Opening Day at Long Last

Today is Opening Day for major league baseball, ordinarily a big day on our calendar, although it doesn’t feel like it.
Opening Day is supposed to be in early spring, when the games in Boston and Detroit and other northern cities are played in the lingering cold, and not in searing heat of July. The stands are supposed to filled with fans hopeful that this will be their championship season, but this time around the stands will be empty and silent. The season is supposed to last for 162 games, leaving plenty of baseball to allow a team to claw back from a slow start in a game were even the best teams have losing streaks and only 20 points or so separate the best teams from the worst, but this time around each team plays 60 games.
Other time-honored traditions of the national pastime have been discarded as well. There will will be an American League and a National Team playing one another in a potential World Series, but over the shortened season they’ve been merged into one league. There’s been some inter-league play for the past several years, which offended our traditionalist sensibilities, and we find this outrageous. Teams will be playing their divisional counterparts, which means they won’t be facing the same quality of competition across the season, making it more likely a more deserving team will miss the playoffs.
The game will be less fair this shortened season, but there’s a lot about this year of the coronavirus that isn’t fair. Perhaps we should just be glad that we’ll have a diversion from all the rest of it, and hope no one gets sick.

— Bud Norman

An Ill Wind that Blows No Good

The televised impeachment inquiry started of with some damning testimony and big news on Wednesday, but here in our humble prairie hometown the story of the day was about baseball. Wichita’s getting a new team in a fancy new ballpark next spring, and city officials and their business partners announced with much ballyhoo on Wednesday that it will be called the Wichita Wind Surge.
Kansas does get a lot of wind, but according to the site a “wind surge” is a wind-induced rise in the water level of an inland expanse of water, and can causing flooding if the tidal cycle is right, which has nothing to do with Wichita, which is conspicuously lacking any nearby expanses of water. Over the past century or so the city’s baseball teams have mostly had aviation-related names to tout its status as the “Air Capital of the World,” such as Pilots and Aviators and Aeros and the most recent Wingnuts, but somebody downtown decided that “Wind Surge” made more sense.
Everyone in town, ourselves very much included, absolutely hates the name. Our Facebook page is full of complaints about it, the local television stations are can only dismayed men and women on the street, everybody at Kirby’s Beer Store agrees the name is awful, and flatulence jokes ae already afloat and a protest petition is already up on the internet. The logo features a pegasus flying through a stylized “W,” which also doesn’t make any apparent sense, and everyone also hates that.
The new team was controversial to begin with. For 80 years watched its professional baseball at the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, a charmingly old-fashioned ballpark nestled along the Arkansas River with a view that showed off the downtown skyline during a hot summer sunset, but some big bucks developers sold City Hall on the idea that some tax abatements and other subsidies would pay off for everyone if they tore it down and built a modern-looking new ballpark. They promised to promote Wichita from Double-A status all the way to Triple-A, which appealed to the class conscious types down at City Hall, and to replace the ruggedly independent Wingnuts with a major-league affiliated team with players that might wind up in the majors, which might appeal to the so-called fans who never showed up for those fabulous Wingnuts games.
The bargain included some sweetheart deals on several lots of the Delano neighborhood, which was long a charmingly old-fashioned white ghetto but has lately becoming a gentrified entertainment district for the monied less daring young hipsters, and there was a lot of local grousing about that. More grousing followed a suspicious deal that the city cut to expensively overhaul its water system, and Wichita wound up voting the mayor out office in a recent election that had a bigger than usual turnout. A couple of our Facebook friends contend that the out-going mayor chose the name as his final revenge on an ungrateful electorate, and the theory seems plausible.
Even in this age of political polarization, though, sports has somehow once again brought a community together. The left is fed up with all the public-private partnerships the city keeps cooking up because they distrust the private sector, the right objects because of an aversion to government, the sensible center is also skeptical of what’s going on, and everybody hates the new team name. Not since the Wichita State University Wheatshockers were in the Final Four has Wichita been so unified.

