Why I can’t help but watch Election Night coverage
When I was a kid I watched election night because I was fascinated by presidents and the entire event made me feel connected to history.
When I was a teenager I was a Reagan Republican (maybe Alex P. Keaton influenced me?), and I watched and admired the landslide victories.
Later, after I graduated, I worked on a political campaign because I thought I could actually help change occur. As a father a few years later, I paid attention to election night because I felt it could have an impact on my children and their futures.
Now that I’m nearing 45, I watch election night for a different reason. Entertainment.
American politics is the greatest reality TV show ever televised. It’s Survivor, American Idol, The Amazing Race, and The Apprentice rolled into one. It’s a carnival sideshow, the greatest freak show on Earth.
I will watch election coverage tonight – I will be riveted to it – because it’s fascinating to watch.
I want to see the TV networks call election results moments after the polls close in a state. I want to see long lines and people waiting to vote. I want to see a Republican party hack and a Democratic party lackey in split screen on the television, each proclaiming victory, each barking at one another. I want to hear them call their opponent a socialist or a fascist. I want to see them talk over each other and try (even after the campaign is over) to run down the laundry list of talking points like parrots.
I really want to see some hanging chads, and hell even some hanging bobs or hanging chucks – anything that makes the voting process chaotic. I want to see lawyers in their double-breasted silk suits standing outside polling places in Virginia and Ohio and Florida, threatening law suits and talking about how some people have been disenfranchised.
I want to hear the political pundits spinning their BS hour after hour, discussing the minutiae of some precinct, some polling center, some voting machine that has hiccuped. I want to see the strangled looks on their smarmy faces as they strain to conceal their own personal prejudices and still report on the results.
I really want to see the network hosts swipe and tap their fingers on monolithic screens that display the U.S. map in colors of blue and red (and purple). I want them to fidget with the electoral college numbers and watch them shift and rise like a telethon.
I can’t wait to see the celebrities who insist they will leave the country if “so-and-so” is elected.
I want to see a candidate win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote, so we’ll all start to realize how stupid the system is. I want to see the candidates concede in defeat and triumph in victory. I want to see their party faithful – the apologists, the sycophants - cheer wildly and act like cattle, blindly yelping at every word.
I want to see the faces of people who are crying because the candidate they supported lost, acting as if life as they know it has ended.
I want to see reporters swarming around some obscure but suddenly famous local election official who’s making a statement about how the results in their precinct (county, state) will not be known for days or maybe weeks.
I so want to view the people who are so wrapped up in partisan politics that they demonize winners and tell us how this is the end of freedom as we know it because INSERT NAME HERE has been elected.
I want to hear the people on both side of the aisle talk about how their opponents don’t care about a segment of the population: GOP hates blacks and the poor; the Democrats despise the entrepreneur and top 1%.
This great American reality show is so damn exciting, so bizarre, so filled with unscripted drama, that it can only be produced every four years. It’s a spectacle that truly deserves to be enjoyed in full.
I want to hear the cheesy pop and rock songs that have been hijacked from the 1970s and 1980s and are now being used by Candidate X to symbolize his or her strength and leadership.
I want to see all of this because it entertains me to no end to see the partisanship, the “we win, they lose” attitude, the smugness, and the sappy optimism.
This is all so fascinating because it’s packaged as democracy and we tune in to watch it and root for it and bitch about it. But it’s not anything different than what has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years, and no more dignified.
We may have fancy voting machines and computer simulation models, and we may have college-educated pundits and Yale-educated candidates, but we still have the exact same DNA as the caveman of a few thousand years ago. Merely a blip on the geological timeline.
Since the first humans swam and walked across a land bridge to live in this continent, they have been selecting their “leaders.” At first they selected them based on brute strength or maybe sexual prowess. It was about protection and survival and it was raw and vicious. It was ugly and cruel.
Just like now.
My Great Aunt Tootie
Great Aunts are nice – they’re like having another grandmother who can spoil you, look out for you, and be outlandishly proud of your accomplishments. Mine did.
My favorite Great Aunt was a tiny little woman – maybe 100 pounds at her peak – with boundless energy and a smile that showed all her teeth and was often paired with her wonderful laugh. She was one of a kind. She passed away earlier this year and she is missed.
She was born Marge, but somewhere along the line she got the name “Tootie.” Everyone in our clan has a nickname, and I mean everyone. I’m still not sure how she got that name, but I know she made me feel special every time I saw her.
Aunt Tootie often watched me when I was a little boy, when my Mom would be off working. I was a round-faced boy with brown hair and impossibly big brown eyes, a runty little kid who ran fast and loved to play outdoors. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Tootie and my cousins, doing who-knows-what in the backyard, but always something fun. She fed me along with her kids and whoever else was around the house, she threw me in the bathtub, she tucked me in. She hollered at me when I was being a pest (which was not as often as some people think).
It was just me and my Mom back then, when Tootie was a big part of my life, and I was a frightened little fella who was terrified of being left alone. Not sure why, but it was something I really feared. There was this time Aunt Tootie took me to the dime store and I got separated from her. Probably drifting away to look at some toy or book. I was scooped up by an employee who asked my name and announced it over the store intercom, asking if anyone had lost me. Tootie kept on shopping until she realized it was me everyone was making a fuss about. I had told the man my full name, and she didn’t realize it. To Aunt Tootie, I was “Danny Boone.” My eyes were filled with crocodile tears when she came and claimed me. She loved telling that story.
There were the times I would sneak into Aunt Tootie’s backyard and wriggle myself under the fence and steal stalks of rhubarb from the neighbor lady. My cousins and I would wash them off under the garden hose and munch on them, our faces scrunched and contorted from the tartness. Or I’d sit on the porch and talk with Pee Wee, the funny little fisherman who lived across the street.
One of the favorite memories I have of Tootie is the music she played. Her house always seemed to be filled with music, usually country music – the old country stars like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and my favorite: Johnny Cash. She would play and replay Cash’s greatest hits for me, dancing around the kitchen. She sure loved to dance.
Dancing wasn’t the only thing that got her moving. On Sundays when the Evink Family gathered at the public park in Otsego, she was one of the most active members in the family softball game. She was so slim she could turn sideways and disappear, but I remember her whacking that ball a distance that startled everyone in the field. Sure enough, after a base hit, her laugh would soon follow.
I had milestones in her home: my first birthday party (shared with cousin Kelley, who had the nerve to be born at the same time of year); my first tooth was lost there, under a card table when someone (let’s blame Kelley again) was chasing me and it loosened in the ruckus; and my first stitches came after I slid on Tootie’s wonderfully shiny kitchen floor and cut my head open on a cat food can. If I scrunch my face now you can see still see the scar.
The “great” thing about “great” aunts is that they can love you and take care of you and spoil you and dote on you, but you aren’t usually around them so much that you get irritated with them like you do your parents. I mean, aunts and uncles are like having all the good things about parents: the treats, the laughter, the gifts, the inside jokes, without the bitter aftertaste.
