Saturday, September 10, 2005

Game 141: Pirates at Reds

Seven o'clock, Kip Wells and Ramon Ortiz.

NFL week 1: the Picks

Still plenty of time to join the pool.

Usually, Week 1 is an easy week where good teams meet expectations. Most years, everyone comes out above .500 against the spread. The rest of the season is tough. The usual, easy success in week 1 will drive you crazy in weeks 2 through 6 as you seek to regain that touch.

The trick with the first week, I think, is simply picking winners. You have to start the season with a clear idea of the relative strengths of the teams. You don't want to borrow another person's ratings. Sports Illustrated will only lead you astray. You have to make up your own. I evaluate the teams by looking at the coaching staff, the offensive line, the ball handlers, the defense, and the special teams. Continuity, while boring, is promising. Rarely do new coaches or new schemes work well right from the beginning.

So far, I rank the division this way. AFC East: Buffalo, New England, Jets, Miami. AFC North: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland. AFC West: Denver, San Diego, Oakland, Kansas City. AFC South: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston. Buffalo, New England, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Diego, and Indianapolis are my playoff teams.

NFC looks like this. The NFC North will be a toss-up between Green Bay, Detroit, and Chicago. They are equally average. Minnesota no good. NFC East, Philly runs aways with it. I count five teams in the AFC as good as the Eagles. The NFC has a bigger second tier. The Eagles should make the championship game again and play some one of St. Louis, Atlanta, Carolina, maybe New Orleans or, maybe Green Bay if they get home playoff games and Favre is still rolling in January.

In the rest of the NFC East, I see little separating Dallas, Washington, and the NY Giants. The Rams should win the West, with Seattle a clear second. San Fran and Arizona fight for third. The NFC South is the strongest division. Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans are all good. I put them on a level with Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. Tampa Bay is solid, but probably finishing with 7 or 8 and going nowhere.

So here are the picks I'm making this morning. I took New England. FWIW, you always take the Super Bowl winner in week 1. I am taking Pittsburgh, Denver, Buffalo, and San Diego as winners. Not sure about the Colts on the road in the Sunday night game at Baltimore. I'm taking Washington because I expect they'll be better this year, maybe even surprisingly good. And gimme the New York Jets and Detroit because I think their opponents are overrated.

Only the Detroit pick is counterintuitive and kind of sassy. 70% of the players are taking Green Bay. I expect that simply taking the majority choice on each game will bring a player 9 wins.

Another thing about making picks: you don't want to be too eager. I will go back and pick up the rest of the games later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Use this thread to make your predictions.

... all done. Updated the NFC picks, above. Gimme Seattle, who is a better team than Jacksonville. The Saints to cover. The Bengals to win big enough. The Bucs to win straight up in Minnesota. Giants take Arizona apart. The Rams destroy the 49ers. The Falcons squeak by Philadelphia.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Game 140: Pirates at Reds

Ollie returns, facing Luke Hudson. Just underway right now. Bases loaded full of Bucs already. McLouth led off with a single, Jack got beaned, then Bay walked. Bucs seek to build a lead bigger than Mesa can blow in the 9th.

NFC East preview

I like the NFC about as much as I like the American League. If some of these comments seem stupid, consider me ill-informed.

This division looks like the AFC South. The Eagles look great. The rest of the division looks pretty crappy and destined for disappointment and failure.

First, them Eags. Andy Reid's career record: 71-37. Suck that, Brian Billick. They more or less return last year's team. And they add a bunch of players from what looks to me like a pretty good draft. They put up with TO, and I guess there's no point arguing with a team that's done as well as they have.

I don't know how to rank the rest of the division. The Cowboys are not as good as some people think, and the Redskins are not as bad as others say.

Let's talk Cowboys. Bill Parcells has not impressed me of late. The line sports Rob Petitti of Pittsburgh and looks real good on paper. Drew Bledsoe is good when he's healthy. Julius Jones reminds me of Fred Taylor. I don't see great depth behind either player. They have guys that catch the ball. On defense, they switch schemes in what looks to me like a high-risk, medium reward move. Will Dat Nguyen suffer in a 3-4 the way Ray Lewis did? We'll see.

