John Daly. Professional golfer. Bomber off the tee with amazing touch around the greens. More personality than most PGA foursomes. Major championship winner. 89th on the all time money list at $9m.

History of drinking, divorce, domestic violence.

Found last week in a drunken slumber outside a closed Hooters restaurant in the middle of the night in Winston Salem, NC. Apparently had drunk so much and become so belligerent his friends bus-left him.

Seattle sports talk host, like others in the media has two things to say. 1) Funny mug shot and funny that Hooters is one of his primary sponsors. 2) Sad that he could have been financially independent “and lived a life others just dream about” if he had just not drunk so much.

There’s absolutely nothing funny about alcoholism. Ever. It’s an insidious disease. Nearly every recovering alcoholic stays sober with the help of others in an Alcoholic Anonymous like support group. I knew Daly was in trouble when from the very beginning he said he wasn’t into meetings, he was going to beat it himself. 

I couldn’t feel more differently than the Seattle sports talk host.

Let’s not confuse one’s W-2 forms and one’s legacy. Talk host would lead us to believe Daly’s tombstone will read, “Earned $9m, but it easily could have been double that.” 

The tragedy is not Daly’s unfulfilled golf potential and lost income. The tragedy is the shattered lives he’s left in his wake—children, ex-wives, friends, family, business associates.

Hope I’m wrong, but I don’t expect it to end well for Daly or for those who still care about him.

Finish Strong

No, this isn’t about the election.  It’s about well. . . finishing strong.

When shooting hoops, always end with a swish from downtown. Backing up, holding the release, palming your face, and yelling “face” to no one in particular is optional.

When putting before teeing off, always end with a made putt. Pumping your fist ala Tiger is optional.

When retiring for the evening, always end with hugs, kisses, and rubs for the kids, partner, and dog. Stories, prayers, and tuckies are optional.

When swimming the 500 free, always save a little sumthin’ sumthin’ for the last 100.  Hoping out and dressing before your opponents touch is optional.

When eating Thanksgiving dinner, always end with warm pie and cold ice cream. Pretending to be European and lingering at the table for hours on end is optional.

When putting a wrap on a cycling season, always end with an epic ride in a beautiful setting with good friends. Using the brakes on the icy sections is optional.

Mount Rainier—Descending Sunrise—photo credit "T"

Rainier—Descending Sunrise—photo credit "T"

Dear Conservative Christians

Dear Conservative Christians,

I remember watching the African-American community in Southern California explode in applause when O.J. was acquitted. I went from angry to inquisitive almost immediately. It was clear I didn’t understand their day-to-day experience in South Central Los Angeles. Overtime, I learned they weren’t celebrating anyone’s death, instead they were celebrating the high profile defeat of what they perceived to be an oppressive police department.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you too because I just don’t get why you believe McCain-Palin are the obvious choice for real Christians in real America.

Where to begin? Let’s start with McCain’s mid-summer visit with Rick Warren at his SoCal church. Recall that when Warren asked McCain who is rich, McCain said anyone who makes $5m/year. Later he said he was joking, but his point was clear, why label anyone as rich, let’s just celebrate whatever degree of wealth anyone is able to acquire. You cheered lustily.

What if Warren had asked different follow up questions such as if we use the New Testament as a guide, didn’t Jesus time after time identify with the poor and downtrodden? And didn’t he challenge the wealthy over and over to rearrange their priorities and identify with the poor themselves?

Disappointingly to me, Obama-Biden have ignored the poor in this campaign, focusing exclusively on the middle class. That hasn’t stopped McCain-Palin from charging Obama-Biden with class warfare. Do you, like me, wonder what chance do the poor have for entering into the public’s consciousness when Obama-Biden are busy responding to attacks that they’re siding with the middle class at the expense of the upper class?

I know there is a prosperity doctrine that’s alive and well, but I have to confess I don’t know how you believe in biblical infallibility and inerrancy and sidestep Jesus’s words and actions concerning the poor. When reading the New Testament, what do you do when you get to the Sermon on the Mount? 

Your ticket of choice continues to criticize Obama and Biden for being socialists for even suggesting raising taxes on those who make over $250k/year. Why try to slander others as socialist when the early Christians seemed awfully socialist themselves?

For example, take Paul from the book of Acts, Chapter Four, verses 32-35. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”

How do you interpret that? Help me understand why socialist is being used by your candidates as a pejorative when at least some early Christians were acting like socialists.

