Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I can’t tell you how shocked I am. Yesterday’s piece generated the greatest quantity of angry mail I received since my last piece on the Standard’s site about the left wing blogosphere. Countless Steeler fans, after they were done weeping into their terrible towels, decided dashing off an angry email would be the perfect way to salve their wounds. I have good news for you enraged Pittsburgh types – while your team is decidedly second-rate, as fans you’ve outdone yourselves. When it comes to spewing typo-laden barely literate bile, Daily Kos readers have nothing on you.

As Bill Clinton might say, I feel your pain. At least last year you got to celebrate a meaningless Week 7 triumph and carry yourselves like big bananas for three whole months until the Patriots rudely disabused you of your silly fantasies in the game that really mattered. You should be grateful the Patriots were so humane, removing all suspense from the proceedings before the first quarter was complete.

This year, comparatively speaking, you’ve got nothing. Oh sure, the Steelers will probably make the playoffs. Hell, they may even make the conference championship again if they get a favorable draw like they did last season. And if they do, Bill Cowher will be able to run his record in conference championship games, to, what is it now, something like 1-19? Does any Steeler fan relish the prospect of a rematch with the Patriots?

I ought to come clean: In case it’s not clear, I really don’t care for the Steelers. But, in my defense, there are a bunch of good reasons for that.

When I was growing up in the 1970’s, the Steelers were legitimately great. They had wonderful players, and players of great character. They won four Super Bowls in six years and are justly regarded as the greatest post-Packers dynasty in the annals of the NFL.

But the guys who won those Super Bowls got old and the titles stopped coming. And yet every time Pittsburgh introduces a new putative stud onto the scene, the national media can’t help itself from gushing like a smitten schoolgirl.

This has happened repeatedly over the past 20+ years. Hopeless mediocrities, by virtue of the fact that they play in a Pittsburgh Steeler jersey, become celebrated as great talents.

Indeed, sometimes they are hailed as revolutionary talents. Kordell Stewart could not accurately throw the ball. For the typical NFL quarterback, this would be considered something of a liability. But because he was playing for the Steelers, he was deemed a compelling new force who would change the way game was played.

Of course, Stewart was only one of a long line of Pittsburgh Steeler quarterbacks who was anointed as the next big thing even when they were total and transparent mediocrities (or worse). Those of you with long memories might remember Stiff Stoudt being briefly compared to Terry Bradshaw. Those of you with shorter memories might recall Tommy Maddox being heralded as a championship caliber quarterback right up until the moment he was benched.

Now comes Ben Roethlisberger. Lots of you thought I was too harsh on Big Ben and wrote in to say that he did win 15 straight games. Roethlisberger didn’t win 15 straight games – the Steelers did. Saying he won 15 straight games is like saying Kerry Collins won a Super Bowl or whoever was quarterbacking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years ago won a Super Bowl. Their teams won the Super Bowls, and the quarterbacks were about as valuable as the parking lot attendants.

I’m not saying that Roethlisberger is in the same class as Kerry Collins or Whatshisname of Tampa. But I am saying he hasn’t done anything of substance to merit the incredible hype. In both of his playoff games last year, he played poorly. In Sunday’s game which was probably the biggest of his regular season forays, he was dreadful.

As far as Roethlisberger is concerned, the jury is still out. One reader wrote in to tell me he “moves like a fox.” Another told me he has an “arm like a cannon.” All I’m saying is at this point his C.V. is incomplete. Let him do something, then let’s celebrate him.

But I guess that’s not the way it is with Pittsburgh Steeler quarterbacks. What we do is celebrate them and then await commensurate accomplishments that never seem to come.

But such is life where the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned. Much like the Oakland Raiders, they have a hold on the imagination of some football fans because of the things the franchises accomplished a generation ago. So every time either team does anything of note, it’s heralded as HUGE NEWS. Really, can you name any player comparably crappy to Kordell Stewart who received 1/100th of the media adulation that Flash did?

