Category Archives: media

College Football set to Kick off during a COVID-19 Pandemic for Second Straight Year

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I used that line in a column last September to describe the absurdity of trying to play football during a global COVID-19 pandemic.

When I wrote those words, and the 1,000 plus other words in that column, I never dreamed that a year later we would be basically back in the same spot.

In 2021, just as in 2020, we are still dealing with raging COVID-19 outbreaks. People are still denying science. Governors are still saying vaccine and masks mandates infringe on one’s freedom to spread the virus to others. Plus, so much more bologna that I really thought we would be done with by now.

Instead of using last year as a rallying cry to do everything we could to send COVID-19 packing, here we are with an even more potent variant of COVID-19, and even less restrictions on activities that could help slow the spread of the disease.

The horse is definitely out of the barn when it comes to COVID-19 denialism. Speaking of horses, some people now would rather take a horse deworming medication, that does nothing to prevent or treat COVID-19, instead of taking a fully approved vaccine that can prevent infection, hospitalization and death in most cases. I guess horse dewormer is the 2021 version of 2020’s advice from a fan of red trucker hats to ingest bleach like a cleaning.

The fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once again had to send a common sense tweet out reminding people not to take horse medicine a year after tweeting not to ingest bleach shows just how out of touch from reality some parts of society are.
Graphic R. Anderson

The fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once again had to send a common sense tweet out reminding people not to take horse medicine a year after tweeting not to ingest bleach shows just how out of touch from reality some parts of society are.

I really wonder what type of person decides that they would rather get a horse paste at the local feed store instead of rolling up their sleeve and getting a vaccine.

I picture the conversation going something like this:

Chet: Hey Bob, did you see that anonymous post on Facebook the other day about the benefits of horse deworming cream to fight that fake virus?

Bob: I did. I am giving it a try since I can’t seem to shine this light down my throat like a cleaning. I’m so glad we have random posts on Facebook from people with zero medical training to give us the truth, compared to those scientists who spent years studying infectious diseases and are dedicated to keeping people safe.

Chet: Agreed, see you at the completely full football stadium on Saturday for the mask burning. I will save you some nachos.

And scene.

Shame on me for giving certain segments of society more credit than they deserve. I know I should know better, but sometimes I just cannot help myself. I want to believe that society can improve, instead of just racing like lemmings towards the cliff lowering the bar as they go.

We really are trying our best to make the world outlined in the movie Idiocracy become reality.

In the movie Idiocracy an American soldier who is accidentally frozen for 500 years as part of a military experiment wakes up in a dystopian world where society has forgotten the ideals of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, justice, and human rights and instead society has embraced commercialism and instant gratification. Sound familiar? One need only watch the news for a few hours to see that in many ways we are well on our way to bringing that vision of society lampooned in the movie to life.

I have written about Idiocracy a few times before, but for anyone unfamiliar with the plot of the 2006 Mike Judge movie, it goes something like this.

An American soldier who is accidentally frozen for 500 years as part of a military experiment wakes up in a dystopian world where society has forgotten the ideals of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, justice, and human rights, and instead society has embraced commercialism and instant gratification.

Sound familiar? One need only watch the news for a few hours to see that in many ways we are well on our way to bringing that vision of society lampooned in the movie to life.

When a disruption in a state’s power supply caused by inept governmental leadership triggers a worldwide plastic wrap shortage, one has to wonder just how many degrees of Kevin Bacon we are from totally collapsing as a society.

Especially when that state that sounds like “Texas” focuses more on passing executive orders and bills to suppress masks and voting rights then actually trying to fix the flawed power grid before the next cold snap, or heat wave, once again leaves thousands of people without electricity in a state that literally pumps the natural gas out of the ground that powers many of the electric plants.

But I shall rant about the failings of the “do it on our own star state” at a later date, today my attention is focused on the gridiron as college football season kicks off this week.

As noted time and time again, I enjoy college football. Aside from being a long-time fan of the game, during my undergraduate studies I interned in a college Sports Information Office and spent many a Saturday in the press box of college football games.

Additionally, I worked for five years with a committee that was responsible for hosting three college bowl games a year.

While I enjoy college football, I do not enjoy it to the point where I want to see stadiums full of people cheering in the middle of a pandemic. I also really have zero desire to attend a watch party for a college football game in the middle of a pandemic.
Photo R. Anderson

While I enjoy college football, I do not enjoy it to the point where I want to see stadiums full of people cheering in the middle of a pandemic.

I also really have zero desire to attend a watch party for a college football game in the middle of a pandemic.

