Tag Archives: Ted Kennedy

Ashamed to be a Democrat today. How ’bout those Rangers? And is it Sunday yet?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Quick note: For any tennis fans out there, I do a daily blog on the Grand Slam tournaments. For my thoughts on the Australian Open, which so far has been pretty good, click here.

Yep, it’s a fun day to be a Democrat today.

You’ve got to hand it to my party. Nobody, and I mean nobody, screws up a sure thing like the Democrats. If they were in charge of Rick’s from Casablanca, the joint would’ve burned down long before Bogie ever showed up.

My Democrats had an unloseable election in the race to succeed the late, great Ted Kennedy as the senator from Massachusetts. I mean, Kennedy held the seat for almost 50 years! No way a Republican was going to win that seat. Especially a Republican schmoe like Scott Brown, a pro-torture, right-wing, obstructionist, deficit-adding, stands-for-nothing but is against everything idiot.

This thing was a slam dunk. Beyond a slam dunk. Again, you could NOT blow this.

But yes, oh yes, we Democrats can blow anything. And so we put up Martha Coakley, who, yes, won a primary, but then went about refusing to debate her opponent, refusing to campaign much, belittling the voters of Massachusetts, and calling Curt Schilling A YANKEES FAN! That’s like running for the Senate in 1998 in Wisconsin and not knowing who Brett Favre is.

And so, of course, because Scott Brown tapped into all this rage, ginned up by so many obstructionist idiots in the right-wing media and others, pulled out a victory Tuesday night in this special election.

Health-care reform? Pretty much dead. ANY progressive legislation passed by this Congress in 2010? Put a tag on its toe and close the drawer.

So, so, so sad, and so pathetic. And yet, why do all the progressive government programs, things like education and immigration reform, and helping the economy, and saving the environment, and making all the changes to so many screw-ups in the Bush administration have to end now?

As Jon Stewart put it brilliantly in the video above, the Democrats “will only have then an 18-vote majority in the Senate. Which is more than George W. Bush ever had in the Senate when he did whenever the f**k he wanted.”

As usual, Jon Stewart nails it. I laugh, but it’s so goddamn sad that my party is so incapable of leading, of doing ANYTHING.

**So I’ve neglected writing about hockey that much on the blog lately because my New York Rangers have been so, well, mediocre. Which is why I’m completely baffled and amazed that the Blueshirts have scored 14 goals in their last two games. And Marian Gaborik didn’t score all of them, which is amazing. Now of course every team has goal-scoring spurts, but maybe, just maybe, the Rangers are turning things around.

Hell, the sports gods really are on my side this week.

**And oh yeah, four more days until Jets-Colts for the right to go to the Super Bowl. I don’t think I can wait that long, I may explode with excitement.

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Senator Curt Schilling? Frogs in Pepsi cans? It’s a world gone mad

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I spent today immersed in the U.S. Open (I must pimp my daily tennis blog here, because who else will, right?) and the hell that is preparing for high school football season (ask a high school sports writer how they feel at this time of year and you’re likely to get enraged or bleary looks that scream out “why, why, why can’t I get a roster

from Coach XYZ?” Basically, it’s how tax attorneys feel on April 13th or so).

But a bunch of little things came across the radar of my mind, so here goes:

**So Curt Schilling, aka the Ultimate Red Sock, a man who I genuinely worry will one day run out of saliva, a man who never lets pass by any opportunity to promote himself, a man who’s so in love with himself I’m amazed he ever actually got married, is apparently thinking of running for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat.

There are so many reasons this is a bad idea, I can’t even begin to describe them. Schilling is a blowhard know-it-all, always has been, though I do admire his work to fund a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’s also a hardcore Republican, who would run as an independent.

Do I think he’d have a chance? Ordinarily I’d say absolutely not, but this is going to be a strange, mad dash kind of an election in Massachusetts, and the dude did win Game 6 against the Yankees.

If he gets in and on the ballot, I may have to fly to my beloved liberal haven of Boston and campaign against him. Anyone know if A-Rod is free to join me? Well, if it’s mid-October, yeah, Alex Rodriguez should be available (ouch, as a Yankees fan, the truth hurts.)