Tom Coughlin of the Giants is another coach that has not impressed me lately. They put crazy pressure on Eli Manning, who may or may not be able to handle it. The rest of the team looks pretty average to me, but saying that probably exposes my ignorance of the merits of guys like Frank Walker. With little to bitch about, I suppose I should rank the Giants a game above the Cowboys.

The Redskins have been the whipping boy of the preseason prognosticators. You have to predict someone to have a terrible win-loss record, so you pick on the team that did it the year before. Pirate fans know something about this.

Is Joe Gibbs now a doddering moron? His 146-75 career record is a Double Andy Reid. When you bring Andy Reid's svelte profile to mind, that's a weighty record.

I like any team that takes care of the O-line first, and the Redskins looks pretty set there. The noise about Patrick Ramsey? See earlier comments about Roethlisberger, J.P. Losman, Boller. Any moron can be a good steward provided that the team builds the offense around his strengths and limitations. I like how the Redskins are reviving the Little Smurf theme with the wideouts. Why not?

I have not gone through the entire NFC yet, but if this division was in the AFC, I'd say only the division winner will make the playoffs. The other teams look to be cruising for a 6-8 win season.

Got the blues

Just wanted to share this amazing trio of songs to come out my iTunes: A.C. Reed, "These Blues is Killing Me," Junior Wells, "I'm Gonna Move to Kansas City," and Blind Willie McTell with Curley Weaver, "Honey It Must Be Love." Wow. Maybe it's the Friday afternoon beer ears. Or maybe not.

AFC North preview

The Steelers are surely the cream of the AFC North. No doubt about it.

We have Cowher, Dick LeBeau, a very good offensive line. I've been high on Max Starks since the day he was drafted. We have plenty of talent in the ball-handling department. Concerns about Roethlisberger, for me, are similar to the concerns people voice about J.P. Losman or Kyle Boller: overstated. Roethlisberger showed he's a cut above those guys, yes. The similarity is the equation of the QB's fortunes with the team's fortunes. The Steelers are going to run the ball. If Roethlisberger can hand it off, we should be OK. And Roethlisberger doesn't play defense (though, if he starts throwing a lot of interceptions, he could be the curse of the defense). All in all, the Steelers bring a well-coached, solid-all-around team into the season.

The Ravens don't look as good on paper to me. Brian Billick has been more than competent and has a 61-42 career record. Jonathan Ogden's line is getting old and showing wear. They run-block well, but they need to pass-block better if the Ravens want improvement from Boller. Their criminal fullback might stay healthy or might not. Either way, Chester Taylor can replace him capably. Anthony Wright is not much of an insurance policy for Kyle Boller; I'd much rather have Tommy Maddox. Derrick Mason, yawn. The defense will be good. We'll see if the scheme change helps Ray Lewis, or if unmasks some sort of natural, inevitable decline.

The Bungles are the easy choice for the third spot. They have a lot of upside, sure, but they still have to take that to the window and cash it in. Is Marvin Lewis a great coach - one as good as Cowher or Billick? We still have not seen evidence that he is. I would have thought he'd fix the defense first thing, but in 2004 it still looked crappy to me. Maybe Odell Thurman can change that. Or maybe new DC Chuck Bresnahan can. I dunno. I'll believe in improvement when I see it. I need to do more research on their O-line, but the news that their LT hobbled through the preseason and received a lot of "challenges" to improve -- that's not good news. Jon Kitna is a capable backup for Carson Palmer; there's little reason to worry about the QB position. The other ball-handlers look competent enough to me.

And then there's the Browns. They have a new GM, a new coach, a new defensive scheme. The GM cleaned house, squandering resources in the process. There's a good saying about homeowning. When you buy a new house, wait a year before you do anything major with the landscaping. Those shrubs you hate in the spring might be gorgeous in the fall. That tree by the house might be convenient in summer. You just don't know. Whenever I see a new coach or GM start by trading, say, his entire defensive line to one of the league's most experienced coaches for a bag of peanuts, then I expect woe and woe. Long-term rebuilding programs are naive undertakings, and I expect a world of pain for Browns' fans this year. That said, Cleveland is a good football town, and, as always, we can expect them to channel some unexpected mojo here and there. Maybe in the second half they won't totally suck. And of course they'll approach their games with Pittsburgh like it's their Super Bowl.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Game 139: D-backs at Pirates

Dustin Nippert makes his major league debut vs. Josh Fogg. Eldred's on the bench again. Game just started. Lead-off double on the sixth pitch for Counsell.