And I’m confused about gender. In many of your churches, based on your literal, infallible, and inerrant interpretation of the bible, women can’t serve in leadership positions. And men are the distinct heads of your households. How you can hold those views and simultaneously be so excited for a woman to potentially serve as our nation’s Chief Executive?

And why don’t your candidates of choice ever challenge the wealthy to pay all of their existing taxes? According to the Wall Street Journal (thanks to Robert Franks), a new study using I.R.S. data shows that wealthy taxpayers probably hide more of their income than lower- and middle-income taxpayers. The study on wealthy tax cheats, reported by Janet Novack at Forbes, concludes that taxpayers with income of $500,000 to $1 million a year understated their adjusted gross income 21% in 2001. That compares with an 8% underreporting rate for those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and even lower rates for those earning less.

Why is increasing the top tax rate 3-4% considered class warfare, but when the super wealthy hire really good tax attorneys to help them shelter income from their private businesses, holding companies, S-corporations, partnerships, and rental income, it’s not?


A Confused Christian Brother


The past week at a glance. Every workout, except half of Saturday’s and all of Sunday’s, completed before sunrise.

Friday, running day, however, I felt like I returned to the regular running schedule a bit too quickly post marathon so I decided to swim instead. I was invited to join the Masters so I chased Geraldine for 75 minutes.  650 warm up. Main set 6×300, descend 1-3  and 4-6 on 5:00. Not sure of my splits, but Geraldine kept putting 20 yards into me. 50 easy then 3×200 on 3:20. Again, I wasn’t getting my splits. I like Mel’s rest intervals better than my own. Then a 4×100 pull set and a 100 cool down. Classic Mel, no strokes. Total, 3,600 yards, but I always record meters, so 3,330m.

Saturday, 10+ mile run in 1:19+. First time I felt normal post marathon. Lots of trails, Woodland, Watershed, LBA. Surprise, surprise, M and I got into a heated argument which always leads to a quicker pace. I don’t understand economics or taxes because I’ve never sat in a boardroom, yet he routinely criticizes public school teachers. Usually, I can manage the irritation, but about once a year, I completely snap. I’m good until 2009. I apologize for my language if you were anywhere near LBA park last Saturday morning.

Sunday, cold weather cycling experiment. 35 degrees, can I hang? I decide to give it a try, and if I can’t cut it, I’ll bail before joining the group at 4 miles. Craft base layer, medium weight base, expedition weight base, long sleeve jersey, arm warmers, long bottoms under long bibs, two pairs of socks, toe covers, two pairs of gloves, hat under helmet. I produced a large load of laundry, but proved the Norwegians right-there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. The suggested route called for an early climb and about 40 miles in total. Perfect, until we went straight when we were supposed to go left. Three, five, seven extra miles. . . times two. Are we ever going to head north again or are we taking the train back from Portland? 55 miles later, the mercury climbed to 46. The only thing I took off all morning were my arm warmers. Mission accomplished. 1,500′ of climbing at a relaxed 18+mph.

Monday, 6.16 mile run in 47+ for a 7:41/mile average.

Tuesday, solo swim. 1,000 yard warm up, every fourth alternate back then breast, 15:45. Kick 200; one arm drill 100; fingertip drag 100; 100 easy. 4×300 on 5:00 in 4:25, 19, 17, 3. 5x100IM on 1:55 in 1:36-1:37, last 1:33. 100 cool down. Total, 3,300 yards or 3,000m.

Wednesday, 6.75 mile run in 51:31 for a 7:38/mile average.

Thursday, solo swim. 1,000 yard warm up straight free, 14:45. Kick 200; one arm drill 100; fingertrip drag 100. 2×200 back then breast two times on 3:50, back in 3:27, 3:27; breast in 3:30, 3:30. 5×200 on 3:20 in 2:55, 51, 45, 38, 55. 100 cool down. Total, 3,300 yards or 3,000m.

Too Excellent?

It gained momentum during the Pennsylvania primary when Obama passed on beer shots and rolled a few gutter balls. Hillary’s peeps went on the attack saying he’s not a regular guy, he’s an elitist, out of touch with beer drinking bowlers who work factory jobs and hunt on the weekends.

