Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize, or the World Series?

Congratulations to President Barack Obama on his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. But even this liberal knows the real reason he won it.

It's not for his outreach to the world's dispossessed, or for his decision to treat the world's Muslims as if they are human beings, or for his role in convincing Lebanon to vote for people who believe in democracy and reject Hezbollah, or for his attempt to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or for his diplomatic work toward repairing America’s relationship with Russia.

No, the Big O got the Big Prize for the same reason Jimmy Carter and Al Gore got it: Because he was not an apocalyptic warmonger who was doing the bidding of evangelicals and war profiteers. Carter, Gore and Obama all got the Nobel Peace Prize because they were in stark contrast to George W. Bush.

Dubya was not, as he believed himself to be, on a mission from God. Then again, that phrase makes me think of the Blues Brothers – and where were they from? The South Side of Chicago, Barack's neighborhood. Coincidence? (Uh, yeah, since the movie version of The Blues Brothers came out in 1980, when the future 44th President was at Occidental College in Los Angeles.)


Lisa Swan of the blog Subway Squawkers lamented that, despite her work at getting along with Met and Red Sox fans, she did not get the Nobel Peace Prize.

I don’t know, I'm not sure such a feat is something that would make the Prize's committee take notice. After all, what is a baseball rivalry to someone in Norway? Now, if she and her Squawker partner, Met fan Jon Lewin, can get the fans of the national soccer teams of Sweden and Denmark, arch-rivals, to join hands and sing songs of peace to one another, then they may have something!


One of the Squawkers' commenters (not me) asked Lisa, "Which would you rather win, the Nobel Peace Prize or the World Series?"

I'd rather win the World Series. Which I, or rather my favorite team, have done 6 times in my lifetime. Whereas your odds of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in your lifetime... let’s see, there's about 6.7 billion people alive today, and the average person lives about 75 years, throw in the fact that sometimes the Prize is given to a group rather than to a single person, do the math... good thing I've got Microsoft Excel open… the odds that you'll win the thing in your lifetime are about 30 million to one. Granted, that's just an estimate...


And President Obama should be glad he got it, and got a World Series win with his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox, in 2005 when he was still a new Senator, because, at the rate the Pale Hose are going now, it could be a while before it happens again.

Let the record show that a President's favorite team rarely does well while he's in office. I start this graph with JFK, because, prior to his arrival in the White House, most Presidents had come from places where there was no major league team nearby, thus making it hard to judge what team they rooted for. And, of course, prior to the end of the Civil War, there was no professional baseball at all (that we know of – there may have been players paid under the table). But, observe:

John F. Kennedy, seasons of 1961, '62 and '63, Boston, Massachusetts: The Red Sox were terrible all three seasons.

Lyndon B. Johnson, seasons of 1964, '65, '66, '67 and '68, Johnson City, Texas: The Astros were still an expansion team, and wouldn't get into their 1st Pennant race until '69, after he'd left the White House.

Richard M. Nixon, 1969, '70, '71, '72 and '73, San Clemente, California: He was much closer to Anaheim than to Chavez Ravine, and until his last full season, when Nolan Ryan started pitching no-hitters and setting strikeout records, the Angels weren't very good.

Gerald R. Ford, 1974, '75 and '76, Grand Rapids, Michigan: In the closing days of Watergate, just in time for Ford to take office, the Detroit Tigers got old in a hurry, bottoming out in '75 with their worst season ever (until 1999 and 2003, anyway), before rebounding a little in the Mark Fidrych season of '76.

Jimmy Carter, 1977, '78, '79 and '80, Plains, Georgia: The Atlanta Braves were hideously bad. So were their uniforms.

Ronald Reagan, 1981, '82, '83, '84, '85, '86, '87 and '88, Santa Barbara, California. This is a tricky one. (If Nixon-haters and Reagan fans will excuse me for using that adjective in connection with Reagan.) Reagan's Rancho del Cielo was considerably closer to Dodger Stadium than to Anaheim, and the Dodgers reached the postseason 4 times during his Presidency, winning 2 Pennants and taking both of those World Series.

But his political base was always in the then-verrrry conservative Orange County, which includes Anaheim. Visiting with Vin Scully in the NBC broadcast booth at the 1989 All-Star Game, 6 months after leaving the White House, Reagan called Anaheim Stadium"the best ballpark in America." Whether he was right is a matter of opinion – certainly, Dodger fans up the freeway had a case to disagree – but this made it clear that the Angels were his first team.

And while Reagan was President, the Angels blew a 2-games-to-0 lead in the best-3-out-of-5 ALCS of 1982, and then blew a 3-games-to-1 lead in the best-4-out-of-7 ALCS of 1986. So, while he was President, Reagan's team twice had a chance to win the Pennant with just 1 more win, and couldn't close the deal.

That's got nothing to do with him, of course… unless you consider that he used to broadcast for the Chicago Cubs, and their curse may have drifted over to the Angels! (This would be the 1908-based Curse of Fred Merkle, not the 1945-based Curse of the Billy Goat, which was placed well after Reagan left sportscasting for films.)

George H.W. Bush, 1989, '90, '91 and '92, Houston, Texas. The Astros made the Playoffs once under Carter, once under Reagan, 3 times under Clinton, and 3 times under Bush's son. But while Poppy was serving in the White House, they were dreadful,

Bill Clinton, 1993, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99 and 2000, Hope (or Hot Springs, or Fayetteville, or Little Rock), Arkansas. Most of Arkansas is now closer to the Texas Rangers or the Kansas City Royals than to the St. Louis Cardinals. But during Clinton's youth, there was no team in Texas, and the A's didn't arrive in K.C. until he was 9, and they were never any good; whereas the Cards were usually very good.

