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The Decade is almost over

What do CNN, ESPN, millions of bloggers around the world, every local news station, NPR, and random people have in common?  They have all spent the last few weeks creating those “year-end lists.”  You know the ones: Best moment of the year, saddest death of the year etc…  Of course, since the end of 2009, also draws the 2000s to a close (if you count the years in the way that most people do), those year-end lists have become decade-end lists.  I thought I could resist giving you the sportypolitics lists but, alas, I could not.  So, as we count down the final hours of 2009, I hope you enjoy my list of moments I felt the desire to highlight. 

Decade’s defining moment: The attacks of 9/11/2001
Sports or politics, there really is no question that the events of that Tuesday morning defined the decade. We are still feeling repercussions from those attacks and we are a fundamentally different society because of them. Thousands of people lost their lives that day and many more have been killed in the wars that the attacks spawned. The attacks brought the world together but the choices that followed splintered us again. We lost the illusion (however foolish it was) of being safe on our own soil and, as we saw on Christmas Day, there are still many out there who are willing to give up their life to kill Americans. As we move into the next decade, it is critical we find a way to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to rebuild our image in the world. Otherwise the defining moment of this decade will become the defining moment of the next decade and so on.

Defining struggle of the decade: The economy
One could certainly make an argument for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the fallout from the recession we have been mired in gets my vote. Greed and poor choices led to the near collapse of our Economic system and cost many people their jobs. With the unemployment rate above 10%, we once again saw that the consequences of decisions by those at the top are felt most dramatically by workers. It is a real shame that so many of those who made the decisions (or allowed the decisions to be made) have had so little interest in being a part of the solution. Greed is a powerful force and people like Anastasia Kelly who resigned from the disgraceful company AIG because she was upset at only making $500,000 (and will pocket several million dollars in severance pay because she left for ‘good reason’ show how few lessons those top decision-makers have learned.   The economy affects all of us and, while I think the Obama administration has taken strong steps to avert disaster and get us on the right track, jobs must come back for his work to be considered a success.

Now for some happier news…

Baseball team of the decade: The Boston Red Sox
I certainly could be accused of being a homer for this pick, but I feel pretty strongly about it. Yes, the Yankees had more wins. Yes, both teams won two World Series. But the way in which the Red Sox turned their team around and, in doing so, re-energized their fan base, gives them the edge. They maximized revenue from their ballpark, developed some really strong players, spent money when they needed to, and are really well-positioned for future seasons.

Football team of the decade: I don’t know
This is a really really tough one. Arguments could be made for the Pittsburgh Steelers (although their collapse and the fact that they may not make the playoffs this year argue against them), the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots. To me, a lot depends on who wins the Super Bowl this season. If the Pats win, they are the team of the decade. If the Colts win, then they are. If neither wins, I think the nod goes to New England, but it is mighty close. Colts vs. Patriots is one of the best matchups of this decade and they sure have played some memorable games.

Basketball team of the decade: The Los Angeles Lakers
They didn’t have the most wins. They didn’t have the best winning percentage. They didn’t even have the most memorable championship (the Celtics get credit for that). But they were the most dominant and they were the team to beat in this decade.

Hockey team of the decade: The Detroit Red Wings
It’s not even really close. Sure, you could make an argument for the NJ Devils, but you would be wasting your time.

Sports city of the decade: Boston
These are incredible times to be a Boston sports fan. From the Red Sox (2 world series) to the Celtics (1 championship) to the Patriots (3 SB championships plus an almost perfect season) to the Bruins to the college teams we have winners everywhere you look. 6 parades in 10 years…pretty incredible. Add to that the hockey championships won by BU and BC and you have a pretty successful decade.  Think about the transformation in the Boston sports scene over the last 10 years. In 2000 no one really cared about Boston. We hadn’t won in years and things weren’t looking too promising. Fast forward to today and we are called “arrogant,” “spoiled,” “cheaters,” and “obnoxious.”  Such hatred is saved for winners, which is what Boston has become over the past decade.

