A tale of two preachers

One of the world’s most well-known religious leaders died Wednesday at the age of 99. Calling Billy Graham a “preacher” hardly does his stature justice, the man who took his message to nearly 200 countries around the world and to more than 200 million people. He prayed with presidents and remained a constant force in spiritual matters from the days of old-time revivals to the days of radio, TV, and 21st-century media. A long and storied career and a life well lived, I suppose.

The thing is, I never listened to Billy Graham. I was too young or too modern or simply too unchurched to be part of his flock. My minister growing up? He was on TV too, and in fact this week marked 50 years since Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired on public television. (Earlier incarnations of the show even preceded that.)

I’m not going to add anything to the Mr. Rogers mystique that hasn’t been glowingly referenced elsewhere. (And by the way, Fred Rogers really was an ordained minister.) He was my spiritual leader when I was a kid, as he was for many. When he died in 2003 I felt as though a part of me died as well. My childhood died that day. I was 20, about to finish college, and here was the great symbol of my childhood vanishing. None of my own grandparents had yet died (but for a grandfather who had died 16 years before and of whom I didn’t remember much), and I really felt as though Mr. Rogers was my first grandparent to go. There was a certain loss of innocence that February day in 2003. Hard to believe that this Tuesday it will have been 15 years.

To Fred Rogers and Billy Graham… rest in peace.

This old line again

Wednesdays I usually like to write about politics. Here’s an oldie but a goody.

There’s a weekly paper in my community called the Loudoun Times-Mirror, usually good for a laugh or two. This past week there was a piece about tax breaks, etc. for “data centers” (and, presumably, other businesses), a favorite topic of mine.

Buddy Rizer, head of Loudoun County’s “economic development” office, trotted out the line of ultimate irony.

“You will not be competitive without this to somewhat level the playing field.”

Level the playing field?!


The whole point is to make the playing field as unlevel as possible. Does the Russian Olympic team give its athletes steroids to “level the playing field”? Do any of us try to do anything in life to “level the playing field”?

Do something foolish, then spin it to something it’s not.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Sports are never really just about sports anymore

If you watch sports long enough (I’m talking decades here) you’ll see that young’uns eventually become old-timers and heroes invariably become villains.

Both of those phenomena occurred for Shaun White this past week.

An “old man” in the snowboarding world at 31, Shaun White came through with an incredible gold medal-winning performance this past Tuesday to earn his third gold medal in a storied Olympic career going back to 2006 (when he was one of the young’uns).

I used to think White was sort of a punk. But, like A-Rod and LeBron before him, villains in old age have a way of becoming heroes. (See, it works the other way too.) So I got to savor that White victory last Tuesday…

For about 10 minutes.

Google Shaun White’s name and what comes up now?

Sexual harassment charges.


I think the #metoo movement should be relabeled the #youtoo? movement. As in, you too? Are there any men left out there not subject to such charges?

Obviously I fully support prosecution of harassment, sexual or otherwise. This case, though, seems far obvious. And furthermore it seems to have been settled in 2016. But with White back in the spotlight again the issue has become part of the news, marring an otherwise feel-good story.

You know, the one that makes us old guys feel like we can still compete with the young-uns.

Chinese New Year

Gong Hey Fat Choy, friends!

From the school of we celebrate everything comes this week’s third (or fourth) holiday… Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year was one of my favorite holidays growing up because, well, we made a big deal out of it. We celebrated everything.

According to the Chinese zodiac calendar (remember when they’d put that on menus in Chinese restaurants?) today begins the year of the dog. Why is this exciting for me? I’m a dog! Yeah, every 12 years “your” year comes around again and this is my year. This is only the third time, really, I get to experience such an honor (the ’82 dog I don’t remember too well), and I plan to make the most of it.

Yeah, this year is going to be for the dogs.

And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Different state, same you-know-what

A page-one story in Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post describes the dealings of several new-ish members of Virginia’s House of Delegates. (Trivia bonus: it’s the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World.) The piece highlights some of the assembly’s young participants, though the issues they face are far from new. Unfortunately their so-called solutions suffer from the same problem.