My first electric train set – still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received – came from Aunt Tootie and Uncle Toby. I played with it there on her living room floor and beamed with pride as I was the master of the track. With a press of a lever, I sped the train around the tracks – woosh, woosh, woosh. It even had a whistle!
Those childhood memories are something you never forget, and I’ll never forget Aunt Tootie.
Every time someone calls me “Danny Boone”, every time I hear Ring of Fire, every time I see a yard sale, and every time I want to retrieve special memories from my childhood, I’ll remember her and I’ll smile, because many of the best times of my childhood were when Tootie was around.
Remembering my Dad
The first time I saw him I thought he was a fireman. He was in a black uniform with a white cap.
But I learned he wasn’t a fireman, he was a sailor. He met my Mom and then completed a triangle of our family. If my Mother will forgive me, it was a good thing he did. It’s not that my Mom wasn’t a capable single parent, but she had to do it all before he came along. After he came into our lives things didn’t get easy, but they got easier, and we had someone looking out for us. Any examination of where we were before and where we ended up would show how drastically things improved for us once my Mom and Dad were married. We ended up going places we never would have. I was 10 when the man I thought was a fireman entered our lives.
Sometimes heroes are not defined by what they are but rather by what they are not. My Dad was not a bad-tempered man or a drunk. He was not mean or vengeful. My Dad wasn’t jealous or petty, he wasn’t inconsiderate. He wasn’t violent or a womanizer or a liar. He wasn’t a loafer. He wasn’t arrogant and he didn’t belittle others. He wasn’t selfish with his time.
In many ways he was a simple man. He entered the United States Navy when he was 17, embarking on what would be two decades of service. He sailed all around the world – had the ink on his arms to prove it – and he never seemed to look back. If you asked him where he’d been, he’d shrug and say “I was there.” He was proud but he wasn’t brash. He enjoyed western novels and shoot-em-up movies and boxing. He would watch boxing with me and he’d be on the edge of his seat swaying his torso from side to side, as if he himself was fighting in the ring. He didn’t discuss philosophy or art, but he had a core philosophy of fairness and hard work, and his art was his ability to tell stories. Often it wasn’t until the final sentence that you realized his story was a joke. Then his eyes would get wide and his smile would tell you that he GOTCHA!
That art of story telling is what made him so personable. Everywhere he went, he knew someone. At the restaurant, at the gas station, the VFW, the county fair. Those people skills helped him in his second career in the Navy, when he helped young people into the service. With his enthusiasm and honesty, he guided them into a new life of opportunity. He was a sailor on dry land, but he was a jolly one who was so good at recruiting new sailors that he spent almost as much time doing that as he did tying knots.
When I first saw him he was a young man – younger than I am now – and he was in his prime. He wasn’t slim but he wasn’t fat. He had short, skinny little legs, but his body was solid. From the knees to his shoulders it appeared he was one big muscle. If you ever wrestled him you would marvel at the strength of his grip in his hands and arms. Once he had you, you could not get out. He gathered my Mom into his arms and he never let go.
No, my Dad wasn’t a fireman. But heroes are often defined by what they aren’t. Firemen assume responsibility for others, they work long hours, they are away from their family. They protect us and they make us safer. They put others before themselves. They are heroes.
I wasn’t wrong that day. In a way my Dad was a fireman. I’m just glad I got to see him in action.
300 words about cell phone ringtones
The most blatant example of America’s dumbfounded fascination with technology is the public’s narcissistic obsession with ringtones. These “vanity jingles” are annoying and embarrassing. If I had big money – Bill Gates money – I know what I would do. I’d purchase the rights to every song in the world and then I’d launch a company that sold ringtones. You’d be able to purchase and download a ringtone from any song you liked for just 29 cents. That’s it. With the press of a button or the click of the mouse the clip would be zipped off to your cell phone. Presto! Then, when your phone rang you’d get a shock – “Never Gonna Give You Up” would blare from your mobile device. The ultimate “Rick Roll.” And there’s nothing anyone could do about it, because I’d legally own the rights to every song in the world. When I walked down the street the sounds of my wicked prank would wrap around me like a blanket. Sweet music, sweet music indeed.
After Detroit: The Strange Saga of Isiah Thomas
There was a time when Isiah Thomas had the city of Detroit in the palm of his little hand.
A hand so small he couldn’t palm the ball to dunk it, by the way.
But that never stopped the gritty kid from the streets of Chicago from being a superstar on the basketball court. First in the Windy City as a prep standout, then as Bobby Knight’s floor leader for the Indiana Hoosiers, where as a sophomore he led the team to the NCAA title.
Knight loved Thomas’s feistiness, nicknaming his pint-sized guard “Pee Wee”. After being selected in the first round by the Detroit Pistons, Thomas slowly guided the team to respectability and then greatness, winning back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. He was the undisputed leader of the Bad Boys – the first NBA team to gladly embrace the dirty work of playing defense from whistle to whistle.
Since he left Detroit in 1994 after an inglorious end to his playing career, Isiah has had a checkered career in basketball. Here’s a timeline, with all of the bumps, bruises, embarrassments, and drug overdoses of his post-Motown years:
April 19, 1994: This was supposed to be his farewell tour: Isiah had announced he was retiring after the season, his 13th for the Pistons. In a game at The Palace against the Orlando Magic, Isiah was getting beaten all over the court by a rookie guard named Anfernee Hardaway. Late in the third quarter, Isiah felt a pop in his ankle. It was his Achilles tendon tearing. It was the last in a series of injuries that plagued Thomas in his final season. A hyper-extended knee, broken rib, broken hand, strained arch, calf injury, and cut hand had preceded the achilles tear. “I felt like I got shot with a cannon,” Isiah said. He scored 12 points in the game on 4-of-18 from the field with six assists. The Pistons were routed 132-104. It was the final time he played in the NBA. True to his Chicago street background, Isiah was tough to the end. He walked off the court.
“I don’t believe a basketball player should lay on the floor and cry when he’s hurt. I know guys growing up in my neighborhood today. If you’re a basketballer or a hooper, you take the pain.”
The injury served to deprive Isiah of a dream: to play on the U.S. Basketball team in the World Championships. He had been named to Dream Team II before the 1993-94 season, but the injury forced him off the team. Previously, Michael Jordan and others had conspired to keep Thomas off the first Dream Team, and in 1980, Isiah had been unable to play on the Olympic Team due to the U.S. boycott of the Games.
Summer 1994: Even though his playing career had ended, at the age of 33, Isiah still had plenty of basketball left in his blood. Having been a Piston for his entire NBA career, and having enjoyed a good relationship with owner Bill Davidson, it was assumed he would stay a part of the franchise. But Thomas was never offered a front office position with the Pistons, which rankled him. It was a result of his competitive and occasionally tempestuous relationship with those around him. What made Isiah a great leader on the court – his ability to direct and take control of a game, his ability to rise to the occasion, his tenacious spirit – also served to irritate some people off the court.