The particular problem with the Steelers and their fans is they believe their press-clippings, and thus don’t feel the need to actually assemble a team capable of winning a championship. Bill Cowher’s got a good thing going in Pittsburgh. The problem is, the media tell him he’s got a great thing going. And that’s simply not the case.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Sunday, September 25, 2005


1) AT ABOUT 7:25 P.M. THIS EVENING, I shouted into the kitchen that Mrs. Soxblog should abandon her dinner preparations for the moment and join me in front of the television because something of historical note was about to occur. The New England Patriots had just been tied by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Patriots would be getting the ball back with 1:20 remaining in regulation. That meant that the greatest quarterback ever and the greatest team ever were about to do something that they have perfected over the past four seasons – deliver a precisely aimed knee to the collective groin of one of their pretender rivals as well as their obnoxious towel-waving fans.

About Tom Brady, what more can one say? Was there any doubt that he would perform brilliantly when it mattered most? Brady easily leading the Patriots down the field and Vinatieri kicking the game-winner were about as surprising as yesterday’s war protesters showing a certain lack of fondness for President Bush. Perhaps the only people surprised by the ultimate result were Steelers’ loyalists at Heinz Field who had apparently repeatedly whipped themselves in the head with their “terrible towels.” And I bet even those numb-skulls knew it was coming.

What makes this game particularly memorable is the statement it makes about the Patriots and their organization. The Steelers only got back into the came because of a “highly dubious” (read: remarkably crappy) pass interference call. In the wake of such officiating criminality, virtually every other major sports head coach would have had a conniption fit. Not Bill Belichick – he kept his composure, and his composure was eerily reflected by his players on the field.

Additionally, the Patriots suffered two key injuries today, the kind of injuries that would have caused just about any other team in sports to call it a day and regroup for next week’s game. But not the Patriots of the 21st century’s first decade.

Today makes it official. The modern Patriots are not only competing to be commonly regarded as the greatest team in football history, but perhaps to be regarded someday as the greatest team in the history of any sport.

The Celtics and Packers of the 1960’s may well be hearing footsteps. A new chapter of the Patriots’ legend is being written every week.

2) I don’t want to sour the jubilant mood by carping about certain elements of the broadcast, but I feel in the name of intellectual honesty I must. Shouldn’t Ben Roethlisberger actually, you know, do something before the announcers lionize him repeatedly? Reothlisberger didn’t do anything the whole game. If it weren’t for that fluke 85 yard TD reception, he would have had a quarterback rating of something like 6.7.

So what are the announcers saying throughout the game: “Big Ben this, Big Ben that.” As the world’s greatest sports color man Tommy Heinsohn would say, “Give me a break!”

Ben Roethlisberger, to date, has accomplished nothing of significance. Zero. Zilch. Nada. In the two biggest games of his career (in last year’s playoffs), he was several levels below awful. And yet Nantz and Simms insist on comparing him to Montana, Marino and, most offensively, Brady.

For those of you who think Roethlisberger is something special, I offer this: Let’s see him not suck in a big game, and then we’ll talk.

3) AND WHAT OF THE RED SOX? The Red Sox will make the make the playoffs, win their division and win the World Series. There are certain people around Boston (like the Boston Globe’s increasingly obnoxious and unbearable Dan Shaughnessy) who think that last year didn’t change everything with the Red Sox. But it did – the Red Sox are now not only the most talented team in the baseball but also play with a swaggering confidence.

I should also add the following: The Red Sox own the Yankees. If the Red Sox need to sweep them during the last weekend of the season, they will.

Miraculously, the Sox seem to have gotten right health-wise and attitude-wise just at the right time. They are poised to make another historic run. You heard it here first.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


We all know that it’s been a particularly dispiriting time to be a Bush supporter. The style of last week’s speech was grating, and the substance was far worse. Things have gotten so depressing, I’ve actually been pining for the days when John Kerry was on the scene. At least when Kerry was around, we had clarity: No matter Bush’s faults, the alternative was clearly a lot less attractive.

As if to answer my psychic prayers, my junior senator graciously resurfaced last night at Brown University delivering what his staff billed as a “major address.” (In a related note, the Soxblog staff is billing what you’re reading now as a “major posting.”) I never thought I’d say this but, gosh, it’s good to have John Kerry back. The snootiness, the fickleness, the desperately pathetic efforts to finally find the right tone – what can one say other than when it comes to being a dreadful politician, John Kerry is truly sui generis.