Happy Halloween, and All the Rest

Today is Halloween, and we have mixed feelings about the holiday. We’re in favor of kids dressing up in costumes and asking strangers for candy, and cherish our childhood memories of the strange custom, but everything else about Halloween is depressing.
Halloween means the World Series is over, so there won’t be any baseball until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 102 long days, and even the arrival of basketball season offers only so much solace.
Around here Halloween always brings the first hard blast of winter weather, and this time around there’s even an early snow on the ground. On Sunday morning the clocks will fall back and sundown will start arriving an hour earlier, and we’re not looking forward an extra hour of darkness. These days all the advertisers skip past Thanksgiving and starting selling Christmas on the day after Halloween, and two whole months of Christmas cheer is more than we need.
This year Halloween also kicks off a rare impeachment season, which the Democrats hope to wrap up before Christmas, and that won’t do much for peace on Earth and good will toward men.
All the more reason to enjoy a happy Halloween, and keep a couple of candy bars for yourself.

— Bud Norman

Baseball, Basketball, Science, School Teachers, and Supply and Demand

Mostly we follow the political and economic news here at The Central Standard Times, being the civic-minded and clinically glum types we are, but occasionally we’ll turn a hopeful eye to the sports pages. There’s usually some dreary political and economic subplot there, however, and so it is with the case of the big deal baseball story about Bryce Harper signing with the Philadelphia Phillies
In case you’re one of those atheistic commie pinko America-hating types who don’t closely follow our national pastime, Harper is one hell of a player. There’s a strong case to be made that he’s not as good a player as the more clean-shaven Mike Trout, who is under contract to the Los Angeles Angels for the next months and then seems headed toward a big payday, but after six spectacular seasons with the Washington Nationals Harper was clearly the best player on this season’s free agent market, so the bidding war wound up at $330 million for 13 years in Philadelphia. Our faith in the ruthless and sometimes crazy laws of supply and demand tell us that even that eye-popping amount is reasonable compensation given the large number of teams seeking a player with Harper’s rare statistics, even if the atheistic commie pinko America-hating types will want to compare it to a school teacher’s pay, and we note with some regret that Harper’s bottom-line agent had to take politics into account in the negotiations.
A presumably apolitical sports writer at The Log Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants offered Harper more money, but not enough more to compensate for the wide gulf of tax rates between California and Pennsylvania. California has the nation’s highest state income tax rate at 13.3 percent, Pennsylvania imposes a rare flat tax rate of 3.07 percent on both millionaires and minimun wage earners alike, and that makes hiring a rare talent such as Harper far more expensive in the Golden State. We imagine the same is true of those rare talents in the arguably more important science and technology and engineering and mathematics fields, not to mention school teachers, and being longtime red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists we can’t help noticing how excessive taxation and other political interventions distort markets.
Even the almighty market forces don’t determine the ultimate outcome in sports and life, though, and neither do the futile interventions of mere humans and their petty politics. The Phillies will likely be better with Harper on the roster, but he’ll only be one of nine guys in the lineup, and he can’t guarantee a championship. The Los Angeles Angels haven’t won much with the arguably Trout in the lineup, The Los Angeles Lakers paid big buck for the arguably best-of-all-time LeBron James in its starting five and seems likely to miss the playoffs, and some guys are we’ve never heard of and don’t seem to have any impressive stats on the Denver Nuggets are going currently toe-to-toe with the almighty Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association’s western division. Our beloved New York Yankees are expected to contend for a championship this next baseball season, despite that state’s high tax rate and other left-wing craziness.
Somehow the the high-tax states seem to be faring to be faring well in the arguably more important science and technology and engineering and mathematic fields, and their school teachers aren’t so restive, and we can only surmise that all sorts of geographic and demographic climatic factors somehow figure in it all. Here in our part of Kansas the Wichita State University Wheatshockers are above .500 in conference and overall play even in a down season, the University of Kansas Jayhawks have ended a 14-year run as Big XII conference championships but the Kansas State University Wildcats are still in the chase, and the local economy is doing pretty good despite all the trade wars and tax cuts and tax hikes and other human interventions in the free market and the best efforts of our fellow human beings.
At this point all we have to say , about both sports and politics, is let the best team win.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, on the Mean Sports Pages