October 1994: Feeling stung by the Pistons, Isiah bolted Detroit as abruptly as he and his teammates had shuffled off the court the afternoon back in 1991 when the Chicago Bulls had swept the Bay Boys in the Eastern Conference Finals. There were no handshakes and well wishes when Isiah left Motown. He was hired to be the GM of the Toronto Raptors, an expansion team slated to join the NBA for the 1995-96 season.
Thomas had less than a year to assemble a team. He first hired Brendan Malone to be his coach, stealing him away from the Pistons where he’d been a highly regarded assistant. His next steps were taken in a special expansion draft held after the 1994-95 season. The Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies took turns scavenging players from the other NBA rosters. Isiah selected guard B.J. Armstrong from the Bulls with Toronto’s first selection. Pickings were pretty slim, and both expansion teams went for younger players with most of their first 5-6 picks. Things started to fall apart almost immediately for Isiah, however, when Armstrong announced that he would not play in Toronto. Thomas tried to convince Armstrong to change his mind, but eventually had to trade the guard. It was the fitst of many personnel issues he would encounter in Toronto.
Isiah did have one of his former teammates on his bench in Toronto that first season: shot blocker and NBA locker room comedian John Salley. But Salley was witness to a bizarre first season with the expansion team.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Salley said. “Every day in the newspaper was a full page explaining a referee’s call. They had to explain basketball to these people.”
The Raptors got off to a dubious beginning: on the eve of the first regular season game in franchise history, Isiah was awoke to a phone call telling him that guard Alvin Robertson had been arrested for kicking a naked prostitute out of his hotel room because he didn’t want to pay her. The Raptors bailed Robertson out of jail just hours before tip-off against the New Jersey Nets. Amazingly, Robertson goes 11-for-14 from the field and leads Toronto with 30 points as Isiah’s team wins the game, 94-79.
Isiah held the 7th pick in the ’95 NBA Draft. He chose Damon Stoudamire, a diminutive point guard out of the University of Arizona who was quickly nicknamed “Mighty Mouse.” In some ways, Stoudamire did “save the day” – winning NBA Rookie of the Year as he averaged 19 points and nine assists per. He was just the type of player Isiah loved – small, gutsy, with a chip on his shoulder. A mini-Isiah.
The Raptors posted a 21-61 record in their first season, then Isiah drafted center Marcus Camby in the ’96 Draft, hoping to pair the big man with his flashy young point guard. Camby had a great rookie season, as the team improved by nine games. Isiah brought in a new coach – Darrell Walker – another former Piston buddy. But despite the improvements in the standings and the young nucleus Isiah was building, the next season was a disaster both on the court and off.
The Raptors won just 16 games in the 1997-98 season. Walker was fired and replaced with Butch Carter, who had the Indiana roots that Isiah admired. But Isiah didn’t even see him finish the season. In December, after a 17-game losing streak put the team record at 1-19, majority owner John Bitove sold his interest the team, and Thomas tried to put together a deal to secure control of the franchise. When he failed, he resigned. Not long after he left, Stoudamire demanded a trade and was jettisoned to Portland.
Isiah’s legacy in Toronto was wiped away following the ’97-98 season when Camby was dealt to the Knicks and Tracy McGrady, another Isiah first round draft pick, was sent to Orlando a few years later. Thomas had actually drafted good players, defying the experts in picking Stoudamire, and had the core of a talented team, but ownership issues, front office dissension, and the difficulties of motivating players to want to play in Canada, where fan support was abysmal and the income taxes were suffocating, did him in.
August 3, 1999: Following his failed attempt to win ownership control of the Raptors, Isiah forked over $10 million to purchase the Continental Basketball Association, which essentially served as a development league for the NBA. The CBA had teams in mid-sized markets, mostly in the Midwest and the South. Thomas wanted to bring more young players into the CBA, so he reduced the weekly salary to make it less attractive to older former NBA players looking to hang on. He also spent money marketing the league and re-introducing a league All-Star Game. His changes drew notice, and in March of 2000 the NBA offered Isiah $11 million for the CBA. Thomas balked, a move that would haunt the league. Shortly after being rebuffed, the NBA launched their own development league, effectively killing the CBA. Isiah stayed as principal owner of the CBA for about a year longer, but eventually the CBA was sent into bankruptcy. Several team owners were furious with Isiah for his mismanagement and destruction of the CBA.
September 2000: Isiah was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In his acceptance speech he still felt the need to display his playground swagger: “Not that I wanted to be bigger, but I wanted them to be smaller. Because if we were all the same size, I would have killed them.”
October 2, 2000: Isiah was announced as the new head coach of the Indiana Pacers, returning to the state where he had been a college star under Bobby Knight. He replaced Larry Bird, an even more beloved Hoosier. Bird had been successful on the sidelines, guiding the Pacers to two conference finals and the NBA Finals in his last season. But Bird had promised to only coach for three years, and he kept his word. Isiah immediately tried to put his stamp on the team, again wanting to bring in young players. He had success with young guys like Jermaine O’Neal, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Al Harrington, and Jamaal Tinsley, but he wasn’t able to bring the Pacers back to the Finals. In three seasons his teams played just above .500 and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs each year. Fans blamed Isiah’s lack of coaching experience, and when Bird returned in 2003 as President of Basketball Operations, his first move was to let Isiah go.
December 22, 2003: He didn’t stay unemployed for very long. The New York Knicks hired Isiah to be their President of Basketball Operations, hoping to reverse a downward spiral. The team had failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons and their roster was aging and mismatched. Like in Toronto, Thomas again had complete control regarding basketball decisions. The hiring however, was doomed from the start.
From day one, Isiah was not a popular figure in the Big Apple. His mediocre record as a Pacers head coach didn’t impress the fans or the media. His early roster decisions pissed off his players. In contrast to his earlier MO in Toronto, Isiah turned to veteran players on his arrival in New York. He brought in Anfernee Hardaway, the guard who had schooled him in his final NBA game. He hired Lenny Wilkens, a legendary coach who by 2003 was a fossil who had difficulty relating to his players.
The Knicks made the playoffs in the first season of the Isiah Era, but never again. Thomas made a series of disastrous trades, the worst when he dealt multiple draft picks to the Bulls for center Eddie Curry. Two of the picks ended up being lottery picks, while Curry started just 208 games for the Knicks in five injury-riddled seasons. Thanks to his own ego and his solid relationship with team owner James Dolan, Isiah named himself head coach prior to the 2006-07 season, replacing Larry Brown, who lost 59 games in his only season under Thomas. By this time, Knicks fans were ready to hang Isiah from the Madison Square Garden rafters.