**So, Levi Johnston has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving, huh? Bristol Palin’s baby daddy has just written an article for Vanity Fair’s new issue, and boy, does he have some good stuff to say about Mrs. Sarah Palin.

(Levi Johnston, Vanity Fair author. Somewhere Dominick Dunne is spinning in his newly-dug grave, and Tom Wolfe just grabbed for a bottle of scotch).

Among other things, young Levi says that Sarah can’t even shoot a gun properly (but she was so proud of her Annie Oakley image!), isn’t much interested in being with Todd, and most horrifying of all, she wasn’t even a real Hockey Mom! (And to think, she passed herself off as one despite never going to games. On behalf of Mrs. Gretzky and Mrs. Crosby, I say the NHL hockey moms sue her ass for fraud).

And oh yeah, apparently Sarah wanted to adopt Bristol and Levi’s baby, so the whole world wouldn’t know that her 17-year-old daughter got pregnant.

This was said in the campaign but can’t be emphasized enough, the hypocrisy on the right about Bristol Palin: When young African-American teenagers get pregnant, it’s a sign of our society’s decay. But when a nice white girl who’s Mom happens to be the veep nominee gets knocked up, well, it’s all good and we won’t think less of her for it.

Is there something a little sad about Levi Johnston capitalizing on his few minutes of fame? Yeah. But you know what? This kid never asked for any of this attention. One day he was banging the governor’s daughter, and a week later he’s on stage at the freaking Republican National Convention! That’s bound to screw with anyone’s head, you know?

Levi, keep speaking truth to power!

** So I promised another movie review this week and here goes a short one: The wife and I saw “500 Days of Summer,” on Sunday. Good, not great movie. Love Zooey Deschanel ever since I saw her in “Almost Famous;” she’s just got this alluring smile and weird vibe about her that makes her attractive.

The kid from “Third Rock from the Sun,” is pretty good in it, too. It’s an unconventional love story with some good lines, and it doesn’t end like you’d think, so I give it 3 stars.  I’d give it 2 1/2, but there’s a fantastically fun montage halfway through and if there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I LOVE montages.

It could’ve been better, but I feel like it tried to be too clever by half. It also had some dead spots. But still, pretty good flick.

**Finally, I don’t think I need to say anything else about this story but the following: I am so not surprised that this happened in my backyard in Central Florida, and 2, this shit doesn’t happen in Coke cans, OK?

That’s why I’m a Coke man.

Why I love the Open (and a few final Teddy thoughts)

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I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a lot of great sporting events in my life. The NCAA Tournament, big NFL games, college football bowls, the Daytona 500, and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta (I was there the night of the bomb in the park, but thankfully nowhere near the explosion).

But without a doubt the best sporting event I’ve ever been to is the U.S. Open. There is so much to love about the Open, especially if you go on one of the first few days.

For starters, you get to see world-class tennis up close, and by up close, I mean, literally, five feet away. When I was younger my uncle would take us to the Open every year on one of the opening days, and I was always amazed that you could see a Top 10 player out on Court 16 or something, and be close enough to pat him on the back.

The Open is best seen not from the ginormous Arthur Ashe Stadium (which is just way too big for a tennis stadium, but that’s another argument), but by perusing the outer courts.  You can spend hours watching future stars grind out wins, and see the agony of defeat from right up close. You just can’t do that anywhere else in sports.

Then there’s the Open atmosphere. It can be cold and antiseptic on Ashe, but on the new version of Louis Armstrong Stadium and on the Grandstand, the crowd can really get into the match. You’re sitting with real tennis fans there, not the corporate shills who the USTA has sold all the good seats on Ashe too (you know, the people who are constantly on their cell phones and couldn’t tell Andy Roddick from Andy Griffith.)

The food is awesome at the Open as well, though it’s wildly, wildly overpriced. Bring your own if you can, because you’ll pay an arm and a leg, and a kidney, for lunch.

The memories I have of the Open are some of the most cherished of my life; two that leap out of my cerebellum immediately are the day my Mom and I saw Chris Evert’s last-ever Open match, a quarterfinal loss to Zina Garrison in 1989, and a marvelous full day in 2005 I spent with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, over Labor Day weekend.

By that point she’d been hearing me wax poetic about the Open for 1 1/2 years, so for my birthday that year she got me the fantastic present of two Open tickets, and basically said “Here, show me the Open.”

