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The Tebowites Try to Cope With Their Loss

[ 103 ] August 23, 2013 |

As we are seeing the likely end of Tim Tebow’s football career, with the inevitable right-wing political career to follow, Tebow defenders are trying to figure out their lord and savior is so bad at football. Rather than admit that they have been wrong about his NFL abilities from day one, they’ve come up with the idea that Tebow was good but has suffered a sudden loss in skills. Mike Freeman:

Tebow’s skills have eroded so quickly, so shockingly fast—think heavy boulder dropped from low orbit—that it has actually stunned several scouts who have watched him closely for years.

Note that these scouts will remain unnamed.

And, I’ll be damned. It’s clear. Tebow’s career as anything but a blocking fullback is over.

The reason why is speed. Speed doesn’t just kill; speed is currency in football. It’s the dollar, the deutsche mark. A player without a basic modicum of it is a brontosaurus in a league of tyrannosaurus rex.

That lack of speed is evident in three critical phases of Tebow’s game: His throwing motion, his mental acuity and his ability to avoid tacklers.

It’s not simply that he can’t do these things now. We knew that. What’s stunning, upon closer examination, is the rapidity with which these skills have been lost.

Precisely what physical speed has to do with Tebow’s throwing motion and mental acuity remain unknown. Tebow does have a slow throwing motion but that’s irrelevant to any discussion of his legs. Now on to the one part of this that might make sense, Tebow’s ability to avoid tacklers.

My suspicion is that the physical punishment he endured starting at Florida and continuing through the NFL has taken its toll in ways we may not have noticed before.

Look at Tebow at Florida versus Tebow now. He didn’t blast by some of the best defenses in the SEC on his good looks and charisma. He did have speed. And he did have skill.

Scouts say they don’t recognize the Tebow they saw in college. His regression has been so steep that I don’t believe there is a league he can now play in.

You mean an athlete who could blow by the mighty defenses of Mississippi State and Kentucky can’t therefore blow by the defenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers? I know SEC fans believe their teams are the equivalent of NFL teams, but no they are not.

Tebow’s story is entirely predictable outside of the media hype. You have a great athlete, but not by NFL standards, who finds himself unable to play the game of football on the highest level. This happens to hundreds of people every year. Even if Tebow has slowed a bit, and I have no idea if this is true, that’s not his problem. I don’t quite remember Drew Bledsoe as a burner, but he had a long career in the NFL. Tebow’s problem is the same as it has always been, a complete inability to throw the ball. The one thing Tebow can do is huck it far downfield. That served him well in that Broncos playoff win a couple of years ago against the Steelers, but while the media story was that Tebow Wins Games (TM), the real winner of that game was Denver’s defense behind Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, Champ Bailey, and others. Combine that with one long throw (and a couple of other lengthy throws to be fair) and I guess it is all Tebow and none of the other players did anything.

But Tebow’s ability to operate an NFL offense is a joke and everyone in football knows it.

More Maps

[ 89 ] August 23, 2013 |

We live in a golden age of mapping.

First, we have this wonderful map showing the percentage of households in each county where English is not the first language. All counties over 10% are shaded. Over each county is also shows which non-English language is the most commonly spoken. Usually Spanish but there’s some scattered Portuguese counties in the northeast, Jefferson County in Iowa with its 10% Hindi speakers, occasional Hmong counties, etc, as well as more expected French, German, and Native American languages. That Liberty County, Montana still has 27% German speaking households is something I did not expect. I assume that’s because of small populations that tend to be older, but I don’t really know. Great stuff.

Then we have this fabulous graphic at Foreign Policy mapping protests around the world by the month since 1979. Really mindblowing. A couple of points. First, you are going to see a dot constantly in Kansas. I figured this was Operation Rescue. It’s not. It’s the mapmakers placing a dot in the center of a country is they don’t know the city of protest. Second, by the end the number of dots is going to get crazy. At first I thought it was good evidence of impending worldwide revolution. Instead, the researchers note it’s just that media coverage is far more complete than it was in the 70s.

Today in Duh

[ 43 ] August 23, 2013 |

I suppose it’s good to know for sure that the CIA orchestrated the 1953 coup in Iran, overthrowing a democratically elected government and replacing it with a corrupt but oil-providing Shah, although it’s not like anyone doubted it in the first place. There’s a reason the Iranian government can prop up the United States as an enemy. This is it. Most peoples of the world have much longer memories than Americans. That’s because we can afford short memories and they can’t.

The NFL Finally Gets Serious About Head Injuries

[ 75 ] August 23, 2013 |

What motivates the NFL to get tough on head injuries? Nothing except to crack down on its media partners if they start reporting on those injuries. Because what’s really important is not player health, but the bottom line.

