would they have authority to force changes in content? Would Amazon then add editors and designers to the equation or would a single gatekeeper be responsible for all of that?

Of course, the alternative is what we have here. Individuals voiced their concerns to Amazon and Amazon chose to shut the books down. It’s messy and slow and we certainly could expect a ton to slip through the cracks, but the alternative just might be worse. Freedom of speech is never free, but the closer we can get to unfettered the better off we probably are.

How should the marketplace work?

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” — Thomas Jefferson

Author’s Note: This article is the second article in a series. In order to gain a full understanding of the issues at hand, I would kindly ask you to read the previous article.

In the previous article, I asked three questions and we are moving onto the second question. The second question is what should be done with the books in question now that the murders have taken place? Amazon has partially answered that question for us because they have removed the books from their catalog.

Two things bother me and I should get those out of the way immediately. First, what Amazon did is not censorship. The first amendment clearly begins with the statement that Congress shall make no law. The author in question is certainly in jail, but that has little to nothing to do with his books or ideas. He is jail for murder.

I hate it when people conflate a negative reaction in the marketplace of ideas with censorship. You and I are not protected from negative reactions. We cannot be thrown in jail for our ideas. At least we can’t in almost any circumstance. Obviously, there is a line where speech can lead to violence, but that is not the subject of the day. I can get yelled at. I can lose my job. My reputation can become tarnished. These are all possible consequences of my speech and I accept the responsibility of that when I choose to speak.

The second thing that bothers me is when people misunderstand the difference between can and should. This one goes way back to college when some classmates argued that we should do something because we could legally do it. Legal justifications are never completely satisfying. Yes, we CAN apply pressure on Amazon. That’s not the question. The question is whether we SHOULD apply pressure on Amazon.

This moves us into more murky territory. For one, we need to understand the nature of Amazon and where it fits in the marketplace of ideas. It has a unique place and it is one we will explore in more detail next time. Suffice it to say, there are all kinds of subtle arguments we can jump into at this point.

We immediately jump into a third thing I hate and that is the moniker that is “cancel culture.” Conservatives are lazy thinkers. I know that by itself is a lazy generalization and thus adds a layer of irony to the proceedings, but many of them are. Removing this book will obviously be seen as an example of cancel culture. I suppose it could be if one accepts the general premise that there is such a thing.

However, let’s consider the basic facts. Thousands of people (I would assume also millions once more people become aware of the story) were offended by the subject matter of the books in question and also offended that the individual that wrote the books could potentially profit from it. When you put it like that, you could insert any number of artistic works (be it paintings, sculptures, books, tv shows, movies, music, ect.) in that kind of statement. People have before and they will certainly do it again.

That kind of exchange has been going on for centuries. Somehow, no one called it cancel culture until now. The only difference in each case are the people levying the criticism. In this case, it is people that have labeled as “woke”, “progressive”, or “liberal.” Sometimes they are called “communists” or “socialists.” All of these charges are meant to demean or insult. However, no one has been able to explain how these actions differ from when religious conservatives have protested and removed any number of “objectionable” works from public libraries or school libraries. Is that not also cancel culture then?

So, again the question is whether we should apply pressure on Amazon to remove the books from their catalog. It’s not as easy as it sounds. On the one hand, books that are thinly veiled “how to” manuals could certainly qualify as more dangerous and repugnant than any artistic value they may have. On the other hand, who gets to make this call? Usually that would be Amazon, but as I said, Amazon is a unique animal. If it is the majority then suddenly freedom of expression has added a layer of oversight that applies to taste that wasn’t there before. Are we comfortable with that? As always I welcome any and all thoughts on the issue.

Defining the Marketplace of Ideas

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon.”– Ray Bradbury

Last night I happened upon a very interesting debate. To be more accurate, a friend posted his opinion on a situation and I engaged him. Then all the floodgates burst open. That’s usually how these things work. The seriousness and complexity of the situation is not common. I doubt I can adequately address all the angles in one post. So, this might be the first of several.