The criticisms multiplied after Hockey Mom burst onto the national stage. Obama was too professorial, too intellectual, too eloquent, too damn skinny. He was a media darling, because like him, the media are arrogant out-of-touch east-coast intellectuals. On the other hand, Palin was celebrated for not being professorial, not being intellectual, not being particularly eloquent. She was regular folk. She hunted moose.

Obama was a man of ideas, she was a woman of action. Like ordinary folk, she hopped from anonymous college to anonymous college before graduating and reading the sports news for a living. In contrast, Obama attended the Punahou school, then Occidental, then Columbia, then the bastion of elitism, Harvard, where he became the first African-American to edit the Harvard Law Review.

Even though we tell ourselves that education is important, people are suspicious of those that attend elite institutions. Obama went from editing the Harvard Law Review to a community organizing gig in Chicago which cynics charge was simply a calculated plan to jumpstart his political career. There’s another strike against him, too ambitious.

I understand cynicism, but maybe there was something about growing up poor that combined with classroom and extracurricular experiences at Punaho, Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard that resulted in a genuine social conscience.

For awhile there, at the end of the Republican Convention, when McCain-Palin pulled even, I thought our national motto had become style over substance. Better not to be too poised. Better not to be too intelligent. Better not to be too fit. Better not to be too ambitious.

All of a sudden conservative Republicans who always advocate for excellence over equity were back-pedaling en masse.

Obama illustrated there was a tipping point, one can be too excellent. I can’t help but wonder if latent racism explains why many on the right felt compelled to portray Obama’s excellence as elitism.

Even last Wednesday night, McCain repeatedly referenced how eloquent Obama was, by which he meant, he’s just too smooth, he can’t be trusted. 

So Obama’s probable victory will restore my faith that what I’ve attempted to model and teach my children—pursue excellence in school, learn to communicate well, take care of your body, be ambitious about serving others—still resonate despite the best efforts of the Palin fanbase to retreat on excellence and dumb down the election.

Where To Put Your Money Now

Provocative title, huh. Just wish I had thought of it. I’ve been wanting to write on the financial crisis, but I’m still in shock and haven’t figured out where or how to start.

So I’m going to pass the baton by recommending Mark Cuban’s most recent post. Just what he needs I’m sure, more readers. For those with limited sports literacy, Cuban is the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Since you probably don’t have any debt, pass the link on to someone that does. Jeez, when is some big time blogger going to throw me a bone? 

Normally I don’t like people as cocky as Cuban, but his passion and ordinary guy sensibility seem to compensate. He knows technology and his success story is interesting. In short, if he decides to sign me to a 10-day contract, and I happen to be between academic terms, I’ll play for him.


I’ve never been a bumper sticker person maybe because I believe the world is too complex for five or six word assertions like “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart.” 

Do those with bumper stickers on their cars really think their five or six words are going to change other driver’s minds about who to vote for or where to shop? If not, what’s the point of advertising your politics?

To the “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart” drivers I say so what.  Wal-Mart revenues are approximately $100B a year. Do you really think your $50-$100 a week is creating change? A few years before Wal-Mart began employing millions of Chinese, Confucius said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But your individual impact on Wal-Mart is probably far less than a single step.

Forgive me for not applauding you.  

I don’t support Wal-Mart, but I know my decision not to shop there is inconsequential if I don’t convince others who feel as if they have to shop there to make ends meet to find smaller, more labor and environmental friendly alternatives.  

Most of the “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart” cars I see suggest the drivers are middle or upper-middle class or wealthy. Easy for the economically secure to pass on Wal-Mart because, like me, they can afford to pay more at other retailers some of whom get a pass on questionable business practices of their own because progressives are busy directing their ire at the biggest kid on the playground.

A few years ago when I was teaching summer school in central Washington my hotel was across the street from a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. I had never been in one so I ventured in under the guise of “academic research.” I was utterly blown away by the prices which were considerably less than Costco’s where I shop regularly.

Most of the families appeared poor, probably first generation Mexicans working on farms in the area. As an English speaker, I was in the minority. I thought if I were in their shoes, politics be damned, I’d be shopping there too.

They’re not doing anything illegal. 

Of course the low prices are the result of low wages in China and in U.S. stores, nearly non-existent health coverage, and other reprehensible business practices that the left has detailed in documentary’s like “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.” 