As coach, Thomas was overmatched in New York, wilting under the spotlight. His team won just 56 games in two seasons. Most frustrating to Isiah was his team’s lack of defensive intensity. On December 16, 2006, Isiah blew up at his team, challenging them to commit hard fouls against the Denver Nuggets.After a flagrant foul by Knicks guard Mardy Collins on Nuggets guard J. R. Smith in the closing seconds of the game, a fight erupted between the two teams. The fight briefly spilled into the stands, and also stretched to the other end of the court. All ten players on the floor at the time were ejected after the altercation was finished. When suspensions were announced, seven players were suspended without pay for a combined total of 47 games. Several witnesses, including some Knicks personnel, blamed Isiah for instigating the brawl.
In April of 2008, Donnie Walsh was hired to replace Isiah as President of Basketball Operations. It was widely speculated that Isiah would be fired at the conclusion of the season, and sure enough, a few weeks later, Isiah was told he would not return as head coach. Thomas posted an overall winning percentage of .341 as head coach of the Knicks, the fifth worst mark in franchise history.
Activities off the court were also damaging to Isiah’s reputation while he was in New York. An employee of the Knicks (Anucha Browne Sanders) charged Thomas with sexual harassment. Sanders eventually won the suit and the Knicks agreed to pay her $11.5 million in damages. Despite the embarrassment, Thomas remained in employ of the Knicks, serving as a consultant to Walsh.
October 24, 2008: Police were called to Isiah’s New York City home when he was reported unconscious and unresponsive. He was taken to the White Plains Hospital where it was determined that he had overdosed on Lunesta, a medication prescribed for sleep. There was confusion as Thomas and his family apparently tried to cover up the details of the overdose, at one point attempting to make it appear as if his 17-year old daughter had been taken to the hospital. Thomas was quickly released, but the New York tabloids have a field day with the incident.
April 14, 2009: In a surprising move, Isiah accepted the position as head coach at Florida International University, located in Miami. Thomas explained that he wanted to build the program into one of “the best in the country.” The statement was met by derision from New York fans, and is puzzling to NBA watchers who weren’t sure why Thomas wanted to take a job at a small school with no history of hoops success. Thomas stated that he would donate his first season salary to the university. “I didn’t come here for the money,” he explained. His tenure started oddly: in the press conference announcing his hiring, a school official introduced him as “Isiah Thompson.”
June 2011: It was reported and confirmed by the Pistons, that Isiah was on a short list of candidates for the vacant head coaching job in Detroit. However, his old back court teammate Joe Dumars, the longtime President of Basketball Operations for the Pistons, hired Lawrence Frank instead. At the same time, Knicks owner Dolan pressured Donnie Walsh to bring Isiah back as GM. Walsh retaliated by threatening to resign, and Dolan backed off. Thomas continued to have dialogue with Dolan about basketball decisions and the Knick roster, undermining Walsh.
August 6, 2011: Thomas announced that he had taken a role as a special consultant with the Knicks, though he planned to continue his job as head coach at FIU. Knicks fans responded with vitriol, and the NBA and NCAA scrambled to see if the move violated any of their rules. It did, and five days later Isiah and the Knicks announce that the arrangement had been nullified. Despite this, it was widely believed that Isiah was instrumental in the February trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York and that he continued to help the Knicks front office as an unofficial advisor. With his relationship with Knick ownership still solid (somehow), there was good reason to believe this was true. Asked if he would return to the Big Apple, Isiah replied that he had “no desire to return” to the Knicks as president or as Walsh’s replacement.
April 6, 2012: Oh, how the mighty had fallen. Isiah was axed by FIU. After taking the Panthers to an 8-21 record in his third season, the NBA Hall of Famer was relieved of his duties in inglorious fashion: via telephone while in the middle of interviewing an assistant coach in his office.
“I am very disappointed that I won’t get a chance to finish the job I set out to do when I got here,” Thomas told The Miami Herald. “I was told I’d have five years to build FIU, and I felt I was well on my way to doing it…. Nobody told me I’d have two or three years. I was told five years.”
Since his final game in a Pistons uniform, Isiah has been trying to duplicate the basketball success he had as a floor leader in Detroit. The road leading to the Palace of Auburn Hills is named 2 Championship Drive, largely thanks to Isiah, but Thomas seems to have lost his way since he left Motown.
How to have your saved bookmarks sent to your Kindle for reading offline later
If you have a Kindle it’s a given that you love reading. Which probably means that you enjoy reading blogs and online news sources. But who has time to read every intriguing article when they run across it online?
Fear not! You can do like I did: set up your Kindle to receive your saved bookmarks automatically and then read them later at your leisure. And it’s 100% free (assuming you have a Kindle already).
Here’s how you do it:
Set up an account with Instapaper
Instapaper is a website that allows you to add a bookmarklet to your browser so you can save interesting web pages.
1. Go to instapaper.com and sign up for a free account. Be sure to use an email address that you can quickly confirm.
2. After you’ve created your free account, go to Extras (http://instapaper.com/extras) and locate the bookmarklet on that page. Drag the bookmarklet (it says “Read Later”) to your bookmark bar in your web browser. That’s at the top of your browser. If you don’t know what a bookmark bar is or what a browser is, please go to your room for a timeout.
3. Once you have the Read Later button on your bookmark bar (or Favorites bar in some browsers), you can click it when you come across any web page you’d like to, well…read later. Keep following the instructions to see where this is all going.
4. Go to Account settings in Instapaper and under “Do you use an Amazon Kindle?” select “Manage my Kindle settings”. Take note of the email address that Instapaper gives you to use to send articles to your Kindle. You’ll need to use that in the next section.
Now you’re ready to tell Amazon to allow your Kindle to receive information from Instapaper.
Get Amazon to do what you want it to do
Since you have a Kindle (any type of Kindle will do), that means by default you have an Amazon account. Whether you use it to buy eBooks or not, we need to get there to tweak a few settings. Don’t worry, all this is easy and free.
1. Open a new browser window or tab so you can have Instapaper.com and Amazon open at the same time. That will be handy.
2. In the new browser window, log on to Amazon.com.
3. Go to Account Settings > Manage your Kindle > Personal Document Settings
4. Under Approved Personal Document E-Mail List add a new approved e-mail address. The e-mail address is the address given to you by Instapaper in step #4 in the previous section.
5. While you’re on Amazon settings, retrieve the email address of your Kindle device located in “Send-to-Kindle E-Mail Settings” toward the top of the page you’re on. Copy it and paste it into the Instapaper page (Account > Manage my Kindle settings). Save these settings. You can now close Amazon.com
Set up retrieval on your Kindle through Instapaper
1. back on Instapaper, under Account > Manage my Kindle settings, go to the bottom section and check the box that says “Send my unread articles to my Kindle automatically”
2. You can also set the frequency of when you want your “Read Later” bookmarks to be sent to your Kindle. For example, you can have them delivered every day at 3 AM, or you can send them every week at Noon. Also, you may choose to have articles delivered only when a certain minimum number are in your Instapaper list.