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em pool: You are invited

Rowdy has invited you to join a PigPool at (

If you are a member of, click the following link to join the pool: and enter poolname: "Honest Wagner Pick 'em Pool" and password: "51yardparker".

If you are not yet a member click here to sign up:, then go to the pool sign up page (

Thanks and Welcome to!

WebTeam @ is a small, free, independent site with some good content, a news feed, and a few Google ads. I think it's great and highly recommend it.

Here are the rules for the pool, if you care to accept this invitation.

(1) It's ATS (against the spread) only.

(2) Picks must be made through the website.

(3) All players have to pick at least half of all the games to qualify for the Honest Wagner pick 'em championship, which may include some kind of prize but will surely include lots of public recognition and all hailing. You can pick all the games for half the year, or you can pick half the games every week. Whatever gets you to half of all games is fine.

(4) We'll have a thread each week to discuss games and defend our crazy picks.

Thanks and good luck to all who participate in this free pick 'em pool.

Setting the course for 2006

John Perrotto considers ten manager options for the Pirates. Eleven if you include the new Mack. Paul Meyer writes up Art Howe's interest.

The main value of the hiring might be as a PR move, crazy as that sounds. It depends on how thoroughly they will clean house, and it depends on how much the new manager will be empowered to select his own coaches. Spin Williams will find another job quickly, I'd guess, if the Bucs release him.

From Perrotto's list, I think I like Grady Little the best. The team can't go wrong with Leyland or Macha. Getting the Mets to pay for Art Howe would be fun, but it would do nothing to improve the team's national image as a subsidized loser.

Another thing. Lately I've been thinking about the whole "Come Hungry" theme in the context of this year's disappointing season. I liked the ads they produced - Oliver Perez burning cookies etc. - and didn't see it as advertising ballpark food.

There may have been two problems with it. First, it suggests that fans won't come hungry; it implies (and thus reinforces) apathy (that certainly exists). Second, it's needlessly deferential, like it's appropriate for a gang of kids to approach the season as a group of ambitious apprentices.

Next year I hope they roll out the new team with no apologies and a lot of attitude. Maybe they could work the words "bloody," "murderous," and "revenge" into the marketing slogan. "Come for the blood, stay for the murder, savor the revenge." Cast David Littlefield as Captain Ahab err Stede Bonnet chasing down the St. Louis behemoth.

Grady Little is hardly Blackbeard, but they could dress him up, make him wear an eyepatch and pegleg. He does mutter and garble his sentences with in an authentic Pirate-like way. With coaching, he could probably add a vicious, spitting edge to his vocal deliveries to the TV cameras.

OK, I'm being silly. I just hope they don't come back fawning in the spring, hat in hand, fresh-faced and courting the public with innocent looks and promises of plucky progress. Even if that's all they have to offer, it might just continue the learned helplessness theme.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Game 138: D-backs at Pirates

Brandon Webb vs. Mark Redman. Top of the third, Bucs down 3-0. Redman just got yanked. Enter RV.

No more McClendon

The candidates. The Q & A.

AFC West preview

The Denver Broncos will probably have the most in the win column when the 2005 AFC West standings are etched in stone.

Every year the Broncos bring back the same coaches – Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, Larry Coyer, Rick Dennison – and every year they do more or less the same thing. Coyer, the former Pitt defensive coordinator, has the shortest tenure (six years with the team, starting his third as defensive coordinator). How do they keep these people year after year? Perhaps by cultivating the reputation of being “predictable.” Denver rarely does anything earn the preseason buzz. This year, they went out of their way to look stupid, drafting Maurice Clarett.

The Broncos return their usual all-word offensive line. Even if they are low-down dirty cheaters, I still respect any franchise that never forgets that there’s no more important unit on the team.

Jake Plummer is more than competent. The Broncos also two or three running backs who will collect impressive stats if given the ball. I remember Ron Dayne’s Wisconsin days, and I remember Mike Anderson’s earlier NFL success. With that line, either one of those guys will be a star. The wideouts are great, Stephen Alexander fits. This offense looks solid and formidable.