The Boston Globe wrote that in last night’s speech Kerry “adopted the sense of outrage and ridicule that marked former Vermont governor Howard Dean's campaign last year.” As Kerry put it, “We have to get angry, and organize around that.” It’s little wonder that Kerry has opted to ape the tactics of Governor Dean. After all, a fourth place finish in Iowa is nothing to sneeze at, nor is Dean’s astonishing triumph in his tiny home state’s primary.

Kerry told the Globe that prior to last night he had “held back” in order to give Bush a chance to govern and “avoid the appearance of sour grapes.” It’s a little unclear how the interview he gave the Globe this past February where he shrilly demanded that Bush sign his 180 and release his military records was a part of avoiding the appearance of sour grapes, but hey, perhaps Kerry was for sour grapes before he was against them.

Undoubtedly the high point of today’s Globe story came when Kerry “implicitly blamed the public for tolerating ‘the injustice of 11 million children and more than 30 million adults in desperate need of healthcare.’” You can understand where Kerry is going with this “blaming the public” stuff. After all, consider it from his perspective.

Deep inside the Kerry brain, the thinking goes something like this: “I deigned to offer my leadership to this nation when everyone knew full well that I could have lived out my days as a semi-employed public servant (a.k.a. an obscure United States Senator) partaking in a host of thrilling rich-guy leisure-time activities like snow-boarding and wind-surfing thanks to my harridan wife’s phenomenal wealth. And what did America do with this incredibly generous offer? It told me to shove it, and instead returned to office a president who according to all media reports had given the country a disastrous war and a struggling economy.”

Add to those things the fact that the incumbent during the presidential debates often presented himself as if English was not his native tongue, and one can understand why John Kerry might have some sour-grapes. It is a testament to Kerry’s clearly phenomenal inner strength that he has been able to suppress the sour grapes as much as he has.

So you might be wondering, how is the New John Kerry playing with the Democratic masses? It should come as little surprise that Kerry 2.0 has been a smashing success. In the latest Daily Kos straw poll of over 10,000 of the internet’s savviest and most politically progressive activists, Kerry’s support has doubled (!) in the past month. Granted, his support has leapt only from 1% to 2%, but doubling is doubling.

Everyone knows that Kerry is testing the waters for 2008 (giggle). Senator, if you’re reading, let me offer my advice. Convince yourself that America is simply not worthy of your service. After all, the ski slopes and Nantucket both beckon.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Sunday, September 18, 2005


1) I probably saw about five or six hours of the John Roberts hearings altogether. Of course I skipped all the bloviating opening statements from the Senators; Roberts should deserve some form of combat pay for having to endure such an uninterrupted streak of self-aggrandizing nonsense while consistently maintaining an impression that suggested rapt interest in the solons’ grand pronouncements.

The parts I saw were limited to the questioning, and, my goodness, what I saw of it was grandly entertaining. Perhaps it’s a result of being a Red Sox fan for decades or having supported George W. Bush for two political cycles, but I’m conditioned to hold my breath and say a silent prayer every time a politician I’m rooting for opens his mouth in a debate-type environment. So it was great fun watching Roberts run circles around his senatorial antagonists.

A few of you have written in asking, “Wouldn’t it be great if he ran for office?” Indeed, indeed.

2) Because this is not a diary-type blog, those who aren’t interested in the trivialities of my daily life are given a pass on reading the rest of this entry. But before you click over to Instapundit to see what book he just got in the mail or to pore through Insty’s archives to relive the thrilling and joyous day that Glenn got his license renewed, let me warn/tease you – there will be pictures.

Mrs. Soxblog and I spent last week playing golf on the Oregon Coast at the golfing paradise called Bandon Dunes. I don’t say the following lightly – Bandon Dunes is my favorite place on the planet.

The golf experience is sublime. There are three courses, all of which are probably amongst the ten best in the world. I could microscopically dissect the Golf Magazine ratings and explain how I reached that conclusion, but just take my word for it. Or take the word of one of our traveling companions, a Harvard professor (who I will not name lest he be ostracized in the faculty lounge for hanging around with a conservative pundit) who has played golf for over four decades and who has literally played all of the finest courses in the world. He pronounced the golf experience at Bandon to be the best in the world.