Sadly, an organization I volunteer with does not share my belief that now is not the time for college watch parties and has basically said, “go have your parties, and if you have high transmission of COIVD-19 where you live, have the watch party outside.”

Because yeah, having people shouting at a football game and stuffing their faces full of nachos and other salty snacks is a great idea in the middle of a pandemic.

Navigating the latest surge of COVID-19 boils down in many ways to an individual’s risk versus reward threshold. While vaccinated people certainly can be riskier in theory compared to unvaccinated people, the simple fact remains that even vaccinated people can get breakthrough cases.

This brings me to my Dirty Harry approach to navigating COVID-19. Whenever I am thinking of going to an event, I squint really hard while gritting my teeth and recite the following mantra to myself to determine my willingness to participate in said event.

“Ryan (That’s what I call myself in my head), I know what you’re thinking. ‘Is the entire group vaccinated or not’? Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kind of lost track of everyone’s vaccination status, and because this is an anti-science state, I am likely to get shot if I ask the wrong person to see a vaccine card. But being that we are talking about the Delta variant, the most contagious COVID-19 variant in the world, that is putting more people in the hospital than any other variant combined, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

Once I have weighed the pros and cons of an event I react accordingly.

Getting on an airplane full of masked people so I can visit family in Florida is an activity I can get behind on the Dirty Harry do I feel lucky scale.

Watching college football in person either in a stadium, or at a sports bar, just does not give me a reward that is greater than the risk. Or in Dirty Harry speak, it does not make my day.

More power to those who want to partake in such things, but at the end of the day college football is not essential to society. Furthermore, if large crowds attending games is straining the health care systems in those mostly red football loving states, then that is a huge problem.

After going fan free during the 2020 College football season, ESPN’s College Gameday kicked off the 2021 season with crowds reminiscent of the before times proving that profit trumps pandemic in the eyes of some despite more people being hospitalized from the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

In several states healthcare workers are walking away from their jobs in record numbers citing burnout, as well as not wanting to continue to risk their lives to take care of an unvaccinated population that thumbs their nose at science.

Other states are so full of COVID-19 patients in their ICU departments that there is no room for patients who have non-COVID emergencies requiring hospitalization.

It does not help the cause when governors ban masks mandates and instead just say that they will import more healthcare workers into the state to handle the surge within the hospitals.

That would be like someone in a sinking boat continuing to bail out water with a bucket with a hole in it instead of getting on the Coast Guard cutter that came to save them while saying, “Nope, I can’t have the federal government infringing on my freedom to stay on this sinking boat. You can keep your shiny government funded rescue craft. I’d rather just keep bailing here by myself.”

Unfortunately, that seems to be the mantra some governors are urging their citizens to follow. Don’t wear a mask, don’t get a vaccine if you feel it infringes on your rights, and if you get sick just take some gene therapy that is only available in short supply.

Or, one can always take that aforementioned horse deworming cream of course. Shudder.

The anti-mandate politicians are quick to say, “Don’t worry if your actions cause kids who are too young to get vaccinated to get sick. They would rather die free then live in a mask anyway.”

Of course, these are the same politicians who so famously said during the power grid failure that “many Texans would rather freeze to death then count on other states for their power,” or heaven forbid pay more for electricity.

I am sure there is a conspiracy theory out there somewhere in the dark corners of social media amongst the posts about the medicinal properties of horse paste that says that getting power from a blue state will either make you turn blue, or brainwash you into turning in your guns.

Seriously, are there massive radon gas leaks somewhere that are causing so many people to lose touch with common sense and realty?

The Roman emperor Nero is credited with playing the fiddle and watching Rome burn around him. I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be people choosing to watch college football, or crowd into other spaces mask-less and unvaccinated while COVID-19 burns around them.

With comparisons to Nero fiddling as Rome burned around him, college marching bands may want to add a violin section to their halftime show to portray the reality of playing football in the middle of a global pandemic.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess more college marching bands should add violins to their ranks and start playing the “Devil went down to Georgia” during halftime like the Florida State Seminoles Marching Chiefs did years ago.

Idiocracy predicated what the future would look like in 500 years. At the current rate we likely won’t have to wait that long until society totally devolves. I guess that is good in a morbid way, since at the rate we are destroying the planet there is no guarantee that the earth will even be around in 500 years.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time for another screening of Idiocracy.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

If Only MacGyvering a Solution to Life’s Problems with a Swiss Army Knife and Duct Tape Worked for Global Conflicts

As first noted in a column nearly eight years ago one of my favorite television shows growing up was MacGyver.

I enjoyed the show so much that I even dressed up as MacGyver for Halloween one year. Additionally, I have carried a Swiss Army knife that I got for Christmas in my pocket for over 35 years since, one never knows when it will be needed, as noted in my first MacGyver column back in 2013.