And so I did. We got all kinds of lucky that day; we saw Martina Navratilova, maybe the greatest women’s player ever, in a doubles match on the Grandstand. We saw Lleyton Hewitt win on Ashe, and sat next to a bunch of drunk Australians (are there any other kind? I kid, I love the Aussies) who were chanting the whole match.

But the absolute greatest moment? Sneaking over to Armstrong late in the day and happening upon a third-round match between Paradorn Srichaphan and Davide Sanguinetti. Never heard of them? That’s OK, 95 percent of the people in the crowd that day hadn’t either (though everyone got a kick out of the “Srichi-fans” rooting for the Thai guy and making all kinds of noise.)

We got to the court late in the fourth set, and saw one of the glorious U.S. Open epics. We were in the corner of the court and way high up, but we still were going nuts on every point. The noise was remarkable, the quality of play intense: Sanguinetti ended up winning 7-6 in the fifth set tiebreak, and the crowd rose as one for a standing O at the end of the match.

My arms were tingling, and as I looked over, I felt like my wife’s were, too. She finally understood what I’d been talking about all these years.

Anyway, it all kicks off today once again. I’ll be glued to the set as always; there’s nothing like the Open. I’ve been away from New York for four years now, and I never miss it more than in these two weeks.

If you get a chance, I did this piece for the News-Journal on Rafael Nadal’s chances, as well as some thoughts on the Open in general.

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Saw a lot of Ted Kennedy eulogies over the weekend, but didn’t see the entire service. I have to echo what so many have already said, and that is that Orrin Hatch gave one of the most beautiful eulogies I’ve ever heard. Hatch and Kennedy were very good friends despite having no political common ground.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth your time.

Two other quick thoughts on Kennedy:

1. Do you think we’ll ever, in our lifetime, see another family produce three U.S. senators, including one president? I have to think that kind of thing is impossible nowadays, because the sins of one will be used to slime the others.

2. I thought all the discussion about Kennedy’s career in the Senate was wonderful, but I didn’t hear enough about all the tragedy he overcame. To me, that’s what made him such a compelling figure.

Anyway, here’s the Hatch tribute. Well done, Orrin.

R.I.P., Teddy Kennedy, last of the great liberals

 

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Whatever else you see or read today or in the next few days about the late Edward Kennedy, let me assure you of this:

The man did not get cheated by life. He lived four or five lifetimes in his 77 years: a young kid just hoping to carry the mantle of his slain brothers; a senator who many thought was a lightweight but grew into a powerful advocate, an incredibly wealthy man who cared deeply about people who had so little money.

He was also shamed and disgraced after being responsible for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick in 1969, pathetically leaving the scene of the crime, then not reporting it for hours while Kopechne drowned; and finally, after the drinking and carousing and womanizing was finished, he became a fantastic and distinguished voice of experience in the Senate, raging against big-company greed and fighting so hard for things like aid to the poor, civil rights, and immigration.

Really, the guy lived enough for three or four movies about him.

One of the things I said in a post last month about Kennedy is that he was such a tragically flawed hero, and was such a lightning rod, that most people either loved him or hated him.  I mean really, have you ever met anyone with no opinion on Teddy?

Just as so many of us on the left were thrilled he was championing causes few believed him, he was mocked viciously on the right, for his excessive alcohol intake (a woman in my office has a bumper sticker that reads: “I’d still rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than drinking with Ted Kennedy.”)

Much like with Bill Clinton, I think that if Teddy could’ve eliminated some of the more noxious elements of his personal life, he could’ve accomplished so much more.

As much as he did accomplish (helping pass the Voting Rights Act, helping found OHSA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, getting the minimum wage raised, starting the wildly successful SCHIP program for kids’ health), I feel that he could’ve had an even bigger impact, perhaps as President, if his wildly reckless behavior had been curtailed before the 1990s.

There are some people that I’ve read today who think Kennedy’s death from a brain tumor will spur change and action on the health-care debate, that now there will be some kind of symbolic unity and America will finally get a strong universal health-care plan.

Yeah, I’m not seeing that; Republicans and special interests are too dug in and this goes way beyond Teddy Kennedy’s legacy. 