First, we need to set up our situation. Lyndon McLeod wrote two books that were available on Amazon. They were ostensibly fiction and penned under the name of Roman McClay. He then went out and killed five people in almost identical fashion to what was mentioned in the books.

Thus begins a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional debate that will likely take a few of these posts to flesh out. I’ll try to focus on one aspect at a time, but I will lay out the issues so that we all know what’s coming. Of course, I welcome engagement on these issues. I don’t have all the answers as I can barely articulate all of the questions.

So, the questions that need to be answered are these. First, what exactly is the line between art that we might find disturbing and a not so thinly veiled manifesto that’s too dangerous for public consumption? Secondly, what should be done about such a work now that these murders have occurred? Finally, what responsibilities if any do Amazon and other publishers have in situations like this?

I’ll try to tackle the first question today. The first question is whether this even qualifies as art. This is where we have to be careful and show our work as the math teachers used to tell us. A book about killing other people is not unique. Hell, shows like “Dexter” and “Hannibal” have famously pushed those boundaries and that’s just two prominent examples.

So, what is the difference between those books/movies/shows and these two books here? It can’t be that those books didn’t inspire a crime spree. That’s an extremely low and convenient bar to clear. Besides, that’s not specific enough. “Grand Theft Auto” has had any number of iterations and people still steal cars. One could argue that the video game glorifies the act.

So, the question before us is what differentiates these two books about killing left-leaning politicians and people and those books. movies, and shows. I would say the difference comes in the specificity of the subject matter. Dexter and Hannibal Lecter are fictional characters that harm other fictional characters. The story lines are exactly that: story lines.

Amazon took the books down yesterday. A search on their website won’t yield any results for these two books. Obviously, this was based on a public outcry and the problem of a mass murderer profiting off books that described his crimes. The public has every right to protest such a thing, but one has to wonder where we draw the line.

I normally detest the slippery slope argument. It’s lazy and misleading. Yet, in this case I see the impulse. If the so-called woke crowd pulls these books then where does it stop? This is a valid question that has little to do with left and right. At the same time that liberals and progressives are protesting these books, conservatives protest books they don’t like. They want to force libraries not to carry books and art they object to.

I would go back to the specific subject matter of these two books. The author fantasizes about killing specific people that exist in reality. That somehow blurs the line between art and reality. It is incumbent on those that want to take a book out of circulation to articulate the precise reasons why. It has to move beyond a matter of taste. A free society can be messy. The marketplace of ideas is not always tidy and respectable.

Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart once famously said he could not define pornography but he “knew it when he saw it.” The definition of politically inspired revenge porn might fall under the same category. We can’t provide an exact definition, but we know it when we see it. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it must be a duck. These two books are most definitely quacking. Next time we will address the second question.

The Monster is Loose

“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”– Mary Shelley

A funny thing happened before the Christmas holiday. Donald Trump admitted that he not only has had the vaccine, but he has also had the booster. The crowd’s reaction was interesting to say the least. My avid readers (those that avidly read as I suspect no one avidly reads my work) will recognize Mary Shelley as the creator of Frankenstein.

The story is easy enough to remember. Of course, the best part of the story was how it was created. It seems there was a bet about who could write the scariest story. I’m almost positive that no one considered her a contender at the beginning.

As on the money as that analogy seems at first blush, I’m not certain this is a Frankenstein situation. Trump didn’t so much create this monster as much as he simply fed it and released it from it’s cage. He recognized it when he decided to run for president. Say what you want about him, but he recognized the anger that was there and plugged into it.

People will make the obvious comparison with dictators and demagogues of the past. They’ll make the obvious and lazy connection to Adolf Hitler. Sure, there are parallels there, but one can always find parallels when they look hard enough for them. The parallel I draw is not necessarily with Germany but with the French Revolution.

He doesn’t fit any particular individual in that scenario. What he has done is take advantage of his place as an outsider. This is where he fails to recognize what has happened. After serving as president he is no longer an outsider. He can’t play into people’s discontent anymore. Now, he owns a part of that discontent.