Sports story of the decade: Cheating
From steroids to videotaping, this decade will be known as the one where fans were forced to confront the fact that our athletic heroes willingly and knowingly broke the rules to achieve greatness. Hopefully, with so much now out in the open, we can have faith that the sports legends of the future will get to the top legally.

Society’s story of the decade Lack of personal contact
In some ways Google’s IPA in 2004 is a defining moment for our society. From Myspace and Linkedin (2003) to Facebook and Twitter (2006)…from smartphones to ipods and email to online cards to blogging, this decade has been given us the tools to be constantly in touch without ever having to actually speak. Communication means something very different than it did 10 years ago and everyone, from retailers to relatives are having to adjust. How we get and share information and build and maintain relationships has fundamentally changed and may be the most lasting societal change we have seen this decade.

I know there is a lot I haven’t touched on in this post. The deaths of groundbreakers like President Reagan, Senator Kennedy, Julia Child, Fred Rogers, Richard Pryor, June and Johnny Cash, Arthur Miller, Johnny Carson, Michael Jackson, and so many many more. The true heroism of our troops and Captain ‘Sully.’  The incredible elections of 2000, 2004 and 2008 (and the historic election of Barack Obama).  We’ll see what 2010 and the next decade have in store.

Happy New Year and all the best for a wonderful 2010. Thank you for reading and may the coming year be filled with more smiles than frowns and more laughter than tears.

Link(s) for 11/25 – Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is upon us.  Since I don’t think I will be posting in the next couple days (and because I’m thinking about food) I figured I’d give you a few sports/politics and food related links.  Enjoy and best wishes to all of you for a very happy and healthy (kind-of) holiday.  Travel safely!

The best wedding cake of all time!

An unfortunate turn of events for noted Turducken lover, John Madden

What athletes would you like to have over for Thanksgiving dinner?  For me, my table would include me, Bill Belichick, Theo Epstein, Peyton Manning, Shaq and Kobe (that should be fun), Dan Rooney, Maria Sharapova, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shannon Miller, Tiger Woods,  Larry Bird, Natalie Gulbis, Magic Johnson and Pete Sampras.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this really really odd tradition.


Link for 9/11/09

This is a fabulous article from politico about Congressman Wilson’s remark and the larger problem it presents for the GOP.   The Republican party really is facing a bit of an identity crisis and, so far, the “wrong” people are the face of the party.  This was so clear during the President’s address, but it is something that we have been seeing since the election.  The sad fact is that the reasonable conservative voices are being overwhelmed by the antics of Rush, the lies of Palin, the scandals of Sanford, the disrespect of some in house (not just Wilson, but the congressman who was wearing the ‘what bill’ sign and the many who were too busy texting to listen to the President) and the Nazi comparisons of a few on the far right.  This is not good for the GOP and it is not good for the country.   It remains to be seen who the future GOP leaders will be but, for the sake of the party, they better figure it out soon.

Link for 9/10/09

I give you multiple links today, all related to the President’s speech last night on healthcare.

Letter from Ted Kennedy to Barack Obama

The full speech that President Obama gave last night

GOP Response from Charles Boustany

The heckle heard ’round the world

Overall, I thought it was a really good speech with strong and specific messages.  Of course Obama had the lofty rhetoric he is so good at (and how powerful to invoke Kennedy at the end) but, listening to him, you also got a clear sense of what direction he believes reform should take.  Finding common ground means making compromises and I applaud the President for making that effort (not just on the malpractice issue – which I am skeptical of – but also on the emergency fund to bridge the gap before reforms can be enacted – a McCain idea – and an individual mandate to have coverage – a Clinton idea.)  He seems dedicated to making this the best possible bill and I appreciate those efforts. 

From Congressman Boustany’s really strong and thoughtful response it is clear there is a lot we can agree on, but that there are some big differences.  I am heartened that Dr. Boustany highlighted some areas that are really important and indicated his support for them.  To quote the Congressman on some areas of agreement, “One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions.  Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do. Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor. And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention”   In his response, he also commented that it is important for the plan to be affordable.   He used that point to illustrate a difference that he has with the President, but I don’t see it that way.  The President, in giving us his specifics, also explained how it would be paid for (without increasing the deficit) and offered to make spending cuts if projected savings are not realized.   No “fact-checking” site I have seen disputes that he can pay for this without adding to the burden we are passing along to the next generation.  But, even if it did, I’m comfortable increasing the national debt to ensure people can live full and healthier lives.  Doesn’t seem like a bad use of money to me.  However, just so that is not taken out of context, I believe the President when he says that it won’t.