What I keep thinking about today is, who’s going to fill his shoes? I don’t mean, literally, who’ll take his Senate seat.

I’m talking about, who’ll be the charismatic liberal voice in the Senate? We lost the great Paul Wellstone in a plane crash in 2002, and now Kennedy has died.

There are other liberal Senators fighting for our causes, men like Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin, but they lack the national profile and, quite frankly, the charisma of other past standout Senators.

I just fear that with Barack Obama turning out to be more of a centrist than I hoped, that with Kennedy’s death the era of the mad as hell, fire-breathing liberal championing those who don’t have anyone else to champion them is officially dead, too.

Who will speak for those without a voice? Who will argue on behalf of the single mother working two jobs and still being unable to pay the mortgage, or the minimum-wage-earning man trying to earn a living and break a cycle of abject poverty in his life, or in his surroundings? Hardly anybody speaks for those people now above a whisper, and now poor people lost one of the few megaphones they had left.

I thought John Edwards could be that voice once, but, well, we know what happened to him.

I think historians decades from now will see Kennedy in a mostly positive light; the alcohol and indiscretions will be glossed over, and his legacy will be that of the only Kennedy brother who lived a long life, and packed as much into it as it could.

Adam Clymer maybe summed up Kennedy best in his 1999 biography:

“The deaths and tragedies around him would have led others to withdraw. He never quits, but sails against the wind.”

Farewell, Senator Kennedy. You lived one hell of a life.

And say hi to Jack and Bobby for us, too.

 

 

A country I don’t recognize

I don’t get it.

I read the news, and watch CNN, and surf political blogs.

And for the past three weeks, I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before in America.

Violent, angry fighting between Americans over … a public policy issue. An issue that’s not anywhere close to the thermometer-busting core heat of the death penalty debate. Or abortion. Or even immigration.

Those arguments, I get. They strike at the fundamental core of what you believe, like when a life starts, or who has the right to live in America legally. Those debates can rise to the level of anger, and sadly in the case of those pathetic cowards who shoot abortion doctors and blow up clinics, tragedy.

But this … this is something completely different.

The health care town hall meetings that are being held all over the country are turning into sickening fisticuffs. Congressmen are getting death threats if they support the bill. Posters of Barack Obama with a Hitler mustache are making the rounds. Ordinary citizens pushing and shoving each other, punching and kicking and scratching and biting for what, exactly?

Because they don’t like the way one party in our democracy wants to reform health care? Because after decade after decade of inaction, and everyone ignoring leaders like Ted Kennedy who warned that America was soon going to be criminally negligent in caring for its sick people, someone is trying to change things?

A lot of this anger and violence, I credit to the right wing blogosphere, and to the TV and radio pundits. We can whip the masses into a froth so much easier these days, because communication is so much simpler to coordinate.

I’m not so Pollyanna-ish that I truly believed we’d get people sitting down at a conference table calmly debating and discussing important health care issues like universal coverage, or public options, or even the true costs of the Obama plan.

But for God’s sake, have we become a country that has to resort to such pure vitriolic hatred toward each other, over a simple public policy issue?

Makes me sad. And it makes me realize that this country that has grown so much more tolerant of so many once-taboo subjects (African-Americans, homosexuals) now finds it is most intolerant about other people’s political views.

Just look at the pure hatred in the faces of the people in that video above. It looks more like the citizens are ready for a lynch mob, not an informational meeting.

Violence at town hall meetings over health care.

Whatever side you’re on, can we agree this is not what America should be about?

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UPDATE: OK, now THIS is what America should be about. After Wal-Mart’s little disgusting cash-grab against the Girl Scouts that I wrote about here, Friend of the Blog (and recent well-deserved Pulitzer Prize-winner) Mark Mahoney alerted me to a survey by HCD Research, which says that after viewing a video about the cookie controversy, 58 percent have  more negative perception of Wal-Mart.

The study also says that more than one third of Girl Scouts parents who previously shopped at Wal-Mart are now less likely to shop there again.

That’s what I’m talking about, people! Stand up to the evil corporation. Yes, Girl Scout cookies have made me channel my inner Michael Moore!

The complete poll results can be found here.

