NPF: MISSILE MAIL WAS EXACTLY WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE

Posted in No Politics Friday on June 8th, 2017 by Ed

When America's economic and military power were peaking in the late 1950s, our government and military were willing to pour money into some pretty dubious ideas. Why? We could afford it. Everything gets the green light when not only is the national mood one in which the threat of the Soviet Union is the dominant concern but economic growth is averaging double-digit percentages annually. Sometimes in hindsight it appears as though we did things that had no real point just…because we could. Because why not. Because rockets and jet planes and big bombs are cool and hey we heard rumors that the Soviets are working on it and by the way did we mention the 12% GDP growth last year?

It is important to preface the following story with the context that in 1959 the U.S. was losing the Space Race and lagged behind the Soviet Union, albeit temporarily, in the development of large missiles. This was considered of extreme importance because of course every missile used to loft something heavy into space was also a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead or ten halfway around the world.

Perhaps eager to have a "Look! A success!" headline or perhaps simply for the sheer hell of it by the permissive logic of the Pentagon in those days, on today's date in 1959 the submarine USS Barbero launched a Regulus cruise missile at Jacksonville, Florida. Despite the many arguments in favor of doing so, the missile was not intended to destroy Jacksonville. Its warheads had been replaced with two mail containers filled with commemorative US Postal Service items to celebrate the first delivery of "Missile Mail." So, in case any part of this is unclear, the Navy collaborated with the Post Office to see if mail could be delivered by cruise missile.

Why? I mean. Why the hell not, right?

The Postmaster General enthused – with a straight face, apparently – that "before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail." The Pentagon, however, admitted candidly that there was no possible way to make rocket delivery of mail cost effective, with each cruise missile costing the 2017 equivalent of over a million dollars. The stamps carried by the Regulus mail had a value of four cents each. It didn't take a UNIVAC to figure out that this wasn't actually about delivering mail. A more reasonable interpretation would be that, with Sputnik and the American failure(s) to imitate its launch, the US wanted to show off that it could fire a cruise missile 1) from a submarine, and 2) with comparative accuracy over a long distance. No doubt the Post Office enjoyed the publicity and all involved, in that wholesome gee-whiz 1950s way, considered the stunt Neat-o, but other than to stimulate the American imagination and send Russian surveillance personnel to bang off a dispatch to Moscow about a cruise missile there was no real reason for doing this.

Wasteful? Sure. At the same time, it's hard to argue that Americans are happier today now that shenanigans of this type have been eliminated from the budget in favor of orienting all of the Pentagon's funds directly to killing foreigners.

NPF: STILL BETTER THAN SPIRIT

Posted in No Politics Friday on May 25th, 2017 by Ed

Having mentioned Charles Lindbergh's 1927 Transatlantic flight earlier in the week I cannot help myself from giving you just a peek inside the rabbit hole of the early days of aviation.

Flying is terrible, right? It's a thing we endure because the other options are so much more time consuming. Unless you can afford to upgrade to First Class (which basically just replicates what flying was like prior to the 1977 deregulation) you grit your teeth and exchange both comfort and dignity for an inexpensive ticket. Yes, many domestic US tickets approach or exceed $500 in coach depending on your destination and dates, and $500 can hardly be considered "cheap." However, in the grand scheme of things it's about what we can expect unless the airlines wish to resume the ritual of declaring Chapter 11 once per decade.

This is our fault, of course. Actually it's capitalism's fault, but let's keep this manageable. If given the option between a $1000 ORD to SFO ticket with pampering, comfort, and no additional add-on costs or a $255 ORD to SFO ticket that entitles you to be treated as subhuman and confined to a space in which you can barely fit, which will you pick? Your personal preferences and financial situation might point toward the $1000 ticket. Most of us suck it up and take the cheapie. We punt on comfort. The rotten business model in use across the industry offers us the opportunity to get things like legroom and dignity and checked baggage if we fork over the money. Very few passengers choose to do so.

I digress. The reason I mention this is simply to use flying in 2017 as a point of comparison for the following anecdote.