Inspired by my love of the television show MacGyver, Old Red has been in my pocket for over 30 years.
Photo R. Anderson

Sure, it could be easy to say that I liked MacGyver because the actor playing the title character and I shared the same haircut, last name and love of Swiss Army knives, but a better explanation for the show’s appeal was the way that difficult problems were solved using simple household items, elbow grease and brain power.

To be clear I am talking about old school Richard Dean Anderson MacGyver, and not that rebooted version of MacGyver that came out a few years back.

The show was instrumental in showing that science and brainpower could often overcome firepower so there was a positive message being presented as the Cold War was drawing to a close.

As I was watching the recent news coverage of the fall of Afghanistan, I was reminded of the Season One MacGyver episode called To be a Man. You know the one where MacGyver travels to Afghanistan and battles wits with Soviet backed forces.
Photo R. Anderson

As I was watching the recent news coverage of the fall of Afghanistan, I was reminded of the Season One MacGyver episode called To be a Man.

For those readers who may be too young to remember, before the United States tried to reshape Afghanistan, the Soviet Union gave it a go back in the 1980s.

The issue of Soviet occupied Afghanistan was addressed by Hollywood in such films as The Living Daylights, Rambo III, and Charlie Wilson’s War to name a few.

In The Living Daylights, which came out in 1987, James Bond, played for the first time by Timothy Dalton teams up with Mujahadin freedom fighters to battle the Soviets and even manages to blow up a bridge by dropping a bomb from the cargo hold of a moving airplane to help the freedom fighter escape the Soviet forces.

A year after James Bond defeated the Soviets, Hollywood once again took a swing at the conflict using another film franchise. In Rambo III, Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, heads to Afghanistan to rescue his former commander and his longtime best friend, Col. Sam Trautman, from a Soviet Army colonel.

During the mid to late 80s many shows and movies took aim at the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan for plot inspirations. One such cinematic take involved sending Rambo into the rocky countryside to rescue his former commanding officer and to prove that Rambo knew how to ride a horse. If only Adrian could have seen him. Oh wait, wrong franchise.
Photo R. Anderson

This should not be confused with the plot of Rambo II where, Rambo battles Soviet troops in Vietnam and has to rescue prisoners of war.

Back to Rambo III, our hero of uttering words with few syllables manages to rescue his mentor and help a local band of Afghan rebels fight against Soviet forces who are threatening to destroy their village.

Chalk two up for the fictional good guys.

Using the fresh lens of the 21st Century, and with the United States six-years into what would turn into a 20-year war in Afghanistan, the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War, starring Forrest Gump, I mean Tom Hanks, and Julia Roberts, told the true story of how the United States came to be involved in the 20th Century conflict by siding with the Afghan people in their fight against the Soviet Union through unofficial channels.

Of the three movies, Charlie Wilson’s War is likely the best reflection of the conflict between the Soviets and the Afghan people but it lacks that certain Swiss Army inspired wit.

That is where the man, the myth, the MacGyver enters the picture.  Of course, MacGyver was in Afghanistan before Mr. Bond, James Bond and Rambo. In the 1986 episode To be a Man MacGyver finds himself on a secret mission in Afghanistan to retrieve a downed satellite before it falls into the hands of the Soviets. While on the mission, MacGyver is shot and wounded. An Afghan woman and her son risk their lives to nurse MacGyver back to health.

To repay their kindness, a wounded MacGyver must now outwit the Russian Army to complete his mission and ensure the safety of the mother and her son by helping them cross the border into Pakistan.

While MacGyver was a work of fiction, I could not help but think of how so many Afghan citizens who risked their lives to help the American forces over the past two decades now face an uncertain future as they try to seek refuge in another country to avoid being killed by the Taliban.

In fact, in each of the films and television shows from the 80s dealing with Afghanistan the Americans, and in James Bond’s case, the British were the clear good guys helping  rescue people in need. Sadly, reality is often not as noble as Hollywood scripts.

According to government officials there are plans to provide safe haven for thousands of people who worked with the United States troops over the past two decades, but the speed of the retreat and leaving of Afghanistan has many wondering whether there is enough time to get everyone out according to the timeline laid out in those plans.

As the graph above illustrates, the more things change in Afghanistan, the more they stay the same. With the withdrawal of US forces, the Taliban once again are there to fill the void as the did following the retreat of Soviet forces in the late 20th Century.
Graphic R. Anderson

While there will likely be future movies that address the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, and all of bad optics that followed, one need only watch the news each night to see the accounts of so many people suffering as the vacuum left by the departure of the United States gets filled by the Taliban.