Not illegal, but unethical. But can we realistically expect law-abiding working class citizens who feel they have to shop at Wal-Mart to connect the economic, environmental, social, and geopolitical dots? What if they lean in to your Volvo with the “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart bumper sticker and say, “I’m busting my hump earning minimum wage. My only goal is for my children to have more opportunities. Someday I hope they can afford to shop at smaller, independent retailers that pay their employees livable wages.”

So I’m waiting to see a variation of the Wal-Mart bumper sticker, one that reads, “I convinced ten working class families not to shop at Wal-Mart.”

Then, I’ll be really impressed.

Bridging the Political Divide One Mile at a Time 2

M’s and my differing political philosophies stem from our disparate worldviews; our disparate worldviews flow from our different life experiences. We grew up in different households, attended different schools, have lived in different communities, chose different mentors, and worship in different churches. Now we read different periodicals, see different movies, vacation in different places, and socialize with different people.

There is nothing I can say to get M to switch sides and value pluralism and social justice as much as me. Similarly, he knows there’s nothing he can say to get me to value limited government and free market capitalism as much as he does. Instead of attempting the impossible, to get one another to change worldviews, we accept our fundamental differences and set our sights lower. We know we can influence one another’s thinking on specific issues because we’ve done it. Lower case, “c” change is a more manageable and constructive goal than upper case, “C” Change.

We bridge the chasm by resisting the tendency to present our ideas as inherently superior and thereby avoid projecting feelings of superiority.

Conservatives’ chief criticism of liberals is that they are arrogant. Conservatives complain that liberals not only think they are smarter, more compassionate, and more sophisticated than everyone else, but they also feel it’s their duty to help the less intelligent, compassionate, and sophisticated catch up. Simply put, they are condescending. If they are honest though, ideologues on the right will admit to feeling superior to their political opponents. Like many liberals, many conservative also think, “Because I take enlightened position ‘x’ and you inexplicably uphold position ‘y,’ I’m superior to you.”

Neither end of the political spectrum has a monopoly on projecting a sense of superiority.

In debating with M, I try to avoid that pitfall by reminding myself that his politics make sense given his family background, where he grew up, his school and work experiences, the media he tunes into, and the friends he spends time with. M’s background isn’t inferior to mine, just different; similarly, his political opinions aren’t inferior to mine, just different.

Most ideologues are convinced their opponents are irrational, but most everyone’s politics are rational if understood in the context of their life experience. In fact, one can’t truly bridge the political chasm until they acknowledge that if they had lived the same life as their political opponent they would in all likelihood think and vote similarly.

This realization has helped M and me work through our political differences. When one of us, like the dinner party guest, makes what the other interprets as an outlandish claim, the most constructive response is “Why do you believe that?” not awkward silence or “How can you be such an idiot?” The question, “Why do you believe that?” often leads to, “What values are most important to you?” Then, to challenge M to acknowledge the subjectivity of his value system, I also sometimes ask, “Why those values and not others?”

In a recent debate, for example, I asked, “Why is your church up in arms about gay marriage, but relatively silent on divorce rates?”

Developing meaningful friendships across the political continuum seems like a lost art. M and I have succeeded where many others have seemingly given up by spending time together getting to know one another as people, by respectfully considering each person’s position on specific issues while realizing neither person is going to forsake their overarching political philosophy, and by resisting the tendency to present our ideas as inherently superior.

That’s not to say we’ve mastered this balancing act. We don’t always get it right, but to our credit, instead of retreating, we persevere. I’m indebted to M for these lessons and my life is richer as a result of his friendship.

The Lost Art of Detached Analysis

I had to squeeze this in between my two-parter. I read the NYT on-line including their essayists including Herbert, Rich, Brooks, Dowd, Friedman, etc. I’m waiting for them to call me and ask me to join them in the fun. Most of the writers are liberals who support Obama-Biden.  A common thread lately has been Palin’s lack of qualifications for the number two job in the land. Take Friedman’s today for instance.

To me, the comments attached to each essay are especially interesting. Attached to each comment is a link where you can “recommend” the comment to others.

Here are two typical comments that I’ll embellish a touch.  “Well said, bravo, finally someone has challenged Palin’s claim that she’s an energy expert. You are a first-rate journalist and fine human being.”  Now, 90% of NYT readers are left-leaning so a comment like that might have 600 recommendations. The next comment might read, “I can’t quite figure out why the NYT pays you to write such drivel. Palin already knows more about energy than you’ll every know. You’re a detriment to humanity.” A comment like that might get 30 recommendations.  