Pressure from the National Football League led to ESPN’s decision on Thursday to pull out of an investigative project with “Frontline” regarding head injuries in the N.F.L., according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

ESPN, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, pays the N.F.L. more than $1 billion a year to broadcast “Monday Night Football,” a ratings juggernaut and cherished source of revenue for Disney.

“Frontline,” the PBS public affairs series, and ESPN had been working for 15 months on a two-part documentary, to be televised in October. But ESPN’s role came under intense pressure by the league, the two people said, after a trailer for the documentary was released Aug. 6, the day that the project was discussed at a Television Critics Association event in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Last week, several high-ranking officials convened a lunch meeting at Patroon, near the league’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, according to the two people, who requested anonymity because they were prohibited by their superiors from discussing the matter publicly. It was a table for four: Roger Goodell, commissioner of the N.F.L.; Steve Bornstein, president of the NFL Network; ESPN’s president, John Skipper; and John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive vice president for production.

At the combative meeting, the people said, league officials conveyed their displeasure with the direction of the documentary, which is expected to describe a narrative that has been captured in various news reports over the past decade: the league turning a blind eye to evidence that players were sustaining brain trauma on the field that could lead to profound, long-term cognitive disability.

See Marc Tracy on what it means for ESPN

….The NFLPA is not happy with ESPN.


[ 38 ] August 23, 2013 |

Grifters gotta grift. And that’s certainly true among North Carolina Republicans:

Young Republicans who helped elect North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory have been rewarded with big salaries in his new administration.

Matthew McKillip was named this week as chief policy adviser to Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos. Records show the 24-year-old McKillip received a $22,500 raise in April, bringing his taxpayer-supported salary to $87,500.

Records show 24-year-old DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz got a $23,000 raise in April, boosting his state salary to $85,000.

McCrory didn’t respond to requests Thursday seeking comment. Wos also did not respond.

While there is certainly nothing new about campaign staffers moving into government jobs once their bosses are elected, the big state paychecks for McCrory’s ex-campaign workers appear at odds with his repeated calls for belt-tightening in state government.

McKillip and Diaz are each paid about three times the starting salary for North Carolina public school teachers, who received no raises in the $20.6 billion state budget approved by the GOP-dominated legislature and signed last month by McCrory.

Well yeah. The real value in society is destroying unions, ensuring that black people can’t vote, and implementing a theocracy. Anyone who can do that is going to make the big money.

Henry Clay Frick

[ 94 ] August 23, 2013 |

I was in Pittsburgh for like 3 hours yesterday. What to do in the Steel City? I know, visit the grave of American supervillain Henry Clay Frick!

This was a bit subtle for my taste in graves containing evil people. Why was Frick so evil? For one, he was the architect of the Homestead strike. Andrew Carnegie’s right hand man at Homestead Steel, Frick took over when Carnegie went on an extended trip to Scotland. The extent to which Carnegie knew the violent unionbusting to come is debatable, but he almost certainly did. Anyway, Frick took it upon himself to bust the steel workers union, including inciting violence at Homestead when his hired army of Pinkertons attempted to land on the river shore. After Frick decimated the union, anarchist Alexander Berkman tried to kill him, but failed in one of the greatest failures of an assassination attempt in history. How you can’t kill a fat Gilded Age plutocrat when you have a gun and a knife and you just walk into his office to do it, I don’t know. Anyway, the knife Berkman used is on display at the Heinz museum in Pittsburgh.

You might think that Homestead was bad enough. But oh no. Frick was also the leading member of the hunting club above Johnstown, Pennsylvania that refused to fix a dam, leading to its collapse and the 1889 Johnstown Flood that killed over 2200 people. Frick himself led the group that turned the old dam into a private elite resort and hunting club. They changed the dam to make it more convenient for their needs, but also weakened it. After the flood, Frick’s primary move was to form a legal strategy to protect the club’s numbers from personal liability. This doesn’t even get into his business maneuvers, considered immoral even by the standards of the Gilded Age. Even in his day, Frick was called “the most hated man in America.”

So basically I visited the grave of one of the worst human beings in the history of the United States.

The Magnificent Actor

[ 25 ] August 22, 2013 |

Yesterday was Trotsky Icepick Day and to commemorate it, The New Republic reprinted Edmund Wilson’s 1933 article on him. Good stuff.

It also helped me understand why Trotsky would agree to testify before HUAC.

Lomax Recordings

[ 12 ] August 22, 2013 |

This is super cool. Old news, but I didn’t know about it and I assume most of you didn’t either.

Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world. Now thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are , many for the first time. It’s part of what Lomax envisioned for the collection — long before the age of the Internet.

Lomax recorded a staggering amount of folk music. He worked from the 1930s to the ’90s, and traveled from the Deep South to the mountains of West Virginia, all the way to Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. When it came time to bring all of those hours of sound into the digital era, the people in charge of the Lomax archive weren’t quite sure how to tackle the problem.

“We err on the side of doing the maximum amount possible,” says Don Fleming, executive director of the Association for Cultural Equity, the nonprofit organization Lomax founded in New York in the ’80s. Fleming and a small staff made up mostly of volunteers have digitized and posted some 17,000 sound recordings.

“For the first time, everything that we’ve digitized of Alan’s field recording trips are online, on our website,” says Fleming. “It’s every take, all the way through. False takes, interviews, music.”

Lomax’s recordings were so great. He had such a great ear to what was wonderful in the enormous varieties of mid-20th century folk music, the forms of which are sadly almost all gone today. I have a couple of albums from the Southern Journeys series on Smithsonian and think they are great. Here’s a couple examples:

Keystone XL Pipe Quality

[ 14 ] August 22, 2013 |

Doesn’t this just make you feel confident that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t lead to horrible oil spills?

Of course, it’s not like the pipeline will run through any land endangered species rely upon or anything like that.


[ 132 ] August 22, 2013 |

Who doesn’t like cool maps? No one.

We know everyone is very excited about the northeast Colorado effort to secede from Colorado. Theoretically it’s over Denver liberals and energy exploration, but this map suggests a whole lot of real reason:

Most people are reporting that Weld County is leading the effort. But you see that not all of Weld County is involved. Why not? Maybe it’s because of the demographics of Greeley, the largest city that happens to be in that southwestern corner not included: From Wikipedia:

As of the census of 2000, there were 76,930 people, 27,647 households, and 17,694 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,572.5 people per square mile (993.4/km²). There were 28,972 housing units at an average density of 968.8 per square mile (374.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 55.4% White, 1.87% African American, 0.83% Native American, 1.15% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 13.77% from other races, and 2.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 34.49% of the population.

33.49% Latino. In 2000. So that’s what, 45% or so now? Greeley is a huge meatpacking center (see Schlosser’s Fast Foot Nation for a good description of the horrible working conditions faced by Latino workers in those plants). This is about white resentment and racism.

Meanwhile, Dylan Matthews links to both the map above and another map about what would happen if state boundaries adjusted to represent people in 50 equal states. I’m not sure Rhode Island would be happy in “Willimantic” since everyone there identifies way more with Massachusetts than Connecticut. I also propose to rename “Shasta” as “Beer.” It’s more appropriate. And it means that California wouldn’t get any special treatment, something that would make Oregonians happy.

At the very least, the Senate would be a lot less annoying this way.

Somewhat less satisfying is this poll about what Americans thought about other states,
all mapped out for you. Mostly it just allows people to engage in their stereotypes about other states. When Rhode Island gets no play for silliest accent and everyone votes for Massachusetts instead, it just shows that no one knows anything about Rhode Island. Still, engaging in state stereotypes can be amusing, so have at it. Is Louisiana the most drunken? Is Texas your least favorite state? Does Kansas have the most boring scenery?

I Blame Obama for Watergate, the Great Depression, and Democrats Becoming Silver Bugs in 1896

[ 58 ] August 22, 2013 |

Louisiana Republicans are projecting just a wee bit too much here.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey, 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans say President Obama is more to blame for the botched executive branch response to Hurricane Katrina while just 28 percent blamed George W. Bush. A plurality of 44 percent said they were unsure who was more responsible, even though Hurricane Katrina occurred over three years before Obama entered the presidency when he was still a freshman Senator.

But then there is literally nothing Republicans won’t use to focus their hate for the Kenyan usurper, even when they were personally affected by the incompetence of the last Republican administration.

This Day in Labor History: August 22, 1945

[ 56 ] August 22, 2013 |

On August 22, 1945, five airline stewardesses, as they were then called, formed the Air Line Stewardesses Association, wanting a labor union to give them a voice on a demanding, difficult job where they faced constant pressure about their bodies, poor working conditions, low pay, and restrictions on marriage status and age.

The position of flight attendant began on May 15, 1930, when a woman named Ellen Church worked at what was then known as a “skygirl.” Women worked very hard, but had to look glamorous while doing it. They spent hours on their feet, dealt with drunk passengers, bent and reached and stooped over. A pedometer worn by one stewardess on a 1948 flight from Chicago to Miami showed she walked eight miles during the flight. The career itself wasn’t glamorous—but it had to look glamorous to the passengers. Rather than train the hostesses, airlines required them to pay for their own training with private services, at least one flight attendant paid $325 to a private school for stewardess training in Kansas City in 1948.