Starting in front of some great linebackers are a bunch of Browns. What the hell is going on here? Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren has flashes of brilliance for Cleveland that punctuated more interminable periods of injury and idiocy. Good luck with that, Denver. The DBs should be fine.

Like the Colts, the Broncos also have a nice home-field advantage. The Broncos play in the thin air of Denver. That must be good for a half-win every year. This year they get a long list of sea-level opponents to throttle.

There’s a wide gap between Denver and San Diego, the team I’d select as second-best in this group. Marty Schottenheimer is no rookie from the college ranks. Once upon a time, he was “Master” to Bill Cowher, “Student,” and the Steelers flew to Kansas City every season for a MNF game at Arrowhead.

The Bolts are another team with a solid quarterback and a power running game. Carl Mauck, the guy who coached the Chargers’ o-line when they stunned Pittsburgh in the mid-90s, returns to coach a group that dominated opponents last year. Antonio Gates can catch the ball. The Chargers feature some nondescript wideouts, but I doubt that matters.

On defense, the Bolts are lead by Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators. They were solid last year against the run, but they were pretty incompetent against the pass. I don’t see any reason to expect them to be much better this year. They drafted a pass-rushing end in the first round, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready to play for awhile. Quentin Jammer has been a bust, but he the Bolts used a high pick on him. And he has a cool football name. So they continue to light a candle every night and hope he finally lives up to expectations.

I love the Raiders, who are, on the highway of NFL franchises, the quirky independent restaurant surrounded by faceless corporate big boxes. And I love how the Raiders always hire a couple of guys to wear some kind of silly costume, stand on the edge of the parking lot, and shake some kind of noisemaker to attract folks stuck in traffic.

On paper, they appear to have all the answers. But I’ll believe it when I see it. Norv Turner leads a team constructed on a Rube Goldbergesque “can’t miss” plan. Odds are, it will miss. There are too many questionable parts to this plan and when any one part fails, the whole plan is scrapped. Dave Littlefield would disapprove of the team’s “flexibility” – they have none.

First, Kerry Collins, a troubled, unreliable, moody goon with an amazing arm. Hasn’t he always played best when expectations were lowest? Throw in Randy Moss, who is not getting younger and yes, you know it, is built for a dome.

What really matters is the offensive line. They have Rowdy favorite Robert Gallery on the right side. The line looks OK, and I suppose Lamont Jordan can be a feature back. But Moss will be a distraction. After standing outside in a Mexican poncho and sombrero, shaking maracas and wearing a fake mustache, he’s going to expect to be a large part of the offense. And who knows what Kerry Collins will do.

On defense, the Raiders appear to have solved the offensive-line focussed division by adopting a 6-1 scheme. As you have probably heard by now, they will start two ginormous men at outside linebacker. This could produce gaudy results against the run, but I wonder how durable they’ll prove. I’m not sold on the idea as a long-term, full-season strategy. We’ll see. The DBs will have less margin of error if these guys take turns playing Statue.

The Chiefs look outclassed. They are old in the wrong places, too. They have young help on the way, but I doubt the old guys – e.g. Willie Roaf – will still be a tremendous asset when the young guys get it on. And what are they doing with Kendrell Bell? The Chiefs have also hired Dewayne Washington.

Not much else to say about the Chiefs; I could go on and on, but every preseason prognosticator has to take a break somewhere, and I’m taking mine here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

McClendon fired

So long, Mac.

Maholm hosts Javier Vazquez and the D-backs starting right now. Bay robs Royce Clayton of a jack in the first at-bat. Yikes.

AFC South preview

The Indianapolis Colts look like they will continue to be the best of the AFC South. I don’t think Tony Dungy’s little-quick-guys defense can win a championship in a league that’s moving more and more back to the power running game. Dungy remains a great coach, however, and with his offense and his home field (a dome), the Colts should continue to outscore most opponents.