So if I agree with your argument, you’re a great writer.  If I don’t, you suck.

Here’s a comment I recently attached to an essay written for a professional on-line journal:

I’m a liberal democrat that’s looking forward to voting for Obama, but I’m wondering why the editors at TCR accepted this essay for publication. Zimmerman assumes way too much about his readership. Maybe everyone that reads TCR thinks similarly, and this was accepted because it’s timely, but for an essay to have real merit, it has to provide supporting evidence. I have to wonder if Zimmerman truly knows any Palin supporters. Their support is definitely emotional, but not entirely. Zimmerman doesn’t take on any of their arguments, for example, that Palin has more executive experience than Obama. Refute that or the right can simply argue it’s a case of left-leaning emotion versus right. More specifically, Zimmerman implies Obama is smarter, but Palin supporters would distinguish between book smarts, people smarts, and political leadership smarts. Zimmerman seemingly wants his readers to accept that there’s an inevitable correlation between intellect and political leadership. That may be true, but nothing in the essay will convince anyone of that. I’m sure Zimmerman would have said Gore and Kerry were far more meritorious than the man who beat them (at least Kerry if we blame the SC for the 00′ outcome).

A critique like that might earn me two or three recommendations. More evidence I guess that I’m hopelessly out of step.

Detached analysis isn’t really an art, it’s a skill that is learned. If we take NYT readers as a sample, educators have a lot of work to do. For all the vague talk of critical thinking skills, I wonder whether we have enough teachers capable of modeling and teaching substantive analytical skills.

Bridging the Political Divide One Mile at a Time 1

The first in a two-part series. The election is heating up so I thought it was time to “reprint” this essay which appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune in October 2004. At the time, it struck a chord with quite a few people.  

Increasingly it seems birds of a political feather almost exclusively fly together. All of my teaching colleagues are Kerry supporters as are the parents from my daughter’s soccer team; on the other hand, I live in a Bush-Cheney neighborhood (2008 update: surprisingly, the Obama signs outnumber the McCain signs). I buck this trend towards ideological segregation four times a week when I run between 10 kilometers and 10 miles with M, my neighbor, friend, and loyal training partner. M is a conservative republican; I’m a liberal democrat.

Our friendship, formed over several thousand miles of running together over the last six years, is unique. Few people have close friends whose politics are markedly different than their own.  People prefer associating with like-minded friends who affirm rather than challenge their thinking, their values, and their politics. We are either too insecure to engage with those who think and vote differently than us, or it takes too much energy, or we haven’t figured out how to disagree with one another without compromising our friendships.

My friendship with M gives me hope when pundits tell us our country has never been more divided and partisanship has never been more pronounced. How do we, as red and blue runners (2008 update: dated cliche), bridge the political chasm that exists between us?

We bridge the chasm by spending time together getting to know one another as people. 

We pass the miles debating the merits of the war in Iraq, multiculturalism, Title IX, gay marriage, candidates for political office, and tax and education reform (2008 update: Sarah Palin). Sometimes I measure our debates by miles telling my wife after a run, “We had a nine mile debate on gender differences and athletics today.” Our political disagreements often lead to personal stories, stories that help me respond more thoughtfully to M’s conservative claims.  The nature of my internal dialogue has changed from “How can you be so stupid or reactionary to take a position like that?” to “What in your past might explain you’re taking that position?” In listening to M’s stories, and learning his story, I better understand his politics. 

In interacting with M, I have also learned to appreciate many of his personal qualities including his work ethic and unpredictable sense of humor. More importantly, despite our extreme political differences, we have learned we hold some important values in common. He is as committed to his wife, kids, church, and friends as I am to mine. We work hard and respect those with whom we work. We both try to make our corners of the world better than they otherwise would be in our absence. In the end, M’s human decency matters more to me than the way he votes. 

We bridge the chasm by respectfully considering each person’s position on specific issues while realizing neither person is going to forsake their overarching political philosophy.

People are threatened and fearful of political differences. When a dinner party guest states an unpopular point of view, typically he or she is met with awkward silence. Conservatives don’t just want liberals to support the President’s actions in Iraq; they want them to passionately embrace the ideas of limited government and free market capitalism. Similarly, liberals don’t just want conservatives to oppose the death penalty; they want them to passionately embrace the ideas of pluralism and social justice. 

To be continued.