I am not going to get into the politics of whether we should have gone to Afghanistan in the first place, or if we should be leaving when we are. There will be plenty of time to cover that in the years ahead.

The United States joins a short list of world powers who tried and failed to change Afghanistan.

In the 19th Century it was the British. In the 20th Century it was the Soviet Union, aka modern-day Russia.

And, in the early 21st Century it was the United States trying to imprint a vision of a path forward on a country that seems like it does not really want outside help.

While the world continues to battle a health pandemic it is now faced with a potential expanded refugee pandemic brought about by the rapid fall of the government of Afghanistan and the return to power of the Taliban.

Although I am steering clear of the politics, and the blame game, following the departure of United States forces, I feel I must comment on the stories being floated in certain circles about the refuges from Afghanistan “invading people’s towns.”

The “they are coming for your jobs and your wives” narrative is a common response from people who are trying to sow fear about anyone who doesn’t look and talk like them.

It is not based in reality, and only shows the ignorance of the people who both peddle in such nonsense, as well as those who fall for it.

There are bad people of all races, creeds and religions, so trying to lump all refuges from any place as criminals and rapists is just flat out wrong.

In terms of knowing refugees from Afghanistan, I have some experience on that subject.

When I moved to Florida in the third grade, I met Omar. Omar’s family fled Soviet occupied Afghanistan and settled in Florida, which could not have been easy for them.

Omar was in Ms. Taylor’s class with me and was one of my best friends from third grade through high school. Omar lived a few streets over from me and was someone I spent a lot of time with.

We sat together on the school bus through middle school and freshmen year of high school. Once I started driving to school, I would often give Omar and other friends rides home.

Sadly, as is too often the case, I lost touch with Omar shortly after college.

I had many friends from many different backgrounds throughout my life and they helped share their cultures and traditions with me which in turn made me a more rounded person as a result.

Sadly, too many people seem to only want to hang out with people who look, talk and think just like them. That isolationist approach helps lead to breeding grounds of group speak and misinformation where someone on TV can claim that all refugees are bad, and the sheep will believe it without giving it a second thought.

As a quick history lesson, unless someone is 100 percent Native American, everyone living in the United States comes from an immigrant and/or refugee background. Some people’s ancestors immigrated here by choice, while others were forced to come here against their will.

Regardless of what brought them here, the simple fact remains that the United States was built by immigrants and refugees.

On the big and small screen, James Bond, Rambo, Charlie Wilson and MacGyver all fought their battles and won for the most part in under two hours.

In the current unfolding story, the quest for a crisp solution and happy ending for the good guys in the latest Afghanistan chapter seems a little cloudier and more complicated.

In a pinch, tweezers from a Swiss Army Knife can be used to fix loose screws on a pair of sunglasses. Unfortunately, they are not as good at solving geopolitical issues.
Photo R. Anderson

If only, reality was as simple as being able to solve the problems of foreign conflicts with gadgets from Q Branch, a bow and arrow and some grunted dialogue, a secret slush fund for black ops, or a Swiss Army knife and some duct tape.

If history is any indication there will likely be more outside forces that come to try to tame Afghanistan in the coming years. Of course, it seems unlikely that they will succeed where so many others have failed.

The current conditions in Afghanistan are both troubling and a tragedy, but they certainly should not have been a total surprise to any students of history. After all, those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to watch some old episodes of MacGyver after reaching out to an old friend. Where did I put that MacGyver wig anyway?

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Closely Guarded Secret Revealed as Cleveland MLB Team Gets New Name

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) there are Guardians of the Galaxy battling aliens near and far.

In Low Earth Orbit (LEO) the Guardians of Space Force protect the interests of America from wayward actors.

Starting in 2022, the city of Cleveland will have Guardians of their own patrolling the diamonds of Major League Baseball.

Say hello to the Cleveland Guardians, and goodbye to the Cleveland Indians.

Move over Groot, the Cleveland Guardians are here. I suppose if a movie can have a talking tree that only says one-word, Major League Baseball can have a team with an uninspired nickname based in part on that movie.
Photo R. Anderson

In making the announcement of the new name team, owner and chairman Paul Dolan noted in a prepared statement that, “We are excited to usher in the next era of the deep history of baseball in Cleveland. Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity. Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders.”

Apparently a lot of people are believers in the resiliency and pride brought about by the word guardians.

In December 2020 former United States vice-president Mike Pence, took great pride at the direction of the former president in announcing that members of the United States Space Force would forever be known as Guardians.

With the Coast Guard being called “Coasties” despite actually having the word guard in their name, it makes sense that space forceers would be called Guardians? Asking for a friend.