The move to the four-team division increased Indy’s home-field advantage, I think, because they now enjoy five non-divisional games at home. Teams just don’t like playing non-divisional road games on turf. They never have. The risk of injury is too great. The Colts whipped their non-divisional opponents last year, going 5-0 against them. Curiously, over the last three years, they’ve gone 10-5 hosting non-divisional opponents and 7-2 hosting their division rivals, who have not been powerhouses. The Colts will beat anyone at home. This formula: high-powered offense, cheap, no-frills, undersized defense, and a dome home looks pretty good if you like 10 wins a year and going nowhere in the playoffs.

Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Houston look evenly matched. They look like good teams on paper, but since most teams look great on paper going into week one, these teams don’t look good. They are probably looking at seven or eight wins if things go well.

Jacksonville’s new offensive coordinator, Carl Smith, has rebuilt their offense. That’s always a bad sign I think. They return Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor, two plays with a lot of upside. Both will get hurt. Leftwich will play through his injury, Steve McNair-style, while Fred Taylor will surely miss time. The rest of Jack Del Rio’s team will have to keep chopping wood.

One player to watch is Matt Jones, a converted quarterback in the style of Steeler greats Ward and Randle El. The Steelers have been on to something here for a few years now; it’s one good thing from the Stewart era. I keep expecting more teams to imitate their success. We’ll see what Jones can contribute for the Jags.

The offensive line looks mediocre, and the defensive line looks great. Unless the Jags weather the usual injury cascades much better than their rivals, it’s hard to see how they match up, on paper, with the rest of the AFC.

The same could be said for the Titans, but I think they could be a surprising 8-8 or 7-9 team. Jeff Fisher is a great coach, the franchise has been ably and stably managed Floyd Reese, and there are plenty of players left after the salary-cap purge. Like Jacksonville, they also have a new offense. I don’t yet understand how Chow’s offense will differ from earlier Jeff Fisher offenses.

Steve McNair will be back with Billy Volek, a great backup. Chris Brown and Travis Henry are running backs. So long as their line holds up, those guys can get the job done. Drew Bennett, Tyrone Calico, and now former Steeler Troy Edwards has arrived, with his old Jacksonville playbook I’m sure. I still fear Steve McNair, so I expect this crew could score many points.

On defense, the Titans have players in Albert Haynesworth and Keith Bullock. The secondary looks weak, however, so any injury to Tennessee’s pass-rushing specialists could have Kansas City ‘04-type consequences. Sure, the Titans look mediocre on paper, but this is just the kind of franchise that I’d expect to slip under the radar and do some damage while no one is looking.

The Texans may be getting their act together. Dom Capers is back with his Lloyd McClendon-ish career record. David Carr has been improving, but I wonder how much of his body he still has. There’s no doubt that the 140 sacks he has absorbed has taken more than a couple years off the end of his career. I expect this guy will not be the quarterback of the next winning Texans team.

His offensive line returns intact and more experienced. They won’t suck, and their run-first offense should be effective, especially with the addition of uber-blocking tight end Mark Bruener.

The defense will depend on a ragtag group of young linebackers. This defense surely has more upside than, say, Jacksonville’s, but who knows how long it will take these guys to play well together.

All in all, the AFC South looks pretty underwhelming.

AFC East preview

All hail the Buffalo Bills – they are my pick as most likely 2005 AFC East champion. What’s not to like? They are coached by a former Steeler, Mike Mularkey, who I regret scapegoating (just a little bit) for that miserable season. They are managed by a former Steeler, Tom Donahoe, who is not incompetent and clearly learned many things in the black and gold. After losing five of their last six games in 2004, their team came together to finish 9-3. They would have finished 10-2 and made the playoffs, but they had to play the Steelers in the final week.

Jon Paul Losman hails from Tulane, so that doubles the chip he should have on his shoulder for the widespread overreaction to his performance in some meaningless preseason game. He’s a young player, he’s going to struggle. And people will continue to doubt him because he has a lousy name with no stud-quarterback connotations. FWIW, I just visited his website and voted in a poll, predicting 30+ TD passes for him this year. The results of the poll are pretty surprising.

The Bills won’t ask him to throw too many passes. They will run the ball, mainly putting it in the hands of Willis McGahee, who, wisely, will not be spared as many carries as he can handle. If they wear him out, they have that big rookie, Lionel Gates, to bruise in his place. And as we saw in Cleveland, Kelly Holcomb is a Mike Tomczak or Tommy Maddox-type backup: he can be great in relief. So I don’t see the QB position as problem for Buffalo. Not yet at least.