However, agreement on these issues only gets us so far and there are still some significant differences, especially centered around the so-called public option.  I was disturbed to hear Congressman Boustany repeat the oft-heard line about resisting reform now and starting over.  He should know better than most that sometimes waiting is not the best choice.  If there is a dying patient, you don’t wait weeks to perform the life-saving operation.  In many cases, the longer you wait to provide care, the less likely your chances for success.  Opponents of reform have succeeded for YEARS pushing the work off to the next congress, to the next president, to the next generation.  Well, we are at a critical point now and pushing it off again could well cost people their lives or force them to choose between paying for medicine or food.  Losing their home or losing their loved one.  That I am not comfortable with.

To that point, to the progressives in Congress who are so wed to the idea of a Public Option, I think we need to hear the President when he says that that option is a “means to an end” and there are other ways of getting there.  It is really important, over the coming weeks, all of you listen seriously to other proposals and actually consider them.  Maybe co-ops are a better choice?  Maybe something else is? We know what the end goal is – quality and affordable healthcare for all – and I submit to you that the Public Option is only one way of getting there.  There are others and it behooves all of us for those to be given a fair chance and not rejected out of hand.

To my Democratic friends who would prefer to look at Dr. Boustany’s medical record or criticize him for trying to become a lord or further the “birther” movement, please stop.  Let’s focus on ideas and not try to discredit someone through name-calling.   As a final point, there are many issues still to debate and figure out.  Here’s hoping we do it with the civility Dr. Boustany showed and not the immaturity we have seen at town halls and, thanks to Congressman Wilson, in the halls of Congress.

How do these people sleep at night…

I pride myself on trying to understand and respect people whose opinions I disagree with.  The only way we are going to move forward in our country is by listening to each other and focusing on constructive dialogue rather than political posturing.  How in the world the President addressing students on the importance of staying in school can become a political issue is beyond me.  (Aside from the obvious point that asking them to write letters on how they can help the President was certainly inartful at best…)  Like it or not there are people in this country who have NO interest in making the USA a better place if it means the other guy might get the credit.  And these people will do whatever they can to discredit and defeat that person, and that is just sad to me.

Back to the article though…after 8 years of a president who governed a state that was at the bottom in educational achievement, it is refreshing to have a President who understands the importance of kids staying in school and helping them achieve their potential (here’s hoping that goes beyond words and into meaningful reforms, but that’s another topic).  The fact that people are boycotting the President delivering a message to students is shameful…simply shameful.  How can we teach our kids to listen to others if we censor the words of our opponents.    

Couple of quotes from the article I want to highlight:

1. As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” said Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

               WHAT????????????  Sen. Russell, why you are comparing a speech by a democratically elected president to actions by dictators who ruthlessly kill and detain their own citizens?  Does that make sense?

2. Arizona state schools superintendent Tom Horne, a Republican, said lesson plans for teachers created by Obama’s Education Department “call for a worshipful rather than critical approach.”

               Come again Mr. Horne?  Obama promotes a worshipful approach?  You mean the guy who doesn’t think we should teach the bible as fact and who taught in law school (which is all about critical analysis) is worshipful…umm, I think I’m terrified that this guy is a school superintendent.

To me these comments illustrate the importance of our kids staying in school…maybe the next generation can turn out leaders who aren’t close-minded and who care more about improving lives than getting their name in the paper. 

I don’t like that Democrats went after Bush for doing this in 1991 and I don’t like it now.   I suppose the difference is that Bush made the speech right before his election and used it to talk about his educational policies and plans while Obama will be using the speech to, according to the White House, make “a plea to students to really take their learning seriously. Find out what they’re good at. Set goals. And take the school year seriously.” 

Please explain how you can be opposed to that?