In 1934 the Australian airline Qantas began the first London to Sydney air service. Australia is a chore to fly to even today from Europe or North America. Modern equipment has improved things vastly, as you'll see, but flying to Southeast Asia or Australia-NZ borders on grueling in the best circumstances. In 1934 well-off Brits were astonished to learn that they were free from the tyranny of the steamship and could actually be flown to Sydney and back with each journey taking a mere…are you ready? Twelve days! It was practically like teleporting.

The next time you grumble (as I do, constantly) about flying today consider the ordeal it was in the early days. The flight departed London and before arriving in Sydney it required five changes of aircraft (!!!) among the 12 to 15 layovers, disembarking to travel across Italy via train (Mussolini forbade foreign airlines to cross Italian airspace), and twelve days and nights all for the low price of about $18,000 in 2017 US dollars. For Americans, Australia was on the far end of the early Pacific routes, immortalized by Pan Am's China Clippers, that stopped and spent the evening at five or six fly-speck islands in where grand hotels had been built hastily to pamper passengers who were forking over a lower class working person's annual salary for a seat aboard the loud, primitive flying canoes of the age.

You can't call modern air travel perfect, but it helps on occasion to remember how far it has come.

Actually that doesn't help at all. I want whoever invented the reclining coach seat to be guillotined.

THE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS NO ONE ASKED FOR

Posted in No Politics Friday on May 20th, 2017 by Ed

Class of 2017 graduates,

I want to take this opportunity to offer you the benefits, unsolicited, of all the wisdom I've accumulated in the two decades since I was in your position: fresh out of college and about to enter adulthood against my will. It is not in the nature of 18-22 year olds to take advice, but it is in the nature of people nearing 40 to look back on the advice they received and realize that some of it was helpful. So, without further literary foreplay, please remember the following as you move forward in life:

1. The two areas in which you should never try to economize are toilet paper and airplane tickets. One-ply toilet paper will save you a buck or two, but the costs of failure are catastrophic. Spend the extra money. And you will be enticed by the ticket on Spirit Airlines or something similar because it is $100 cheaper than every other fare. By the time you realize how miserable your flight experience is, combined with all the extra fees they will hit you with for the privilege of getting on the plane with your luggage, you will find that you didn't save money at all. You just flew a shittier airline and were more miserable than absolutely necessary.

2. Guac is extra. Guac is always extra, and honestly it's overpriced and not worth it. Avocados taste vaguely like soap.

3. Learn to cook a handful of things. It doesn't have to be fancy. The money you spend dining out will do more damage to your budget than you realize.

4. Leave your college town now. You're done there. It will be tempting to stick around because you like it and it's familiar. It will become sad very quickly, though, when you are That Guy Who Graduated and is Hanging Around Townie-Like. Moving sucks. Making new friends as an adult is hard. Do it anyway.

5. Don't go back to your hometown either. There is nothing there for you. Do things that have a future, not a past.

6. Everything sucks right now, and whatever job you find is likely to suck. I'm sorry. We are all sorry. But any extended period of idleness will make it that much harder to get into the workforce later. Tough it out. Often after a year or two in the basement of any profession you can make some connections that will better your standing in a couple of years. Who you know is important.

7. Take it easy with the alcoh…oh fuck it, you will probably spend your entire 20s drunk. Why not. It's the last time your body will be able to handle "partying" as you currently define it.

8. Buy one outfit now, and possibly an outfit that has the ability to be altered, for weddings. You are going to go to about 100 weddings in the next five to ten years and it can get really pricey fast.

9. Don't worry if everyone else is getting married and you're not. Statistically, half of these marriages will fail. It's OK. It's life.

10. This is the best time in your life to fail at anything. The consequences are less severe right now than they ever will be. In ten or fifteen years when you have more responsibilities – children, spouses, financial obligations, etc. – it will be extremely costly and impractical to move to Hollywood and try to become an actor, or write the great American novel, or open a small business, or try to unicycle across Siberia, or work on a cruise ship to see the world drunk and for free, or give it a go with your band, or set yourself up to provide a service that it may turn out is not in demand, or open that bar, or anything else. For most of the ideas and goals you have that do not involve working a fairly dull job for a paycheck, it's now or likely never. You can try something like this and fail miserably at 25 without crippling your future. At 55, you can't. It's OK. The hoary inspirational advice is right: a lot of very successful people went bankrupt, sometimes multiple times. If there is something you want to try that you will end up regretting if you don't try it, do it now. If you fail, nobody except you will feel the failure. And then you'll be young enough to start over.