Also note they more or less returned the same offensive line that played so well in the final two-thirds of 2004. Mike Gandy replaces Jason Jennings, but that looks like no big difference to me.

Eric Moulds should be good for half a season, and maybe Roscoe Parrish can contribute if/when Moulds wears out. While the rest of the wideouts are pretty undistinguished, receivers are pretty overrated in my view.

The defense loses Rowdy-favorite Pat Williams, but you can’t go to the well too often with dudes as big as Pat Williams. His replacements look plenty competent. The linebackers, which include London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes, are first-rate. The secondary looks strong too.

With former Steeler Bobby April running the special teams, I see no cause for worry there, either.

Losman is unproven, but he won’t have to do much. The Bills play four of their first six games at home. This does not leverage the cold weather advantage much, but I can’t see the non-divisional guests, Houston and Atlanta, risking their ACLs too much on Buffalo’s turf.

New England remains strong, of course, but this team has sustained heavy losses from the coaching ranks. Since the NFL game is so fast and complex, and since NFL players are so young, I think continuity of care matters a great deal. New coordinators on both sides raises two big question marks for me.

Tom Brady’s health also appears to be some concern, especially since the Patriots are inexplicably turning to Doug Flutie if Brady misses time. Their wideouts won’t repeat their near-perfect 2004 season. Their running game is as good as it gets, so perhaps I make too much of the threat of Flutie.

The back half of the Patriots’ defense also looks weaker, where the Patriots will play, among others, former Steelers Chad Brown and Chad Scott. I’m not saying J.P. Losman is poised to exploit what might be a weak secondary, but I have doubts about the Patriots this year. So I rank them second.

New York also starts the year with a lot of change and a potentially damaged and/or fragile quarterback. When I hear that a team is installing a whole new offense, and that the new offense is very different than the old one, then I expect something like five losses in the first six games.

The Jets also appear to have had a particularly weak draft. Throw in what they have in Doug Jolley, a backup tight end that cost them a first-round pick, and it’s hard to see where the team might expect sudden, helpful contributions from really young guys.

They sport a great offensive line. I love that Mawae and wish he was a Steeler. Curtis Martin and Derrick Blaylock can run the ball. Lava Coles will be red hot so long as Pennington can get the ball to him.

The defense looks decent, but not as good as Buffalo’s. They will miss Jason Ferguson. Jonathan Vilma may be all-world, but when I hear “Defensive Rookie of the Year,” I think Kendrell Bell and worry for him.

The Miami team is a mess. With a new coach who is a rookie to the NFL, I regard 2005 as a rebuilding year. Their draft looks good.

Any choice between Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, and A.J. Feeley does not inspire confidence, but quarterbacks can be overrated. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown should be good. Tight end Randy McMichael can catch. And Hudson Houck can coach so there is promise for the offensive line.

Jason Taylor is as good as they get, but the entire defense moves to a new style with the new coach. Maybe Miami catches lightning in a bottle and everything works from the start. I think the odds are against it, but it could happen. In the best-case scenario, Miami puts it together in the second half.

On paper, none of these teams look terrible. To me, the Bills stand out.

Monday, September 05, 2005

On plenty, poverty, and infamy

Here’s my last word on the disaster. Only Piracy and Steeling after this one, I promise.

What I saw last week was waste. It was perhaps the most wasteful spectacle I’ve experienced in my life. Katrina was going to cause suffering. Katrina was going to damage the Gulf Coast, no matter how prepared Americans were for the hurricane. But Katrina did not do so much damage, and she did not cause so much suffering, without a good deal of assistance.

The waste of lives, first and foremost, warrants enough mourning to change your life. And the waste of happiness, the waste of peace, the waste of prosperity warrants just as much serious reflection. The people of New Orleans, better than the people of any other American city, understand that it is not leisure that is not used. New Orleans had plenty of problems and plenty of suffering, but its people also demonstrated a gracious living and an unusal appreciation of the basic elements of life. It is outrageous that the survivors of the flood suffered as much as they did. And it is outrageous that they will be robbed of their way of life for months and months, if not years and years.