The sexualized nature of this work meant that woman had to uphold physical standards so that the ancestors of fictional Don Draper could enjoy their flight. There were strict requirements around height, weight, and appearance. The woman had to remain single. Moreover, there was a forced retirement on your 32nd birthday. In other words, airlines used young women to sell sexual allure to male customers, who were then expected to choose conventional lifestyles and marry. The 1951 film Three Guys Named Mike followed a flight attendant played by Jane Wyman around her adventures of love and travel until she settled down with one of the Mikes, a small-town science professor where she could perform traditional duties of domesticity.

Working conditions could be quite unpleasant. Planes were smaller, slower, and flew at much lower altitudes than today. That meant long turbulent flights with a lot of passengers vomiting from motion sickness. Flight attendants had to manage this, getting thrown around from turbulence and sometimes crawling through vomit. Pay was very low, about $125 a month in 1944, which is the equivalent to $1630 a month today or slightly less than $20,000 a year. Moreover, the pay was weighted on 100 hours of air time, but various duties on the ground raised it to a real 150 hours, meaning 50 effective unpaid hours a month. There were very small numbers of male flight attendants as well, mostly on international flights, but they were losing their hold in the profession by the 1940s and many airlines refused to hire them.

Ada Brown had the idea to start the union. She was United’s chief stewardess and was angry about the airline’s unwillingness to make improvements. She later remembered, “As chief stewardess I tried to get improvements for the girls with salary, flight restrictions, and protection from unjust firing. We were always promised things, but nothing was ever done—except to throw parties for the stewardesses.” She found four friends to join her—Edith Lauterbach, Frances Hall, Sally Thometz, and Sally Watt. Lauterbach joined United in 1944. Like many women, she planned to work for a year, see a bit of the world, and quit. Instead, she became a union activist and fought to stay in the air, even after her age reached 32.

Within a few months, three-quarters of United attendants had signed up and by August 1945, the ALSA had established local councils in 4 cities, had elected officers, and drafted a constitution. ALSA became the new frontier in pink-collar labor activism, where professional and semi-professional women organized their professions, including telephone operators, waitresses, teachers, and social workers. The ALSA conceived of itself as elite labor and as such demanded respect. The first issue of the ALSA newspaper Service Aloft in October 1946 notes, “The airline industry seems to think they are doing a favor when they give a person a job as a steward or stewardess. They are prone to forget that these people have done more to sell airplane traveling to the American people than any other single factor.”

Thus began a multi-decade movement consisting of thousands of women, often new workers in a field with high turnover and severe rules that restricted long-term employees. It was a long hard struggle for flight attendants to reach the point they are at today. The union won its first contract in 1946, when United increased pay to $155 and agreed to limited hours, set rest periods between flights, and a grievance procedure. In 1947, ALSA President Ada Brown married and became a victim of United’s rule against marriage, forcing her to resign from both her work and the union. The union not only had to deal with these issues, but also significant sexual harassment from pilots, a group with which the union had a complex and not altogether productive or friendly relationship. A former TWA flight attendant remembered pilots making “unofficial girdle checks” on the attendants. The pilots union started their own subsidiary within the flight attendants and forced the ALSA to merge with it in 1949. Several breakoff movements took place over the years, with most of the attendants forming what is today Association of Flight Attendants in the late 1970s, although the AFA did not get a charter from the AFL-CIO until 1984.

The age requirements did not go away until 1968, after flight attendants used Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to challenge discrimination. At that point the average career of a flight attendant was only 18 months. The union pushed the airlines to end the marriage requirement as well, to which courts agreed in 1971, at the same time they opened the profession to men. The weight requirements were loosened in 1979 after more union pressure. The union pressed to apply OSHA rules to airplane labor, end bans on pregnant attendants, promote cabin safety measures for both passengers and workers, and helped kill a 1981 FAA plan to reduce flight attendants in each flight.

Today, the AFA is a part of the Communication Workers of America, a merger it undertook after post 9/11 layoffs. The union represents about 60,000 workers.

The last surviving member of the 5 flight attendants to start the ALSA, Edith Lauterbach, died in February at the age of 91. She retired from the airlines in 1986, the first woman to serve more than forty years as a flight attendant.

Edith Lauterbach

Those interested in learning more should read Kathleen M. Barry’s Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants, from which I drew a good bit of this post.

This is the 73rd post in this series. Other posts are archived here.