The Teddys of New England

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I’m not sure if HBO planned it this way (it’d have been very smart if it did), but in the past three weeks the channel premiered two brand-new and extremely good documentaries on men called “Ted” who both are inextricably linked with New England.

Ted Williams, the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived, and Ted Kennedy, who’s been serving in the U.S. Senate for 46 years (I admit, that number astounded me, even though I knew he’d been there forever. Let me use a sports metaphor to put that into perspective: Ted Kennedy has been running for, or been in the Senate for the entire history of the New York Mets franchise. Amazing.)

I watched both movies this weekend, and thought both were terrific. You wouldn’t think there would be that much in common between them other than Massachusetts: Teddy Ballgame was a San Diego kid who grew up and could do something better than anyone else in the world: hit a baseball between two fielders.

And Teddy Kennedy, well, he’s an indestructible force of nature, for good and bad, who’s been a part of the American political scene longer than anyone else.

A couple of things I think connect the two men, which came into focus after watching the two movies:

**Both of them gave people plenty of reason to dislike them, yet have ended up being mostly beloved. Williams was a jerk to a lot of people: teammates, the media, his own family, sometimes.

**They both had difficult childhoods, though for very different reasons. Williams was neglected by his parents and forced to grow up fast, while Kennedy suffered tragedy after tragedy. Two siblings died before he was even 15 years old, which I don’t think most people remember about him.

** You want your flawed heroes, here are two very flawed men. Williams was a jerk a lot of the time, an absent father to his kids, and he seemed to resent how much Joe Dimaggio won, and yet “The Splendid Splinter” could get to only one World Series.

(Still think that might be the best baseball nickname ever. Although it’s hard to argue against “The Human Rain Delay,” which was what they called ex-Indians slugger Mike Hargrove. He got the name because he took so damn long between pitches, stepping out of the box and what not. See, the things you learn on this blog!)

And as for Kennedy, well, where do you start with his flaws? He was a heavy drinker for most of his adult life, an accidental murderer of a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne on the island of Chappaquiddick 40 years ago, and an egotist who commanded the spotlight everywhere he went.

But both men were so human, with their foibles so out in the open, that I think perhaps they became larger than life when they succeeded.

A few other thoughts on each movie, both of which are showing on HBO all month and on HBO On Demand:

** I knew Williams had a love-hate relationship with Red Sox fans, but I was honestly shocked to learn that as early as 1940, after his amazing rookie season, he was getting booed at Fenway. The guy had just hit .327, drove in 145 runs, and finished fourth in the MVP voting, and he’s getting yelled at by his home fans? Crazy.

**His temper was legendary, but I thought the best example in the movie was the anecdote told by one of his former wives, who said he once ripped the phone out of the wall in their house, then demanded she call the phone company to have them come fix it. Funny if it wasn’t so scary.

**Robert Redford chose No. 9 for the Roy Hobbs character in “The Natural” because he idolized Ted Williams. Didn’t know that.

** I know the “Ted Kennedy has endured so much tragedy” angle is as cliched as it gets, but when you see it all put together at once, it’s still breathtaking in its sadness. Brother Joe and sister Kathleen die early in his life. Brother John murdered while President. Then Teddy nearly dies in a plane crash. Four years later, other brother Robert shot while running for President. Then Ted’s son gets bone cancer and has to have leg amputated. It’s just staggering.

The man is truly indestructible, like the knight in the famous Monty Python sketch who gets his legs and arms cut off in a fight then screams, “Come back, it’s only a flesh wound!”

** I find it sad that Chappaquiddick has almost become an afterthought in the Kennedy legacy. A woman died. Kennedy drove off a bridge, escaped, tried to save her, then went back to his room and never reported that she was down there. Truly horrible, despicable behavior. I like so much of what Kennedy has done as a senator, but it’s really hard to respect him as a man after what happened in July of 1969.

**Also found it interesting that during the 1970s busing crisis in Boston, Kennedy was a pariah. He was booed and pelted with debris because he actually supported interracial school busing.

I came away with more admiration and respect for both 20th century giants after seeing this. Check them out if you have the chance.

P.S. The link on the Ted Williams reference above is to an Esquire story by Richard Ben Cramer, and it’s one of the single greatest pieces of sportswriting ever. If you have 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth your time.