The resort is also fantastic. The food is great, the rooms spacious and comfortable, and the staff warmly accommodating. Everything was so great, I’m even willing to overlook the fact that the only way to access the internet there is via dial-up.

If you’re a golfer, you owe it to yourself to someday make a pilgrimage to Bandon Dunes.

Now, I promised you pictures:

The nameless Harvard Professor (l) and I (r) pause for a break in the midst of our fierce competition.

Mrs. Soxblog and I capturing a photo-opportunity.

The first action photo in the history of Soxblog! Your host about to smack a seven-iron to within twelve feet of the pin. We won’t talk about the subsequent birdie putt.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Friday, September 16, 2005


This will be my long-awaited post-Katrina report. Sorry for the delay, but, like the president, I just wanted to have all the facts regarding the government response.

First, let’s get a couple things out of the way. The mayor of New Orleans and especially the governor of Louisiana have proven themselves to be embarrassments. They were presented with huge, indeed unprecedented, challenges and both were found to be devastatingly inadequate. The only systemic cure for such a thing is for the electorate to cease elevating boobs to higher office. But that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

I think about what would happen if a similar crisis were to bear down on Boston. In Massachusetts, our governor would be up to it. As far as Boston’s mayor, a man who is generally speaking far more concerned with how much it costs to park at Fenway Park than pressing matters of life and death, I would have considerably less faith in his efforts.

But enough about the local bayou pols. That’s a dead horse. If you’re not aware of their incompetence by now, you’re either not paying attention or your world view is so addled that you probably believe that Katrina was the result of deliberate global warming so Halliburton could profit on the clean-up. Let’s instead talk about the Feds.

If you’re a supporter of the President’s, as I am, this has been a trying three weeks. It has hardly been his finest hour. Let us count the ways:

1) At the storm’s outset, he was disengaged to the point of parody. Symbolism matters, and the two days after the storm and with Gulf Coast in tatters (but New Orleans not yet flooded), this is the symbol that President Bush gave us:

That’s right, that’s the President playing the guitar with country singer Mark Wills who, for those of you don’t follow country music, ain’t exactly Johnny Cash. Not that posing with Hank Williams or Willie Nelson would have made ignoring the greatest natural disaster in American history any more palatable, but the fact that the picture was with a third-rater like Wills serves to heighten the embarrassment.

2) It turns out that FEMA was an outpost for cronyism and patronage. I’m not one of these guys who thinks FEMA or even the Department of Homeland Security needs to be run by experts in the disaster management field. Rather, I think such brobdinagian entities should be overseen by individuals who have proven themselves adept at operating similarly gargantuan enterprises. A guy like G.E.’s Jack Welch would be perfect.

So I don’t condemn the administration for taking a pass on the disaster pros. But if deposed FEMA honcho Mike Brown had any outsized talents, he has to date kept them carefully concealed. FEMA is not the place for cronyism; if it were, God never would have invented the Commerce Department.

3) During the initial days after the disaster, the Federal response was slow and indecisive. This kicked up what Miss Manners would refer to as a media shit-storm. Everyone said the President didn’t care. Everyone said he especially didn’t care about poor black people. And, let’s face it, although the charge seems fairly ridiculous on its face, Bush made it a tough one to rebut because he was busy strumming a guitar with a third tier Nashville hack while a hundred thousand poor black people were literally struggling for their lives.

In response to public disappointment and sinking poll numbers, President Bush last night gave what was perhaps the most disappointing speech of his political career. Last night’s effort made the 9/11 Awful Office address look downright Churchillian. He might as well have said, “Message – I care.”

And because he cares, he’s going to throw a lot of money at every conceivable problem caused and exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina. Scratch that – he’s going to allow our spendthrift congress to throw money at the putative problems which will no doubt be even worse. He practically declared a second “war on poverty.”

Don’t believe me? Then take this as a sign: Notorious race- relations and poverty pimp, the “Reverend” Jesse Jackson, actually scored a primetime gig on Fox last night. Jesse’s got a seat at the table again because Bush has brought this particular table out of the closet and set it. Bush’s speech has opened the door to rubbish like this, and closing it any time soon will be all but impossible.

