Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mercy's Moment

On the day of then canonization of St. John Paul, who instituted today as Divine Mercy Sunday, and the controversy over Pope Francis's reported phone calls allegedly giving a woman married to a divorced man permission to resume reception of the Eucharist.

First, I think it is important to remember that it is likely Holy Father likely spent more time in prayer and consideration of this situation than all the people commenting on it combined.

Second, I think there can be a gap between written policy and pastoral action.  If there is some good served by having her refrain from communion for several more years it escapes me, and I can imagine many benefits. I'm sure these disciplines are not consistently applied, and I'm OK with that.

Third, I understand it's not so simple when it is the Bishop of Rome delivering the dispensation, and why some are concerned.  Everything the Holy Father done is seen as a sign of hope for long awaited change by some and a sign that things are falling apart by others, with both sides fanned by a press sometimes eager for the Church to move in a particular direction, or have its voice (further) diminished, or just to see a good fight.

Last week, Joe Posnaski had an article about pine tar being found on Michael Pineda, that the obviousness of the pine tar made it impossible for the umpires to ignore.  I found myself nodding along -- how often we substitute foolish consistency for common sense?  The first comment is this anecdote:

Something else to consider is this. Ron Luciano said that when he would go to check Gaylord Perry, Perry would say, “Don’t look on my right shoulder.” And Luciano would let him off the hook. Why? Maybe he didn’t want the confrontation–but when you consider that league presidents and now the commissioner have, historically, been total wusses in the hip pocket of the owners (or they have been gone FAST), why should the umpire not expect to get crucified if he interferes with a player? When it’s obvious, yes, it’s unavoidable. When it’s not, well, not only might you not want to know, but how DO you know?
And we see the problem with "common sense" -- that it can often be a cover for cronyism and prejudice. Gaylord Perry, Hall of Famer, 300 game winner, Cy Young Award Winner, could do this. Could Pineda have gotten away with this?  Or Don Newcombe in his rookie year?  I'm doubtful.

Same thing goes for us.  We might hope to find a friendly cop if we get behind the wheel after a couple drinks, but would a poor, nonwhite person receive the same mercy?

And maybe that's what the Holy Father is trying to teach us.  That we can hold fast to our values and principles, but be merciful in applying those to others.  And that, this mercy needs to benefit the poor and disadvantaged, not those already enjoying other great privileges.

What Can Jeff Atwood Do...

Alternative title: John McG Mansplains that Sexual Harassment is What Makes Tech Awesome!

Kidding aside, as with my previous post on this topic, this is meant more to be an identification of stumbling blocks that I see than an airtight case that nothing should be done.  


Monday, April 07, 2014

Imagine the NCAA didn't exist...

There was no intercollegiate sports.  In general, football and basketball players went straight from college to the pros.

There were general complaints, both from coaches and from fans, that these athletes were not prepared to compete at this level, both in terms of personal maturity and skill level for the game.  To address this, the following system is devised:


  • The preferred path to professional sports would be to play in a competitive league at universities for 1-4 years.
  • During that time, the athletes will receive free tuition for as much coursework as they care to take as well as free room and board.
  • These athletes must maintain a certain grade point average and be making progress toward a degree.  They must be able to meet the admission standards of the university for non-athletes.
  • Revenue generated from these games will be used to fund sports that do not generate revenue, which, with some exceptions, means all men's and women's sports except football and men's basketball.  This will enable athletes in those sports to also receive scholarships, even though their sports would not generate sufficient revenue to cover them.
  • Build up a culture such that the best intercollegiate culture are held in as high if not higher regard as the best professional coaches.  Establish regional rivalries such that alums and locals want their teams to be successful.  Expose the best players so they arrive as professionals as established stars able to demand high contracts and endorsement deals.
Am I crazy to think we could do a lot worse than this?  Is this worse than, say, minor league baseball?  It obviously produces a more entertaining product.

Stripped of all the sanctimony about "student-athletes" and such, what we essentially have is athletes who are about to become millionaires being pushed into some years of service at a university, enabling them to fund other athletic programs and scholarships.

Now, even if you're OK with future star athletes being compelled into 1-4 years of indentured servitude, there are some obvious problems with my whitewashed version of events:

  • It is far from clear that most of the revenue from big-time college football and basketball goes to other athletic programs.
  • Most of the athletes in revenue sports will not go on to professional careers.  Only a few players on the rosters of the Kentucky and Connecticut teams that play for the national championship will go on to the NBA.    So, the model of seeing the time in college as a service requirement before a lucrative career falls flat.
  • Even so, it is possible some talented athlete who would have a professional career could suffer an injury at college that would severely damage his earning potential.
  • Many of the athletes in the revenue sports are black; many of the athletes of non-revenue sports and others who benefit from the revenue sports are white.  This has some obviously disturbing implications.
  • It is not clear that big universities, many of them already government funded, should be the beneficiaries of these athletes' apprenticeships.
It now seems apparent that big changes are afoot for the NCAA.  Which is good, because the current system has its obvious injustices. 

But it has its advantages as well.