The country is not in as extreme a situation as France was, but there are similarities. People are smart enough to see how things are slipping away. They are largely incapable of pointing the finger where it belongs. They see education costs rising. They see wages stagnating. They see other costs going up like health care costs and housing costs. One party has been really good at pointing fingers away from them. It’s the immigrants’ fault. It’s women’s fault. It’s those LGTBQ+ people’s fault. It’s ACORN. It’s Black Lives Matter. It’s Antifa. It’s critical race theory. It’s the war on Christmas. In short, it is everyone except for the people responsible.

What Trump didn’t figure is that once you get people started on a lie, they will follow that lie to its illogical conclusion. They will keep latching onto alternative treatments that don’t work. They’ll keep resisting the obvious. They’ll keep looking for scapegoats and when they don’t find a new one they’ll start pointing the finger at you.

That was seemingly going on in France at the time. The people were dissatisfied and they wanted new leadership. New leadership came in and they didn’t like them either. So, they kept revolting and they kept replacing until they stumbled into Napoleon. The funny thing is that I don’t think that’s what they had in mind in the beginning, but they did so much damage that is who they ended up with.

In that sense, I’m sure there is a comfort in someone that hates the same people you do. There is a certain amount of comfort in that hate. I can offload my failures and my insecurities onto those who I hate. The problem is that same person who helps us to point the finger either has no ideas to fix anything or actively doesn’t want to fix it. They want to fund raise off of it. They want to rob you blind while they are getting you to look at the “other”.

Eventually, you get to the point where you have stoked those fears long enough. You’ve been in power long enough. You’ve spun that yarn about protecting people from the other long enough. The people aren’t smart enough to realize this was a situation of your creation, but they are wise to the fact that you aren’t making it better. You never built the wall. Mexico never paid for it. Immigrants are still here. Costs are still high. Wages are still stagnated. Yet, here we are peddling the same crap we did in 2016 and 2020. You are here because you have nothing else.

Becoming our Parents

“It’s a fine line between the darkness and the dawn
They say in the darkest night, there’s a light beyond.” — Jimmy Webb

Progressive Insurance runs a series of commercials with a trainer that works with younger adults that are becoming their parents. It’s hard to say how many iterations of this commercial we have seen to date. I want to say half a dozen, but I think you get the general idea. As ad campaigns go, it’s very effective. Anyone that has seen these ads can find themselves or someone they know in at least one of them.

There’s one taking place in the mall and the young adult is about to buy a polo style shirt. The joke is that he’s wearing the exact same shirt. The trainer tried to get him to notice he was buying the same shirt and failed. My wife and daughter immediately busted out laughing. It seems I own a very similar shirt. The joke is that it was a gift from my parents. Hilarious right?

The problem is that they’ve made a joke out of becoming our parents. The cold, hard truth is that we are destined to become our parents. We always have been destined to become our parents. Introspection is difficult to say the least. It is a lot more noticeable when you compare your parents to their parents or other relatives with their parents.

Personality quirks are one thing. We could go on all day about those. Obviously, most of us had two parents growing up, so we become a kind of hybrid combination. However, we also become a combination of their greatest hopes and dreams and their worst instincts and fears. It becomes a competition to see which side ultimately wins. Do we become the best of our parents or the worst of our parents?

When we view politics in that prism, the current state of affairs makes a lot more sense. Many wonder how people could become so nasty and hateful. That doesn’t happen out of thin air. People don’t suddenly become something they are not. What they become is something that has always been inside of them. They have simply chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to become the worst of their parents.

This happens for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is that a parent’s basic aim is for their children to have a better life than they did. We are in the first time in our nation’s history where that hasn’t happened. College degrees are not paying off like they used to and student loan debt is skyrocketing. Wages have stagnated overall and costs are increasing. It’s human nature for fingers to point outwards when that happens.

Of course, we have politicians. networks, pundits, and talking heads that invite people to do just that. We collectively know we are not as successful as we could or should be. We know it isn’t our fault and so we look for someone to blame. Those politicians, networks, pundits, and talking heads provide the targets to us. From there it is just a short hop, skip, and jump to become the very worst of our parents.