11. Don't go to grad school unless you actually want to go to grad school. It's too pricey now to go just because you can't think of anything else to do.

12. Get an adult email address. Nobody is going to hire "FingrBlastr420@___.com." And while you're at it, go to a good bar and figure out which Adult Drink you like. You can't go to professional events with adults and ask for the neon flavored vodka nonsense at college bars.

13. Never let inertia make decisions for you. You don't have to marry him just because you've been dating for so long. You don't have to keep working at Job X because you've been there for 15 years already and blah blah. You don't have to buy a house just because it's that time, or because everyone else is doing it. You always have a choice about these things. Maybe getting married, having 2.3 kids, buying a house, and all that stuff is perfect for you. Just remember that you don't have to do any of it unless you really want to. The leading cause of unhappiness in the affluent world is people making choices to do things they do not actually want to do. When you think hard about it, there is very little you "have to" do.

14. If you don't have hobbies or interests, get some. Beyond college it is very difficult to meet other adults to socialize with.

15. Get out of the house. Nothing good happens to someone who is sitting at home alone. Go do activities you might not be super excited about or attend events that are only marginally interesting. Sitting around alone is a good way to ensure nothing changes. You want things to change, and change for the better. Get out and meet people. Most of the people you meet in your twenties will amount to nothing in your life, but one or two of them will make all the difference.

Everything is Terrible All the Time,
Ed

NPF: THAT HE DID, CHAP.

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 14th, 2017 by Ed

In 1882 an internal dispute between the compositing (layout and typesetting) department and the editorial staff of The Times of London led to an incident that can best be described in modern terms as "Victorian Shitposting."

A speech by Home Secretary William Harcourt was selected by the editors to be reprinted in full due to an upcoming by-election. The conclusion of the Rt. Hon. Gentleman's speech was, in the edition that went to press and was distributed across England the next day, quoted as follows:

I saw in a Tory journal the other day a note of alarm, in which they said “Why, if a tenant-farmer is elected for the North Riding of Yorkshire the farmers will be a political power who will have to be reckoned with." The speaker then said he felt inclined for a bit of fucking.

The reader could be forgiven for wondering if Sir William had in fact said this, or had perhaps been misquoted.

Victorian Furor followed. The Times ran a mortified apology four days later and left no stone lie in its attempt to find the perpetrator. A few months later (presumably he) struck again. An advertisement for a book called Everyday Life in our Public Schools was altered to claim that the book was bolstered by "a glossary of some words used by Henry Irving in his disquisitions upon fucking."

Many employees of the compositing department were given the sack. It is unclear if the guilty person was among them, or merely was scared into ceasing his endeavors by the consequences handed down to his co-workers. In either case the incidents stopped and did not return.

Truly was this a great moment in the history of culture-jamming, pranking, civil disobedience, or whatever one chooses to call this kind of brilliance.

NPF: FALCONS vs. PROBABILITY

Posted in No Politics Friday on March 5th, 2017 by Ed

I'm about to get to the segment of my research methods course covering probability, and I have a new favorite example of the cumulative probability of independent events. Too bad I can't use it in class, given that football is a rather culturally biased source for anecdotes.

Super Bowl viewers may recall that despite a furious New England comeback, the Atlanta Falcons were leading 28-20 with four minutes remaining and in a dominant position – first down at New England's 22 yard line. From here, literally all the Falcons had to do was fall down three times (which would either force New England to spend their timeouts or run 2 precious minutes off the clock), kick a simple 40-yard field goal, and return the ball to New England down 11 points with little time left. In other words, a Falcon victory was virtually guaranteed.