Either way, the brain trust in Cleveland said, “hold my Pierogi,” and named an entire baseball team after either space soldiers, or Marvel characters. Creating not the most original idea under the sun in the process.

Somewhere I think old Harry Doyle of Major League fame would call the new name, “Just a bit outside.”

In December 2020 former United States vice-president Mike Pence, took great pride at the direction of the former president in announcing that members of the United States Space Force would forever be known as Guardians. With the Coast Guard being called “Coasties” despite actually having the word guard in their name, it makes sense that space forceers would be called Guardians? Asking for a friend. Either way, the brain trust in Cleveland said, “hold my Pierogi,” and named an entire baseball team after either space soldiers, or Marvel characters. Either way, not the most original idea under the sun.
Photo R. Anderson

The timing of the announcement on the day that the world was distracted by the opening ceremonies of the Pandemic games, I mean Summer Olympic games, also seems a bit like trying to bury the lead when the world of sport was looking the other direction.

While I am certainly not trying to tell the fine people of Cleveland what to call their baseball team, their selection seems rather flat and uninspired based on the aforementioned list of way more famous Guardians.

Cleveland had used Indians as their nickname since 1915. In 2020 the team announced that a new name was coming in response to growing complaints from Native American groups and others who felt that the name and iconography was disrespectful.

Ahead of undergoing a name change, Cleveland stopped wearing the Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps in 2019 as phase one of their rebranding effort.

While the Indians will be retired at the end of the 2021 MLB season, diehard Clevelanders and Chief Wahoo fans can take solace in the fact that the Indians will forever live on the silver screen thanks to their inclusion in the movies of the Major League franchise.

In the none theatrical world, I can support and respect the need for Cleveland to adjust their branding to be less controversial, however, their ultimate choice of new nickname seems a little lazy.

It is almost like they looked at the word Indians and thought, “you know if we drop the letters “in” we just need to find some new letters and we can keep the “dians” that our fans have grown to love over the years.

I am guessing the keep the “dians” approach for a new nickname included evaluating such words as Comedians, Meridians, Arcadians, Euclidians, Custodians, and Medians.

With all of the attention being paid to the sabermetrics and mathematical elements of baseball these days, Cleveland truly missed an opportunity by not naming the team the Euclidians after Ancient Greek mathematician, Euclid, the inventor of axiomatic geometry.

After all, if launch angle is not a product of geometric principles I don’t know what is.

A quick internet search of “Cleveland Guardians” reveals that a men’s roller hockey team already used that name proving that the search for a new name may have been even lazier then first thought. There are even similarities between the roller hockey logo and the logo for the MLB squad.

As weak as the new nickname seems, at least one can take solace in the fact that Cleveland did not follow the soccer/futbol route and call themselves the Cleveland City Baseball Club.

The move by Cleveland follows a move made by the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins to change with the times and remove offensive nicknames and logos. Washington is expected to announce their new name sometime in 2022.

Cleveland was not the only MLB team that used Native American symbolism as part of their brand but are the only one making a change. The Atlanta Braves announced last year that they had no intention of changing their team’s name, but would look into the possibility of doing away with the “Tomahawk Chop.”

With the Cleveland Indians giving way to becoming the Guardians, The Atlanta Braves are the last of the 30 MLB teams to reflect Native American themes in their branding. While pressure is likely to mount for the team to change their name, for now the Braves have stated they have no plans to change their name but may look into revising the “Tomahawk Chop” chant.
Photo R. Anderson

In the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs are also facing increased pressure to change their name.

Additionally, Jeep has been asked by the Cherokee Nation to find another name for their bestselling SUV.

In a February 25, 2021 article in the New York Times, Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said, “The use of Cherokee names and imagery for peddling products doesn’t deepen the country’s understanding of what it means to be Cherokee, and I think it diminishes it somewhat.”

The response from the parent company of Jeep was noncommittal regarding whether a name change would be forthcoming.

It is certainly a tricky issue for both sports franchises and corporations to navigate when it comes to protecting their long-term identity while also being mindful of the fact that acceptable societal norms have shifted.

While Chief Wahoo will no longer bang the drum slowly and play the pipe lowly in the outfield of Cleveland baseball games, fans wanting to hang on to those days of wahoo past can always watch the Major League franchise to get their kicks. As a bonus, the movies feature way more winning compared to watching the actual franchise.
Photo R. Anderson

As noted many times before, I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan and never thought that I was supporting a team named after a racial slur.

To me, they were just a football team with cool colors, a catchy post touchdown song and a neat logo. But for some, that name and logo, even though it was used by some Native American communities, was offensive to others.