Delegate Will Morefield (“R”-Tazewell) and Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) are millennial legislators “divided by party but united by need,” as the Post proclaims. United by something is the way I’d describe it, by a phrase that might not be as nice. Morefield and Aird are both from disaffected areas of the state. They’re poor and cut off from the gold mine where I live and everyone else is trying to move to. I used to live in a place like this too. It’s called Binghamton, and for years I watched politicians of both parties try one “economic development” gimmick after another to attract business and investment. Actually, no, attracting business and investment needs no gimmick. It’s a result more of stability than of gamesmanship. But nobody grandstands on stability.

Enter Will Morefield, someone about whom I knew nothing before Sunday, but seems like both a sorry excuse for a Republican and a sorry excuse as a representative of my generation. His grand idea? Offer tax breaks to companies that locate in “disadvantaged places”—breaks that would exempt each employee from paying state income tax for 10 years.

The thing about gimmicks is, they fail because they’re gimmicks. This is neither new nor useful, and ignores laws of mathematics and economics.

“The state’s not losing any money,” claims Morefield, who obviously majored in fuzzy math. (This is me reaching for my wallet.) “These companies aren’t here anyway.” (True, though what about companies who already are here and have been paying taxes? If you owned a restaurant and then one opened across the street that didn’t have to pay taxes, how’dja feel about that?) “Wealthy areas roll out the red carpet all the time to lure Facebook data centers or pro sports stadiums. It’s about time Tazewell County got some of that love.”

(My opponents are cheating by doing this unholy thing. I’m going to start doing this unholy thing too. But it’s cool. Don’t worry.)

Delegate Aird has gotten the Petersburg City Council to adopt a resolution endorsing the plan. She and Morefield, members of the “millennial caucus” (let the record show I’ve never liked people of my own generation), are now pushing the bill statewide.

My diagnosis?

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“I feel like the old members are pretty stuck in their ways,” Aird said, as though age and seniority are somehow blocking this bold new idea. No, it’s a bad idea, and hardly a new one. Taking one taxpayer’s money and giving it to another is as old as government itself. That it now has hip sponsors or a trendy new oversight committee (the “Virginia Economic Development Partnership”—cue wallet reach again) doesn’t change a thing.

Vanguard eye for the news.

I still got it.

It’s on this week


Yes, but that’s not all. This is a three-celebration week, remember.

Tuesday? Mardi Gras.

Wednesday? Valentine’s Day. (Oh, the delicious–sorry–irony in Valentine’s Day falling on Ash Wednesday.)

Friday? Chinese New Year.

As the kids would say, this week is lit.

The Olympics are here

It’s that time again. Every so often I have the joy in being swept up in something I really have no business caring about. Can I name five people competing in this year’s Winter Olympics? Nope. Not today. Will I be an expert two weeks from now? Absolutely.

I know that many people who consider themselves “real” sports fans take offense to those who follow a particular sporting event only during its spotlight time. I suppose the classic example is the NCAA basketball tournament. I follow college basketball all year, not just in March, but I hold no grudge against people who become fans only when following their brackets. (Unless they’re beating me. In which case I despise them.)

If college basketball brings us March Madness, let’s call this February Madness. I’m one of the unchurched jumping in when it’s convenient. I’ll admit it. I’m a fair-weather fan of those foul-weather sports.

Me and a few billion other people.

Here’s why I’m a Wikipedia apologist

In certain circles I am known as the Wikipedia apologist. Actually every circle, it’s just that some are more Wikipedia-averse than others. I think Wikipedia is the greatest website on the Internet, has been for years, and is only getting better. I will say this any time to anyone of any level of so-called sophistication. No matter how much you hate on Wikipedia, I will defend it.

Don’t you know anyone can just put false information up there?!

Ever try it?

First of all, editing a Wikipedia article is hard. It requires registration, sourcing, and a detailing of the change. Even if you make it through these steps, falsely and maliciously (and honestly, who has time for that?), trust me, in 10 minutes that info will be gone and your info will be red-flagged. There’s a secret army of truth doctors out there and God bless them for it.