And while he was in college, they won 3 Pennants and 2 World Series. While he was Governor, they won 3 more Pennants and another World Series. One of the first special guests President Clinton invited to the White House was the greatest of all Cardinals, Stan Musial.

But while he was President, they reached the postseason only twice, and won no Pennants, blowing a 3-games-to-1 lead over the Braves in the 1996 NLCS. So he comes off better than most in this category, but he still was unfulfilled as far as baseball goes.

Then again, since he left the White House, the Cards have made the postseason 5 times, winning 2 Pennants and a World Series. Coincidence? People who believe in "The Baseball Gods" (whoever and whatever they are) tend not to believe in coincidences.

George W. Bush, 2001, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07 and '08, Midland, Texas. He actually owned the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1994, when his election as Governor of Texas forced him to sell enough of a percentage of the team that he was no longer the man in charge, selling the rest of his stock in 1998. For all the time he was the main owner, the Rangers never won anything. But when he left the direct management of the team in 1994, they suddenly went on a run of 4 Division Titles in 6 seasons.

But to this day, the have never won a postseason series, they have a 1-9 record in postseason games, they are 1 of only 3 current MLB franchises which have yet to appear in the World Series, the oldest franchise in all the 4 major American pro sports leagues to have never appeared in its league's championship, and the only 1 of the 4 major league sports teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area yet to do so.

Enjoy the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. President, because your beloved White Sox may soon wish that John McCain had won the election.

Not that I would ever wish that. I love my country too much to ever trust it to another Republican.


Rutgers 42, Texas Southern 0. I was there. And I'm not satisfied. The Scarlet Knights should have scored at least 2 more touchdowns. This was a pathetic excuse for a college football team, and we let them off easy.

In his pregame analysis for the Home News Tribune, Keith Sergeant wrote, "If Rutgers is not up by at least 40 points at the half, something is seriously wrong." The halftime score was RU 28, TSU 0. Something is seriously wrong.

RU is now 4-1, with the 4 wins coming against bad teams (even the University of Maryland, usually a good one, turned out to be a bad one) and the 1 loss coming against a good team, the as-yet-undefeated University of Cincinnati.

The rest of the schedule? Home to 5-1 Pitt, at Army, at 3-2 Connecticut, home to as-yet-undefeated South Florida, at Syracuse, at Louisville, and home to currently 4-1 West Virginia.

As the greatest of all college football broadcasters, the now-retired ABC play-by-play man Keith Jackson, would say, the social portion of the schedule is over, and, from here on out, it's strictly meat and potatoes.


Brett Favre turned 40 yesterday. What should we get him for his birthday -- which I thought would have been his 47th or 48th? I know: Sacks, interceptions and defeats! He should be used to it by now. How about something he's not used to having: A clue!

Jason Arnott turns 35 today. Now Captain of the Nashville Predators, I will always be indebted to him for scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the New Jersey Devils in 2000. Thank you, Jason, for, as Bill Clement put it on ABC, giving us "Finally! The ending of the movie!"

Michelle Wie turns 20 today. Has she won a tournament yet?

Tony Adams turned 43 yesterday. The greatest Captain in the history of Arsenal Football Club. He played centre-back for them from 1983 to 2002, and was Captain of the side that won the 1989 and 1991 League Championships, the 1993 "Cup Double" (winning the FA Cup and the League Cup), the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (yes, I know how silly that sounds to a U.S. listener unfamiliar with European "football"), and the Double (winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup) in 1998 and 2002.

One Tony Adams. There's only one Tony Adams.

Sir Bobby Charlton, midfielder for the great Manchester United teams of the 1950s and '60s and an integral part of England's 1966 World Cup team, turns 72 today.

Neither Charlton nor Adams can be pleased by England's performance yesterday, losing 1-0 to Ukraine. Why can't Rio Ferdinand (Man U) and Ashley Cole (Chelsea) screw up for their club teams instead of for their country, like they did in this game?

And Poland lost 2-0 to the Czech Republic. They probably weren't going to make it to next year's World Cup anyway, but now it's assured. O filmu! (That's "Oh shit!" in Polish.)

In a game a lot of Americans, due to their ancestry, were interested in, Ireland and Italy played to a 2-2 tie. This guarantees that defending World Cup Champion Italy will get back in. Ireland will probably make it as well.

The U.S.? We also guaranteed a spot in South Africa next summer, beating Honduras in Honduras, 3-2. Connor Casey scored 2 goals, or, as they call it in England, a brace. Well done, Red, White & Blue.


Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 5, Friday night, at Sayreville, a team we beat in 27 of our 1st 28 meetings, but our record against them since is a pathetic 6-12... although in 3 of those 6, we went on to make the Playoffs, so this is a huuuuge game for E.B. And I won't get to see it, because I've already got my paid-$55-for ticket to see...

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 5, also Friday night, at home against the University of Pittsburgh.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 11, on Thursday, October 22, at Madison Square Garden, against the hated Rangers, who SUCK!

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 20.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 46.

Days until the 2010 Winter Olympics begin: 124.

Days until Opening Day of the 2010 baseball season: 176.

Days until the Yankees' 2010 home opener: 184.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 244.

Days until the World Cup Final: 275.

Days until the new Meadowlands Stadium (as yet unnamed) opens: 299.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 580 (projected).

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 762.

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