The history of the world is a history of societies growing and crumbling. The growing societies are never perfect, but they seem to improve with each generation. Each generation becomes more open. Each generation becomes more tolerant. Each generation becomes more generous. The preponderance of the people become the better version of their parents.

The hope is that trend continues. It currently has not. The darkness hasn’t completely succumbed us yet, but it is close. Progress has always been slow because there has always been these two instincts playing tug of war inside of us. Maybe the Progressive Insurance guy can’t stop us from becoming our parents. Maybe he should stop trying and focus on how we can collectively become the very best version of our parents. It might be less funny but we will be a lot happier in the long run.

What I want for Christmas

“I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”– Charles Dickens

Two things hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. Both happened on Facebook as it turns out. On the one hand, I saw a friend from high school post a picture of herself with gray hair. You start asking yourself when that certain someone got old and then stop and realize it was you. Another posted his lament about Joe Mancin and how he killed the Build Back Better bill that seemed destined to narrowly pass. The two quickly combined into a thought about the season and what I really want.

What becomes harder and harder these days is coming up with a list of things I want for Christmas. Most items are things no one would buy for me because either they are unhealthy or they don’t know exactly what I want. In other years, I just don’t want anything that badly. However, since this is the last piece I will write before Christmas I thought I would use that tact to address this particular situation.

My first instinct is to assert that Joe Mancin and Kyrsten Synema are not really Democrats. However, that ends up offending the political science part of my brain. The whole reason we are in the mess we are in is that far too many people treat political parties like a team or tribe and not as a generic way of telling people what you stand for. They are both Democrats in the sense that they support policies Democrats support more often than not.

So, as angry as one can get at this current setback, it is hard to know exactly what Mancin is thinking. He represents West Virginia. Maybe this deal isn’t good for West Virginia in his eyes. Maybe he bent to the whims of his donors. Maybe he just wants to wield more power on his way out the door. Maybe he is really a Republican in sheep’s clothing. Maybe a lot of things are true.

What I quickly realized is that Democrats have been after the wrong thing all along. Getting their legislation passed is an uphill battle. Getting their judges is an uphill battle. Getting their ambassadors and political appointments is an uphill battle. Holding the insurrectionists accountable has been an uphill battle. Look around the country and you clearly see one party cares about democracy (small d) while the other cares about power. One party cares about preserving individual rights while the other cares about power.

Yet, we see Congress fighting over infrastructure, economic relief, and saving the elderly and working families money. These things are all important. Yet, it cannot be more important than giving those people a fighting chance to get people that will represent their interest. It doesn’t matter which issue it is. Public opinion polls always show that an overwhelming number of people support what the Democrats want to do. Yet, they have a 50/50 split in the Senate.

While Democrats have focused on those important but transient issues, Republicans have managed to tip the scales. They’ve managed to rig statewide elections. They are working to stack the courts. That work is starting to produce fruit now and that fruit is something the majority does not want. What the majority wants doesn’t matter. Yet, here we are still pushing that proverbial rock up the mountain.

I want Joe Mancin to feel comfortable representing his state. That’s what James Madison envisioned when he devised our system of government. Mancin may or may not be doing that. I don’t live in West Virginia. What I know is that the Senate is somehow 50/50 in a nation that has far more progressives in it than conservatives. If our government were to be made up of a representation of where the people actually were politically then Joe Mancin wouldn’t matter.

What I want for Christmas is for the Democrats in Congress to use whatever political capital they have left to ensure that the overall representation reflects the values of the people. That means that everyone that has the right to vote should be able to vote. That means more access. That means district lines that make sense and that are fair. That means no intimidation. That means no thumbs on the scale. That means no changing the outcome when the outcome is “wrong.” That means one person, one vote. That means that land doesn’t determine political power. People do. Once you get that then all the build back better and progressive planks come. They come whether Joe Mancin supports them or not.

And there was much protesting

“We’re a small but determined group.” — WKRP Protesters

WKRP was a favorite show of mine growing up. We stream our television, so we are at the mercy of what is available to us these days. The first season has been available, but now is not. Who knows why these things happen, but we occasionally watch an episode on YouTube.