How guaranteed? Well, consider if Atlanta ran the simplest of plays on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down: a run straight up the middle by very excellent running back Devonta Freeman. It didn't matter if he gained yards or not. Running the clock and, crucially, NOT fumbling the ball away were all that mattered. Fortunately for Atlanta, Freeman carried the ball 227 times and caught 54 passes this season with all of one fumble, so we can calculate his odds of running the play without fumbling as 1 – 1/(227+54), or 99.64%. To calculate the odds of running the play three times (independent events) without fumbling, we cube that figure, (0.9964)3 = 98.92%. Assuming that Freeman would actually be trying much harder than usual to avoid fumbling at the expense of trying to gain yards, this is probably a serious underestimate to the likelihood of success. But let's stick with it.

On fourth down, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant would appear to kick a field goal of just under or over 40 yards. This season he made 95% (19/20) of kicks under 40 yards, and 97% (28/29) under 50. The 41 year old veteran has made 300 field goals in the NFL over 15 years, so presumably nerves wouldn't have drastically altered his performance. But for the sake of being conservative, let's say his odds were 92% (his total season average). 98.92% x 92% = 91%. In other words, by doing nothing but what was obvious, the Falcons had at least a 91% chance of taking an 11 point lead and essentially guaranteeing victory.

Instead, Atlanta got too cute. On 1st down Freeman carried the ball for a short loss. On second down, Atlanta passed for baffling reasons. QB Matt Ryan was sacked, losing 12 yards and making a potential field goal very long. Then they passed again, this time drawing a very obvious holding penalty and losing 10 more yards. Now, no field goal attempt was possible. The rest is history.

Consider what they did there. Leave aside for a moment the 30% chance of a pass being incomplete and stopping the clock, which would be bad (helping New England) but not fatal. QB Ryan had 1.3% of his passes intercepted, was sacked 6.5% of the time he attempted to pass, and the Falcons performed near the NFL average of an offensive penalty on 1 of every 10 plays (10%). The sum of those (17.8%) is the probability that something really, really bad could happen on a pass attempt. That leaves an 82.2% chance that things will be alright on a pass attempt. Counting Freeman's first down run (0.9964), we then multiply by (0.822) x (0.822) for the second and third down passes, giving us 67.3% probability of these three plays being run without "something bad" happening. Multiply that by Bryant's 92% chance of making a field goal, and we see that the plays Atlanta actually ran gave them only a 61.94% chance of getting that crucial 11-point lead.

NFL coaches may not be rocket scientists but most could tell you that 91% is greater than about 62%. And remember, 91% is an extremely low, conservative estimate.

We see this all the time in football; coaches get too fancy trying to "outsmart" the odds. When it works, they're praised for being Bold. But math is going to win more regularly than Guts or Boldness or anything else.

NPF: UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Posted in No Politics Friday on February 24th, 2017 by Ed

We aren't at our most observant during childhood and adolescence. And even when we do notice some things that are objectionable, we're likely to think they're funny because we're immature and stupid. Hey, white kids raised by and among white people who casually interject racism into 90% of their conversations are not very likely to listen to a song and think, "Hmm, I find this language Problematic" or "This movie unfairly stereotypes ethnic groups." Maybe I'm projecting and you were Super Woke as a child. I wasn't. I guess you're a better person than me.

Recently I had two experiences with media that I remember from when I was much younger, both of which I remember enjoying quite a bit when they were new. And now, as a 38 year old adult I find myself kind of amazed at how fucked up they seem. First, I pulled up Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to stream as a background movie while grading exams. I probably haven't seen it in 30 years. I distinctly remember my mom driving me and my sister to my dad's office to pick him up at work, after which we went straight to the theater to see it on its opening day. I must have been less than 8 years old, and I remember loving it. Try watching it now as an adult; tell me you can enjoy it even a little given 1) how totally and stunningly Kate Capshaw is able to act, even a little, and 2) how kind of jaw-droppingly racist it is. I mean. It's hard to expect sensitive treatment of non-Western cultures in action-adventure movies of the present (let alone decades ago) but…come on. There's a limit. I can overlook a sass-quipping Asian sidekick (that actor, it turns out, has had a very successful career in film in non-acting roles) or having a Non Specifically Ethnic Villain, but it's as if the people who made this movie took a lengthy checklist of stereotypes about Indians and Asians and made sure not to miss any of them. Christ.