New Orleans also demonstrated an easy hospitality to even the most inconsiderate of tourists. All told, my trips to New Orleans, strung together, would not add up to more than a month. But New Orleans taught me, for lack of a better way to express it, how to parade. New Orleans taught me how to eat and how to drink. The people of New Orleans have immeasurably added to my happiness. And you've heard that before, I'm sure. I think it's fair to say, we need New Orleans. That place has to be there. It is critical to the balance in the way of life that has made America so prosperous. So we will miss the example of the city for as long as it’s gone. And it’s a terrible thing to live without.

But we northerners are hard-headed, pragmatic, and materialistic. We are insufficiently moved by some loss of joy. Yet for this, the disaster should shock us further. Even by the coldest of standards, the waste of resources is stunning, and it comes at a time when the nation can least afford it.

First, we knew this disaster was coming. As I watched the city fill with water, I remembered Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard: A little neglect may breed great mischief. Or, for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost. There’s more to that old proverb; in some versions, the loss of the rider causes the loss of a battle, a war, and a nation.

Americans enjoy unprecedented prosperity. If we like the way we live, and if we want to preserve that way of life, then we have to elect politicians who will invest our gains wisely. As Poor Richard says, Get what you can, and what you get hold.

Before the disaster, scientists warned that it would take about a billion dollars to build the proper levees. After the disaster, one economist estimated that the storm destroyed 100 billion dollars of American wealth. A billion in time, Poor Richard might say, saves ninety-nine. If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as of getting.

The nation is worse than broke. We were far into debt before the hurricane landed, and we will only be so much more in debt as we rebuild some fraction of the lost personal property and public infrastructure. Remember: When you run in debt, you give to another power over your liberty. It’s not unreasonable to regard the national debt as a grave danger to American liberty.

Perhaps because we have no surplus, no “rainy day fund,” the consequences of this great and sudden expense are compounded. Avoiding the blame for this mind-numbing waste of life and savings brought out the very worst in both our elected leaders and our more partisan neighbors. Truly, as Poor Richard says, The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt.

Mainly they lied about the “great job” and “hard work” that went into the planning and orchestration of the relief effort. Great Talkers, little Doers. They fell to blaming one another when the public responded with skepticism. To some extent, this I can understand. Politicians will be politicians. 'Tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright. But then so many private citizens abandoned their duty to the commonweal and gave themselves over to shameless partisan bickering. As if you could spin such disaster! Ignorance leads Men into a Party, and Shame keeps them from getting out again. It is stunning to hear private citizens interpret what happened as no great fault of every elected official involved.

History shows that such folly will be punished. Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy. We are not so rich that our prosperity cannot be destroyed through prideful incompetence.

We must hold these people accountable, if only to teach a hard lesson to the younger generation of politicians who will soon replace them. Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. And, since they scarce will learn in that, we must make the lesson abundantly clear. We just witnessed an utterly incompetent orchestration of resources, and we have to hold these incompetents responsible for the consequent additional and needless destruction of life, liberty, and happiness.

I have nothing else to say about it. To those who read this far, thank you for your time.

Tomorrow I will be back with some thoughts about the AFC East and the AFC South.

Getting ready for some football

After ignoring the delusion-inspiring NFL preseason, I'm booking up on the look of the NFL for 2005.

I saw a widespread changing of the guard and changing of the game in the major leagues this year. I wonder if we'll see the same in the NFL.

Enjoy your Labor Day. Here's hoping you are not at work this morning.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Game on

Life goes on. Today at 1:30 it's Kip Wells facing Jerome Williams and the Cubs. I've got some cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6% alcohol) for later. Mack is 3-for-3 with 2 jacks vs. Jerome lifetime. Bucs are only one game behind the Rockies for Worst NL Record.

In other Bucs news, Fogg is out of the rotation. He's taking it like a man: "The young guys they have coming up have been doing really well. More power to those guys." Mac on Fogg; "He's throwing strikes," McClendon said. "But they're the kind of strikes that don't come back."

The Bucs have collected over $27,000 for Hurricane relief in the past two days outside PNC Park. You can also donate on Federal and General Robinson streets. Or on the Red Cross link to the top left. Please give what you can.