The political and economic and cultural news is full of scary developments lately, and the weather around here is damned cold, but on Monday we took a day off from all that to find some warmth in a good news story from the sports pages. The University of Oklahoma Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy for college football’s most outstanding player on Saturday, which we are obliged by family tradition to be happy about, and we were further gladdened to see that the young man is hanging up his football helmet and will instead pursue a career in professional baseball.
This was the second consecutive year that a Sooner won college football’s most prestigious individual honor, the first such back-to-back for any school since the 1945 and ’46 seasons, if you don’t count the Heisman that was taken back for reasons of corrupt rule-breaking from the first of two consecutive University of Southern California players in the 2005 and ’06 seasons, and it’s OU’s sixth Heisman overall, which is second only to those damned Fightin’ Irish of Notre Dame. The Sooners have also won seven national championships, 41 championships in the high-level Big Six and Big Eight and Big XII conferences, and Murray’s Heisman further burnishes the Sooners’ reputation as one of America’s greatest sporting enterprises. God help us, we can’t help but be glad about that.
We grew up in Kansas and like to think ourselves true-blue Bleeding Kansas sorts of Kansans, but all our forbears were Okies from the territorial days and thus we grew up on Sooner football. Our beloved Pop attended OU back during the Bud Wilkinson days, when they set a still-standing win streak record on their way to three national championships during his four years of matriculation, and although he’s a very reserved and cerebral sort of fellow who takes only the usual red-blooded American male’s interest in most of the sporting scene he’s always been somewhat fanatical about Sooner football. In our youth the University of Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State University Wildcats and Wichita State University Wheatshockers were all infamously bad at football, and although each had some serious bragging rights about basketball we always went with the extended family’s winner through the pigskin season. Along the way we witnessed some memorably extraordinary athletic feats and rousing victories and heart-breaking losses by the Sooners, and we’re grateful for such family traditions.
Even so, we’re glad to see this young Murray fellow is hanging up his football helmet and pursuing a career in baseball. For the past few football seasons we’ve followed the fortunes of the Sooners and the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, both of which are championship contenders this seasons, but we haven’t been able watch a single down of it. Football’s such a violent game that it leaves an alarming number of its players with debilitating and life-shortening injuries, too many of its players are violent sorts of people such as the fellow that the Chiefs recently kicked off the team for pushing down and kicking a woman, and that takes a lot of fun out of the game for us.
This young Murray fellow is apparently one of those rarely gifted athletes with both the God-given athletic ability and hard-earned-on-his-own talents to play at least two games at the highest level of competition, and although our slow and awkward and wheezy selves can only imagine what that’s like we’re pretty sure he’s right to choose baseball. To its most gifted players baseball offers a longer and more lucrative career than football, and although it entails certain persistent aches and pains they’re far less likely to be debilitating or life-shortening than those from several other sports. Baseball’s a more cerebral and beautiful sport than football, too, and offers such a talented athlete as this Murray fellow at least as much glory on the baseball diamond as he might find on any football gridiron.
The previous Sooner Heisman trophy winner was Baker Mayfield, an arguably even better quarterback who is currently a contender for the National Football League’s rookie of the year award. As the top pick to the last place team in the NFL draft, Baker and his Cleveland Browns have a mediocre record of five wins and seven losses and a tie, but that’s four more wins than the franchise had in the previous three years, and with the NFL’s weird play-off system they’re still in the hunt for a very long-shot championship, so that’s more bragging rights for the Sooners. We wish this Mayfield fellow the best, by which mean we mean hope he has a long career and somehow enjoys his millions without a brain injury.
The season of Kansas’ beautiful game of basketball is well under way, with the Wildcats looking mediocre and the ‘Shockers looking worse and those snooty Jayhawks looking like championship contenders, although we happily note our beloved Wichita Heights High School Falcons are currently leading the City League. Come spring we won’t have any baseball pro baseball around here, as those stupid city father have torn down the venerable old Lawrence-Dumont stadium and won’t have a new up the net summer when they promise a shiny new affiliated Triple-A club to replace lovable Wichita Wingnuts, and until then we won’t mach to cheer about.. Meanwhile the political and economic and cultural news seems unpleasant, and we’ll take our vicarious victories wherever we can, so godspeed to this young Kyler Murray fellow.