Second – and this one is more recent, but hear me out – was having DMX "Where the Hood At" pop up on a shuffle. This track (from 2003) came out in my early adulthood, at the point where I should have known better, but if you know anything at all about rap you understand that you're not listening to DMX to listen to his lyrics. He has one of the smallest vocabularies in hip-hop. And that's OK, because, "in last place: DMX. But this shouldn't undermine an artist whose raw energy and honesty were the most memorable qualities of his music." OK. But try listening to "Where the Hood At." Holy balls the first verse of that song is the most brazenly homophobic thing in existence. Most people probably don't even know it's there, because the entire point of DMX (and that track) is to turn it up real loud and yell WHERE THE HOOD WHERE THE HOOD WHERE THE HOOD ATTTTT with a large group of similarly enthusiastic people. Even devoted fans probably don't know the rest of the words to the song. But….damn. You've been warned.

What are some of your favorite examples of shit you thought was awesome and now do a hard cringe at?

NPF: IT WAS A SIMPLER TIME

Posted in No Politics Friday on February 16th, 2017 by Ed

No Politics Friday has taken a beating since I moved to Chicago. It made my commute pretty exhausting and by the time I reach the front door on Thursday evenings I rarely have the energy to get a Friday post ready. That said, I'm working on carving out the time. Like this week, for example. This week I carved out the time.

On April 3, 1956 a woman who identified herself as Julia Chase sneaked away from a public tour of the White House. Having joined the tour group alone, without any companion who might notice her absence, nobody knew to look for her or sound an alarm. She made her presence known by spending nearly five hours sneaking around the building starting fires. To recap, then, a 53 year old woman spent half a day committing minor arson around the White House. Here is the front page of the next day's Chicago Tribune to prove it.

It's not just amazing that this happened. What really blows the modern mind is the response.

The woman…was taken into custody by government guards after the fifth fire and was sent to DC General Hospital for observation…Hagerty said the woman appeared to be 'not quite lucid.' She told police she did not know where she had come from…She explained that she 'had a lot of trash and wanted to burn it.'

The story continues to explain that she was released from the hospital into the custody of her family. And White House public visitation continued as normal for the day.

When older people refer to "simpler times" my first reaction is to gag on the sentimentality for a time period in which society was as staggeringly unequal and unjust as it was in the early post-War era. My second reaction is to remember this story and think, I bet it was pretty nice to live in something short of a state of constant fear that encourages law enforcement to overreact without restraint to anything perceived as a threat.

Shit. This got Political. Well, at least it's a Friday post. That's a start.

2016 GIN AND TACOS ANNUAL WHEEDLE SPECTACULAR

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 30th, 2016 by Ed

Reader,

I make an effort to limit this kind of request or reminder, because nobody wants to read a hundred pleas per year for the kinds of things a dude with a website is supposed to request. I appreciate your patience with the following paragraphs. I don't maintain this site for financial reward, and I hate creating the impression that you're expected to pay for the privilege. You certainly are not. Not even a little. But if you happen to feel the urge to be generous, here are some options.

1. If you haven't already, follow G&T on the ol' Facebox. There's more to it than a bunch of links to posts. It's a little heavier on humor and lighter on politics compared to this site. And I'm supposed to, like, try to boost traffic and build a base of readers and all that shit. So do it. Oh, as the previous post explains, I'm also temporarily banned because apparently it's OK to swear at strangers but not OK to take a screenshot of strangers swearing at you and post it. Makes sense!

Gin and Tacos | Promote Your Page Too

2. Speaking of, even though traffic has increased consistently over the years the site remains and will remain free of advertisements. If you have to ask why, you must be new. In lieu of advertisements you have to put up with the following few paragraphs once per year.

You can do nothing and continue to enjoy the site for free. This is called "free riding", and it's an entirely rational behavior. I have done (for thirteen years!!) and will continue to do this every day whether I make a million bucks, nothing at all, or I have to pay out of pocket for the privilege.

You can use this tip jar / donation link to contribute an amount of your choosing to defray the costs of this site. If you happen to be saddled with extra cash and feel like donating fifty bucks, I will be extremely grateful. However, if donating fifty cents is more in line with your current budget, my gratitude will be no less. If zero cents is your preferred option, that's A-OK too. Your tips and contributions are (obviously) voluntary but greatly appreciated. Either way I'm glad you're here and I appreciate you.