3. Save your settings.
Once you follow these steps, you can now click your little “Read Later” button on your browser bar when you find an article that you want to read later. Each time you click the button (it’s called a bookmarklet, now you know!) you are sending that article to your Instapaper list. Then, at the frequency you’ve set up, Instapaper sends your articles to your Kindle. Your Kindle has to be online to receive the articles, of course. You’ll now have a Instapaper category on your Kindle, sorted by date. It’s sort of a digest of your favorite online articles, delivered to your to your Kindle device.
A tip: if you frequent sites that split their articles or blog posts into multiple pages, be sure to view the article as one page (most sites will offer this or a printer-friendly version) and add that to your Read Later list. Otherwise you’ll only get the one page you on and miss out on the x number of other pages.
I hope you find this tutorial useful. Please ask any questions or post comments below.
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Government continues to use “War on Terror” to take away your rights
You may have missed it, but another big chunk of your liberty has just been taken away from you.
A new law gives the federal government and the executive branch far-reaching powers that strip you of rights that were guaranteed to citizens in the U.S. Constitution.
President Obama signed it into law on Friday afternoon before the Christmas Weekend. A clever maneuver to ensure it went missed by most of us. A nice little holiday gift from Uncle Sam.
HO HO HO!
The law is called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), one of those nifty little titles that sounds so patriotic and necessary, but really steals your rights from you.
Under the NDAA:
- Our government can detain anyone they claim was “part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces, under the law of war until the end of hostilities.”
- The U.S. government can extradite accused terror suspects, even Americans, to other nations to undergo questioning and face charges of other nation’s tribunals.
- The military can arrest and detain suspects, as opposed to law enforcement.
- The accused have no right to bail, bond, or the due process of law.
These powers are not just scary, they violate at least five sections of the U.S. Constitution.
They turn the United States more into what we used to be fighting against – an oppressive regime that violates human rights. We are becoming what we once said we stood against.
And for what? To fight a war on terror that has been going on for more than a decade now. A war that has allowed politicians to sap our freedoms from us, bit by bit. That has been used to remove our guarantees of due process.
We now live in a country where a citizen can be accused of wrongdoing by the government (they don’t even have to say what crime that person supposedly committed), detained unlawfully, and held without the opportunity for bail for as long as authorities wish.
Is anyone freaked out about this?
If not, you should be. Today, Uncle Sam is herding suspected terrorists into detainee camps without charging them, and holding them for years without trials. This law makes it possible for the Justice Department or the Pentagon or the President, to detain anyone they suspect of helping the enemy until hostilities are concluded.
We don’t even know who the enemy is. We can’t define what the battlefield is, or who the good guys and bad guys are. Hell, we ARM the bad guys much of the time, only later realizing they’re bad.
How can our government be trusted with such powers? How long before citizens who criticize the war are considered as having helped the enemy?
The NDAA is one more step – a giant one – toward a nation where our rights are no longer granted to us, they are simply on loan from the government. Where they can be stripped and reinterpreted, suspended, and violated under the name of “defense”.
There is a bogeyman we should be frightened of, but it’s not the terrorist. We should be petrified of our own government.
Merry frickin’ Christmas.
A double shot of life
I can’t help myself, I like to watch people. And I have a message for them – I see you and I’m taking note. Does that make me creepy? So be it.
Andrew Carnegie, the multi-gazillionaire steel maker, once said, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” And what people do can be fascinating.
I sit in a coffee shop most days, for hours sometimes. I work from there, scribbling articles and stories about lord knows what, usually baseball. Frequently I’m helping a client fix their website. But, I am working dammit. People don’t get paid to stalk.
As I sit there, I’m afforded a front row seat for the lives of many people. Many of them are regulars, and they’re fascinating in their habitual existence: same time, same drink, same seat. Occasionally there’s a friend who serves as their prop – someone to talk to, to bounce their words off of.
Those words ricochet through the coffee shop and land on my lap. Or maybe “on my laptop” makes more sense. Often I can’t help but be witness to important moments. Like the time a man proposed to his girlfriend right behind me. He had balloons and flowers, too. She wasn’t as surprised as he thought she would be (women know everything). She still said yes.
Or there was the time a man was sitting on the couch with a woman in a cozy configuration. Leg touching leg, arm over arm, leaning into each other. Enter woman #2, at which point “mocha hit the fan” so to speak. Woman #2 ordered her coffee first (well the lines can get long) and then marched up to the poor sap. She apparently felt “You’re an asshole” was an appropriate greeting even though there was a group of 10-12 year old kids sitting nearby.
The coffee shop is an excellent setting for couples. It’s easy to tell when a break up is underway. One person is doing all the talking and the other person’s jaw slowly tightens. Usually a coffee is wasted too, as the person getting dumped ignores their latte.
Many times there are first encounters. People who previously had only exchanged winks, pokes, or nods on a dating site or Facebook are now sitting in the coffee shop hovering behind their plastic coffee cups. Nervous fidgeting, giggles, hair-tossing, and uncomfortable dialogue follows. I’d say based on my observations that 1 in 3 of these dates goes well. Usually the girl has to go somewhere and cuts it short. A few times, though, I’ve witnessed a couple perform the “getting-to-know-you, getting-to-know-all-about-you” ritual for hours. They might close the place. Both afraid to suggest a next destination, but secretly wanting to go home with each other.
Of course there are the weirdos and less fortunate, too. A burnt out drug addict who comes in and asks for hot water so she can make her own tea from Lipton bags she keeps in her purse. She can’t control THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE, and she’s asked to leave. It happens almost every time. There’s a quiet old homeless man who falls asleep in the leather couch. He and I make eye contact every now and again and I can’t shake the feeling that he’s silently asking me to give him my gloves.
There are young people, so many young people. Always in packs, groups of 5-10. Some of them are polite, some of them are so squirrely that they are incapable of sitting still long enough to drink their hot chocolate. Usually there’s one kid who seems to be the keeper of the money. “Cmon,” one skinny skateboard-toting boy says, “buy me a drink.”
The girls are different, they squeal and gesticulate about their lives, making it seem to an outside that they actually have lives. Of course, they don’t. They’re like walking Facebook statuses – searching for their friends to LIKE them, to validate their every move.
I have a few favorites. There’s a man who conducts his job interviews in the coffee shop. Once a week he has some eager soul sitting across from him, hoping to land a job. The man does all the talking, he’s so fucking narcissistic. Not surprisingly, he’s also full of shit. The job is for phone sales, which is the same as saying, “You’ll still be unemployed but I want you to call people and talk about my shitty product.” I still like this man, though. He repeats the same thing to every one of his potential “employees”. It doesn’t change, he doesn’t change, the outcome is always the same. Just like the backdrop in the coffee shop.