To be fair, someone will always be offended no matter what something is called. But when the majority of people find something offense it is time to take a closer look at whether a change needs to be made.

Cleveland made their change and while they likely launched a thousand memes by naming themselves Guardians, at least they are moving forward with a new identity.

The Washington football faithful still have to wait another year to see what rebranding effort is coming straight outta Landover, MD.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some of Harry Doyle’s greatest fictional calls.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

The Tokyo Olympics will have Fanfare but no Common Man

On July 8, 2021, in another in a long list of “the show must go on” actions it was announced that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics would still start at the end of July 2021, but would do so without fans in attendance.

In short, the games would have fanfare but no common man or woman in the stands cheering the athletes onto victory.

The reason cited for the nixing of fans and pomp and circumstance was the fact that Tokyo is currently under a state of National Emergency due to the number of COVID-19 cases sweeping through the region.

COVID-19 was surging in Tokyo last year as well which caused the 2020 Summer Games to move to 2021.

So, with not much changed in terms of the amount of virus in and around Tokyo between this time last year and now, the games will continue. After all, organizers will be quick to say that there is too much money on the line to postpone the games once again.

Although the idea of going full blast with the Olympics while the average citizens of Japan are battling the COVID-19 monster sounds like the plot of a bad Godzilla movie, it is very much a real thing.

In 1992 I made my first trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum. I returned over 20 years later and the building was just as iconic and awe inspiring as it had been to me as a child. In 2028 the Olympic games will make their fourth trip to the coliseum.
Photo R. Anderson

I have always loved watching classic Godzilla movies. While the battles between Godzilla and his band of monsters are entertaining, I enjoy the way that the heroes always win in the end by using sound scientific principles.

It does not take a scientist battling a radioactive monster to see that even without fans, having thousands of athletes, coaches, media and other support personnel travel to a virus hot spot for two weeks and then returning to their home countries does not seem like the brightest idea.

At least by banning fans from the venues inside Tokyo the number of people who would potentially take COVID-19 back to their home countries is minimized somewhat.

But this is not a column about my love of Godzilla movies, or the rationale of holding international sporting events during COVID-19. For right or wrong, numerous leagues across the world have declared themselves open for business and the COVID0-19 virus vanquished. Many scientists and other people dispute that claim but still the games must go on.

Were I in a position to make that decision, I would certainly postpone the games. However, at the end of the day, it does not really matter to me whether the Olympics are held or not since I will not be watching them, nor really caring about who wins what medal.

My ambivalence towards the Olympics is a somewhat recent development. I was once a fan of the Olympic games and all that I thought they stood for. However, I grew cynical to the point of despising the Olympics while pursuing my Master of Science (M.S.) in Sport Management.

I am sure that my instructors thought that the in-depth study of the Olympics would fill me to the brim with pride. However, the more I studied the Olympics, the more it had the opposite effect.

Once you peel back the layers of the Olympic onion and get past all of the pomp and circumstance, one is left with a very rotten core where sportsmanship and competition are overshadowed by greed and graft.

In 2014, I glowingly wrote about my excitement to watch the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Sochi Russia. In my column, I mentioned some of the issues that the Russian organizers were having in finishing the facilities in time for the opening ceremonies but the overall theme of the column was that I was looking forward to the games and saw them as something that brought the world together for a few weeks of positive competition.

From the bribes and kickbacks during the host city selection process, to the fact that billions of dollars in facility construction is often spent in third world countries where citizens live in poverty and the shiny arenas of the Olympics turn into crumbling relics after the games the Olympic are rife with a darker side.

Six months after the torch was extinguished at the 2016 Summer games in Rio de Janeiro, many of the Olympic venues had been abandoned and were in various states of decay. One need only do an internet search on abandoned Olympic sites to see that Rio is far from alone in spending billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for the Olympics only to watch it all go to waste after the torch has moved on to the next city.

The crumbling Olympic venues dotting landscapes across the globe serve as reminders that as cities continue to battle to host the games, some countries would be better off spending the billions of dollars it takes to host the games in others ways.

When the Summer Olympic Games return to Los Angeles in 2028 they will utilize myriad existing stadiums, ballparks and arenas which is a stark contrast to the build it and abandon in place approach employed during the Summer games in Athens and Rio de Janeiro among other cities.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone once said, “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”

While I am against the Olympics on principle, I support the various athletes who train for years for what often amounts to a single chance to go for gold on the world stage.

In that regard, I can see that continuing to postpone the games will have serious ramifications on athletes from around the world who dream of that one shot at Olympic glory and immortality.

The old saying about hating the game not the player comes to mind along with visions of Hamilton and Eminem not wanting to give away their one shot.