3. I finally committed properly to the Merch game in 2016. The "Everything is Terrible" t-shirts sold out, and in fact I had to cancel and refund about 75 orders. To say they were popular is an understatement, and early in 2017 I will be replenishing the supply. Because I did a second batch of Clurb Shirts, a few of those are still available if you're so inclined. On the $5-and-under end of the spectrum, there are very lovely Clurb bumper stickers and the classic G&T background image stickers for $3. Your positive response to the t-shirts was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me.

4. Post frequency on this blog fell a little in 2016. Part of that has to do with professional obligations and some changes I've had to make to my daily routine since moving to Chicago last year. I'm working on adjusting my schedule to better accommodate regular updates, because this is important to me. I enjoy it and it's the only part of my life that doesn't consist exclusively of people telling me I'm shit. So that's kinda nice.

Thanks. Big things are in store. Despite the fact that 2017 is going to be a terrible year, it also has the potential to be a good year if we don't all die first. Trust me that this post felt as awkward to write as it must have been to read.

NPF: DOUBLING DOWN, APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH

Posted in No Politics Friday, Skip this if you hate sports on December 3rd, 2016 by Ed

I haven't used the "Skip this" tag in over a year, so if it applies to you just bear with this post.

Gary Bettman has done a lot of good things for the NHL. When he became commissioner in 1993 the league was struggling to attract revenue beyond the gate (i.e., other than ticket sales) and it was a niche sport in the US on par with soccer or tennis. He thoroughly modernized the league, something even his biggest detractors admit, and in the process has probably been a net positive.

His Achilles Heel, though, has been the insistence on bringing hockey to the Sun Belt in the US. On paper it makes sense, although owners in 1993 were rightly incredulous. He had the foresight to point out how much of the US population would move to the Sun Belt, and his predictions came true. Unfortunately expanding to the Sun Belt has been a mixed bag at best because the fundamental premise – that Midwest / New England transplants to the South will want to see their favorite teams come to town for road games – is badly flawed. If the team can't build a local fan base because local fans simply don't care about hockey, the franchise is doomed. Atlanta lasted all of seven years. The Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes have been a ward of the league several times and don't attract flies to their expensive Glendale arena even though the team has been good recently, making the playoffs multiple times and even knocking off the 3-time Cup winning Blackhawks in 2011. Florida has been a basketcase / zombie franchise in a Miami market that could not care less about it for over 20 years now.

The two teams that succeeded in the Sun Belt – Tampa Bay and Nashville – did so because their ownership groups were intelligent enough not to rely on old fans coming to see their team on the road as a fan base. They both sustained huge short term losses by giving away tickets (especially to kids, knowing that the parents would have to come too) by the bushel. For every 10 free tickets, 1 person came and realized "Hey, I like this!" and they slowly built a local base. Having good teams helped a lot too (TB has won 1 Cup and runner-upped a second). So Bettman will, with some justification, point out that Sun Belt hockey can work.

And now he's doubling down on Las Vegas. Las Vegas is going to be a goddamn disaster. My suggestion on a popular hockey site for the team nickname (which ended up being the atrocious "Black Knights", as generic a name as you can find) was the Nordiques, because this team is going to be in Quebec in ten years or I'll eat my hat. Las Vegas has nothing that suggests it can ever support a pro sports team, and especially not hockey.

The obvious flaw in the Vegas market is that even the local population is transient. People, usually younger people, move to Vegas to work for a few years before burning out on the "Sin City" atmosphere and moving somewhere normal. It's not a place any sane person can take for very long. The other part of the population is retirees who are only going to care inasmuch as they can see the Bruins or Blackhawks come to town a couple times per year. It is beyond unlikely that a hockey team – assuming for a second that anyone in the desert even is predisposed to care about hockey – is going to build a strong local following in a place where the population is constantly churning.

They'll sell out in year one for the novelty factor – At the very least the league will strong arm casinos into gobbling up season tickets to give away for free – and I'm guessing that by the end of year two there will be more people on the ice than in the seats. Even if the team is good, which isn't likely given the expansion draft rules adopted last summer, this has all the makings of a non-starter.