I like the people who work there. I get a kick out of seeing them day after day, seeing them rise and fall as we all do. One day they’re employee of the month, the next they’re bitching about the boss. That’s the way it goes. That’s life. They get to know me, they have no choice, I’m there a lot. They watch me from the other side – from the opposite side of the counter – and they make notes about me. But that’s fair, I don’t mind. I get my material, and the least I can do is be that strange regular who always orders his chai with vanilla and skinny.
They know I’ll be back the next day, and they’re right.
300 words on chaos
Let me make a confession: I enjoy watching systems fall apart. I get a real kick out of chaos. It delights me to no end.
I’m not talking about people dying and suffering. That happens anyway, whether we wish for it or not. No, I’m talking about the failure of our man-made organizations and processes. I’m fascinated by our fruitless attempts to create order where there is none.
Case in point: the 2000 Presidential election. When it ultimately took five men in black robes to declare George W. Bush our 43rd president, I was tickled. “See,” I said to myself, “the electoral system is a joke.” Eventually, it had to happen. It was inevitable that we’d see dueling lawyers examining little pieces of cardboard for something called “hanging chads”. That “W” eventually won the presidency despite fewer people voting for him, was beautiful. I cheer for such events.
Maybe that’s why I’m fascinated by college football. But only for about a week in December, when something they call the BCS determines the two best teams in the country and pairs them in a winner-takes-all contest in January. They use computers and three different polls of three different voting bodies. There are so many convoluted working parts in their ranking system that it’s bound to break down. Nearly every year it does. But it hasn’t been chaotic enough yet. Every year I root for 6-8 teams to be undefeated, or that no team goes undefeated. Maybe every team loses at least two games. So there’s no clear cut favorite. That would break the system down, create a chaotic scramble, and controversy would fill ESPN’s airwaves with experts screeching that their favorite college team got shafted.
I love when people think they got shafted.
Sometimes, the systematic failures are painful. The banking collapse of 2008 is an example. I don’t want people to lose their life savings, but the system failed in monumental fashion, and that fascinates me. It proves my belief that the more we try to control things, the more disastrous the results will be. It’s all the more delicious because the people who caused the banking failure were supposedly geniuses of finance. Fat cats wearing $1,000 business suits with PHD’s in business and economics. They rode the wave for decades, secure that everything always worked out. They were wrong. Unfortunately their miscalculations caused great grief for millions of people. I am one of those people, in a small way. My house was foreclosed in 2010.
Maybe that’s what I get for cheering for chaos?
How five popular drinks got their names
Want to get a cheap laugh? Walk up to the bar and say “Bartender, I’ll have a Sex on the Beach, please.” Side-splitting and knee-slapping humor, indeed.
What’s in a name? well, when it comes to our favorite drinks, a lot. Many drinks are named for the place they were invented, like the “Manhattan”, “Long Island Ice Tea”, and the “Daquiri” (Daquiri, Cuba). Some are named for their ingredients, which is pretty boring, but descriptive. Witness “7 & 7″, “Jack and Coke”, “Lemon Drop”.
Then there are those cocktails with more interesting origins. Here are five.
One of the most popular drinks in the world, the Screwdriver can serve as a base for many other popular drinks. The origins of the cocktail are clandestine. In the 1950s, workers on oil rigs in the Persian Gulf would work incredibly long and dangerous hours. So, of course they relieved the tedium with alcohol. Apparently, a few of them, some sources say a mix of Turks, Serbs, Albanians, American engineers, and maybe a Greek or two, poured orange juice and vodka into cans while working on the rigs. The name came from the workers using a screwdriver to stir their secret alcoholic elixir.
Outside the US, it is often referred to as “vodka and orange”, but no matter where you order it, the two base ingredients are the same. Variations include: the “Poor Man’s Screwdriver” (substitute Sunny D for orange juice); the “Tang Banger” (use TANG); the “Brass Monkey” (a traditional Screwdriver with dark rum added); and the popular “Harvey Wallbanger” (splash some Galliano on top).
2 ounces vodka
5 ounces fresh orange juice
Slice of orange
We have to turn our attention to an unlikely place to learn then origins of this drink. At the Wagon Tongue Bar in Omaha, Nebraska, the Fuzzy Navel was born in the 1980s. The 80′s were a time of renewed interest in highballs, cocktails, and mixed drinks. A liquor distributor named Jack Sherman came up with the concoction, made by combining peach schnapps and orange juice. ”Fuzzy” refers to the peach, and “navel” to the orange. A New York Times food and drink critic described the ensuing craze as “a kind of cult, rallying points for young drinkers in search of fun and not too picky about taste”.
By adding vodka to the fuzzy navel you turn the Fuzzy Navel into a “Hairy Navel”, the “hair” referring to the increased strength of alcohol in the drink.
1 1/2 ounces peach schnapps
orange juice to fill
Pour the peach schnapps into a highball glass filled with ice cubes, top with orange juice, stir well.
Talk about an interesting tale, the story of how Tom Collins came about is bizarre and traces back to a much different time in American society.
In Pennsylvania in the 19th century, Tom Collins was the name given to a fictional bogeyman who gossiped about locals. Patrons in pubs and restaurants would sprinkle their conversation with “Have you seen Tom Collins?” And, eventually, to be “known by Tom Collins” was to imply that someone was talking about that person. Newspapers ran hoax stories claiming to be about the real Tom Collins, who invariably was in trouble of some sort. It became so popular that “Tom Collins folk songs” were written and performed on stages all over the east coast. By the mid-1870s Tom Collins had a secure place in American folk lore.
The first confirmation of a Tom Collins drink in print was in the “Bartender’s Guide”, published in 1876 by famous bartender Jerry Thomas. With his flashy methods of mixing cocktails (twirling glasses, juggling bottles, etc.) Thomas popularized the “Tom Collins” and soon it spread throughout the U.S.
2 ounces gin
1 ounces lemon juice
1 tsp superfine sugar
3 ounces club soda
1 maraschino cherry
1 slice orange
In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin, lemon juice, and sugar. Shake well. Strain into a collins glass almost filled with ice cubes. Add the club soda. Stir and garnish with the cherry and the orange slice.
Some claim this popular drink is named for a beautiful woman who broke a bartender’s heart. Though that sounds gut-wrenchingly poetic, it’s probably hokum. Bartender Don Carlos Orozco has the strongest claim of ownership. In his cantina in Ensanada, Mexico, in 1941, Orozco was experimenting with ingredients, when a local woman named Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a prominent official, ambled in. Henkel gladly slurped up one of Orozco’s mixtures. When she expressed satisfaction and other patrons began to request the same, the bartender dubbed it “Margarita” after the woman. The first Margarita’s were equal parts tequila, orange liqueur and lime, served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. However, some historians (who spend their time searching for the birth of drinks?) argue that the Margarita is nothing more than an earlier American drink with a twist. “The Daisy” had teh same ingredients except it used brandy instead of tequila. It debuted sometime in the 1930s. Whoever invented it, we’re glad it was or there would be millions of women who wouldn’t know what to order at Mexican restaurants.
