Sunday, 19 February 2017

★ ALL-STAR SUNDAY ★




One often encounters folks who say that today's stars don't compare to those of the past. I do beg to differ. The teams displayed above field far superior specimens to those of the past and are more suited to the job than ever before. This is actually beside the point, however. The point is, rather, that each new generation of players cannot exist without the foundation that was laid by the generation before, as well as the many before they were even born.

That's what All-Star weekend is about. Paying tribute. For when you pay tribute to the present all-stars, you cheer the ones that came before. So let's take a look at our current starters.

Normally I would say that stat nerds rely too much on data — that you have to watch the action to know the real story. And this is true. But for the purposes of illuminating the greatness of this season's contest, I thought I'd go through some statistic-like snapshots.

But first let's get the obvious out of the way: Yes, Chicago's Bo Rama is notable only for his absence this year. He's ineligible. Nevertheless the roster is filled with who the Blue Dogs want. You're not required to like the way they choose the teams. If you don't like it, join the team and change the rules. And good luck with that.

Now let's begin with the player everyone is talking about: The Red Rovers' Donald Trump. He's been criticized for brash and unsportsmanlike conduct. I doubt even his biggest fans would disagree with the first attribute, and he certainly doesn't hold his tongue. But some say he measures up with one of the opposing team's most historically touted talents:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who carried on a longitudinal with Chicago Tribune publisher Robert R. McCormick, once admonished a reporter by giving him a dunce hat and instructing him to sit in the corner.
But how is he on the court?

Well, speaking of measuring up well against the competition, he not only picked up where his predecessor left off, but he did him one better by following through with the future Hall of Famer's game plan:
[Bo Rama] Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister.
American or not, criminal father or not, if we can kill just one child, it will have been worth it. Future Hall of Fame I tell ya!

But let's not be hasty and give all the glory to the team captain. As anyone who watches the game can tell you, the assist is as important as the score. The pass in this case was a full-court doozy. Five years ago it left the hands of the Dogs' Eric Holder, who also knows a thing or two about alternate fact-finding his own damn self:
Speaking to students and faculty at Northwestern University law school, Attorney General Eric Holder laid out in greater detail than ever before the legal theory behind the administration's belief that it can kill American citizens suspected of terrorism without charge or trial. In the 5,000-word speech, the nation's top law enforcement official directly confronted critics who allege that the targeted killing of American citizens violates the Constitution.

"'Due process' and 'judicial process' are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security." Holder said. "The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."
Remember that pass whenever the Rovers' Jeffrey Sessions has the ball in his hands. I think he'll do just fine with the example set for him.

As to Trump's self-described acumen on defense, he's got big shorts to fill and a lot of numbers to catch up on:
Since coming to office in 2009, Obama’s government has deported more than 2.5 million people—up 23% from the George W. Bush years. More shockingly, Obama is now on pace to deport more people than the sum of all 19 presidents who governed the United States from 1892-2000, according to government data.
Like I said before, though, beware of numbers. Analysts have a way of deflating or inflating them depending on which attributes they'd like to highlight about a particular player:
Thus, comparing the deportation statistics across different presidential administrations is dicey because it is unclear what categories of people are actually being counted and categorized. Moreover, different administrations choose to emphasize different statistics. Dara Lind notes that the Bush administration seems to have reported removals and returns together, but Obama’s administration has emphasized only its number of removals.
Note how Blue Dogs fans criticize by pointing to a video compilation of their opponent's dirtiest plays, but cite positive stats as regards how well their team is doing. Yet Rover enthusiasts will look at that same video and note, say, how remarkable Trump's blocked shot was while ignoring his questionable follow through. This is why I say that you really do have to pay close attention to the game to know who's really doing what. Don't rely on a fan's interpretation of events.

Another Rover who's been roundly criticized, mocked even, is Betsy DeVos. Now, trash talk is part of the game, but some are calling DeVos too stupid to be in the game, let alone this one. That's pretty harsh. Certainly nobody called her counterpart, the Rama's Chicago cohort, Arne Duncan dumb. Yet this Blue Dog star is not averse to teachable moments, saying things that might lead one to question his scruples:
"I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.'"
We'll get to his in-game performance in a moment, just long enough to mention that it's not exactly a secret what style of play Betsy DeVos prefers, unintelligibly argued for or not. Her record will, as they say, speak for itself.

Duncan, on the other hand, has built a legacy for himself:
Duncan rattled the education policy world with news of a controversial grant of $249 million ($157 the first year) to the charter school industry. This announcement was controversial because, as The Washington Post reports, an audit by his department’s own inspector general found “that the agency has done a poor job of overseeing federal dollars sent to charter schools.”
Duncan's style of play was something his team traditionally had not been known for. Whether or not it fits one or another game plan, or the skills or personalities on one or another team, can be argued, what is not open to dispute is the achievement of his play.

On this weekend during which we celebrate this great tradition, it is important to remind ourselves that legacies are built to be built upon by successors across the entire spectrum of this great game. Betsy DeVos plays for a team even more amenable to Duncan's approach, so sky's the limit when she hits the floor.

If Betsy DeVos is as true to her game as Arne Duncan was his, she could do more than build upon his legacy, she might just finish the job. It took Duncan to get the ball rolling and, of course, his Chicago team's innovation pays tribute to the patented Clinton trianglating offense developed in the nineties.

The next comparison is difficult because it is between a pair whose position is not known for being flashy. One might even call it wimpy. For this reason, however ironically, it is arguably the most important spot on the floor. These guys can do an awful lot of damage to their own teams, so it's really a matter of having the best colleagues to cover for them. Imagine, that in addition to the locker room key, your uniform manager is given the combination to the owner's safe. Keep an eye on Steven Mnuchin. And your underpants.

Who's got next? Rex Wayne Tillerson and John Forbes Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton, that's who. To be honest, in a manner like the previously alluded to number fudging, Kerry was picked over Clinton for the direct pictorial parallel because of the dueling fists in the photograph. But one cannot ignore what Clinton brings to the game, so she's certainly deserving of All-Star status.  As regards court correspondents, the question as to whose team either Clinton or Tillerson is playing for will no doubt be one for the ages.

But don't let league discord or a blown foul call here or there stop you from enjoying this event with a pride of purpose. If the purpose doesn't make sense, it might be because you don't understand the game well enough. In some cases, the tacticians don't want you to understand. You might say there exist unwritten rules that are secret. Nevertheless, marvel at the wondrous flights of fancy and history continually in the making.