Happy Labor Day, and Good Luck With Tuesday

Today is Labor Day in America, which is our most bittersweet holiday of the year. We like the idea of everyone taking a day off to honor all the hard work folks are putting in the rest of the year, and relish the bratwurst and beer and baseball that the day always brings, but it’s always followed by a Tuesday when summer is over.
There will probably be more than a few hot and sunny top-down driving days left here on the Kansas plains, but we’re already noticing that the days do indeed grow short when you reach September, even here on the far western edges of the vast central time zone, and Labor Day always signals that the blissfully lazy and hazy days of summer are officially over. School is back in session, those crawling school zone speed limits are back in effect, pretty much everyone on the streets is back at some unpleasant chore, the nation turns its attention from the elegant sport of baseball to the primal combat of football, and in these even-numbered years an even more brutal political campaign season commences.
Our advice is to put all that off until tomorrow. Better you should charbroil a plump bratwurst and put it in a bun with some roasted jalapeƱo slices and smother it in plenty of mustard, drink a beer or two or three, watch your hometown baseball team if the game doesn’t get rained out, as our local forecast warns, and enjoy what a great country all that American labor has somehow produced. There will be time enough for the rest of it starting on damn Tuesday.

— Bud Norman

Left Field, Right Field, and the Center of America

The best part of our gloriously warm and sunny Memorial Day evening was spent at the venerable Lawrence-Dumont Stadium just across the Arkansas River from downtown, where our beloved Wichita Wingnuts used some solid pitching and even better fielding to eke out an entertaining 1-0 win over the visiting Cleburne Railroaders. We relished every pitch and play wistfully, though, as this is likely the last season for the venerable ballpark and its beloved independent double-A team.
This is mostly a matter of local interest, of course, but it should also be noted by readers far from our humble prairie hometown. The city government and the handful of big-time local building contractors they always contract with are proposing to demolish an important piece of America’s baseball history to lure a Major League-affiliated team and perhaps get an upgrade to the city’s past triple-A status, and it also has national political implications that we discussed at length with our cigar-chomping old hippie friends in the smoking section along the first base line.
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is the seventh oldest professional ballpark in the country, for now, and to our eyes is a beautiful example of classical American baseball architecture. Last season they took down the old manual scoreboard with a cut-out wooden goose that slid along the box score and dropped an egg in the opponent’s slot after a shut-out inning, and replaced it with a big video screen that has the current batters statistics and lots of ads and presumably more entertaining music videos, but otherwise the old ballpark imbues a visitor with a comforting frisson of a better era of baseball. If you’re the sentimental sort of fan that baseball seems to attract you’ll even get a slight sense of all the great play that has happened there over the past 84 years.
Lawrence-Dumont is so named in honor of the otherwise long-forgotten mayor of the city on opening day, and a still well-remembered cigar-chomping and fedora-wearing promotional genius and unabashed hustler named “Hap” Dumont. A brand new baseball park was a risky venture in the dustiest days of the Great Depression, but Dumont was able to lure a sufficient number of fans by concocting the National Baseball Congress championship of America’s semi-pro teams. To kick it off Dumont rounded up a few thousand bucks to get Satchel Paige, who was relegated to the Negro Leagues by segregationist tradition but was widely regarded as the best pitcher of his day, to desert his regular team for a couple of weeks and participate in his semi-pro championship, which set still-standing records and established a still-ongoing tradition. One of the best parts of the NBC is the “round-the-clock baseball” portion, which always draws a number of hard-core fans who want to brag about watching 24 hours of baseball and many more who seem to show up in a raucous mood just after the bars close, and who once memorably booed a 12-year-kid who was up way past his bedtime and dropped a foul ball hit his way.
Nobody knew their names at the time, but the NBC wound up drawing such future Major League stars as Ron Guidry and and Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro and Pete Incaviglia and Bob Eucker, and the various minor league teams yielded such future Major League stars as Lee Smith and Andy Benes, and according to local legend during one of the occasional college games Wichita State University Wheatshocker great Joe Carter hit a homer into the Arkansas River that was even more impressive than the walk-off homer he hit in the 1993 World Series to win the Toronto Bluejays their only title. There were countless others who play in the ballpark and made it to the bigs, even they weren’t as notable, and on Memorial Day the Railroaders’ line-up included the aforementioned and 53-years-old Palmeiro, who was still playing partly in faint hopes of a Major League comeback but mostly for the fun of playing with his son, a promising third baseman who’s batting average is currently a full hundred points better than the old man’s.