1 ounce tequila
dash of Triple Sec
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt—pour, and sip.
Like other vodka-based drinks, the White Russian gets its’ name not because it is Russian in origin, but that vodka is associated heavily with Russia. The White Russian is actually a derivative of the Black Russian, which first appeared popularly in 1949. The addition of cream makes a Black Russian a White Russian. So, just like zebras started out black, all White Russians are Black until we spill in the creme.
2 ounces vodka
1 ounces coffee liqueur
300 words on creating art
Create something, people. Anything. Don’t say you’re not a good artist or painter, or that you suck at writing. Quality isn’t the point, the creation is. If the quality of the creation was so important, God would get a terrible review of his work. Human beings are meant to create art, and art can be anything. Sewing, painting, sculpting, singing, writing, dancing, there are so many ways to make this confusing place more interesting. Why should the art “genius” and classically trained artists be the only one’s who get to have the fun? Stop putting yourself down and pick up the brush, pen, or whatever instrument you need. Creating your art is the point, just as walking the path is the point, not the destination.
The toughest players in Red Wings history
Fighting in hockey isn’t what it used to be, with officials stopping fisticuffs as quickly as they can before it gets too out of hand.
But there was a time when fighting was a huge part of the game. Every team had at least one player who could swing his fists and do some damage – an enforcer who was on the roster to protect the better players on the team. Often, these players had long careers as expert punchers. Their ability to spin in a circle on skates and simultaneously deliver blows on opposing players was valued by team officials and exciting to rabid fans.
The Red Wings have had a long history of great enforcers. Here’s my choice for the toughest to ever wear the Red Wing sweater.
5. Darren McCarty
McCarty was known more for his fists than his scoring ability, taking on the role of the Red Wings enforcer most of his career, a role in which he won four Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008, the last of which after resurrecting his career in the Red Wings minor league system. Perhaps no other player in franchise history loved being a Detroit Red Wing more than McCarty.
4. Ted Lindsay
Though Lindsay scored over 800 points in his Hall of Fame career, won the Art Ross Trophy in 1950 for leading in scoring, and won the Stanley Cup four times with Detroit, he’s legendary as “Terrible Ted” – the enforcer who played on the famous “Production Line” with Sid Abel and Gordie Howe. His rough play led the NHL to develop penalties for ‘elbowing’ and ‘kneeing’.
3. Joey Kocur
Known for his extreme physical play, Kocur was one of the most penalized players in NHL history, amassing a total of 2519 penalty minutes in a career that spanned from 1983 to 1999. One opponent described how Kocur had cracked his helmet with his punches, and though his helmet had absorbed most of the blow, he still felt serious pain in his gums, even on the other side of his face, leaving him unable to eat for two days. Kocur’s punches often seriously injured opposing players, such as Brad Dalgarno of the New York Islanders, whose orbital bone, cheek bone, and jaw were fractured by Kocur.
2. Gordie Howe
When Howe entered the NHL in the the years after World War II, there were just six teams in the league. Players on opposing clubs were very familiar with each other, and newcomers were always tested for their mettle. The Canadian was a skilled skater and scorer, and when he joined the Wings as a rookie at the age of 18, older veteran players targeted him. But Howe was big, tough, and fearless. Howe fought so often in his rookie season that coach Jack Adams told him, “I know you can fight. Now can you show me you can play hockey?” The term Gordie Howe hat trick (consisting of a goal, an assist, and a fight) was coined in reference to his penchant for fighting. A Hall of Fame for his amazing scoring records, and arguably the greatest player to ever lace on skates, Howe was also a tough player who would fight when he had to.
1. Bob Probert
No player had more altercations and controversy on the ice (and off) for the Detroit Red Wings than Probert. Among his fighting and enforcer highlights: Probert once traded punches with Marty McSorly of the Penguins for nearly two minutes; he had a series of bouts with fellow enforcers Craig Coxe, Tie Domi, and Wendell Clark. With teammate Joey Kocur (#3), Probert formed the infamous “Bruise Brothers” on the Red Wings in the 1980s and early 1990s. Laterm when they were playing against each other after both leaving Detroit, Kocur and Probert traded punches on the ice during a melee.
What Black Friday says about America
It’s legal to camp outside of a Wal-Mart to get the best deal. It’s illegal to camp in a public park to promote discussion about democracy.
It’s legal for thousands of crazed shoppers to swarm a Best Buy to grab the latest electronic gadget at 40% off. It’s illegal to be a “mob” on a college campus carrying signs or peacefully protesting injustice.
Corporations spend hundreds of millions to promote “Black Friday”, but “Occupy Anyday” is treated as a bunch of lazy hippies who should get jobs – apparently so they can buy more stuff.
Whether or not you agree with the Occupy Wall Street crowd, it says something about America that we think nothing of people popping their tents up on the sidewalks and parking lots of our local big-box stores, while the government rounds up, harasses, arrests, and pepper sprays the OWS folks for doing the same in parks.
“I think they should shower and get a job,” are the words Newt Gingrich spit at the OWSers. From Herman Cain: “Go home and get a job and get a life!”
No mention of whether or not the frenzied consumerism on display at Wal-Marts and Best Buys across America on Black Friday is good for America or not.
Of course it’s not. What does it say about our nation that we froth at the mouth to get to department stores to buy unneeded gadgets, but we turn our noses up at people who want to bring up social issues (regardless of the merit of their argument)?
It says we’re headed toward a bleak future where intelligent debate and meaningful change are rebuked. It says that we’re headed down another aisle filled with big screen TVs, toys, and iThings.
Verlander wins Most Valuable Player Award
“It doesn’t really matter [who the opposing pitcher is], if I go out and do what I’m supposed to do, things take care of themselves.”
In 2011, Justin Verlander followed his own advice and took care of things. As a result he was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player on Monday.
The tall right-hander becomes the fourth Tiger pitcher to earn the MVP Award, joining Hal Newhouser, Denny McLain, and Willie Hernandez. Newhouser, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, did it twice: in 1944 and 1945. Hernandez was a relief pitcher who won the award in 1984.
In his sixth full big league season, Verlander is the first starting pitcher to win an MVP since Roger Clemens in 1986. The last NL pitcher to do it was Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in 1968, the same season McLain won 31 games on his way to the award.
Many of baseball’s greatest pitchers of the last 50 years never won an MVP: Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. There was much debate in 2011 over whether a starting pitcher should win the award, since the Cy Young (which Verlander also won) is available to hurlers.
Verlander’s manager Jim Leyland caused a bit of a stir during the season when he said pitcher’s shouldn’t win the MVP, but he later admitted that if anyone deserved it, it was Verlander. Since the introduction of the Cy Young Award in 1956, fewer starting pitchers have won the MVP.