When I was a kid my family had an encyclopedia. Not just an encyclopedia. The encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Britannica. There were probably 30 or so books at a couple pounds each and it took up several shelves of the bookcase in our living room. Yeah it looked nice and everything and had a lot of info, but it didn’t have one tenth of one percent of what’s available basically for free on Wikipedia today. And–here’s the best part–the entries on Wikipedia are constantly updated. I mean literally every second. That encyclopedia was outdated the minute it went on your shelf.

But you knew all of that. Here’s the story for today.

Yesterday afternoon I heard on sports talk radio (that old thing) that Josh McDaniels had been announced as the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. My first reaction was surprise, of course, though I had no reason to doubt the info. My second reaction was to look at Wikipedia. Wow. Someone had already updated McDaniels’ bio to list him as the Colts’ head coach. Scrolling further I read his timeline: yup, New England Patriots offensive coordinator 2012-2018 and head coach of the Colts 2018-present. Wow.

Imagine my surprise later in the evening when I saw on TV (that old thing) that McDaniels had reneged on his deal with Indianapolis. The first story hadn’t been false; he really was the head coach of the Colts for about an hour, then called off the deal. I immediately went to Wikipedia. Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots 2012-present. The last paragraph of his bio did mention the Colts hiring and his subsequent withdrawal, with three different sourced links describing that strange timeline of events.

Just another day at Wikipedia.

(By the way, there are over five and a half million additional entries on the site.)

Super Bowl was, well… super

If you’d told me yesterday afternoon that the New England Patriots would score 33 points against the vaunted Philadelphia Eagles defense and that Tom Brady (greatest quarterback of all time, by the way) would end Super Bowl LII with over 500 yards passing, I would have said that at the end of the night the Pats would be hoisting that oblong trophy for the sixth time this century. The Eagles would sack Brady only once, late in the game, and Nick Foles would be the only QB throwing a pick. Yup, move the money to take New England minus whatever they’re giving up. It’s a lock.

Well, that’s why they play the game.

(Or insert your own clichéd phrase here.)

For the third time in four years the Super Bowl was, well… super, proving once again that there is no better TV than football on TV. This is the reason commercial television still exists.

(For now.)

And unlike the recent championship game at the college level (another great game, of course), I was pleased with the result of this one. The team with the better pedigree was knocked off its perch a bit, and that makes me happy. If the Patriots are the Alabama of the NFL (or Alabama the collegiate Patriots), then this was 2017, and Clemson just beat the Patriots. Every once in a while it’s nice to see #1 knocked around a little, though as we saw with Alabama this year, order in the football galaxy is often restored quickly.

Still, we can savor this one.

Never rooted for Philadelphia a day in my life before yesterday.

But I’m pretty sure I’m watching Rocky and eating a cheesesteak later today.

Louis Zorich, 1924-2018

224DF9D6-22B3-4A46-8FBB-27C1825D5D4COne of my favorite actors died this week at the age of 93. Louis Zorich was never the most famous actor in New York or Hollywood, but he was certainly recognizable. Why? He was the grandpa. On every show you’ve seen.

Louis Zorich has a look that was unmistakably foreign. In fact, he was from Chicago. But you believed he was from “the old country,” whatever that country was. Zorich was probably best known for playing (what else?) Paul Reiser’s dad (later Mabel’s grandpa) on the TV series Mad About You. Yeah, that one was pretty good, but if you want to see Louis Zorich being Louis Zorich you’ve got to go back a few years previous to CBS’s Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most underrated television shows of all time. Zorich, of course, plays… the grandpa. You never see Brooklyn Bridge on TV anymore which is a damn shame. Luckily I can watch any of the episodes I taped off TV in 1991 whenever I want.

Mr. Zorich had been married to Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis since 1962. That’s a power couple. And a good run. Also surviving Mr. Zorich is his nephew, Chris Zorich, Notre Dame football legend and former Chicago Bear. The younger Zorich was also briefly a member of the Redskins, though will forever be a Chicago guy.

And speaking of Chicago guys…

Heaven is now one richer.