Winnipeg's new team, the ex-Atlanta Thrashers, proves that when in doubt, NHL teams belong in Canada. Statistical analysis suggests that even though it is the 4th largest city in the US, Houston (pop. 6,500,000) has fewer people who like hockey enough to buy tickets than Saskatoon (pop. 260,000). Insiders were floored that Quebec City, with its billionaire ownership group willing to self-fund an arena and where the Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche) are still missed, was not awarded an expansion team in favor of Vegas. Something tells me that they'll be getting their team soon enough. Despite the US/Canadian exchange rate issue, which Bettman blamed for the QC group's rejection, can't override the basic fact that people in Quebec will go to the games and nobody in Vegas will.

The worst outcome will be Bettman choosing to die on the hill of a Vegas franchise as he has stubbornly refused all attempts to relocate Phoenix or Florida despite them both being clear failures and money losers in their current markets. Bettman's getting old and he could decide to dig in his heels. But if 10% of the league's teams – 3 of 30 – are money losing Bettman pet projects, I think the owners are likely to rebel. So it's time for Hamilton and Quebec City to make sure that the local owners' groups and arena plans are ready to roll because this Vegas adventure is likely to be as short lived as it is poorly thought out.

NPF: FORGET-ME-NOT

Posted in No Politics Friday on November 4th, 2016 by Ed

So this is sports, but it's not sports.

It has been very interesting from an armchair sociological perspective to watch the nation (and certainly the city of Chicago) lose its marbles over the World Series win by the long-suffering Cubs. At 108 years, their championship drought certainly was unprecedentedly long. That's not interesting outside of a sports context. But the fact that national media outlets devoted exclusively to covering sports apparently forgot that the Chicago White Sox won the World Series just 11 years ago is.

I'm somewhat biased here, as a Sox fan. I was at Game 2 of that World Series. But the distinction between Cubs and White Sox fans in Chicago is something we can describe without being affected by our own preferences. The Cubs are the North Side. The Sox, the South Side. The North Side is wealthier, whiter, younger, and where people go to have a good time. The big music venues, the fancy restaurants, the theaters…all north of the loop for the most part. The South Side is not glamorous. It is traditionally less wealthy, not a place people associate with having a night on the town, and heavily composed of black, Hispanic, Irish, Polish, and other identifiably "ethnic" populations. The North Side is residential and cosmopolitan. The South Side is industrial and without frills.

In 2005, the year the White Sox won the Series, it was interesting to watch how little anyone outside of the South Side gave a crap, here or nationally. The previous year, the Boston Red Sox won their first series since 1918 and everyone in the national media treated it like the second coming. Yet when the White Sox were going for their first win since 1917 – an even longer drought – nobody seemed to care. That they played the equally anonymous (but excellent) Houston Astros probably didn't help. And now ten years later everyone is going crazy for the Cubs and their drought again. Hmm.

The excuses for people hopping on the Cubs bandwagon – everyone loves an underdog, etc. – fall flat. It's clear that *some* underdogs and *some* droughts are worthy of our collective sympathy. As long as the team is one for whom being a supporter is sufficiently cosmopolitan and has sufficient social cachet attached to being a fan, then everyone cares. If your fan base is 25% native Spanish speakers and your stadium is located across the highway from what was once America's most notorious public housing project, then nobody even notices let alone cares.

I don't mean to read too much into reactions to a sporting event, and I have no doubt personally that the Cubs fans outnumber Sox fans in Chicagoland. Yet the White Sox victory parade in 2005 was attended by 3 million people, a staggering number that I'm sure today's Cubs parade will match. I can't help but feel that which 3 million people were excited about the White Sox is a significant part of the explanation for why their World Series championship inspired so little interest compared to what happened for the Cubs and Red Sox.

CODA: And it was great baseball, too. The White Sox went 11-1 in the playoffs, won a 15 inning marathon in Game 3 of the World Series (the kind of game that legends are made of), and won in the 9th inning of Game 4 on two plays by Juan Uribe that, had Derek Jeter made them, would have been the subject of feature films.