The 2020 games taking place in 2021 will feature the return of baseball, and softball as Olympic sports. Baseball was last an Olympic sport in 2008. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed back in 2016 to add karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing to the competition slate for the Tokyo games in a bid to attract younger fans to the games and stay relevant.

Although I no longer watch the Olympics, every four years I dust of my 100th Anniversary of Olympics music soundtrack for some fanfare for the common man as well as some good old fashioned Olympic fanfare by John Williams.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone who still has their 1985 Topps Mark McGwire Olympics rookie card, I am certainly happy to see baseball back in the Olympics, but even that does not really move my excitement needle to want to watch the games this year.

Despite my current position on the Olympics, I am hopeful that I may once again put on my blinders and see the whole onion instead of the rotten layers.

I have always been more of a Winter Olympics fan than a Summer Olympic fan. As such, perhaps my cynicism will melt by the time hockey and curling roll around in 2022 at the Beijing Winter Olympic games. If not, one can hope that I will be California dreaming by 2028 and will be watching beach volleyball and surfing on the sands and waves of SoCal that I know so well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some Blue Oyster Cult.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Return of USFL is Latest Example of Everything Old is New Trend

A long, long time ago in a swamp far, far away a wise old green puppet said, “long enough live you do, all things old become new they will.”

Okay, maybe I am not remembering the exact source of the quote but the force behind it is that if one waits long enough, everything old will become new again; even things one never thought would return.

The latest example of this recycling of retro chic is the recent announcement that the United States Football League, aka the USFL, plans to make a return to the gridiron in the spring of 2022 after a lengthy time on the sidelines.

For those unfamiliar with the USFL, it was a spring football league that played for three seasons from 1983 through 1985. Some notable USFL players who later joined the NFL include Jim Kelly, Doug Flutie, Steve Young and Hershel Walker just to name a few.

Ultimately like the myriad spring football leagues that followed, the USFL went the way of the dinosaurs and became extinct. Of course, with the number of failed leagues trying to come back to life lately perhaps one should say the USFL is trying to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of its own Icarus style hubris of flying too close to the sun during its initial three season run.

I will not get into the inner workings of why the USFL failed aside from saying that had they stayed in their lane it is possible the USFL would have never disappeared from the sports landscape all those years ago. At least that was the thesis statement of a research paper I wrote during my M.S. in Sport Management studies.

For those wanting more specifics on what ultimately killed the USFL, numerous books and documentaries cover that subject in grave detail. However, for those wanting to get down in the weeds on why the league failed, I do recommend the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?”

Aside from my academic studies of the USFL, I am old enough to remember the league from the perspective as a fan. Granted a very young fan. Growing up in Florida I was a fan of the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Orlando Renegades who were coached by Steve Spurrier and Lee Corso respectively.

Spurrier would of course spend his post USFL days reinventing college football at the University of Florida, while Corso became a key member of the College Gameday crew that changed how college football pregame shows were done.

So, as a fan of the old USFL with the hats, programs, media guides and team buttons to prove it, I am both intrigued and horrified at the thought of the league making another run.

Like a moth to a flame, I was always drawn to the spring football teams of Orlando. From the Renegades of the USFL, the Thunder of the WLAF, and the Apollos of the AAF, when it comes to failed spring football leagues Orlando has seen its share of short-term tenets that enter with a flurry of promise and excitement and exit with a whimper of disappointment and failed potential. Time will tell if the Renegades rise again after spending a single season in Orlando in 1985. If the Renegades are resurrected it is highly likely that the native American identity and penchant for tomahawks from the earlier version will be toned down or eliminated all together in the current climate of acceptable team names and iconography.
Photo R. Anderson

Would I love to see Orlando get yet another minor league sports franchise while continually getting passed over as a serious contender for the NFL and MLB? Sure, I suppose.

But, at the same time I am skeptical that any spring football league can make a serious dent at long term stability. If I thought that the USFL, or any league stood a real chance at being financially independent and not just some made for TV revenue stream to fill the air on the airwaves or a streaming service, I would dust off my Sport Management degree in a heartbeat and stand in line with the rest of the applicants wanting to make a lasting impression on the wide world of sports with spring football.

Instead I will quote Lee Corso and say “Not so fast my friend” when it comes to my belief that the USFL can succeed in the current sports climate.  I just do not have a good feeling about the USFL succeeding as more than just a gimmick and a way to for Fox Sports to sell some ads on television.

It should be noted that Fox Sports, which has a minority equity stake in the company that owns the new USFL, will serve as the league’s official broadcast partner.

