Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Right Royal Fuss

Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel. ~Benjamin Disraeli

I must begin by confessing that the fact that another member of the British Royal Family is getting married is of no particular import to me. In fact, if I had been asked, I wouldn't be able to tell you a) which royal was getting married, and b)whom he/she was marrying. However, my attention has been captured by one Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden. As reported in The Register, Rev. Broadbent has no use whatsoever for royal marriages or, for that matter, royals in general.

He refers to the whole affair as "nauseating tosh", which doesn't sound good. He criticizes the entire royalty concept, announcing that he is a "Repbulican." This is not a declaration of which political party he belongs to; he favors a republican form of government, not a monarchy.

He offers various other comments, but the one that probably got him into more trouble than any other was a beaut. Quoth the Rt Rev Broadbent: "I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and I hope to avoid this one, too."

Is Rush Limbaugh looking for writers?: I think this gentleman has possibilities.

Of course, the Right Reverend made this pronouncement on his Facebook page, ironically only a day or two after it was announced that the Royal Family now had a Facebook page. Presumably, the Windsors and Rev. Broadbent aren't friending one another (or whatever it is Facebook people do; I don't go there, so I wouldn't know for sure).

Well, needless to say, there was consternation galore, particularly in the Church of England. Rev. Broadbent's superior, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres was especially annoyed. By the way, are there any Left Reverends?

Sorry about that. Anyway, Rev. Broadbent prostrated himself before the press, apologizing profusely. Rev Chartres was not sufficiently mollified and suspended Rev. Broadbent immediately. Perhaps the Bishop of London's morification was somewhat intensified by the fact that he is in line to preside over the nuptials.

The irony is that the Royals have the target of the British tabloid press for years. Old Big Ears has been targeted on many occasions thanks to the fiasco that was his first marriage and his subsequent second marriage, which I presume is the Porcelain Doll reference. I should note the Porcelain Doll is probably his first wife, since, as I recall, Charles' second wedding was a low key affair. Also, I would assume that his current wife would have earned a sobriquet of Horse Face.

Okay, that was nasty, but the whole thing is ridiculous.

The Royal Family is the most blatant example of rich people welfare left in the world. They cost the taxpayers a pile of money and tend to be an embarrassment to the country as a whole. Sure, the Queen has managed to retain a certain dignity despite her family's behavior, and I'm sure she is still well-regarded. She does, after all, harken back to a more elegant time, when the sun never set on the Empire.

Well, the sun has set, and it's time to move on.

On one score, Rev. Broadbent should be very glad it's the twenty-first century and the Windsor family in charge and not, say, the Tudors. Had he published statements like these during the reign of Elizabeth I, he wouldn't have had time to apologize. He'd be in the Tower of London. The only "suspension" he'd get would be to be dangling from chains in a very cold cell.

Then there's that whole chopping block thing that would be waiting for him. Doing in members of the clergy was not an unusual act back then.

On the other hand, without Facebook, perhaps he'd have been smart enough to keep his opinions to himself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is It All About Game 7?

Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character. ~T. Alan Armstrong
By now, it's fairly obvious that NASCAR is broken. Ratings are down, and "The Chase" ain't helping. Perhaps it's because real racing fans are tired of the poor races; I can't judge because the racing got bad enough three years ago that I stopped watching NASCAR racing. Perhaps fans are tired of seeing Jimmy Johnson win, especially in a year when he obviously didn't give a crap whether he did or not. Perhaps the fans are tired of the machinations that seemed to go on to make that win possible: Taking points away from Clint Bowyer after race 1 of the Chase; a convenient speeding penalty to Kevin Harvick in the last one.

Aren't "Hendrick cautions" sufficient any longer?

At any rate, Brian France has decided that changes need to be made in the Chase format, despite having arguably the most exciting Chase since they started the thing. And, stranger still, he made this announcement before the final race. Clearly, he felt the idea had to be floated fast, presumably because ratings were sinking into the sunset (along with attendance).

I mean look at the picture in the linked article. Does this look like a man whose sport is having it's most exciting finish in years? Or does it look like one who is hearing very negative vibes from the sponsors and television people because so few people are watching that exciting finish, a man who has to do something quickly before said sponsors and TV people take their money and go elsewhere?

But what really attracted my attention was the comment that, in July, France made a statement to the effect that NASCAR was looking at ways to "create a game 7 environment." The reason that the statement jumped out at me was an almost identical statement from Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning. During the MLB playoffs, he offered that game 7's were great and sports needed more of them.

Evidently, according to Greenberg and France, the only time competition for a championship is interesting is when it's do-or-die time. A series is all well and good, but unless it's game 7, it just doesn't have the cachet, the intensity, the drama of a true championship.

Seems to me that when a team is down 3-0, 3-1, or 3-2, there's a game 7 element to every game left in the playoff. According to Greenberg, though, it wasn't dramatic enough. Sports need more game 7's.

What Greenberg and, for that matter, France really mean is that television needs more game 7's. After all, television is paying Greenberg's salary and for France's follies. All that counts is television ratings.

Evidently, Bud Selig agrees. He wants to expand the playoffs. Why? Forget the public statements. There are two reasons: More teams get to make money in a playoff series, and more game 7's.

Now, if you ask NBA and NHL fans what they don't like about their respective sports, one thing both will say is that there are too many teams in the playoffs. The NFL is pretty close to this level, if they haven't reached it already. The funny thing is that one theory that the "everyone gets in" proponents have always pushed is that it makes the late season more exciting. This is funny because as the seasons come to a close, most fans could hardly care less about a couple of .500 teams duking it out for the final playoff spot.

It's always a hoot hearing the sports commentators trying to say how the last games of the NFL season are so important to the playoff possibilities, only to realize that things are pretty much set except for one wild-card team. Frankly, it's more interesting to see which teams will tank on purpose (in all sports save baseball) to try to get the number one draft pick.

Also, let's be honest. Not all elimination games are exciting, drama-filled, nail-biting events. I've seen some game 7's that were pure stinkers. And let's not even talk about the number of utterly forgettable Super Bowls that have limped by over the years.

What gets lost in all of this is what being a champion is all about.

It's about consistency. That doesn't mean being in first place all year. It means getting the job well enough during a season to be in the fight at the end.

It's about winning when it counts. The best team on paper isn't the champion until they prove it on the field. As Chris Berman says (channeling John Facenda), "That why they play the games."

It's about great team efforts and great individual efforts all coming together at the right time. It's about winning game 3 because you're down 2-0. It's about playing hurt. It's about pulling together everything you learned about yourself and your team through a long season to overcome all comers.

In some sports, particularly racing, it's about consistency over the long haul. A series race champion is one that got the job done race after race, not necessarily by winning but by running well more often than anyone else. Sure, it's fun to see the series championship come down to the last race, but it is just as rewarding to a real fan to see a superlative season-long performance.

A championship is about getting there, not just winning that last game.