The above line came from the pilot episode. A group of five or six old, white people were protesting the change of the format from easy listening to rock and roll. Of course, the format didn’t change. It would be silly to bend to the whim of five or six people when the overwhelming majority was happy with the change. Those were simpler times. Of course, it was also fiction.

Similar groups have been descending on school boards across the country. They are protesting mask mandates wherever they may find them. They’ve been protesting other COVID protocols wherever they may find them. They’ve been protesting particular books that might present LGTBQ+ people in a favorable light. They’ve been protesting the teaching of critical race theory in the classroom.

Maybe we could take each of those one at a time, but what’s the point? It’s a small but determined group that really shouldn’t have an effect on what goes on. We are a complex and sophisticated society. Simple democracies have the tendency to trample on the rights of the minority. We have always strived not to do that. We haven’t always succeeded, but you get the idea.

The difficulty with this group is that even if all these things were true, no one is trampling on their rights. No one is forcing them to read a book about LGTBQ+ children. No one is really teaching critical race theory in the classroom. About the most anyone can claim is that someone is asking them to wear a mask. In most districts, that isn’t even the case. We suggest that they do, but we don’t force them to do anything.

Yet, we have school board members and superintendents resigning across the state and the country. The latest one was in Richardson near Dallas. She committed the cardinal sin of promoting diversity in a majority minority school district. The horror. It doesn’t take long to find an example closer to where you live of a significant administrator that either was forced to resign or is currently in hot water.

In many cases, these administrators aren’t doing the things they are being accused of. Nobody teaches critical race theory really. It is an academic theory studied at the college level. It might be somewhat popular at some law schools, but there would be little reason for even high school curriculums to include it.

Similarly, English classes are reading the same books they’ve always read and due to the demands of state testing, we are reading far fewer of them then we ever have before. No one is studying that controversial book with two lesbians in a relationship or with a troubled teen grappling with whether to get a sex change. Those books might be available in the library. If you don’t want your kid to read that then monitor what they check out in the library.

There is a big difference between making sure that the policies chosen for the benefit of the majority don’t trample on the rights of the minority and the minority clearly dictating policy. Yet, that’s what’s going on right now. A small but determined group is torpedoing mask mandates, other COVID protocols, any mention of diversity in the classroom, and the literal burning of books that may or may not be in the school library.

Certainly these are all pertinent issues and they deserve an airing on their merits. That airing won’t be today. In each and every case, a small minority is calling the shots. In each case, a small minority is forcing dedicated professions to leave their job and seek employment elsewhere. In each case, a small minority is either purposefully or inadvertently perverting what is in order to protest what they perceive it to be.

I can’t get too angry with school boards and higher level administration. When you have a bunch of rabid idiots yelling at you, it is human nature to relent at some point. You just want the yelling to stop. Unfortunately, it won’t stop until they get exactly what they want and then we will discover that 10 to 20 percent of the population is at the wheel of our society.

Handicapping the Idiocy

“Well there’s a rose in the fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love honey
Love the one you’re with, Love the one you’re with.” — Stephen Stills

Today we take a gentler path into the world of sports. This used to be a sports blog (evidenced by its name). However, I think sports offer a metaphor for life, so I’m guessing many of you will see immediate parallels with current events. The connection is only somewhat intentional.

The Jacksonville Jaguars fired their coach last night. He lasted all of 13 games. There have been numerous coaches that have only lasted one season. We can poke fun at them all we want, but I always take a step back here. I was a 5A Varsity volleyball coach for one season. In that case, I decided it was best to take a step back.

Urban Meyer is the first coach in my lifetime to get fired before the end of his first season. Maybe it has happened before. Bobby Petrino famously quit before his first season was up so he could return to college. So, maybe that will have to do. The Houston Texans might be in the midst of a one and done season as well. Football fans will have to judge for themselves I suppose.