One has to wonder how quickly Fox will run away from the deal if their ratings expectations are not met. It is also a slippery slope when the people creating the content are also the same channels broadcasting it.

Of course, the rising symbiosis between leagues and broadcast partners is a column and/or research paper subject for another day. Suffice to say, as a classically trained sports journalist I am deeply troubled by the trend of mergers and blending of networks and leagues.

It goes back to the age-old journalism school question of whether sports events are news or entertainment. Based on the number of leagues jumping into bed with gambling interests I would say sports are sliding into the easy to manipulate realm of entertainment programming which could very well soil the sanctity of the game.

So, the USFL selling a portion of the league and perhaps their soul to Fox Sports is a huge red flag for me in terms of whether I should get excited about yet another Spring Football league coming to town.

I have gone down this road many times and it never ends well. One of the first sports articles I ever wrote for my high school newspaper was about the arrival of the World League of American Football (WLAF). My article focused on the Orlando Thunder and the excitement that the City Beautiful was getting another chance to be a professional football town. The excitement lasted all of two seasons as the WLAF became NFL Europe and the Thunder and the other domestic teams ceased operations.
Photo R. Anderson

I have gone down this road many times and it never ends well. One of the first sports articles I ever wrote for my high school newspaper was about the arrival of the World League of American Football (WLAF).

My article focused on the Orlando Thunder and the excitement that the City Beautiful was getting another chance to be a professional football town.

The excitement lasted all of two seasons as the WLAF became NFL Europe and the Thunder and the other domestic teams ceased operations. A fun fact tying the WLAF to the USFL was that Lee Corso was the Orlando Thunder’s general manager after coaching the Orlando Renegades of the USFL.

So, the Renegades and the Thunder were strikes one and two. My skepticism is further fueled by the rise and fall of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). The AAF came out of the gate strong in 2019 and even lured the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier himself to coach the Orlando Apollos. Despite good coaching, and decent on field action, the AAF folded during the inaugural season after it was unable to secure additional funding to make payroll.

Strike three.

Of course, leagues will always say that they learned from the mistakes of others as they climb over the smoldering remains of all of the spring leagues that came before them. In this way they really are like the classic tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun and fell down to earth after his wax wings melted.

It really would be fitting for a spring football league to use Icarus for one of their teams if one could decide if the plural should be the Flying Icaruses or the Flying Icuri.

In making the announcement of their return, USFL 2.0 noted that it will play the 2022 season in the spring with a minimum of eight teams. The league also noted a desire to “deliver high-quality, innovative professional football to fans.”

In keeping with other big spring league announcements over the past few years no details were given on which eight cities will be blessed to be given an USFL franchise. The USFL did note that they still retain all of the naming rights and intellectual property of “key original team names.”

Over the course of the USFL three seasons the Denver Gold were one of only five teams that played all three years without relocating or changing team names. The other teams with three season staying power were the Los Angeles Express, Birmingham Stallions, New Jersey Generals, and Tampa Bay Bandits. It is likely that those markets will be included as part of the new version of the USFL.
Photo R. Anderson

For those who are curious, the key names that the USFL could select from based on their first go round include; Wranglers, Stallions, Breakers, Blitz, Gold, Gamblers, Bulls, Express, Showboats, Panthers, Generals, Invaders, Outlaws, Stars, Maulers, Gunslingers, Bandits, Federals, and Renegades.

Over the course of the USFL three seasons only five teams played all three years without relocating or changing team names. Those lucky teams with the most stability were the Denver Gold, Los Angeles Express, Birmingham Stallions, New Jersey Generals, and Tampa Bay Bandits. It is likely that those markets will be included as part of the new version of the USFL.

While the new USFL claims to have the intellectual property rights for all things USFL, Steve Ehrhart, the executive director of the original USFL was quoted in a Philadelphia Enquirer article following the news of USFL 2.0 as questioning the legitimacy of those claims.

In the Enquirer article Ehrhart noted that when it comes to claims that the new USFL has all of the rights to logos and names, “I was surprised when I heard about it this morning. I want to dig into it and see who they’re claiming they acquired these rights [to the name] from. Because it didn’t come from any legitimate source.

“My guess is there’s some knucklehead out there who claimed he had registered the name and had the rights to it. We’re not being antagonistic. But if they want to do this, they should do it the right way and talk to the actual people, not some guy who sent in an internet registration or something like that.”

Assuming the right knucklehead is located, and the rights really do belong to Fox and friends, time will tell whether the latest iteration of the USFL can match, or best the three-year high-water mark of spring league viability it set nearly 40 years ago. Perhaps Icarus will use some stronger wax this time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to dust off some USFL gear and take a trip down memory lane.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson