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Below are the 14 most recent journal entries recorded in
|Wednesday, December 12th, 2007|
|Bob Wolfer Interview 12-12-07
JR: Welcome back everybody, Jack Robbins here and as promised we are joined by Bob Wolfer who we had said we'd start making a regular guest, Bob how are you today?
BW: I'm doing great JR, thanks for having me on.
JR: Always our pleasure. Now it hasn't been too long since the last time that we talked, but certainly a lot is happening politically in Lansing and in other aspects of your life. I don't want to bombard you politics right off the bat, so I'm going to talk a little bit about something I know you love and that's Michigan State Spartans basketball.
BW: Alright sounds good to me.
JR: So right now the team is 8-1, their only loss coming to UCLA who was ranked #1 in the country at the time, how far do you think this team is capable of going.
BW: Well, I have to be honest with you JR, I really am very optimistic about what this team is capable of, not only this season, but for many seasons to come. When you look at how well the team has played and the recruits that they have coming next year, I think Tom Izzo is definitely on his way to making Michigan State a premiere basketball program like a Duke or a North Carolina. We've obviously got a long way to go before we get there, but I think we've got something good going here. As for this season, I really feel the sky is the limit with this team. I mean, you look at last week's games against Bradley and BYU where we won, they might now look as good on paper as beating a Georgetown or a Kansas, but those were big wins.
JR: Right, and of course the Spartans having to come back, on the road to get those two wins.
BW: Exactly, and I don't think you can just look past that. Playing on the road is very tough at the NCAA level, I don't care who you are or who you're playing. So to be trailing against Bradley, who I really actually though out played us that game, and BYU by more than 10 points and them coming back to win, that's significant. To me, it shows a lot of character because teams usually don't develop that kind of composure until later in the season. I think you saw it a little bit too in the Missouri game earlier this season as well when we were able to hold on against them in Kansas City.
JR: So you're obviously very excited about the team this year and you still live in the Lansing area, are you planning to make it out to any games this year?
BW: You know right now I can't point to a specific game and say "I'll be there", but I'm sure the urge to go will be far too great for me to stay home all season. I'm especially looking at that Indiana game later this year and was hoping to take my half-brother to the game. So hopefully that will happen and we can have a lot of fun.
JR: Your half-brother...
JR: Yes, that's right Patrick. He's a big Spartan hoops fan as well?
BW: Well, I'm not entirely sure on that, but I want to expose him to what it's like at the Breslin Center for a game like that. You just don't get the same feeling when you watch in on TV. The thing with Pat is he's getting ready to start high school and college isn't too far off for him. My brother took him to a Michigan football game earlier this season, so I kind of view this as my turn to show him what Michigan State has to offer. But more importantly, it will be nice to spend some one on one time with Pat. He's getting old enough now where we can do that and have it be a very meaningful experince. He's a great kid and I have to tip my cap to my step-mother and my father for that.
JR: So the Spartan Clash game against Texas next week, don't expect to see you there?
BW: Unfortunately no, especially not next week, I'm trying to save up some money.
JR: Ah, for anything in particular?
BW: Well, yeah, actually now that you ask, I'm going to be spending some time around New Years in Denver. I have two good friends who actually live out here in Lansing, but are from Colorado, so they're going back home to get married around their family. I've always wanted to go out west and before this trip I hadn't seen anything west of Chicago, so I'm really looking forward to the whole thing for a lot of reasons, the least of which isn't to see my friends get married.
JR: Well that's wonderful. Congratulations go out to us for your friends and hopefully you can tell us all about your trip next time we have you on the show.
BW: Yeah, I'll look forward to that.
JR: So now, shifting our attention to politics, I understand that on Tuesday afternoon you guys at the Michigan Republican Party held a press conference, why don't you take a second to explain what that was all about.
BW: Well certainly. Basically what we did is have our chairman Saul Anuzis, who is just a great guy to work for by the way, unveil what we have been calling the "Tax Check".
JR: The tax check?
BW: Yeah, it's our latest gimmick to sort of remind Michigan voters that they're getting fleeced after they elected Democrats back into power in 2006. Basically, you remember our jobs clock?
JR: The jobs clock?
BW: Yeah, from last season, we had some guys follow the governor across the state with it, it was a big old sign with a counter that ticked off how many jobs have been lost since Granholm's been office?
JR: Oh sure, yeah, I do remember that now, that was unveiled at the governor's State of the State Address back in 2006 if I'm not mistaken.
BW: Exactly. So the tax check works much the same way. We have a six by eight foot sign that was printed so it looks like the face of a check and we have our counter in there. Now the idea is to show Michigan citizens how much money is being taken away from them as a result of the Democrats raising the income tax and the business tax surcharges this year.
JR: And how much money is that?
BW: Well, more than people can afford right now. I talked to some people in Lansing who really have a handle on this kind of stuff and we both figured it to be about $1.2 billion.
JR: Wow, that much?
BW: Right, take a look at your pay stubs Jack, you're already feeling the pinch. But that's only part of the deal. When you figure the tax hikes are going to bring in $1.2 billion more dollars just this year, you break it down to a point where Michigan's state government is getting $39 richer every second and the taxpayers expense, our expense. So that's what the counter does, it ticks up $39 every second to give Michigan citizens an idea of how much of their money is being taken away from them.
JR: So you probably started counting at the beginning of the fiscal year, since that is the basis of measurement for the $1.2 billion, right?
BW: Exactly right.
JR: So what's it up to now?
BW: Well, right now...actually hold on, I've got my computer right in front of me here...right now it's about about $243 million. And again, that's averaged out for how much additonal money these tax hikes will bring in. We're going to make our rounds across the state with our tax check, but in the meantime if you're listeners want to check it out, we have an electronic version up as well at the party's website.
JR: And what's the address there?
BW: That's, www.migop.org
JR: And, wow, $243 million?
BW: Yeah, kind of hard to believe isn't it?
JR: Well sure, it's a lot of money.
BW: Exactly, it is, and that's what we're trying to get people to understand with the check. I mean we're talking $39 a second. I took a look last week at some of the things that $39 can buy and we're talking about some pretty serious things. A half-week's of groceries for a married couple, a 13 gallon tank of gas, two in a half weeks of car insurance payments for the average Michigander, a trip to the movies for a family of four. I mean, it adds up.
JR: Alright, well it all sounds like a very interesting idea. I know that the jobs clock gimmick was successful in the sense that it got people at various events where the governor was scheduled to speak talking and sometimes reacting to your presence, so I would guess the tax check was built with the same idea.
BW: Yep, exactly right. It's one of the many things that we'll be doing next season to remind Michigan voters what they've gotten from Democrats in Lansing, or more accurtately what has been taken away from them by Democrats in Lansing.
JR: Well alright. I did want to shift topics for a little bit here and talk about this whole presidential primary business. Now my understanding is that your party's chairman Saul Anuzis, who we mentioned earlier is actually teamming up with Debbie Dingell who is not only a Democratic National Committee member, but also the wife of long-time Democratic Congressman John Dingell. What's going on with that?
BW: (Laughs) well, it does go to show you that the spirit of bi-partisanship isn't dead doesn't it? But in all seriousness, this is something that Saul and Debbie have been working diligently on. Despite what letter they have next to there name, it's almost universally agreed here in Michigan, and in many places throughout the country, that the way presidential primaries are presently run are a bust in the sense that Iowa and New Hampshire seem to have a monopoly on going first with their caucus and primary. So what Saul and Debbie have done is come up with a plan that basically gives every state in the country a fair shot at going in the front end of the process so that they matter more in the selection of a presidential nominee. I don't want to go into great detail about the plan, because I know Saul's going to be doing a press conference on it down in Washington later today and I don't want to steal any of his thunder, but I think it's a good plan in the sense that it's fair, and I personally think that it would add a lot of excitement to the process.
JR: So the plan is based on staggering which states get to have their primary contests first, if that's correct.
BW: Right, that's the general idea.
JR: So then let me ask you this, because we get a lot of callers who don't really seem to understand the difference, why is there so much emphasis, and especially this year, on states jumping in front of each other to be first? Is it just a pride thing?
BW: Well, for the most part no. The reason why it's important to go first is because the candidate that wins in the first few states in either party tends to pick up a lot of momentum that can often snowball them in to the nomination. So the deal is that candidates realize that and will often spend overwhelming amounts of time and resources in those early states and not spend as much time in others. That of course creates a lot of problems, especially here in Michigan. As you know JR, we're the only state in the country losing jobs, we have the highest unemployment rate in the country, people are swarming out of the state, and, despite the Democrats hitting us with the largest tax hike in the state's history, we've got some serious budget concerns. So because Michigan is in this unique position, our voters really want to hear what the candidates have to offer for them as oppose to just hearing what they're planning to offer citizens in Iowa, or New Hampshire, or South Carolina. So I know to many listeners and to many people who don't swim in politics for a living the whole thing sounds kind of petty and pointless, but it really is very important as to which states hold their contests first. Otherwise, if you go too late I mean, people more or less know who the nominee is going to be before you even hold your state's contest and it makes the whole contest kind of meaningless.
JR: Well alright, hopefully that goes well for Saul tomorrow and I know we'll all be very interested in what he and Debbie Dingell roll out. But I want to shift back to a topic that I like to talk to you about and that's because you're always so open about it and that's realtionships.
BW: (Laughs) Do you have a daughter or something you're trying to point in my direction or something JR, why do we always have to talk about this?
JR: (Laughs) well, I'm just saying it's usually a topic of conversation that people like to hear about, but don't like to talk about, and you seem like you're one of the few people I know who's very comfortable talking about it, so that's the reason. But last time we talked about this was a couple of years ago and you were single, so I'm just curious if anything has changed.
BW: Well, no I guess, not in the sense that I am indeed still single. I mean there's been girls that I've dated, but nothing really serious.
JR: Now do you sort of wonder why that is?
BW: At times I guess, but I've got to be honest and say that for the most party it doesn't really bother me. I know there's nothing particularly repulsive about me, it's just been circumstances.
JR: Circumstances, what do you mean?
BW: Well, it's like I told a friend of mine last month who asked me the same question. Bacsially what is boils down to is first I had the money to take girls out, but didn't have the confidence. Then I had the confidence to ask them out, but didn't have the money to take them out. Now I have the confidence and the money, I just don't have the time. So it's just one of those things that just hasn't come together for me yet.
JR: Alright, we'll leave it at that, because we do need to go, but before that I just quickly wanted to ask you about Matt Cowell and whether or not you've heard from him and how he's doing in a Iraq.
BW: Well, thank you very much, I appreciate that question. I get letters from Matt about once or twice a month and he described it a first as being "pleasantly bored". He actually just e-mailed me and Andy pictures of him and his squad and it actually looked like they were having a little bit of fun over there so that was good to see. But yeah, he's doing fine, I know he's looking forward to his mid-tour leave, which I think is sometime in the spring so I'm sure I'll catch up with him then for at least a couple of days and we'll find some ways to have some fun and hopefully stay out of trouble.
JR: Excellent, well that's great to hear. I know I send my regards, not just to him but to all of our soldiers deployed overseas and I know that all of our listeners echo those sentiments as well. But we do have to get go, thanks for the time this morning Bob.
BW: Always a pleasure JR.
|Wednesday, November 28th, 2007|
|An Interview with Bob Wolfer Part 5 of 5 and then some...
JR: Hello everybody and greetings wherever you are. Jack Robbins here and I have with me a guest who used to be a regular on the show a couple of years ago and has decided to start coming back, Bob Wolfer. Bob promised that he would try to check in with us about once a week to catch us up on what's been going on in his life, so it will be a new, regular, segment of the show that I'm very much looking forward to and I'm sure you will too. Bob, welcome back.
BW: Thanks JR, it's great to be back. It's been a long time and I can't help but to smile because things are going a great deal better than they were the last time I was in this chair.
JR: They are indeed and that's a lot of what I wanted to talk to you about today just to catch our listners up. The last time we talked to you, you were working as a full-time cashier at Sam's Club. Now I understand that you've worked your way back into politics in the last couple of years, take us through that real quick if you could.
BW: Sure, it is actually a pretty amazing thing that happened to me and I feel very fortunate that it did because there was definitely a time where I thought I might not get back into the political game.
JR: But you are now, you are, let me see if I have this right, the Research Coordinator and Communications Assistant for the Michigan Republican Party?
BW: That's right.
JR: Now what do you do as the Research Coordinator and Communications Assistant and how did you land that job?
BW: Well, it's pretty straight forward in a complicated sort of way, if you'll allow a Yogi Berraism. Basically what I do is conduct reasearch on various political issues and candidates and them put all the information together so that we can use the information in press releases, internal memos, talking points, e-mail blasts, etc. The communciations part of it is something that I have started to pick up in the last couple of months...
JR: And how long have you been doing this now?
BW: Two years, come January. The communcations part basically involves writing press releases and op-ed peices that we try to get printed in newspapers, show on TV, or heard on radio shows like yours here. It's been a very exciting job, a very fun job, and a very challenging job. I'm very grateful to have it and really feel like my life in heading in the right direction.
JR: Now how did you land a job with the party? I know when we talked a couple of years ago you mentioned that you had interviewed with them and that you had been turned down. Did they call you back?
BW: Yes, they did, and it was kind of funny how that all worked out. I was still working at Sam's Club at the time and had actually gotten promoted again to being a Marketing Representative, which was a new experience for me. So as a marketing rep. the company gave us New Years Day and the day after off of work. I decided to use the day after to catch up on some sleep and take a look at some government jobs, because I really was still trying to get back into politics. So I'm laying in bed and my cell phone rings. I answer it and it was Sarah Anderson.
JR: The Director of Research and Communications at the party at that time.
BW: Right. So Sarah exaplained to me that she had gotten my resume and information from other people at the party and that she was interested in talking to me about some open positions in her department. And then asked when I could come in. Now working sales, I was working 8am to 4pm so there was really no way around having the interview that same day, which is something I never like to do because I like taking time to prepare. But nonetheless, I agree to meet with Sarah later that afternoon.
JR: So what happened when you go there?
BW: Well, I was a little nervous to be honest with you. It had been a long time since I had had a job interview and I wasn't sure if I was on my game. But luckily as it turned out, there wasn't much to the interview with Sarah. She basically sat down with me, explained what was availible and asked what I would be most interested in doing. The position I told her was to research Governor Jennifer Granholm for the upcoming 2006 gubernatorial election and that's more or less how it happened. A couple weeks later, I was working for the party.
JR: Wow, seems like everything just kind of clicked into place for you.
BW: Yeah it did. Which was welcomed, because at that point of my life I hadn't gotten too many breaks, so it felt good.
JR: Alright, I want to spend a little bit more time on your job, because I know it's something we'll be spending a lot more time on in later interviews. You said you were hired in to do opposition research on Governor Granholm to defeat her. Obviously that didn't work out for you. What was that like on Election Day?
BW: Oh it was an awful feeling. I mean, in an election year you devote, probably about half to two-thirds of your life to winning and when you don't it's a hard feeling. I think what made everything so much worse is that Republicans more or less took a beating everywhere and Dick [DeVos] came up a lot shorter than any of us expected.
JR: But all the polls right before the election had you guys down, you didn't see it coming?
BW: No JR, we really didn't. When it comes to something like an election that takes so much time, energy, and focus, you really lose all sense of what is practical and focus mainly on the positives. The best example I can give you in that regard is the first gubernatorial debate between Dick and the governor. Now, when it was happening live, I was all fired up and was convinced that Dick had done what he had needed to do to win the debate and was all fired up about it. But I kind of laugh at myself now, because once the election was over and I divorced myself from all of the passion, I watched the debate again and really realized that the governor had just taken him to the cleaners. You get caught up in things, you get stuck in a bubble of optimism. It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't been through it, but there is not a whole lot you can do during crunch time of an election year to pop that bubble.
JR: Fair enough. So the gubernatorial election is over, you're still with the party, what are you main focusses now?
BW: Well, my job responsibilites now are a lot different in the sense that there is so much going on. Not only the presidential race, which rightfully steals most of the attention, but also the State House races, some Congressional seats we're looking at, and even a State Supreme Court race. So before, last cycle, I was focussed almost entirely on one race and two candidates. Now I'm focussed on over three dozen races and over a hundred candidates, so it's a lot to keep up with and it took a lot of adjusting to finally develop as system that I feel comfortable with.
JR: So then how do you like your chances?
BW: I'll tell you next year at this time.
JR: Oh, come on, you have to have some kind of feeling one way or the other.
BW: I really don't. In this business there are so many things that you can't control that effect the ultimate outcome. Like right now, it looks like Hillary Clinton has a pretty health lock on the Democratic [presidential] nomination. But would if tomorrow she comes out and says something devastatingly unpopular and it all falls apart? There's no way to really expect that. So it's not really good to try to predict. I mean, I'll admit we sometimes have some fun doing it in the office, but in the end you just need to be ready for anything and be able to develop a plan to go forward with.
JR: Well, let me put it to you like this then. If the elections were held today, who do you think would win the presidency?
BW: If it were today, unfortunately, I would probably have to say Hillary [Clinton]. But that's what I was saying before, the election isn't today. We have 11 whole months to change that and a lot can happen in 11 months. I mean after all, four years ago at this time Howard Dean look like a pretty safe bet for the Democratic nomination and look how that worked out.
JR: Good point. Now I understand there was recently a management change at the party in your department, what was that like?
BW: There was. Sarah [Anderson] had her first child back in March and after trying to juggle everything for a couple months, decided that it was probably best to step down, work from home doing some free-lance stuff and take care of her baby. So when that happened, the party brought in Bill Nowling, who used to work for our consultants at the Sterling Corporation to take over.
JR: How was the transition?
BW: I'm not going to lie to you, it was pretty tough at first. With Sarah I worked for her, but I also worked with her. She was always keeping me and the staff informed on what was going on in the department and some of the things we were planning to do and asked for osme input on some other ideas we could use to get our message out. So it was very collaborative.
JR: And with Mr. Nowling it's not?
BW: No, not really, and I want to be very clear in saying that that's not necessarily a bad thing. I thought it was at first and there was a lot of frustration involved, but I think he and I both did some adapting and it's good now. But Bill's management style is different in the sense that it's a more traditional boss-employee relationship. Bill has a plan, he takes care of the administrative things that need to be taken care to move it forward and I provide support for it. Probably the most frustrating part of it for me at the beginning was doing a lot of work and not really knowing what I was doing it for because Bill hadn't explained the plan to me, but that's really improved in the past month or so. Bill's department is definitely different than Sarah's department, but success comes in all sizes, so we'll see how it works out.
JR: You don't sound to optimistic.
BW: (laughs) Well I am. Like I said before in this business you're in a bubble of optimism. But with the way Bill is running things, it's just new to me. Like I said it's not a bad thing, just not something I'm used to yet. Just because it's a different way of going about things doesn't mean that it won't produce the same or better results.
JR: Alright, enough about work.
BW: Thank goodness.
JR: Let's talk about your brother Bill. I know he and his fiance Kelly have had a huge year.
BW: Yeah they did. In February we all headed down to Chicago, that is, Bill, Kelly, Mom, and I, to visit my sister. I just thought we were going down there to have some fun as a family, which we did, but Bill and Kelly surprised us all by letting us know that they had a baby on the way. So it kind of sped up a lot of their plans. They bought a house a couple months later in Linden, a beautiful house, starting making plans for the wedding next year and then in the middle of September Alex was born.
JR: So the news seems like it kind of rushed things, was this good news or bad news that they shared with you in Chicago?
BW: Oh no, don't get me wrong, it was great news! We were all very excited and the way Bill and Kelly broke the news was great because none of us knew. So the two of them give this card to my mother and she opens it and reads it aloud "congratulations on your new grand-baby". Autumn and I were just kind of stunned and Mom shed a couple of tears while Bill and Kelly just kind of looked at all of our reactions with big smiles on their faces. It was a really special moment for our family and I was very happy to be there for it.
JR: So do you get to spend a lot of time with your nephew then?
BW: I would say yes. I was the hospital the night, or I should say morning, that Alex was born and have seen Bill and Kelly a lot of times to help them move in and do some other things so I've gotten to see him [Alex] a lot. He's got to be one of the most serious and laid-back babies I've ever come across. He's always very relaxed, but at the same time you can tell that he's just trying to figure out what's going on around him. It's hard to think about without smiling, the whole thing is just really cool.
JR: So then your brother is getting married then next year, I'm told that he had some news for you right before Thanksgiving. What was that?
BW: Well, he told me that I was going to be his best man in his wedding, which was something I was extremely honored by. Growing up, Bill and I had a lot of differences and were pretty fierce competitors when it came to just about anything. So sometimes that got the best of us and we forgot how much respect we still had for one another. I think lately a lot of that has come to the surface. It's like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in a way. There is no greater rivalry in the history of boxing, but through that the two men love one another because of their shared experience and their pushing each other to be at their best. That's what's it's like with Bill and I. I owe a lot of what I am proud to be today to him and him telling me I was going to be his best man was like having all of that come full circle.
JR: Now apart from Bill, I'm told you have two other "unofficial" brothers.
BW: Yes, the Cowells.
JR: What's the story with them?
BW: Well, Matt and Andy Cowell are probalby my two best friends in the whole world and it turns out that they also happen to be brothers, so that's really where all of that comes from. The joke in the family is that I'm the unofficial Cowell brother, which is really becoming less of a joke these days. Andy and I lived together althrough 2006 and Matt and I have stayed very close since high school, so we've all been through a lot together and I'm sure that will continue throughout the years. But we also have the best times together. Almost all of the stories that I like to tell usually involves one or both of them.
JR: Care to share one with us?
BW: (Laughs), sure, I just got to think of one that is appropriate. There was one time when the three of us were up at their family cabin in Caseville. We were walking around town and decided to head back to our beach fire. Now in order to get there, we had to walk down this ridge and through a campground. So the three of us are walking when Andy notices an animal at the bottom of the ridge and decides to be a bit funny and says "look, it's a badger". To which Matt replies "It's out in the open, get it!" And with that the three of us go charging down this ridge after this animal and to my amazement we're actually gaining on the thing. So we get it cornered against a building and then suddenly we all freeze, because we all realized it at the same time. Then Matt or Andy yelled aloud what we were all yelling inside our heads: "IT'S A SKUNK!" And we bolted away from it faster than we've ever run from anything in our lives. Then we all just collapsed to the ground and laughed, no exaggeration for about five minutes straight. The worst part of it was that Matt was shipping out to basic training a couple days later, so had he gotten sprayed [by the skunk] I could have only imagined what he would have had to endure.
JR: (Laughing) What a great story. Now you mentioned Matt going to basic training, he joined up with the infantry and in presently in Iraq.
BW: That's correct.
JR: Do you still hear from him? And how is he doing over there?
BW: Yeah, he and I have been communicating back and forth since he went over there. He's been in Iraq for almost two months now and described it as "pleseantly boring" even though the last time I heard from him he talked about his brigade find a huge weapons cache, so that really made him feel good about what he's doing over there. The thing with Matt that you need to realize is that the Army is in his DNA. Even when I first moved to Milford and met him in the 7th grade he was making comparisons to historic battles and legendary military figures. It was just part of who he was. I was a little bit uncomfortable with him joining at first, but now I realize that this is probably something that he had to do for himself and that he'll come out of the whole experience a better man.
JR: Alright, well Bob, thank you for taking the time to catch up with us. Talking to you never seems to get old, but we are out of time for this week. And you'll be back next week right?
BW: I'll always try. With the way everything works now days it's hard to make promises, but I would like to come back on.
JR: Alright, we'll definitely keep a slot open for you. Thanks again for your time today.
BW: Thank you JR, I always appreciate being on.
|Tuesday, September 11th, 2007|
|How the New York Yankees Saved My Life!
I apologize to anyone who read the article below before seeing this one. I had thought I had made a previous post on this subject on my journal, but remembered moments later that it was actually an e-mail that I sent out. After all, you can't be a Yankee fan after being born and raised in Detroit and not expect to have some explaining to do.
I'll also add that this is not something I enjoy talking about anymore. Not because it's hard or I get emotional, but because it's behind me. I've moved on from it. And while it doesn't weigh heavily on my mind anymore, it is an EXTREMELY large part of who I am today, and that I will never ignore. This morning, I will talk about it again, because every year when this date rolls around, it's hard for me to think of anything else.
This story actually begins before I even realized at the time. In 2001 I was wrapping up my senior year of high school and had the distinct privilege of traveling to Moscow, Russia with many of my marching band colleagues to perform in various venues throughout the city and do some site seeing. The trip to Russia is not behind me and it is too extraordinary of an experience for me to ever "deal with", I very much enjoy talking about, so never hesitate to ask me about that.
But despite the absolute awe of the trip, I, like any other 19 year-old I would suppose, began to get home sick. I wanted to be back home, I want to be back in America. A 2 1/2 hour flight from Moscow to Helsinki, Finland later, I was still not in America. I boarded another flight, at this point completely exhausted. 9 hours later, we landed in New York. Or so I was told.
I had actually become so tired and home sick that I wasn't going to believe anyone but myself. Despite everything that I knew was common sense, I began searching out my window for anything that was distincly American to prove to myself I was finally home. I saw runways, but they had those in Russia and Finland. I saw terminals, but they had those in Russia and Finland also. But then in the distance, I saw something that there was no mistaking. On the horizon, greeting me back home were the twin towers of the World Trade Center. No mistake, I was in America, and I knew I would remember that moment for the rest of my life. I was actually so happy to be back that I can remember bear hugging my luggage, since I felt so starved for affection.
High school eventually passed me by and I had experienced some major set-backs. My goal of getting into Michigan State University was just barely out of reach. The university wanted to see a 3.0 GPA, I had a 2.95. The university wanted to see a 20 on my ACTs and I got a 19. It was off to community college for me, until I could earn my way in.
The failure and uprooting out of my home in Milford were bad enough, but what was worse was that I had fallen madly in love with a girl in high school. Now I know how that sounds, it sounds stupid, but I did. The whole situation can probably be easily explained by just saying that I felt incredibly strong feelings, that looking back on it, I was not at all ready to feel. Not only did this girl tell me time and time again (I more or less forced her to) that she wasn't interested, but she went to school 3,000 miles away in California. So it was offical, everything, absolutely everything that I held dear was gone in a matter of weeks. And it was just too much.
It wasn't long after I moved to Lansing that I fell into a state of major depression. Apart from studying, which was my only reprieve from my hatred for myself, there was not time in the day that wasn't spent feeling sorry for myself and thinking myself a miserable failure. Late at night, I began having thoughts that even in my depressed state terrified me. I began thinking that life wasn't going to get any better, and I began thinking about how I was going to end it. The next day, I sought suicide counseling.
I talked to friends and family members all the time during these times. There is no doubt they knew I had fallen on some extremely hard times, but I don't think they ever could have imagined how deep into this I was. And that was more or less by design. When you're 19 years old you're supposed to feel like you have the world on a string, so naturally I was embarassed to admit to anyone that I was thinking of suicide. But then a distraction came...
I awoke one Tuesday morning at about 10am and began to get ready for my 11:00am economics class. I remember rushing through my morning routine, because even though I had an hour to get ready and get to campus, which was five miles away, trying to get into the parking ramp at Lansing Community College back then (and still) was a huge pain. I ran to my car and drove out of my apartment complex and turned the radio on to a classic rock station that I had found in Lansing.
Except what I heard wasn't classic rock. What I was hoping would be Led Zepplin or Jimmi Hendrix was a newscast. Confused by this, I listned intently. It wasn't too long before I learned what had happened while I had been sleeping. This Tuesday, was September 11, 2001.
I'll never forget how hectic that day was. I still made it to my economics class on time, but I don't think anybody in there was thinking about economics. Campus was full of people who had places to go and be, but instead just stood there in front of television sets, completely hypnotized by the horror being projected on them. It was on one of these TV sets that I will never forget the early news images of people, REAL PEOPLE, jumping from what had to be 1,000 feet in the air. My two friends who had greeted me just months ago from a wary trip overseas were bleeding to death before my very eyes.
Some how I found a way to pull myself away from campus and made it to my job working on the truck docks at Meijer. No doubt there was as much a buzz there than there was on campus. It was here when I learned that on my way into work, both the towers had collapsed.
The feelings of that day were unparalleled to anything I had ever felt before. Despite the severity of my personal problems, they were put on the back burner just like everything else that day and the weeks to follow. On that day, my depression didn't make me different, it made me normal.
Eventually, as time passed after the attacks, I went back into my deep state of depression. And in fact it was worse this time. Before, I could distract myself with Comedy Central or video golf tournaments with my roommates. But all that greeted me when I came back home was the misery that the people of New York were experiencing, futily hoping that there loved ones may have survived the terrible collapse. This went on for three weeks or so, leaving me in the bathroom one night with a bottle of laundry detergent that I for some reason had decided not to ingest.
On October 10, 2001 the baseball playoffs started, and all eyes were on the New York Yankees for obvious reasons. I'll admit to not being a big baseball fan at all at the time (funny, since I practically live for it now), but even I couldn't help but to get caught up in the media frenzy of a sold out Yankee Stadium, filled with New Yorkers that were hoping their ball club could give them something to cheer about while they lingered in ruin.
That night, the Oakland Athletics handed the New York Yankees a 5-3 loss. The following night, Oakland won 2-0. Both games at Yankee Stadium, both games ending with New Yorkers leaving the ball park in disappointment. At the time, I thought "well, what the hell were they expecting? This isn't a fairy tale and there sure as hell won't be a happy ending". Oakland was only one win away from sweeping the New York Yankees in the series and in order for the Yankees to win, they would have to do something nobody had ever done before, comeback form an ALDS series trailing 2-0 and win the next three games.
I'll admit that I had reluctantly watched game 3 of the series in Oakland two nights later. I say reluctantly, because I didn't want to see the Yankees lose in at the one time and maybe only time where it made so much sense for them to win. But they didn't lose, the Yankees defeated the A's 1-0, courtesy of a Jorge Posada homerun, but the highlight of the game came in the 7th inning. The A's had begun a rally and had Jeremy Giambi on first base. Terrence Long shot a double down down the right field line. Giambi rounded third and it was certain that he would make it home to tie the game and give Oakland a chance to put the series away for good.
It became more certain when Yankee rightfielder Shane Spencer rocketed a throw that sailed over the heads of both designated cut-off men. But out of nowhere, Yankee Shortstop Derek Jeter flashed across the field, to a location he had absolutely no business being, grabbed the ball and flipped it to Posada just it time to tag Giambi out at home who did not slide because he believed he had beaten the throw that easily. From that point on, I saw a new Yankee ball club.
At that moment, Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees spoke to me in language that made sense. It was a language my family and friends didn't understand and a language my suicide counselor did not speak. And it was most definitely a language I never thought I would hear again: HOPE!
Here were the Yankees, a storied franchise, defending back-to-back-to-back would champions at this time. And it seemed like they had fallen apart and that all hope was gone. This is not unlike my life when what I thought was a promising future in high school gave crashing down in a chaotic wreak. For that night, I believed it could be done. I believed I could come back.
The Yankees would go on to win game 4 of the series in Oakland 9-2 to ties the series at 2-2 the next night. While I thought this would excite me, it didn't. I had just spoken to the girl from high school earlier that day online and she had actually sent me a picture of her and her new boyfriend (she asked if I wanted to see it and I said yes, in her defense). Again, the world came crumbling down on me.
The Yankees would play two days later and win game 5 and the ALDS 3-2 as they defeated Oakland 5-3 at Yankee Stadium. I did find the fact that the Yankees pulled through to win the series amazing and somewhat inspirational, but nowhere near as inspirational as the people of the City of New York.
It is a tradition at Yankee Stadium that when the Yankees win, the PA strikes up Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" as was the case on this night. But this time, Frank was joined by only 55,000 Yankee fans, singing every word of the song, waving American Flags, waiving New York flags. And finally, the hard shell of my depression cracked.
What in the hell was I worried about? A girl? A university? Being home sick? I mean, these people just got their city absolutely rocked. Their friends and family members bodies were still burning within sight of the stadium. It is very easy to believe that every single one of them was in mourning, but at that moment they didn't care. It was time to look passed all that, it was time to celebrate that they still had more to live for and it was a time to show the entire world that NEW YORK WAS NOT GOING AWAY!!! I think I must have cried for hours that night, because then I knew, Bob Wolfer was going away either. Depression is a tough customer and I didn't win my fight with it at the night, but I did know that I would.
Next, the Yankees would face the feared Seattle Mariners in the ALCS. Seattle had won an unbelievable 116 games that season, and while many thought it was nice to see the Yankees and New York have their moment in the sun against Oakland, everybody KNEW that Seattle was going to win that series. But the Yankees must have missed the memo.
Building off of their momentum in the Oakland series, the Yankees took the first two games against the Mariners in Seattle to lead the series 2-0 heading back to New York. In the anticipation of the Yankees going up 3-0 in the series and hearing "New York, New York" I watched anxiously after my long day. At this point, it was the New York Yankees that broke up depression for me. During the day, whenever I would start to get it rough, I knew I could look forward to watching the Yankees win and have my resolve steeled to reclaim my life. That night, Seattle beat the Yankees 14-3. It looked absolutely awful, and maybe the dream was over. No "New York, New York" tonight.
I carried that same feeling with me throughout the next day when the Yankees would play Seattle again in game 4 of the series. The game was a nail-biter until Seattle's Bret Boone smoked a home run in the top of the eighth to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. The Yankees hadn't scored in the previous 7 innings against Seattle, there was little reason to think that would change. In fact at that point of the game, the Yankees had managed just one hit.
In the bottom of the 8th, David Justice came up for the Yankees and watched strike 3 blare by him. Then it was Bernie Williams. The count was full and on the 7th pitch of the at-bat Williams drilled a home run over the right field wall to tie the game. Yankee Stadium errupted with elation. Hope was here yet again as Williams rounded the bases.
The Yankees famed closer Mariano Rivera set the Mariners down in order in the 9th and that gave the Yankees a chance to put the game away. And with one out and one on, Yankee Secondbaseman Alfonso Soriano did just that, crushing a home run to right-center field that clinched the game for the Yankees. The Yankee phoenix had again arisen from the ashes. Re-establishing control of the series 3-1. One more win, and the New York Yankees were going back to the World Series. And they would do it. Perhaps demoralized by the dramatic defeat the night before, Seattle put up little resistance as the Yankees steam-rolled their way to a 12-3 victory and their fourth consecutive World Series berth. I stood in the living room, my roommates watching and not understanding tears streaming down my face as I sang "New York, New York" with Yankee Stadium.
It was five very difficult days that I had to wait before the Yankees would finally meet the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series. I had visited friends in Kalamazoo in the meantime, and while that made me feel better, coming back only made me realize again how lonely I was. When the World Series would finally resume, I didn't feel much better as the Diamondbacks, let by a brilliant pitching performance by starter Curt Schilling destroyed the Yankees 9-1 at Bank One Ballpark. The following night, the Yankees would be blanked 4-0 and quickly trail 2-0 in the world series. It wasn't looking good. The magic had finally run out.
On October 29, 2001, the series would move back to Yankee Stadium. And the Yankees started to look more like the Yankees. New York would gut out a 2-1 win in a tough pitchers match up and cut the series lead to 2-1. But this victory would be replaced by panic the next night in game 4.
The following day, I had the apartment to myself for the game, which was an idea I welcomed. My roommates were out at Halloween parties and watching the games with them, and crying after a Yankee win, was something that I could tell was starting to make them uncomfortable. I had no friends in Lansing then, so I had not halloween plans. Besides, at that point of my life, I would have much rather have spent my time with the Yankees. But what was supposed to be a perfect night, wasn't looking very good at all.
The Diamondbacks took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning. Jeter would start the inning by grounding out on a bunt attempt to third. Rightfielder Paul O'Neil offered some brief hope when he got on with a single, but this was immediately dimmed when Bernie Williams, the hero in game 4 of the Seattle series struck out. The Yankees were one out away from being hopelessly down 3-1 in the series. Up came Tino Martinez, the Yankees final hope. On the first pitch Tino got ahold of it. It was going far to the deep right-center field of Yankee Stadium. Diamondback outfielders Steve Finley and Reggie Sanders gave chase, but couldn't prevent it from leaving the ball park. Again, when all hope was lost, the New York Yankees were coming back.
The rally in the 9th would not go in vain. Derek Jeter would enjoy more post-season heroics as he hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to rightfield to tie the series 2-2. Jeter's homerun had come after midnight, technically making the date November 1st and thus earning Jeter the nick name "Mr. November". "New York, New York", played on a loop in my apartment that night. So much so the upstairs neighbor had called me two hours after the game had ended and asked me to turn it off (at this point my best friend Matt Cowell have given be a copy of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra doing a duet of the classic).
The early morning heroics of Jeter had set up an all important game 5 at Yankee Stadium the following night. And in the late going, it once again wasn't looking good for the Yankees. Arizona had led the game 2-0 since the 5th inning and carried that lead into the bottom of the 9th. Going down 3-2 to a tough Arizona team would not be fun, especially since the series was headed back to Arizona for game 6 regardless.
Posada came up first and ignited the crowd with a gap double. But the crowd would settle down after a Shane Spencer ground out and the Chuck Knoblauch strike out that followed. The Yankees were again down to their final out and Scott Brosius was coming up to bat. Brosius had hit a meager .287 during the season with 13 home runs. In the post-season his batting average was below .200. But again, he was the Yankees last hope. After taking ball one, Brosius laid into one that began speeding toward the leftfield fence. Knowing it was gone, Brosius had raised his right arm in the air before he had even left the batter's box. For the second consecutive night, the New York Yankees, trailing by 2 runs and down to their last out, had tied the ball game.
The game would continue for three more innings before the Yankees would again win in heroic fashion as Soriano singled in Knoblauch to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the World Series heading back to Arizona. "NEW YORK, NEW YORK"!!!
In game 6, all was forgotten by the Diamondbacks. There would be no memorable moments in this game as Arizona handed New York a crushing 15-2 defeat. The sereis was tied at 3-3 and game 7 would decide the 2001 World Series Champion.
As was the case with many of the other games in the 2001 World Series, game 7 was a pithcers duel. And like many of the other games that were pitchers duels, Arizona struck first in the bottom of the 6th from a Danny Bautista double. The Diamondbacks would lead 1-0 until the Yankees would tie the game in the 7th inning on a Tino Martinez single that would score Jeter.
The game went into the top of the 8th inning, where Yankee Manager Joe Torre recalled having a conversation with his Bench Coach Don Zimmer. Zimmer had suggested to Torre that he bring Mariano Rivea into the game to keep the score tied. Torre refused saying he wasn't going to put in Rivera until the team had a lead. Zimmer continued to protest when Torre said to Zimmer "tell Soriano to hit a home run and then we won't have to worry about it". Seemingly right on que, that is exactly what Soriano did, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th.
Rivera, in his traditional dominant form, struck out the side holding the one-run lead. The Yankees would fail to score in the top of the 9th, leaving it to Rivea to get the Yankees three more out, a fourth consecutive world championship and the people of New York something to be happy about in the midst of disaster.
But in the bottom of th 9th the wheels fell off. One sports reporter at the game later commented in the film "9 Innings from Ground Zero" that he had looked up at the clock at Bank One Ballpark just before the bottom of the 9th had started and it had said "9:11". He assumed this was a bad thing and he was right. After a three hits, a throwing error and a hit batsmen (not in that order), the Arizona Diamondbacks gave the Yankees a taste of their own medicine and won the 2001 World Series with a heroic base hit by Luis Gonzales with one out.
Immediately following the game, I was devastated that the Yankees had come so close to completing such a momentus playoff run. I had so much invested in the series personally, and it was just shocking to me that it wasn't meant to be. But despite the loss, the Yankees had more than proved their point to me.
Despite how hopeless my life seemed, despite my not seeing anyway out, despite having my own metaphoric two men out with one man on in the bottom of the 9th, there was a way to come back and there was a way to win. It is as if the New York Yankees were coaching me through my entire bout with depression. Their actions spoke lounder than any of the words that those who were closest to me could have spoken.
I eventually won my bout with depression, though it took a few more years and the incredible support of my friends and family who are nothing short of the most remarkable people I've ever known. They played a huge part in saving me. But if it weren't for the New York Yankees, they would have never have gotten that chance. For that reason, this Detroit-born, metro-Detroit raised boy will be a New York Yankee until the day he dies a death not of his own making.
|How to be a New York Yankee.
Growing up in Harper Woods and Milford, I was raised almost entirely by my mother. She did an absolutely phenomenal job with by older siblings and I. Despite coming from a broken family, all three of us have enjoyed success and found passions in life that we wake up everyday anxious to pursue.
But one thing that was always missing, and this is because my mother never really bought into it, was religion. Not that I regret this in anyway. In fact, in many ways I'm grateful as it has given me the opportunity to view everybody's beliefs with objectivity. But I would be lying if I said it didn't make things awkward at times. I would be asked when I was young by classmates or friends "what religion are you?" And my response would usually be "I'm not sure" or if I felt like making light of the awkwardness, "I don't know, ask my Grandma, she'll probably know."
So, the question becomes after all of this, what is religion? What is it that I'm looking for? Well, I guess if you're asking me I would say that religion is a guiding force in your life. It establishes a solid foundation of principles and values that you use to conduct your life and guide you through darkness. I don't mean to joke, be sarcastic, or disrespect anyone of an established or organized religion, but in all seriousness I'm not Catholic, I'm not Jewish, I'm not Muslim. I am a New York Yankee.
There is a post in this journal below that explains why the Yankees are more than a baseball team to me. The Yankees saved my life, I mean that. I'm not going to get into it here, just read below and hopefully you'll think I'm less insane.
But my point is, since I was saved by the Yankees, I have established guiding principles that the team uses, that also apply to life. The result? I've fought through some of the hardest times in my life and have achieved enough to success to get me on what I feel is the right track. So here are the principles, here are the Yankee commandments:
1.) Establish an expectation of success. Find out where you want to be and do what you need to do to win.
2.) Do EVERYTHING with class. All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
3.) Only sweat the small things. If you sweat the small things, a lot of the time you'll never have a big thing to worry about.
4.) Give as much as you can beyond 100%. There is an extra 10% in you that you don't know about, try to find it.
5.) You WILL FAIL! Don't kick yourself when it happens, welcome the opportunity to learn and improve.
6.) Conduct yourself with professionalism at all times. Nobody will take you seriously if you look or act like you don't take yourself seriously.
7.) Stick to your goals. You're always going to have doubters, nay-sayers, and competitors that will treat you in ways you would never treat them. Don't let it distract you from being yourself because only then do you learn about your true self, and know what to improve on.
8.) Never, EVER get complacent. Never think you're good enough. Always strive for more and stay hungry. Success is something that is earned through hard work, not luck alone.
So there they are. These are my 8 commandments. My saints? Jeter, Mantle, DiMaggio, Ruth, Gehrig, Munson, Martin, Mattingly, Torre and Berra. There is something to be learned by each of their lives and their careers.
Jeter, an embodiment of class.
Mantle, don't be like him. Recover from setbacks, don't let them prevent you from becoming more than you are.
Ruth, don't forget to have fun.
Gehrig and Munson, ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT EACH DAY IS A GIFT, AND THAT IT CAN BE TAKEN AWAY AT ANY TIME!
Martin, take pride in EVERYTHING you do, even if you know you'll never be the best at it.
Mattingly, you don't have to win in order to be great.
Torre, "there's no such thing as a wrong decision, there's just decisions that don't work."
Berra, always keep your sense of humor.
I could go on but you get the point. I close now, the only way I know how to, with this quote:
"I'd like to thank the good Lord, for making me a Yankee" - Joe DiMaggio
|Monday, March 12th, 2007|
|Farewell My Long Lost Friend
The weekend before last, I spent my Saturday afternoon as I often do. I slept in late, I made some breakfast, watched some TV, called some friends to see what they were up to, left them voice messages and waited to hear back.
Finally, the phone rang breaking of the monotony of the day. But not in a way that I ever could have expected. My mother's saddened voice sounded on the other end of my line; Steve Rhodes, my best friend from Harper Woods was dead.
For the remainder of the weekend I wrestled with that bitter reality. I dwelled on the many times Steve and I had hung out together and I struggled to imagine him doing anything but smiling or laughing. While he and I had grown a bit apart over the past few years after high school, he still had a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of others that will be impossible to forget.
For anyone who wasn't from Harper Woods, the city's obsession with baseball, little league baseball in particular, is unlike anything that exists in any other city that I've been to. In Harper Woods parents didn't ask each other if their kid was going to play baseball, they simply asked each other what team their kid played for. Like ancient Spartans knew their young men would be trained as warriors, it was a known fact in Harper Woods that if you had a 7-15 year old boy, he played baseball.
Indeed, Harper Woods was little league baseball and from the time he first stepped on the field, little league baseball was Steve Rhodes. Steve was an absolutely incredible pitcher and could hit the ball a ton. I unfortunately never got to play with though, even though I was almost two years older than him, I was never talented enough to play in the same league, and I was a decent ball player.
He would go on, with others to become the talk of the town. He was a key element in Harper Woods' youth tournament team winning a State Championship in the mid 90s and was an equally important part of Harper Woods High School's 2001 State Championship team, pitching a complete game that consisted of six scoreless innings. Today he still appears in the Michigan High School Baseball record books as he belted 9 triples in his Junior season. He was a sight to see.
There are no doubt that I have many memories of Steve, but one of the finest would have to be our senior year of high school. I had come down from Milford, where I had moved a few years back, to visit with Steve and other friends in Harper Woods during the spring and the beginning of the 2001 baseball season. It was a pretty lousy day, overcast, the humidity was close to unbearable and I had a terrible headache from having drank too much the night before (I doubt Steve felt too much better). But we made it up to the park where I purchased some pumpkin seeds and basked myself back into Harper Woods' baseball society.
Steve pitched that day, and while I can't remember precisely how he did, but what I do remember is what I heard in the stands. As Steve went to work on the mound, two boys (who looked like they were about 12 years old) approached a man sitting next to me and they began to talk. One of the boys was a pitcher, a really good pitcher from the sounds of it and he continued to talk to the older man about what he would hope to accomplish in his young career. Then the older gentleman commented, with a smile, "do you think you'll ever be as good as Steve Rhodes?" The boy’s eyes lit up and without a second of hesitation shook his head so violently that in almost looked like he was trying to get something out of his ear, more than say no.
Even at the age of 12, this boy had learned to respect Steve's abilities and I would suspect that was the case with many others in little league at that time. Steve was held up as the example of what it meant to be a great ball player and he lived up to that with both his talent on the field and his class off of it. No one would ever accuse him of having a big head.
In Harper Woods, it was not unheard of for the whole city to be at a baseball game and this was very special for everyone lucky enough to be a part of that. When you played ball, you had two chances every week, every summer, to be a hero. And almost every time Steve touched a ball or a bat, he was.
But those who were fortunate enough, as I was, to know Steve off of the field, knew that he could be a hero in life as well. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be the same person I am so proud to be today if it weren't for Steve. In sixth grade when I had my first big crush on Lindsay Achs and couldn't muster the courage to ask her out, Steve picked up the phone and gave her a call for me. When a group of us were terrified by bike thieves on Kelly Ave., Steve stepped up to protect us. He took the kid's best punch, and then he laughed at him. While the bike thief didn't have much sense, he had enough to know it would be good to end the encounter and turn the other way.
There was no one time when I saw him that I didn't have one of the times of my life. When we were younger it was all about sports. If we weren't getting pick up games together, we were talking about them. If we weren't talking about them, we were watching them on TV. If we weren't watching them on TV, we were playing them on our video games. Our mutual love and competitiveness sealed a true bond of friendship that too few are every fortunate enough to feel.
As the two of us got older, we began to share the types of memories that adolescents normally share. We went to parties, we got drunk for the first time together (at least it was my first time), we tried to meet girls (often unsuccessfully, but I am thankful to hear Steve got better at it than I did as time went on), we got into trouble, we did REALLY stupid things, we stayed up late, we went to ball games and we talked about life.
Steve was always there. Moving to Milford and losing my first Stepfather shortly after, was one of the toughest moments in my life. When I would come to Harper Woods to visit with him and our other very close friend "Mickey", they served as a pillar of strength. Steve especially would talk me through things for about an hour and then make some fun of my situation. Those types of conversations always ended in laughter and served as a reminder to me that no matter how bad things might be, there was always going to be time to laugh and have fun. I tried my best to return the favor when he lost his father just before high school graduation.
This was often the case. Steven and I had our most fun making fun of the University of Michigan, situations, and people, ourselves not excluded. I wasn't too surprised to learn at his funeral that the Detroit News had written an article highlighting his expert abilities at heckling visiting pitchers at Comerica Park along with another close mutual friend, Matt Barranca (Read John 3714's post: http://sports-boards.net/forums/showthread.php?s=0232ad62da0f113c2f9611414288b021&p=1294631#post1294631
), sometimes earning a laugh from the opposing players, who would then lob a ball in Steve's direction. He had an unbelievable talent for making everyone around him laugh and it is that talent, now that he is gone, that I miss so sorely.
I have been and probably will for a good while, kicking myself for not staying closer to Steve after I moved to Lansing. But I know that he wouldn't want it that way. If it would have been someone else, and Steve was still here, there's no question in my mind he would be helping us all to find ways to laugh as much of it off as we could.
Goodbye friend, my next beer's for you and if you get a chance, make sure you hit a homerun for me wherever you might be today.
|Wednesday, June 14th, 2006|
|Outsourcing? Again, You're Missing the Point!
Since Governor Jennifer Granholm, with help from her friends at the Michigan Democratic Party began airing their first ads, the governor and Michigan Democrats have waged an all out assault on President Bush and his "unfair trade practices".
Politically, the strategy makes sense. A recent poll released by EPIC/MRA in Lansing showed that not only was jobs/economy overwhelmingly identified as the state's largest concern, but the poll also showed that 44% of Michiganders blamed the state of Michigan's ailing economy on President Bush while only 21% blamed Governor Granholm. Looks like the Granholm campaign has found themselves a winner!
But that is of course assuming that the people of Michigan will continue to ignore the reality of oursourcing, which greatly contradicts that rhetoric that is being spewed across both peninsulas. In my research, I have found only one emperical study that examines the direct effects that outsourcing has had on the State of Michigan's economy, in particular that manufacturing sector in Michigan. While the study makes it clear that some jobs are being lost as a result to outsourcing, a mere 12% of Michigan jobs have been lost for that reason. Putting this in persepctive, Michgian has lost 243,500 manufacturing jobs since 2000. According to the study, only 34,500 of the TOTAL jobs lost in Michigan were lost as a direct result of oursourcing. The study intead cites increased productivity as the reason for the United States manufacturing industry's pain.
The study was commissioned by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Accelerator Group. It can be found at: http://www.detroitchamber.com/MPC/documents/offshoring.pdf
But of course Bob! You might say, not only do your numbers show that Michigan's been losing jobs since 2000, but they're in manufacturing, and of course everybody knows that Michigan has more manufacturing than eveyone else, so how can you blame the governor?
Well, let's consider the following facts:
Since January of 2003, the United States economy has created 3 million jobs, while Michigan has lost 60,400 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Also according to the bureau, Michigan was the only state in 2005 that wasn't hit by a hurricane that reported a net jobs loss.
Michigan has the second highest unemployment rate in the country.
Although Wisconsin and Indiana have manufacturing making up 18% and 19% of their economies, respectively, their unemployment rates are still over 2% lower than Michigan's.
So clearly, there is something going on here that is specific to Michigan. Well of course there is Bob. It's the automotive industry. Sure rattle off manufacturing statistics, but that doesn't specify the harm that's being created in the auto industry right now and we all know that Michigan's economy is so dependent on that industry. You're crazy.
No I'm not. It's no secret that the big 3 is struggling and that has much to do with Michigan's struggles. But the more important question is, what has the governor done about it? Japanese car companies are expanding their operations all over the United States, but not here in Michigan. In the State of Alabama for example, the auto manufacturing workforce has expanded by 43% since 2003 as a result of the state's attracting of 29 automotive plants to Alabama. Likewise, the State of Ohio has attracted two Honda plants and is a top candidate to get a third sometime in the near future. In Michigan?
Well, there was a Toyota R&D plant that is being built in Ann Arbor. Even after ignoring the fact that Toyota had to wait for one year and a State Supreme Court ruling to go ahead with the project, R&D plants are not going to help re-employ the droves of line workers that are being handed pink slips and buyouts. But for the most part, it has been Governor Granholm, not President Bush that has been weak in fighing for Michigan jobs.
Two examples I can point to:
First, was the governor's antics when Delphi Corporation, and employer of tens of thousands of Michiganders announced its bankruptcy. This predictably sparked a labor dispute between Delphi and the United Auto Workers union (UAW). Five days after the bankruptcy was announced, the administration was asked what its plan of action would be. The response: "We're in a holding pattern". This can be found in the October 13, 2005 edition of the Indianapolis Star.
But surely this isn't too bad Bob. I mean be fair, that was only five days after the bankruptcy was announced. Surely the governor would take action at the appropriate time. Unfortunately, the administration didn't. On May 4, 2006, after Delphi broke off talks with the UAW twice, after the UAW authorized their employees to go on strike, after General Motors Corporation publicly stated that a strike at Delphi would cripple their company, the evening news in Flint, Saginaw and Bay City reported that the administration was taking a "wait-and-see" approach. It seems this is the "action" that Michigan's worried masses can count on from their governor.
Second, the governor took a much heralded trip to Japan last month to "bring back jobs to Michigan". First off, it worth noting that about 3/4 of the jobs the governor "brought back" from Japan came in the form of expansions from Japanese companies that were already located in Michigan. This begs the question as to why the trip was necessary in the first place, but I digress. The point here is that while the governor was in Japan to develop "all important" face to face relationships with Japanese executives, Honda Motor Company announced that they would be building an automotive assembly plant "somewhere in the Midwest". The plant was worth over $400 million in investment and would have created 1,500 jobs. Since the governor was in Japan, you would think that no matter what was on her schedule she would adjust in order to meet with Honda to give Michigan a chance to net this all important opportunity. When questioned about this on the Paul W. Smith Show on May 17, 2006, the governor laughed that suggestion off saying she was "totally booked".
So this is just a taste of the "economic policies" of Governor Jennifer Granholm. The unfortunate truth is that the people of Michigan made a mistake in 2002 of electing a governor that has sat on her hands for four years and is now trying to hide behind an unpopular president. Michigan deserves better, Michigan must do better.
|Saturday, May 13th, 2006|
|Don't Let Granholm's Health Insurance "Plan" Fool You!
Many of you who keep up with the news have undoubtedly heard about Governor Granholm's plan to cover all of the uninsured citizens of Michigan. The governor has proposed an idea very similar to what was just passed through the Massachusetts state legislature and signed by Governor Mitt Romney that essentially creates a private sector/public sector partnership that covers almost all of the state's uninsured.
This is a very pressing problem all across the United States. Currently, there are over 40 million citiznes that have no health coverage at all, so I can agree with the governor when she has said, on several occasions, that we need a "uniquely American solution" to the health care problem. I will even go as far to say that I think the governor has a good idea, but that's all it is. An idea is not a plan, and as my boss, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anzuis said in his official statement: "A Press Release is NOT A PLAN!"
Saul has a great point when it comes to the goveronr's dealing on this very important issue. To paraphrase Tom Hanks in the movie Apollo 13, there are about 1,000 things that need to happen in order for the governor's ideas to become reality. We're probably on step 17 but she's talking about step 872. It's just way too early to get people this excited about this idea and it's an extreme political risk on the governor's part if she is to be re-elected.
First, it is worth mentioning that this idea really isn't anything new. The governor first announced this "plan" at her annual State of the State Address back in January. She has since copy-pasted some of the things that were done in Massachusetts into what she has originally said and is re-unveiling it as a new idea when it simply is not.
Second, this entire idea hinges on the hope that the federal government will float the State of Michigan $1.1 billion. The governor in her State of the State Address claimed that this would be possible because of how much money the state has saved the federal government. Sounds reasonable, but the truth is that there is no real guarantee that federal money is going to fork over any amount of money for this program, let alone a whopping $1.1 billion needed for this program to be effective. The governor continues to claim that the state is "still in negotiations" with the federal government. So she really is making a lot of promises here that she can't deliver on.
Third, the governor herself, as well as, her spokeswoman Liz Boyd and the state Surgeon General Kimberlydawn Wisdom have all said that even if the federal government were to play ball, the program would not likely be enacted until April 2007. So basically, our governor is promising IMMEDIATE health care coverage assistance.........11 months from now.
Finally, it's good that Governor Granholm is looking to Massachusetts as a model here. But I think she could have learned a lot more from Governor Romney. When Mr. Romney introduced his plan, he did so in the form of proposing legislation and took real action to work with a legislature controlled by the opposite party to get a great plan for the citizens of Massachusetts. Governor Granholm has taken no such action. In fact, the governor said herself earlier this week on WDIV with Devin Scillian that the legislature would need to pass legislation. So what is the govenor waiting for? Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and Speaker of the House Craig DeRoche began talking about how good this idea sounded but wanted more specifics on how the plan would work before they would take up legisiation in their respected bodies. The administration has failed to provide the legislative leaders with details. If they had, a bill could be crafted in such a way that would make the program workable if, and only if, the state were to be approved for federal money. But no such steps have been taken.
The question one must ask then, is given this information, why is the governor errecting preverbial billboards about this plan? I submit the following two answers:
1.) The governor, as she seems to be doing the past two months, is continuing to engage in what I like to call trickle down politics. Meaning, whatever is being taken up in Washington is making headlines, so it's natural to take it up Lansing to also get headlines. This was the case in late April with the governor's "Gas Price petition" while the United States Congress was discussing solutions to the price of petroleum. And it is now the case with this health care proposal as the United States Congress is seemingly neck deep in Medicaid reform. Thefore, it made sense to re-introduce the idea and hope that the citizens of Michigan would confuse motion with progress.
2.) It is very much worth mentioning that the governor re-introduced this plan on Thursday May 11. On the evening of Wednesday May 10, two seperate public polls were released that showed the governor slightly trailing her almost sure to be opponent Dick DeVos. This is possibly the first time that the governor has trailed in a general election poll and due to DeVos' saturation of the airwaves with television ads, the governor needed a popular proposal to get here back up.
So while the governor's plan is a great idea and would be good for Michigan, we're a long way away from anything real taking shape on this front. It will be important to keep that in mind while the governor will likely continue parading this "plan" in front of the public. There's still A LOT that needs to happen for any of this to come to fruition. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Saturday, October 8th, 2005|
|Why I HATE Michigan; and I don't mean the state.
I decided to interrupt the interviews with Bob Wolfer to write a column that finally needs to be printed so that University of Michigan fans can finally understand why they are hated. Granted this hate is demonstrated by most passionately by Spartans like myself, and that will be the focus of this article, but there are other schools in the area. Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State to name a few.
Let me first of all start out by saying that there are layers of tolerance that I have for particular Michigan fans. First let us examine the most tolerable. Those are students and alumni of the University of Michigan who do nothing more outside of root for their team. If one can look past their repulsive (and many times undeserved) arrogance, one can simply understand the desire that one would feel to root for the team representing their Alma matter. For the most part, these fans have respectful qualities.
Second, are the far worse Michigan fans who root for Michigan, gloat about Michigan, act as if Michigan athletes are some form of maize and blue gods, yet have NO connection to the university. AT ALL. These fans have simply adopted Michigan as "their" team, although there really is justification to this. In fact, one can be surprised if these types of fans can name a mere handful of players on "their" team.
Third, and unquestionably the worst, are people who either attend or have attended other institutions that often play Michigan, yet are still "Michigan fans." These types of fans are the most intolerable because such people seem to put their "loyalty" to their team on rent. Simply put, when their school plays Michigan, and Michigan is victorious, it's "Hail to the victors" as they rub it in their fellow students’ faces. Yet when Michigan falls to their school, they feel perfectly justified in participating in the victory celebrations with their fellow students.
These are your three basic types of Michigan fans. I will now examine each of them more in depth beginning with the most former type of fan that I have mentioned.
As stated before, Michigan fans that actually have got to Michigan or are presently going to Michigan can be classified as the least hated. Though there is still much to be said for these fans. First, a trait of arrogance exists throughout all of them. We Spartans know this all to well when we are expected to believe such moronic statements such as "[Michigan State] is like our pesky little brother/sister". Or the more idiotic: "We don't really care about you guys, we care about beating Ohio State." This assumed superiority breeds the type of hatred that these types of Michigan fans claim not to understand. It really is quite a simple concept, and on that point it confuses me that the people of the "9th Ivy League University" cannot figure out this simple fact.
Second, you have the Michigan fans that have no connection to the university. Though they lack a connection, they will NEVER hesitate to gloat all the same, and actually more, than those who actually have a connection to the university. What is humorous however, is the struggle that these fans engage in when their lack of connection is called into question. Being a life-long Michigan State fan, I find it fun to ask a gloating Michigan fan a simple question: "what year did you graduate from Michigan?" 9 of 10 times this question is not answered immediately with a date, but with a form babbling that defines stupidity. That is to say, they will engage in some far-off explanation that connects them to the university. It resembles a man trying to convince a lottery winner that he is somehow a distant relative. "Well, all my friends go to Michigan." "My parents [who still have no connection] always cheered for Michigan when I grew up." Or the most revealing of their "loyalty", "Well, Michigan usually wins."
Finally, there are the most detestable fans that attend different institutions. I specifically know of three Michigan fans that attend or once attended Michigan State and it is simply detesting. These are the people who will pretend to passionately root for Michigan State against a team like Wisconsin or Purdue in order to "fit in". However, once Michigan comes to town, all bets are off. Suddenly all we get to hear from these people is how great Michigan is and how badly "'WE' are going to beat 'YOU GUYS'". When Michigan wins these people are on cloud nine making sure just about every Michigan State student is reminded of the game's result. But when Michigan loses, these people, rather than hide in disgrace, join the celebration with outlandish justifications such as "well, I root for both teams" or "well, I go to State." We don't buy it, not even for a nickel. Unlike the Michigan fan base, we at Michigan State don't allow you to negotiate your loyalty.
Of course at the root of all of this hatred is the gloating. But more than the gloating is the fact that Michigan fans want to have it both ways. They can dish it out, but like any kitten in a tiger suit, they can't take it. This is to say they attempt to limit an intelligent conversation about Michigan and Michigan State athletics to their presently more successful football program. If you're a Michigan State fan trying to shift the conversation to basketball, you'll be immediately informed or reminded that "We [Michigan fans] don't care about basketball." This is an interesting comment given the amount of gloating I had to endure during the "Fab 5" era, now known as the "cheating" era. It's clear to anyone with a brain. Michigan fans only "care" about those things that they can gloat about.
Recently I took the time to go to a Michigan basketball game and was just astounded by how quickly Michigan fans will abandon their teams if said teams are not nationally ranked. Walking into Crisler Arena, I couldn't help thinking of the similarities between this arena and the Roman Coliseum. A venue once so full of vibrance and excitement that sparked intimidation with its mere mention. But now, a lifeless, empty void with the exception of the Maize Rage [admittedly a very good student section, despite its small size] and a speckling of people throughout the arena acting as if attending the game was their last resort as oppose to their first priority. At one point, while the game was still in progress, I was asked by someone in the stands to please lower my voice (I was talking to my friend, not cheering for Michigan). It's a sporting event, not an opera. How pathetic!!!
In my three years as a Michigan State student I have never known a football or basketball game that was not sold out, even in the face of mediocrity Spartans have stayed true to their team. Wolverines do not, forgetting their team in less successful times, but then gaining the tenacity to boast to the world how great they are in times of great success. And you Michigan fans wonder why you're hated?!
|Friday, September 30th, 2005|
|An Interview with Bob Wolfer Part 4 of 5
JR: Hello everyone, with you again is me Jack Robbins sitting down for the first time in awhile with Bob Wolfer. Bob, it's been awhile, so why don't you start by catching some of us up with your life, most specifically, the job hunt.
BW: Well as always, thanks for having me on JR it's always a pleasure. As far as the job hunt goes, everything really is starting to come together. I've had some interviews back in August that I came up short on, but I am still waiting to hear back from a third interview that I had earlier this month. In the meantime, things have gone well at Sam's Club so it has really helped take a lot of pressure off of me and has really helped my confidence.
JR: Indeed, you were promoted at Sam's Club if I'm not mistaken.
BW: Yes, that's true. I recently moved up from being a part-time cashier to a full-time cashier. It really is a good move because it gets me the hours I need to make a comfortable living and in the meantime, I get a day off out of it so it's been good.
JR: Certainly that is all good news and hopefully you'll hear some more good news as you wait to hear back from your third interview. Now, I also understand that your mother was recently in the hospital, how is she doing?
BW: Well, thankfully Mom is doing just fine. It was a little scary when I found out about what was going on. She had a blood clot that was caught in her lung from her broken leg and it really was quite an ordeal. She was in the hospital for five days, but like I said, thankfully it worked out alright. I just talked to her yesterday and she had gotten her cast taken off her leg and was doing fine, so that's had me smiling.
JR: That is good to hear and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I'm glad everything is okay with your mother's health. Now this interview is about a subject you never seem to be at a loss of words about and that is romance. Now you've never had a steady girlfriend in your entire life. Is that a fact that bothers you?
BW: Well, I think it's hard to say. Are there times when I'm lonely and want someone to be there with me and for me? Absolutely. But I think you need to look at it both ways. I have done and have been able to do a lot of things in my life that I enjoy because I am single. So it's kind of a trade off, and to be honest, I really don't have too much of a problem with either side of that trade off.
JR: Why do you think you've never had a girlfriend? Is it because of your looks, your personality?
BW: Well, I don't think it's really any of the above especially the former. I think anyone who worries too much about their looks really is kind of foolish. I've had enough friends that are girls to understand that everyone's opinions of what is "attractive" differ. So why worry so much about it? I'm going to do the things and wear the things that make me comfortable and if a girl I happen to be interested in is attracted to that, then great.
JR: Interesting perspective on that. Now Bob, you know I have to ask this. No conversation with you on this topic will be complete if I didn't bring up Jessica Segedy. You seem to have put yourself through a lot when it comes to her. How are you dealing with it?
BW: (laughs) Now, that's opening a can of worms. Jess and I have been through a lot and I'm mostly to thank for that. It really is getting to a point though where we just understand one another and nothing is really a big deal. Do I still care a lot about her? There's no question. But I think the goal, the ultimate goal as far as I'm concerned is to be as close to her as possible. It's really on and off with her so obviously that goal gets confused at times, but in the end that's really what it comes down to.
JR: Now the two of you went to Chicago with the Cowell brothers and your family, what was that all about?
BW: Well, good question. Looking back on it I don't think the trip itself had any kind of signficance. She [Jessica] really hit it off with my family back in June at my graduation party, so that's really what started it. My family wanted her to come to Chicago to my sister's luau that she hosts every year, so that's really all that was.
JR: So there were no emotions there?
BW: For the most part no. I mean, I got the feeling that I often get with her which is that she [Jessica] spends time with me more out of obligation than desire, but I never really am sure how true that is.
JR: Last question on Jess.
BW: (laughs) Thank you.
JR: You recently wrote a pretty revealing letter to her. What motivated that?
BW: Well nothing really motivated it and I think I stated that in the letter. I just had a lot on my plate and I needed to clear my mind a little bit and I figured the letter would be a good way to do that. As far as the letter being revealing, I'm not even too sure I would say that. I didn't really say anything in there that she doesn't already know so I don't think it was a big deal. What it really comes down to is that I'm a grown man, she's a grown woman and we both need to do what we need to do for ourselves. If that ends up bringing us together, great, but that's not what I was anticipating when I wrote the letter.
JR: Fair enough. Now, in case there are any girls watching that are interested, what should they know about you?
BW: Well, a few things. First of all, they need to understand that I'm a very honest man. And while that's mostly viewed in a positive light, and it should be, it needs to be understood that with honesty you have to take the good with the bad. Secondly, I tend to be a pretty intense guy. What I mean by that is there really are no mysteries with me. I wear my emotions on my sleeve so what you see is basically what you get. Third, (laughs) I'm not very domesticated. I'm clean for the most part, don't get me wrong, but as far as the whole cooking and [housekeeping] thing is concerned, I pretty much just suck. Lastly, I'm a huge sports fan. So any girl that I'm with I think would have to have at least a healthy interest in sports. (laughs) All this, and I wonder why I'm still single (laughs).
JR: So you think then that those qualities tend to make most woman uninterested?
BW: Well, women my age at least. As far as most woman my age are concerned, I'm really not impressed with the whole way that the typical personality works. From what I'm able to tell, these girls pick up guys at clubs or bars, which is fine if you're looking for a one night stand, but not a relationship. The problem is that I know of two types of guys that go to bars and clubs: guys who are looking to have sex and guys who go because their girlfriends make them. So really, none of these types of people are really an ideal companion for a girl looking for a relationship. I'm not saying it's impossible for it to work. After all, that how [my brother] met his girlfriend and now they live together. But for the most part, girls shouldn't go into such places with very high expectations for a cupid to show up.
JR: And you're not the club or bar guy. Do you think that has had an impact on your lack of romantic life?
BW: Sure, I think it certainly has. With most girls my age, they seem to enjoy the fact that they "tet to see a different side" of the guy they are hanging out with. Really, it's not a different side, most of the time it's a ploy to get sex. But most girls let themselves get fooled into thinking that there is a "softer side" to the guy and think they can bring that out. They end up failing, because there often isn't a softer side and then they complain to guys like me that "all guys" are jerks. (laughs) I kind of find the whole thing as humorous as I do foolish. I don't have time to mess around with crap like that.
JR: Sounds like a pretty pessimistic view. Do you see this changing?
BW: Well sure. I think eventually enough girls get fooled enough times by enough guys where they come to appreciate the guys who are true to themselves and care about them. It takes awhile though. In all honesty, I wouldn't be overly surprised if my wife is somebody else's ex-wife. It does sound pessimistic, but I just try to be honest with myself. It's rough at times, but for the most part, I'm very happy and very proud of who I am and that's what is most important to me.
JR: Well, unfortunately that's about all the time that we have. But thanks for joining us once again Bob and I look forward to our next conversation.
BW: As do I Jack, thanks a lot.
|Saturday, July 16th, 2005|
|An Interview with Bob Wolfer Part 3 of 5
JR: Hello, Jack Robins here again with Bob Wolfer for part three of our five part series. Bob, before we get started today, I have to ask what everyone is wondering, how is the job search going?
BW: Well, thanks for having me Jack. As far as on the job search is concerned I think that I've made some pretty solid progress in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately I haven't been called for any interviews yet, but for now I'm just trying to stay focussed on the things that I have control over.
JR: And what are those things?
BW: Well, basically I'm looking at things like fixing up my resume and cover letter by getting some advice on how to make both of those more attractive to employers. And I've also sent out some information to a few places that I think I would be interested in doing some work for. So for the most part, it's all about just getting some information out there and hopefully the right person will eventually see it.
JR: Well is sounds like you have things under control for the moment. Focussing back on the topic of this interview, we want to be a little less formal tonight.
BW: Good, I could use a little informality.
JR: You have mentioned before that your two passions in life are politics and sports. Now we've already covered a great deal about your political life, what about sports really grabs your attention?
BW: Well, first of all I do have to say that a lot of it has to be owed to my father who was an extremely huge sports fan when I was growing up. I can remember whenever there was a game on television that I would be too young to stay up and watch, he would make it a point to write down the final score and leave it on the kitchen table for me in the morning. So that has a lot to do with it. As for what I see in sports now, I really have drawn a lot of parallels between sports and life.
JR: What kind of parallels?
BW: Well, mostly it's all emotional. In the course of a sports game you really do experience a lot of the same emotions as you do in life. Your nervious, anxious, happy, disappointed, hopeful. I guess you can really say that, at least to me, a sporting event is like an abbrieviated version of life.
JR: That's an interesting perspective. But I'm told that you have another very interesting side to you when it comes to a particular team.
BW: That's true, I'm a huge New York Yankees fan.
JR: Now help me and the audience to understand this: college sports; Michigan State University, your alma matter, pro hockey; Detroit Red Wings, pro football; Detroit Lions, pro basketball; Detroit Pistons. Why the Yankees when it comes to baseball?
BW: Well, it's what I like to tell a lot of people. It's a long story, but it's a good story. I first got turned on to the Yankees after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. I went to Russia earlier in that year and I was getting pretty homesick by the end so when our plane landed in La Guardia I was looking for some reassurance that I was home. In the distance I saw the World Trade Center and it meant a lot to me to know I was back in the United States. Now, that was back in May. During the summer I went through some things with a girl that kind of tore me up and then in August I moved to Lansing, so it was all a really hard time going through some hurt and some changes. A month later, the terror attacks happened and the City of New York got rocked, just like the country and just like myself. At the time, I really wasn't a big baseball fan, but my roommates were and we started watching the baseball playoffs shortly after the attacks. What I saw there really touched me when it came to the Yankees. Not only were they winning games, in dramatic fashion when things looked hopeless, but it was how the fans there reacted. I mean here were tens of thousands of people who just had their city get rocked joining together to sing Frank Sinatra's New York, New York. They didn't care about what had happened earlier, because at that time they were happy. It kind of rubbed off on me. That is, I got confidence that no one else, not my friends or family no one, was able to give me. I knew then that if New York was going to recover and that if the people of New York were going to recover, then I was going to recover too. So in that sense the Yankees really have become a metaphor for my own life and I have been a huge fan ever since.
JR: So there is no bandwagon effect that some have criticized you for?
BW: Absolutely not and I find it amusing that some people still say that to me seeing as the Yankees are yet to win a world series since I've become a fan.
JR: So would it be safe to say baseball is your favorite sport?
BW: Absolutely. I'm also nuts about college basketball too. So it kind of works out since the two sports don't overlap at all.
JR: Now with the two games you just mentioned, baseball and college basketball there are a lot of differences. Baseball is more of a slow paced strategic game where college basketball is far more intense and fast paced. Why are these two different games your favorite?
BW: Well I think I would say they are my favorite because they are so different. I think both the games tap into two very different sides of me as a person. With baseball, it's my calculating side and tests me kind of intellectually because the game is so oriented around details. It represents the more relaxed side of me. With college basketball, it represents my intensity. Ask anyone who has competed with me in anything and they'll tell you that I have a certain intensity to me that really gets me going. So college basketball kind of mimics that emotion.
JR: Interesting, so do you have a favorite player in any of these sports?
BW: Well, it's kind of hard to say with college basketball because the kids are only playing for a maximum of four years. But with baseball my favorite player is Derek Jeter without question.
JR: Why Derek Jeter?
BW: Derek really is the kind of guy that I think personifies class and professionalism when it comes to his job and that's really how I try to do things. A guy like Derek may not be the best player on the team, but just his being there makes the team better because he comes through for the team physically and emotionally when it counts. Yet despite all of that, he's an extremely humble person. He takes what he does very seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously and I think that's a really good quality to have. Getting back to college basketball, although he's not really a player, I have a lot of admiration for [Michigan State Head Coach] Tom Izzo. Not only for a lot of the reasons that I like Derek, but also because I really do think Tom and I are a lot alike. We're both very frank and honest people and we both wear our emotions on our sleeve, so naturally I have a lot of respect for Coach Izzo as well.
JR: You've been a big sports fan all your life, what is your greatest moment as a fan?
BW: Well, I have a couple. Maurice Ager's game tying buzzer beater a couple years ago against Minnesota comes to mind, TJ Duckett's last second touchdown catch to beat Michigan, Steve Yzerman's triple overtime goal against St. Louis in game 7 of the 1996 NHL playoffs. But I think if I had to pick one, it would have to be Aaron Boone's walk-off homerun in game 7 of the ALCS in extra innings aginst the Boston Red Sox. It's a very special memory for me because I was at a bar in East Lansing watching it and it was about half and half as far as Red Sox-Yankees fans. Boston was ahead the whole game and the Yankees had the traditonal late inning rally that culminated with the homerun by probably the unlikliest of heroes. It was just great.
JR: Your worst moment as a fan?
BW: Again that's a tough one, but I think three things come to mind. The Lions loss to the Washington Redskins in the 1992 NFC Championship game, the most recent comeback win by Michigan over Michigan State in triple overtime this football season, and of course, the Boston Red Sox coming back from being down 3-0 to beat the Yankees in last year's ALCS. That one was tough. I think I was clinically depressed for about two weeks after that one.
JR: Since it is your passion, have you ever considered a career in sports?
BW: Actually yes. Before I got into politics I wanted to be a sportscaster. It's still kind of a day-dream like fantasy that I get to live in once in awhile when I'm screwing around with my friends. But yeah, actually for the majority of my life, I was looking at a career as a sportscaster.
JR: Okay, I know the Yankees are playing right now, so I think I'll let you go. Thank you as always for joining us.
BW: Thanks for having me Jack.
|Saturday, July 2nd, 2005|
|An Interview with Bob Wolfer Part 2 of 5
JR: Hello again everyone, this is Jack Robins again with Bob Wolfer. Now this interview was originally supposed to be about your experiences with Senator Nancy Cassis, but a lot has happend in the past couple of days that you feel are going to change the course of your life. Why don't you give the audience an idea of what has been going on.
BW: Well, first of all thank you Jack for the interview once again. And yeah, you're right, the past three days have been quite a challenge to say the least because there is really a lot that I am learning that is not going so well. I failed to get the job with Senator Kuipers and Representative Law which I was really counting on to keep me in Lansing. It's been hard to deal with. There's also been some personal stuff regarding a girl that has been burning at me, butI guess you want to talk about that in another interview so I'll save that for later.
JR: Very well, what was your initial reaction to learning about these disappointments?
BW: Well it was extremely disappointing. You know, all these things kind of opened up at once back in May and obviously I was really excited about it. To see all this kind of fall apart of me was a huge disappointment and for both of these things to happen so close together it was hard.
JR: Now I understand that founding out about Senator Kuipers was not the only disappointment you had last Sunday. What else happened?
BW: Well, everything else kind of seems a little funny in retrospect now that it's over with. Right after I found out about Kuipers, I went out to the trash compactor at my apartment complex to throw some things out. We just moved into a new apartment, that is my roommate and I, so we didn't have any garbage bags. So I had a handful of garbage in one hand and was so upset about [not getting the job with Senator] Kuipers that I didn't even realize my cell phone was in the same hand. What ended up happening was I threw my phone right in the compactor. It was embarassing and scary at the same time, but luckily I figured it out the next morning. But on the same night, the shelf in my new closet collapsed at about 2am so I guess it just wasn't my night.
JR: With Kuipers out as of Sunday, and Law out as of yesterday morning, what are your options now?
BW: Well, I think that's what I need to take some time to figure out. The hardest part about such disappointments is getting over the emotional damage, so I took last night off to do that. Today I started anew. My sister was nice enough to take a look at my resume so there are going to be some major changes with that. I also want to take another look at my cover letter and see if I can't work with [my sister] to get a little flavor in that as well. I also put up a profile on monster.com and have taken look at some other job opportunities I might be interested in. The next couple days, I'm planning to meet with some companies that specialize in finding jobs and also meet with someone in Michigan State University's career development department. So we'll see what happens, it's going to be a long road, but right now it's about being focussed.
JR: Is there anything in state government that you're looking at right now?
BW: At the moment no just because there really isn't anything out there that suits me like the jobs with Senator Kuipers or Representative Law's offices. So I really need to diversify where I'm looking because I need work. Getting a college degree isn't about having partys and living it up, it's about getting jobs and I haven't been doing that. So it's back to square one. If another job comes up in Lansing that would suit me, then yeah, obviously that's something I would be interested in pursuing, but right now, I can't just sit around and wait for things to open up. I need to look other places.
JR: So where else are you looking?
BW: Well, to be honest, that's kind of difficult to answer right now just because I'm so early in this process. I'm taking a good deal of time to look at things being offered on the federal and local government levels and then in the next couple days I really plan on exploring what's out there for me in the private sector. So anything I have looked at specifically, it's so early in the process that it really wouldn't be worth discussing at this time.
JR: So you have five years of experience working in state government. You graduated from Michigan State University with an International Relations degree, which is a degree that has gotten a lot of other people the kind of jobs you are ideally looking for. Why do think you've struggled so much finding a job?
BW: Well that's what I need to figure out. It could be one thing, it could be a number of things, my resume not what it needs to be, people not giving me the kind of props that other people going out for the job are getting or maybe the offices just have someone else in mind. I don't really know at this point, but it's important to get an idea of what's going on so I know if I can fix it and give myself better chances for future opportunities.
JR: Now getting back on what this interview was supposed to be about. The Cassis office.
JR: You just said that it's possible that people are not giving you as good as words as some of the other people competing for this job. Do you think there are current Cassis employees that are guilty of this?
BW: You know, I don't really want to say too much regarding that, just because there are a lot of people around me telling me that's true and maybe it is, but it's kind of difficult for me to believe at the same time. I understand that I wasn't exactly a model employee for the staff that is there now, so they would have reasons to not exactly recommend me with flying colors. But at the same time the people on Mrs. Cassis' staff have been supportive and have showed they care about my situation.
JR: Interesting you mention that, what about you wasn't model when you were employed there?
BW: Well, I was just caught in a very frustrating situation and I think I reacted to it the entirely wrong way. But at the same time, you can only watch so many very qualified people get fired for leave the office without your morale on the job being damaged. I was working hard for a good couple of years, but I got to feeling like it didn't matter because I had a new boss every three to four months so it was very discouraging and it eventually got to a point where I just didn't see myself going anywhere and started caring less and less.
JR: If given the oppotunity would you work for Senator Cassis again?
BW: No, I don't think son.
JR: Why not?
BW: Well, I was there for five years and it was a lot of good memories, but at the same time, I think after five years the marriage had lasted long enough and it was time to diversify my experience a little bit and really get a good idea of how things in other offices work. So as far as the Senator goes, it's kind of that mentality of 'been there done that' so I just think it's time for something else.
JR: And you have diversified that experience a little bit. You're currently interning for State Representative John Proos. What are some of the differences between how things are working in Representative Proos office than working for Senator Cassis?
BW: Well I think there is a huge difference. But I want to start out by saying that I'm very happy to work for someone like John because in many ways he embodies everything that I think a good lawmaker should be. He's intelligent, he surrounds himself with good people, he's patient and above all he's humble. I remember the first time I met him, and this was even before I was interning with him, I said 'Hi Representative' and he replied 'Call me John'. It's just good to work with someone that puts the job of helping the people before making newspaper headlines.
JR: Was that Nancy Cassis? A person who put herself before the people she represented?
BW: Absolutely not, I would never say that about the Senator. There is no question in my mind that she cares about the people she represents and that she is very intent on helping them in her position. But I think where things differ with her and John is that she is far less humble. I can remember working at her office and being made, almost on a daily basis to get her car for her, or get her a pepsi, or coffee, or breakfast, or lunch. Now I can understand these things when she gets busy, but there were sometimes where that just wasn't the case and it really showed me a lack of respect. And those are the kinds of things that I'm still bitter about. The fact that I could have helped in a lot more ways than she allowed me to, but she never gave me the chances I thought I deserved. But a lot of that had to do with all the staff changes too, so I do want to be fair.
JR: Let's talk about the staff changes. You started working for Senator Cassis in the summer of 2000 in the Michigan House of Representatives. From that point to when you resigned in April 2005, you called 19 different people co-workers. Now that's a lot considering these offices are only staffed by 2-5 people. Why do you think there has been so much turnover?
BW: Well, I think it's at combination of things, but at the same time it's hard for me to comment on because everyone has their own unique experience with the Senator. I really do compare it to working for George Steinbrenner just because the Senator is so demanding at times and there are some people who just can't handle working in those conditions so they leave. So people left because they found other jobs that they thought would advance their career and others were fired just because things just weren't working out. So it's a variety of reasons. But I think what gets lost in all of this is the impact that it has on productivity. You have that much turnover, it throws things into disarray and for someone who's so demanding like the Senator, that can get very frustrating. Speaking frankly, there are many people who left her office that I would be very happy to work with again.
JR: Back in March, Senator Cassis announced that she would be running for Governor. What do you think her chances are and do you plan to help on her campaign?
BW: Well, I've got to tell you, when this all first came up, I can say in all honesty that I think I was the only one in the office that wasn't excited about the idea. Nothing about it seemed to make sense to me and there still is nothing about it that makes sense to me. The Senator was likely not going to have any major competitors for re-election in 2006. So it made sense to me, that if Governor was her goal that she should run for re-election, take five to six more years to fundraise and build up some political capital and then run in 2010 when there wouldn't be an incumbent Governor. I just still can't understand why she decided to run now. So to answer your question, I wouldn't bet on her winning the primary, much less the entire race. As for whether or not I plan on getting involved on her behalf, I can only say at this point I haven't been contacted by anyone on the campaign so I haven't really given it a lot of thought. If I am contacted, I don't think I would be interested at this point just because it's hard to get involved with a campaign and put your heart behind a campaign that you don't believe can succeed, and as I said before, I don't like Mrs. Cassis' chances.
JR: Well, thank you as always Bob for joining me and giving all of us some insight on your career experiences in the past year.
BW: Not a problem, I'm always glad to.
|Friday, June 24th, 2005|
|An interview with Bob Wolfer Part 1 of 5
The point of this journal entry is going to be to provide, you guys too, but mostly me, a little insight on myself. I think it is deparately needed at this point given the various life changing events that have taken place in 2005. I will conduct 5 interviews, with myself, which will each carry on a different topic. I will try to do this at least once a week, but I am trying to get some R&R this summer so excuse me if I fall behind.
Today's topic: The Path to Success
JR: Hello, I'm Jack Robins here with who many people would consider an average guy. He has worked in government for the past five years, currently resides in Lansing, Michigan and has recently earned a degree in International Relations from Michigan State University. Currently, he is in search for a job in the political sector at which time he is doubling as a cashier at the local Sam's Club and as an intern for State Representative John Proos. It is a pleasue to introduce Bob Wolfer. Bob, thanks for being here today.
BW: Thank you Jack, this is a pleasure.
JR: I want to get started today by talking about the various obstacles that you have overcome to get where you currently are today. In your high school year book you were described as someone who had always defied the odds. Where do you feel that reputation came from, and do you think it was well deserved?
BW: I recall that actually and was pretty impressed when I read that about myself. Obviously I had an idea that people were saying that about me at the time, but I was surprised when I read it. As for where it came from, I think it was mostly from my high school political career when I was elected on three different occasions against "popular" kids. Usually in high school elections, those are the type of people you expect to win those races and I wasn't one of those people, so I think there were a lot of people who were surprised when I won. As for the reputation being deserved, I don't know about that. When you talk about someone defying odds, you have to ask whos odds they are defying. In my case I don't consider myself to have defied any odds simply because I always believed I would be successful. Obviously if I thought the outcome would be different I probably wouldn't have ran for the positions that I ran for. So I don't think I defied any odds, at least not in my mind.
JR: You said you were surprised when you read this about yourself, why is that?
BW: Basically for a lot of the reasons I just said. I always believed that in the end I was going to be successful. There really never was a doubt in my mind that if I stayed focussed, worked hard and stayed on track that I would do well and thankfully I was right. So to me being successful in those races wasn't a surprise.
JR: Looking at things that have happened more recently;
JR: Your fight to get into Michigan State University.
BW: Yeah, that was a big one.
JR: What was the first thing that went through your mind when you found out you weren't accepted?
BW: Obviously, I was very disappointed. I was hoping to attend Michigan State since I was in the second grade. I can even remember growing up in my family as the only Michigan State sports fan so really my compassion for the university became a part of me. Finding out that I didn't get in really was like losing a game in the last seconds. It was just very bitter and extremely discouraging.
JR: Yet at the same time, you didn't give up. You appealed Michigan State University's decision to not admit you on two occasions. Why were you so persistant?
BW: Again, I think a lot of it had to do with my desire to attend that university. But moreover, I really thought that I was ready to go to work there and to experience life there. My grades in high school had been less than perfect but by my senior year I felt that I had really done a 180. So really, I though that my transcript didn't do me justice since it mostly reflected a less refined version of my academics.
JR: Now you said that when you were running for positions in high school politics you were always convinced that the ends would be in your favor. Was this the same feeling you had during your bout with Michigan State, or was it different?
BW: Well I think some parts of it were different and some parts of it were the same. It was similar because I never doubted that ultimately I would be a Michigan State student if I was serious about it and did everything I needed to do in CC. But it was different because this time, I had actually failed where before all I knew was success. So it was a lot more frustrating. But at the same time I think that it was good that I had to experience that because it helped me grow as a person and really made me want to get in that much more. But it was a long ordeal. I remember talking to my Mom before graduation and I told her that it felt like it took three years to get into State and one year to graduate as oppose to the other way around, so yeah it was tough.
JR: So you spend one semester at Lansing Community College. You take 15 credit hours and achieve a 4.0 Grade Point Average. Yet you still don't get in to Michigan State, what was going through your mind?
BW: At the time, I was mad. I had a huge chip on my shoulder as far as academics went so not getting in again after I had achieved so much success was just really aggrivating to me. I think at first it was kind of shocking though. I mean, looking back at it, I don't think I really took the time to be proud of myself. I had always been sort of a mediocre student in high school and to four point my first semester in college was a huge achievement, but I think at the time I was so obsessed with getting in [to Michigan State] that I really didn't take the time to pat myself on the back like I should of.
JR: After your first semester, and your 3rd rejection, you go to Lansing Community College for another semester. This time you pour it on, you take 19 credits, why?
BW: Well, like I said, a lot of it was that I had a chip on my shoulder. I looked at it as 'okay, 4.0 with 15 credits wasn't good enough for you, then 19 will have to be'. So that was most of it, I felt like I had something to prove. A more minor part was that I took a lot of classes that I knew would transfer to State so I felt like it would be worth my time.
JR: So you 4.0 your second semester, you find out a month later that you had done it, you got into Michigan State. What was that like?
BW: It was more relief than it was elation, which actually surprised me. I remember the first thing I did, before I even called anyone was I took a nap. I really did a number on myself getting ready for exams and working the jobs I was working so it was a good feeling to know that I had done it. But it wasn't really elation because I knew there was a lot more work to do. I thought it would be because I pretty much made it my life for an entire year, but I was more relieved than anything when it was finally over.
JR: But you don't stop with getting into Michigan State. In fact before you even knew you got into Michigan State you were working three different part-time jobs while you were a student. How'd you do it?
BW: To be honest with you, I really don't have any idea, how or why I did everything I did that summer. A lot of it was accomplished by not sleeping, which is an understandable result. I think I was taking 14 credits my first semester at State and working 56 hours between my jobs at Meijer, Home Depot and the Cassis office. I remember there was the Senate campaign during that time, so that was eating me up as well. But the bottom line was I needed money and this was the best way to do it. Getting into State was such a huge boost for my momentum and confidence that I really wanted to get into the fast-track. So that was really the reason for it.
JR: And your first semester at Michigan State, you were not pleased with yourself, why's that and what did you change about your approach toward academics to become as relaxed about school as you became?
BW: Well, that first semester really was a wake up call for me. In fact, looking back on it, it's probably a great thing that I had to go to CC first because going to State right out of high school, I just don't think I would have been as ready as I though I was at the time. The work was more demanding and more challenging and it just kind of caught me off guard. At the same time, I was just trying to do too much. At CC I had never gotten anything but 4.0s which made me arrogant to certain degree. So it became this thing where I expected perfection from myself and when I didn't achieve it I obviously got frustrating. So bascially I developed what I call the "Yankee attitude".
JR: The Yankee attitude, what's that exactly?
BW: Well, I looked at grades the same way the New York Yankees looked at winning ballgames. It's not that you go on the field and think 'we must win this game' you go on the field and say 'I've got a job to do and as long as I do it, winning will take care of itself'. So that's what it was with grades. I stopped thinking that I needed to get great grades and really just thought that as long as I prepared myself and did everything I needed to do, grades would take care of themselves. I'm still convicned that that was probably the best approach and if you look at my grades, I think you'll see that for me it worked.
JR: So Representative Cassis becomes Senator Cassis after a tough election period. Was that a personal success for you?
BW: At the time it really was. I had worked hard with Mrs. Cassis and really believed in her so it was great to get her elected. At the same time I knew that it probably would mean better opportunites for me as well so I was certainly excited about it. But at the same time it helped me realize something about life. I mean, I had earned my way on Mrs. Cassis' staff, but also, the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Cassis helped the situation. So really, it defined advancement for me the same way I still define it today.
JR: How's that?
BW: Well, for the most part it's a question of being the right person in the right place at the right times. The circumstances have as much to do with it as you do. So really, the only thing you need to do is the best you can to make sure that if you are that right person in that right place at that right time, you're ready.
JR: After a year though, things got rough again. You were fired from Home Depot, and the year after that things started coming apart with Senator Cassis. What happened?
BW: Well, it's pretty simple. Everyone who said I was going to burn myself out that I laughed at ended up being exactly right. I just was wiped out. I had been pushing so hard for so long that there just wasn't anything left anymore. It became hard just to do simple things like read for class. I can remember the spring semester of my Junior year, I just had no desire to do anything, I was just exhausted so that's really the case more than anything else. There was more to it with Senator Cassis that I'm sure we'll talk about later.
JR: Almost two months ago today, you graduated college, what was the feeling there?
BW: It's hard to believe it's already been two months, but to answer your question it was scary. My entire college life I knew exactly what I was going to be able to do after I got my degree. But things with my political career hit a speed bump and the next thing I knew, I was unemployed so it was kind of just this panic of how I was going to support myself. In a lot of ways I'm still looking to answer that question, but I've learned how to deal with my new life.
JR: You're trying to get your way back into politics. How soon can you see yourself back in Lansing?
BW: Well, it's hard to say because it's not really up to me. I'm confident in my experience and my abilities and I'm sure that now that I'm armed with a degree I'm a pretty good candidate for a lot of positions. But at the same time a lot of these offices need to pick the person that they think is going to help them the most and I understand that. It's a business just like anything else. So it's just one of those things where it needs to be a good fit for me and the office that will eventually hire me.
JR: Well, let's hope that happens soon. Finally, if you could change anything that has happened with everything you've been through, would you?
BW: Absolutely not. Everything that I've celebrated and endured has played an integral part in shaping me into who I am today. And I like who I am today, a lot. So to change anything risks me not appreciating or not learning a lot of things that I'm proud to have learned and appreciated. As long as you love yourself, you should never regret anything.
JR: Well, thank you for joining me today and I'm sure that I'm not alone in wishing you the best of luck in overcoming the obstacles thare are currently before you.
BW: Thank you.
|Friday, December 31st, 2004|
|My Fear for America
As would be suggested by the title of this entry, this topic deals with a disturbing trend that has emerged in American politics that with time, will have the potential to swallow whole all of the principal values that our great country was founded on.
Elected officials in our country are charged with the task of representing the views of those they represent. As can be well imagined, this is not an easy task. It is one that involves resolve, understanding, diligence, and above all leadership. It is impossible to keep all that entrust these people with this great task satisfied and it is important that this be understood. Furthermore, I will state now that in my experience, the the VAST majority of people who choose to work in this noble profession, those elected, appointed, and hired, have the genuine interest of helping people.
The trend I see emerging however is one that I have just alluded to. Politics has moved away from being a service to the people and has become a profession. More and more it is becoming evident to me how little a say individual Americans have in the workings of their own government. Being employed in a legislative office, I have noticed a discouraging amount of people whom have contacted our office for personal reasons. Their child is sick and they can't get financial help, they have a property dispute with their neighbor, they've been had by some car or home dealer, etc. My point here is to not say these issues aren't important, THEY MOST CERTAINLY ARE. However, they do little to advance the treasured value that in American the people decide. As these individual concerns are acted upon, and ususally with a remarkable record of success, few people seem concerned about the legislative issues that their government is deciding. It is obvious that concerns on legislation are received, a person acting individually will often get a nice letter in return, stating the legislator's position and a "rest assured" or a "sorry we don't agree on this issue" for good measure. The letter is mailed and the person is dealt with. Often such letters have little or no effect on the legislator's opinion. In fact, in a concerning amount of offices, few of these letters even reach the eyes of the elected official. Those acting in numbers however, seem to have more success. A substantial amount of a legislator's constituency can have an impact on a legislator's vote. While this may appear to be encouraging for democracy, I have found that in many cases, the opinion of the people has been influenced by misleading and even inaccurate information distributed by special interests.
The American people, as it seems to me, are alarmingly uninformed of their interests and the workings of their government.
As is the case with most problems in America, after the problem is identified, it is a question of who to blame. The answer to such a question is three pronged as the American media, people in political professions, and the American people themselves are all to blame for the slow agonizing decline of American civil society.
The American media is charged with the task of informing the American public. While their is no doubt that they accomplish this task, it is particularly concerning what the media decides is worth informing the American public about. The American media in an effort to secure ratings and therefore, financial success have made it more of an issue to entertain than inform. This is one of the negative aspects that capitalism can have on a society. An example of what I mean is surrounded by the mass media's tackling of the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez on again off again antics as well as the marriages and annulment of Britney Spears. At the same time, information about such serious issues at the United States Patriot Act and the North American Free Trade Agreement was briefly explained and merely outlined at best as most viewers would find them "boring". Because of the skeletal descriptions of very important issues, many Americans are left uniformed by their media. The American people are fully capable of making informed decisions. They do so everyday with their financial and personal lives. But it is difficult to expect anyone to make an informed decision, when they are not being properly informed.
Secondly, the political profession is to blame. People in the political profession take advantage of the lack of information that exists. Sure, they can claim it's on some government website or "Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, etc. did a peice on it." Not only have I already discussed the problem with the latter sources, but simply speaking, the American people do not always have the time to scan all of these sources on a daily basis like those employed in the government do. In fact, I must seriously ask how many people in government would seek out information on issues if they weren't being paid to do it. This allows for a window for government officials to pass a good amount of legislation that is left virtually unchecked and unanalyzed by both the American people and the American media and in some cases this is the goal. A government trying to pass a tax hike or an "increase in government revenues" wants to keep the issue purposely opaque so as not to create an uproar that would endanger the legislation's passage. This does not sound like a government of, for, and by the people to me.
Perhaps more concerning however is that attitudes that I have seen in some legislative staff members throughout my tenure. Having worked with over a dozen staffers, I have noticed a frustration when dealing with people. I would prove to be a liar if I were to plead innocent to this offense. From one point of view, this is understandable as some concerns are incapable of being handled by the particular office that is contacted. At the same time however, it must be kept in mind at all times for government employees, myself not excluded, that job is to serve the people no matter how rediculous or uninformed the person's concerns maybe. In order to have active participation of the people in their government, they must believe their government works for them and their community. Arrogance and over-competitiveness of people in politics should not be excused either as they are TREMENDOUS parts of the problem. The people of the United States can ill afford elected representatives who are incapable of looking past their own career interests and desires for power. Furthermore, THERE IS NO RIGHT AND WRONG. Politics is not like baseball, basketball, or any sport where there is clearly a winner and a loser. Both sides of a debate, regardless of you agree or disagree, have intelligent and well thoughtout points to make. Both sides must respect eachother even when disagreeing with eachother. Additionally, people in politics must deal with the reality that the words "I don't know" do not make them look like fools.
Certainly it is worth mentioning the role of special interests as well. Because of the lack of information in the mass media, special interests are left to fill the void with any bias they may so choose in order to get the people on their side. Are some of these issues in the best interest of the people? Possibly, but that's not what special interests and corporations care about. They care about the benefits they will reap if particular peices of legislation pass or fail and therefore purposely mislead the American public to serve their selfish interests.
Finally, the American people as a whole are to blame. While information is not readily availible, it is, as I mentioned before, out there on government websites and more in depth in print. While, as I also mentioned before, the American people do not always have time to check all of these resources, it is unquestionable that the average American can make a more considerable effort to keep themselves posted on the workings of their government. With the exception of this past presidential election, voter turnouts have hovered around 50%. This is put to shame by nearly every other democracy on the planet. For primary elections, the turnout is even less impressive usually ending up at about 30-35%. My fellow Americans, your government will not keep your voice in mind, if you do not CONTINUALLY remind them that your voice counts! Make a larger effort to stay informed on how your legislator votes and whether you disagree with him or her. Most importantly, VOTE! Prove you're paying some attention and hold those who do not accurately represent you accountable.
Running a close second to voting is open-mindedness. Politics in our country has become like a sports rivalry where bias are beginning to control points of view more than logic. We as a country and a people need to be above such pathetic squabbling. IT'S TOO IMPORTANT TO TREAT IT LIKE A GAME! If you are a conservative, I can respect your views, if you are a liberal I can respect your views, but I cannot respect those who voluntarily monopolize the information availible to them. I find conservatives limit their mass media intake to conservativly slanted media such as Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity, and the Weekly Standard. I find that Liberals limit their mass media intake to liberally slanted media such as CNN, James Carville, and the New York Times. In other words, the only like hearing or reading what they know they already agree with. Why? To strengthen their arguments so that "the other side doesn't win!" What a foolish way for a civilized society to act. Gathering information this way may make you a good; conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican, whatever. But it WILL NEVER make you a good American. Listen, watch, and read what others who don't agree with you are arguing. You may grow to respect them, you may find that their methods of analysis are not different from yours, your may even learn that you (heaven for bid) agree with them on some issues. It is too dangerous to you as a citizen and us as a people for Americans to limit their informational intake to what they prefer to know.
Time and time again I have heard it from people working inside of politics and in the private sector: "people are stupid." Nothing is further from the truth. As our country's history and all of our personal experience has shown, people are incredibly intelligent. Even the most arrogant of people can learn something from everybody (even if they refuse to admit when something was NOT their idea). That is what was meant to make our country great. America was supposed to be the signal that the people of the world have arrived, that the people of the world could decide, that the people of the world could govern. America was founded on the belief that government was not a devine force, but one that we all, in common, have stake in. It however saddens me to see how tainted these noble ideals have become.
Nothing in the political world is excessively complicated for the American people to understand. If one can balance their check book and budget their finances, then they are more than capable of understanding the impacts legislation will have on their lives. It doesn't take a genius. However, the preception that these issues are complicated continues to exist in our society only because they have for years been over simplified by mass media competing for your ratings and politicians competing for your vote. Both the professions of government and mass media MUST realize their responsibility to maintaining a vibrant civil society.
While the American people are not "stupid", they are, for a good part, irresponsible. Our country was also founded on the civic duty of each citizen being fulfilled. No matter how imperfect the information availible is, check in and be at least vaguely familiar with it. Don't believe everything you hear, check it (again I include myself here), make and effort and do your duty. Diversify your sources, keep an open mind, and remember that while you are not wrong, you're not right either. But most importantly, I cannot emphasize this enough be an informed voter. Let your representatives know that you are watching them and let them know what you think of it. They are after all your employees, you are the boss and every 2-6 years you are given the opportunity to evaluate their job performance.
While one could fairly lable the agenda I have outlined above "idealistic", that does not eliminate it's important. Americans pride themselves on being the best country in the world, as they should. However, just because America may be the best country in the world does not mean it is the only "perfect" country in the world. A child who scores the highest grade on exam with a 48% is indeed the best student in the class on that exam, but the child must remember that he or she is still failing themself. Current Mood: worried
|Wednesday, December 8th, 2004|
|Welcome to THE journal.
The Wolfer Republic Journal is great, I love it and I'm suprised so many of you are interested in it. I plan on keeping it going, probably until I die, but the problem I had with it is that I didn't really get a chance to sound off on it. So this will be my journal where I get to discuss things that I feel passionate about on a given day. Most of you who know me well won't be surprised to learn that the majority of what I discuss here will be issues of Sports and Politics, but I by no means am suggesting that I will limit my discussions to just those two catagories.
Also, you need to forgive me, but I'm not really a huge livejournal fan. That is, I don't really get on here and see what everyone else it up to. If I want to know that I usually call you. So yes I will have a livejournal, and yes you are free to read it whenever you feel like it, but please don't take it personally if I don't read yours. I would much rather talk to you or hang out with you if I'm interested in how things are going. It's just the way I am. That being stated I'm going to move to my first topic.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS THE WORST SPORT IN THE WORLD!!!
Yes, I said it and I mean it. College Football is the worst sport in the world and will continue to be the worst sport in the world unless some very serious changes are made. What do I mean? Well let's put it this way:
Who won the World Series: Boston Red Sox (much to my dismay)
Who won the Super Bowl: New England Patriots
Who won the NBA Championship: Detroit Pistons (much to my delight)
Who won the Stanley Cup: Tampa Bay Lightning
Who won the NCAA Tournament: Connecticut Huskies
Who won the NCAA Football National Championship: Depends on who you ask (USC or LSU).
The point is that the way the NCAA Football National Champion is selected is more like a Presidential Election than it is an actual championship. In the past ten years the National title has been disputed more times than not. This is simply unacceptable in a sport that garners the attention of millions of fans who pay billions of dollars to contribute to the game's popularity. The current system just doesn't work, the NCAA knows it and they don't seem to care enough to fix it, because after all, the money just keeps pouring in, why should they care?
Take this year as a prime example of what I'm talking about. You have five undefeated division I teams: USC, Utah, Boise State, Oklahoma and Auburn. Five teams who have done EVERYTHING they possibly can in order to win a national championship. But they can't. The only two schools that have a chance is Oklahoma and USC with the possiblity of Auburn winning "a share" of the national championship (interesting that we use the same terms in deciding the national championship as we do in financial investing). If you're Utah and Boise State, there's no way to win. Too bad if you won every game you played, the pollsters didn't have you ranked high enough before the season started (before you even played a game) so you're out. So basically if you're Boise State and Utah, there was really no reason to even play this season if your goal was a national championship. The BCS wrote them off before the opening kick of their illustrious seasons.
The true crime here should be obvious, the victims are the NCAA who will make billions of dollars regardless of their severely flawed system, the vicitims are the fans but especially the kids playing the game. We all jeer at the seemingly non-stop commercials that remind us there are a certain number of college athletes and almost all of them will be going pro in something other than sports. But it's true. For many of these kids, this is there chance for athletic glory and they deserve it after the hours and years of dedication and tireless work that they have put forth. But for the players on Boise State, Utah and even Auburn, this won't matter, not because of anything they themselves have done, but because of a system that was designed from the beginning of this season to exclude them.
Why were they excluded? Well, I usually don't like using this argument, but I think fiancial reasons certainly have something to do with it. Let's be fair, everyone, myself included, believed that USC last year, was this year's Auburn. They should have had a chance to play in the National Championship game but as the BCS is a horrible system they were excluded (note the BCS system changed after that year and in my opnion has only served to become more flawed than its predecessor). So it was the match up everyone wanted to see Oklahoma Vs. USC. Certainly all the sponsors dumping cash into the NCAA was rooting for it. So certainly there was a preference there at the beginning of the season and it held throughout the season. What major investor would want to see Utah take on Boise State for the National Championship?
There is something to be said however for the strength of schedule that each team played. Oklahoma and Auburn both defeated four ranked opponents (more than USC). So that would be one reason to put them above Boise State and Utah. I can agree with that as tougher schedules should be rewarded. It is more difficult for Oklahoma to defeat Texas and Auburn to defeat Tennessee than it is for Utah to defeat BYU. But this should not exclude Utah and Boise State from the equation. The point remains, the haven't lost!!! Both could possibly end the season undefeated with nothing other than a pat on the back to show for it while Oklahoma, USC and Auburn have the chance for "a share" of the National Championship. This is simply absurd.
With the exception of the unbeatens you have other teams such as the California Golden Bears and the Texas Longhorns, that despite their one loss, is entirely capable of winning a National Championship, but they don't have that chance either. Even if one of those losses came against an undefeated team (note: Texas' only loss this year came to Oklahoma). So what is the solution here?
Many have talked about the idea of a "Plus One" system. Under this system, the BCS games would take place as they do now and an additional game would be played to decided the national champion. This system, while I concede is leaps and bounds ahead of the current system it is still flawed. Look at this year as an example once more. Assuming Oklahoma, Auburn, Boise State and Utah all win, you are still excluding two unbeaten teams from winning the national championship. Not acceptable. This simply does not address the issue as far as it needs to.
Others have clamered for a playoff system. I think these people are on the right track. Take the top 8 teams according to the BCS rankings and have a playoff tournament. Sounds like the best way to go about this since these teams will likely be the teams that have the best chance anyways and it is a fair way to declare a winner. After all, every state in the country decides their high school champion this way, the NFL does something similar to this so why is this impossible in College football?
The reason is the bowl games. You have companies like Fed Ex, Tostitos and Nokia that invest millions of dollars for the publicity of a prime-time bowl game. A playoff system erases that guarntee. So here, in my humble opinion, is the best solution, while it is still admittingly flawed:
A playoff will be held between 8 college football teams at the end of the regular season.
These teams will be selected in the following way: if you are undefeated your are automatically in the playoffs. After that, the next best teams that are not undefeated, according to BCS rankings (which will have been revised to have just computer input as it did the season before last) will be in the playoffs as well.
The NCAA will have a seeding committee that will decide what team gets seeded where, as is done in college basketball.
The games will commense the week after the end of the regular season so as to not make it necessary to expand the current season (playing four additonal games is no different than waiting that month for a bowl game without playing any games).
The first round games will be just that, first round games, nothing fancy. The Semi-Finals will be named after the current BCS bowls. Semi-Final 1 will be the Orange Bowl, Semi-Final two, the Sugar Bowl. The Championship game will then be the Fiesta Bowl. The Rose Bowl takes a back seat, but the bowls would alternate positions each years.
Bowl games for teams that didn't make the playoffs would commence as normal. The Rose Bowl (following my example above) would feature the two best teams that didn't make the playoffs and other bowls such as the Liberty Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Silicoln Valley Bowl and the I Have a Wort on my Big Left Toe Bowl will be able to select from a field of teams that didn't make the playoffs.
Using this system, the current playoffs for this year would look something like this:
#1 USC Vs. #8 Boise State (winner advances to Orange Bowl)
#2 Oklahoma Vs. #7 Georgia (winner advances to Sugar Bowl)
#3 Auburn Vs. #6 Utah (winner advances to Sugar Bowl)
#4 California Vs. #5 Texas (winner advances to Orange Bowl)
The first round would be played at the home stadium of the highest seed while all other games after that will be played at their traditional bowl venues. Travel expenses would be covered by the school's athletic programs or the school themselves (this isn't a problem with college basketball, it shouldn't be with football either).
The system, as I said is flawed (Virgina Tech would get the shaft this year) but I feel it is the fairest way to decide a National Champion. For those interested: Virgina Tech would play Louisville in the Rose Bowl. This way everyone keeps their sponsors, everyone still gets their money and more teams that are capable of winning the National Football Championship actually have an opportunity to win it. It's not perfect, but it is far better than the current system. I wonder why it hasn't been done yet. Current Mood: frustrated