Deciding on the worst hiring is always subjective. I imagine I could levy insults, but it’s the holidays and I want to be nice. So, I’ll chronicle my own experience instead and hopefully draw some parallels. Suffice it to say, I judge based on the available information at the time.

I wasn’t exactly Ted Lasso. My sister still coaches and I coached a few years at the freshman level. I coached for a few seasons as the club level. I even served as a successful varsity and junior varsity coach at a Catholic school. Making the jump to varsity at a 5A (now 6A competition) seemed like a logical leap. I had turned around the fortunes at the Catholic school, so maybe I could do it for the next school.

What I quickly learned is that everyone has a level of coaching/teaching where they are most comfortable and a best fit. As a coach, I was a good teacher. I could teach kids the basics successfully and those kids showed real growth. That made me a better fit for younger players. After my one season of one win volleyball, I took over as junior varsity coach and had a much more successful season.

That brings us to our combined stories of the day. Urban Meyer has been fired and David Culley feels like dead coach walking. Meyer is 187-32 at the college level. I doubt he ever coaches again after this, but you could have easily envisioned him taking another job after Ohio State at say USC or LSU and being highly successful. That’s only if he hadn’t decided to go to the NFL.

Culley had never been a coordinator in the NFL. Sometimes you get young guys that you just know will be great head coaches some day and jump the gun a little too soon. Culley is 66. If it hadn’t happened then it wasn’t going to happen. I know his position units often struggled, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was a really good position coach.

Culley was the worse hire in my opinion. If you just listened to him for five minutes you’d have figured out he was going to be way over his head. His press conferences seem like a cross between the aforementioned Lasso and Don Knotts from the Andy Griffith show. 99.9 percent of the Texans fan base knew it wasn’t going to work. The 0.1 percent is the part that hired him.

Yet, I think most people have had a job where they were a fish out of water. I’ve had more than one. You discover it pretty early on and you get to a point where you just want to bail. Who knows if that is where Culley is. In that regard I kind of feel sorry for him. I’ve been there and I know how overwhelming it is. Of course, I never had any job with the kind of checks he’s getting. So, that sympathy only goes so far. Besides, we are all responsible for our own choices. They offered the job. It doesn’t mean he had to accept.

The Coming Doom

“Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.” — Cat Stevens

Usually the opening quote is only somewhat related. It stands as a humorous or ironic juxtaposition with the topic at hand. In this case, the author of those words serves as a good part of the story. See, Cat Stevens doesn’t really exist. Unlike many from his generation, he is still around and kicking, but he converted to Islam in 1977.

Obviously, a man’s faith is his own, but the tragedy for music fans is that the once popular singer shunned his own music. He recently returned to performing, but for years condemned his own work. That includes the beautiful song above.

There is something symbolic here about someone with so much talent and such joy shunning that which God gave him. I understand the mechanisms that create such a situation. There are often unsavory things that surround the things we love and could interrupt things to the point where we become something we can’t love.

One often wonders what those in Rome were thinking when things began spiraling towards oblivion. How cognizant were they of everything that fall would represent? Like with Stevens, a number of unsavory things were happening and the destruction of that society seemed to be positive in some sense. Yet, one can’t even calculate the amount of knowledge and light that left the world when the Romans left.

Those thoughts carry us to today. The destruction of our society feels imminent. Of course, imminent could mean any number of things. Are we talking within the next few years? Decade? Century? The view in the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield. We can see it happening, but the timing is not clear.

A friend wrote a piece for a site I frequent. The concept is hilarious. However, the implication is that people are becoming more and more susceptible to conspiracy theories. This particular one is fake, but you have to imagine that some people aren’t in on the joke. From there, you have to ask how many of these conspiracy theories are just a cruel joke that someone came up with.

There is a cruel irony to the world we live in. We have so much information at our fingertips and somehow we are collectively dumber than we used to be. People are generally more easily led. When you live in a fact free environment, the end of the world cannot be too far away. Did those Romans see the end of the Roman empire the end as life as they knew it? Did they see the spawn of the Dark Ages or did they simply think the barbarians would become the new Romans? If only we knew.