Verlander was on his game almost every time he toed the rubber for the Tigers this past season, winning 16 times after a Tiger loss, pitching a quality start (at least six innings and less than three runs) in 28 of his 34 starts, and never once pitching less than six innings. His value in saving the workload on the Tiger bullpen was one of the reasons he garnered the rare MVP as a starting pitcher.
Another reason was the fact that he captured baseball’s pitching Triple Crown – leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA. His win total of 24 was the highest in the American League in 21 years, and the most by a Tiger since Mickey Lolich’s 25 forty years ago.
A first round draft pick (second overall) by the Tigers back in 2004, Verlander has used his incredible fastball and curve to throw two no-hitters, his second coming on May 7 in Toronto against the Blue Jays.
“He seems to have no-hit stuff each time he goes out there,” said teammate Jhonny Peralta. In fact, Verlander took three no-hitters as far as the seventh inning in 2011.
With the Cy Young Award and now the MVP on his resume, Verlander is in rare air among pitchers. In the next few seasons, the Tiger ace will attempt to add more gaudy numbers and honors to his amazing accomplishments.
Baseball’s Most Valuable Player Award began in Detroit
Today we’ll find out if Justin Verlander will win baseball’s most coveted prize: the Most Valuable Player Award. If he does he’ll bring the honor full-circle, since the MVP was the brainchild of a Detroit businessman and the first award was won by a Detroit ballplayer.
In the spring of 1910, Hugh Chalmers had a brilliant notion to capitalize on the popularity of baseball in the city of Detroit. As president of the Chalmers Automobile Company, he decided to give away one of his prized automobiles to the batting champion in the American League. He hoped the publicity would propel his company to the front of a growing pack of auto companies in what was fast becoming “Motor City”.
famously (or infamously depending on who you were rooting for), the 1910 “Chalmers Award” brought controversy. On the final day of the season, St. Louis Browns manager Jack O’Connor ordered his infielders to play deep, allowing Cleveland’s Napoleon Lajoie to accumulate eight hits in a doubleheader, winning the batting title by a slim margin over Detroit’s Ty Cobb.
O’Connor, like many in the American League, was not a big fan of “The Georgia Peach” because of his style of play and brash demeanor. Nevertheless, what O’Connor and his Browns did was unfair, and AL president Ban Johnson quickly interceded, awarding Cobb the batting title. He also banned O’Connor and his coach Harry Howell (who tried to bribe the official scorer to change an error to a hit for Lajoie) from baseball for life.
Ironically, the scandal was good press for Chalmers, who gave a car to both Cobb and Lajoie, orchestrating an elaborate photo opp with both. In 1911, however, Chalmers and Johnson would have a better idea for the award.
Starting in 1911, the Chalmers Award would be given to the player “most important and useful player to the club and to the league”. A group of sportswriters would do the voting.
It so happens that Cobb had his best season in 1911, batting .420 while leading the league in almost every offensive category. Not only did he hit for an amazingly high mark, he swiped 83 bases and drove in 127 runs. One observer noted that Cobb played as if he had “brains in his feet.”
There was an unwritten rule that a player could not win more than one Chalmers Award, so Cobb never received another, though he could have won three or maybe even four in the four years it was given, though 1914.
After the 1914 campaign, having seen little increase in his sales due to the award, Hugh Chalmers halted the program. The last winners were Eddie Collins and Johnny Evers. In all, five of the eight Chalmers Award winners would go on to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
It wouldn’t be until 1922 that the idea of an MVP Award would come back, but there has been at least one honor given every year since, except in 1930.
Thanks to one of Detroit’s savviest businessmen, the MVP was born 100 years ago, and it was a Detroit superstar who won the first award.
How a forest fire may have cost the Tigers the 1950 pennant
From 1948 to 1960 the Detroit Tigers finished higher than fourth place in the eight-team American League just once. It was the longest stretch of mediocrity in franchise history up to that point.
But there was one season in that span when the Tigers enjoyed success, almost sneaking a pennant away from the vaunted New York Yankees. If not for a strange play in Cleveland that was affected by a Canadian forest fire, Detroit may have won the flag in 1950.
The 1950 Tigers were managed by Robert “Red” Rolfe, a baseball lifer who knew something about winning. As a third baseman he won five World Series titles in the pinstripes of the Yankees, playing alongside Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, and Red Ruffing. Rolfe was a keen student of the game – an Ivy League graduate – who excelled at in-game managing.
Like the Yankees of the 1930s, Rolfe’s 1950 Tiger squad was loaded with lumber. Third baseman George Kell was the defending batting champion, and he hit .340 in ’50 to pace the team. Three other Tiger regulars – the starting outfield of Hoot Evers, Vic Wertz, and Johnny Groth – also hit over .300. Kell, Wertz, and Evers each drove in at least 100 runs.
The Tigers ranked third in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. The team directly in front of them in both of those categories – the Yankees – shadowed Detroit in the standings all year. The Tigers used a 21-9 record in June to forge a lead as large as 4 1/2 on the Yanks. A strong foursome of Hal Newhouser, Art Houtteman, Fred Hutchinson, and Dozzy Trout led the Bengal rotation.
At the All-Star break the Tigers led the race by three games. At the end of July the Yanks had caught them and the Cleveland Indians were just two games behind.
On Sunday, September 24, the Tigers were finishing a three-game set in Cleveland against the Indians, who had fallen out of the pennant race. The Tigers were a game-and-a-half behind the Yankees with eight games to play.
The game was tied at 1-1 in the 10th when the wind over Lake Erie came into play on the field. Earlier that weekend forest fires had roared through Canada across Lake Erie to the north. The winds blew south on Sunday, sending clouds of smoke over the city of Cleveland. By the late innings it was difficult to see. When Bob Lemon tripled to open the 10th (yes, the starting pitcher was still in the game and batting!), Rolfe walked the next two batters to set up a double play. Larry Doby popped out for the first out, bringing up Luke Easter. easter hit a routine grounder to first baseman Don Kolloway, who stepped on the bag for the second out. He returned the ball toward home plate and catcher Aaron Robinson. But Robinson, blinded by the smoke floating in from Lake Erie, didn’t see that Kolloway tagged the bag. He thought the force play was still in effect at home. As a result, he simply touched the plate, thinking he’d recorded the second out. But the force at first had meant that Robinson needed to tag Lemon coming into home. He did not, of course, and Lemon scored the winning run.
The Tigers lost the game, 2-1, having been swept by the Indians. The Yankees won and increased their lead to 2 1/2 games. The Tigers won four of their last seven games, but were eliminated on the next Friday. They won 95 games, their highest total in years, but they’d fallen short of the Yankees, who went on to win the World Series.
When he was dismissed as manager less than two years later, Rolfe cited the “smoky loss” in Cleveland in 1950 as a turning point in his tenure.
“We lost a bizarre game, [the] strangest I ever saw,” Rolfe sighed. “We never played another big game in my time in Detroit, sadly.”