What really bothered me about the speech is that it was a big and lasting response to an ephemeral political concern. Yes, Bush and his administration performed poorly in the first few days after the storm and yes, the agenda media (not unjustifiably) had a field day with those stumbles.

But Katrina wasn’t a three day story, it’s a three year story. Adjusting your principles because of some crappy poll numbers is Clintonian. While last night’s speech has been playing to rave reviews, I’m concerned. The president has all but posited that government can solve everything from the damage wrought by Katrina to endemic poverty. Worse still, he seems serious about giving it a whirl.

I’M NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE who thinks Bush’s record will be defined by his initial response to Hurricane Katrina. There’s a lot of history to be written between now and the end of his term, and the war against radical Islam will remain the story of the era. Happily, on that front Bush has remained steadfast and determined. He hasn’t caved to media pressure; if he were in the habit of doing so, he would have surrendered Donald Rumsfeld’s scalp years ago. (By the way, since everyone agrees that the military has performed spectacularly in Katrina’s wake, I anxiously anticipate the mainstream media’s reassessment of Rumsfeld’s abilities and performance.)

It’s long been no secret that there’s a dichotomy between Bush the war leader and Bush the domestic president. Some of the things he has done that people like me have detested (steel tariffs, No Child Left Behind) can be ascribed to political necessity. Nonetheless, it’s a sadly recurring disappointment that the Bush who leads the war is so seldom seen on domestic matters.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett

Friday, September 02, 2005


ABOUT TWENTY YEARS AGO, my Aunt Carol was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was a young woman, something like 25 at the time. Because she was only 7 years older than me, she had always been more like a cousin than an aunt.

Unfortunately, she had a vicious case of the disease. It progressed rapidly and she never enjoyed a moment of remission. She soon lost her power to walk; within ten years virtually all of her muscular related abilities had vanished including her ability to speak. I remember seeing her about halfway through this transformation and casually asking how she was doing. She struggled to get the words out, but she was unequivocal: “I’m angry.” I’ve never forgotten that moment.

Different people react differently when fate turns against them. Some people get sad, some get mad, some frightened, some resolved – the list goes on. There are as many possible responses as there are people.

THE HORRIFIC NEWS OUT of New Orleans has made me recall that conversation with my aunt. It’s a bit odd – the exchange hadn’t entered my consciousness in years.

What we’re seeing down there is unprecedented. I’ve often wondered how America would react to the destruction of one of its major metropolitan areas because of a terrorist attack. While this tragedy lacks the dramatic photos that such a calamity would produce, it’s not all that dissimilar. A so called “suitcase nuke” wouldn’t cause nearly the damage that this storm has.

From New Orleans, the footage of the ruined lives is devastating. And then there are the pictures of those bent on anarchy. Those pictures are infuriating.

There’s an old saw that adversity brings out the best in people. Most clichés emanate from a basis in reality. Not this one. I’ve been around a bunch of people confronted with serious adversity; at such times, people revert to their most fundamental natures. Their innermost characteristics are what emerge. For some people, it is strength and courage that shine through.

Others are made of less noble stuff. Some complain and whine or take their frustration out on others. Others curl up in fear.

In the current crisis, there have been countless moments of heroism. There have been the public servants who have stayed behind or entered the shattered city. Although the circumstance is less dramatic, these people are spiritual cousins to the firefighters who scaled the burning World Trade Center. Common sense says flee the scene, and yet they do just the opposite.

And of course there are others who have acquitted themselves less nobly. In the city, there are sociopaths who have longed for anarchy and now have their long wished for chance to prey on the weak and defenseless. And outside the city, there are politicians who view the tragedy as a chance to chase cameras and commentators who see it as a chance to score political points.

There are people of high character in the world and others less endowed in that regard. No news there, right?

SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? We save lives, we clean up, and lastly and doggedly we rebuild. Because that’s what Americans do. Some might argue there’s no sense in rebuilding a city that’s below sea level sitting in a bowl. Perhaps they have a point.

But this is what we do – we fight, we don’t lose. The American character, the one that shines through in moments of adversity, is one that says we will not be defeated – not by an enemy, not by nature, not by anything. This is a principle worth fighting for, a principle that must be maintained. We’ll rebuild because it is our way.

And we will not, we cannot, change it. Not now, not ever.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Dean Barnett