Even on a gloriously warm and sunny Memorial Day such an intriguing subplot didn’t fill a fourth of the venerable 6,400 seat ballpark, though, and one of the arguments the city and its big-time contractors are making for a new one is that a Major League-affiliated and maybe even triple-A team would draw more fans. We have our doubts, though. The people who do show up at Wingnuts games mostly have the tattoos and wife-beater t-shirts and tough look of the surrounding Delano neighborhood, which has a wild west history of its own, but they also have the cutest kids that they carefully watch over and explain the game to, and despite their affection for cowbells that disturb our political conversations with our cigar-chomping friends after every opposing out they’re a very charming lot of real deal baseball fans. Wingnut fans seem to like the outlaw status of unaffiliated baseball, which allows it to welcome the banned-from-Major-League-baseball great Pete Rose and hire his son as the manager, and doesn’t mind that Palmeiro’s remarkable Major League career was cut short by his proved steroid use and the fact that he lied to a congressional committee about using performance enhancing drugs, even though at the time he was a paid spokesman for Viagra.
Some number of more respectable east-siders and west-siders and suburbanites and their overly-watched kids might be lured to a Major League-affiliated team with a less goofy name in some fancy new ballpark, and the city government and its handful of big-time local building contractors are all making the same promise from the corny Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams” that if “If you build it, they will come.” If you’re the kind of minor league baseball fan who follows a player’s progress to the big leagues, though, you’d probably be showing at Lawrence-Dumont. Whatever features the sort of fancy new structure the city and its big-time builders might construct, it won’t be able to claim that Satchel Paige and Ron Guidry and Andy Benes once pitched there and the likes of Bonds and Palmeiro and Incvagilia and Carter once roamed the outfield and batted there.
Another argument for tearing the venerable old ballpark and piece of American baseball history down is that it has aging pipes and wiring and whatnot, and although we don’t doubt that’s true we’re suspicious of claims that the remedies would be less expensive than a whole new ballpark. The city and its handful of contractors are admittedly more expert on these matters than we are, but they also have their own self-interested ways of reckoning things, and we cast a suspicious eye on their stats.
These public and private partnerships pop up almost everywhere at the local and state and federal level, and we’ve noticed that somehow it’s always the poor folks and liberals who want to conserve that physical remnants of the best of our culture, and that lately it’s the conservatives who are chanting “burn it down.” One of our cigar-chomping aging hippie friends in the smoking section along the blinding first base line is a predictably liberal professor at the local university, the other is a semi-retired systems analyst and reluctant Trump supporter, but we all agreed it’s a damned odd thing.
Around here the far-right and the far-left always align to oppose whatever the city government and its big-time building contractors concoct, the former being offended by government involvement in private business and the latter offended by private business’ influence on government matters, and for now that’s the only hope for venerable Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The folks on the far fancier east side and west side and the suburbs seem more comfortable with these arrangements than those of us on the old side of town, and don’t seem to give much of a damn about the better era of baseball and the way some things used to be. Which made for a bittersweet Memorial Day, no matter how warm and sunny.

— Bud Norman

Opening Day

There’s plenty of serious and seriously depressing news out there, as always, but it’s hard to shake a certain sense of hopefulness on baseball’s Opening Day. It’s one of our favorite secular holidays for a number of reasons.
Much like the upcoming sacred holiday, Opening Day heralds the imminent arrival of warmer weather, for one thing, and after another long Kansas winter that will be most welcome. The first games played in the northeast will be chilly, but by the all-star game break they’ll be sweltering, and they’ll still be playing when it cools down in October. There’s something reassuring about such certainties.
Also much like the upcoming sacred holiday, baseball’s Opening Day offers everyone the chance to start life anew with an unblemished record and a shot at immortality. When the day’s last out goes into the record books half the teams will have a losing record, the other half will be briefly undefeated, but the next day brings another chance to win or lose, by the end of the season the worst teams will have won some and the best ones will have lost some, and there’s also something reassuring about such certainties of life as that.
As with politics and the rest of real life, we all take sides in baseball, and on this opening day we like our guys’ chances in baseball a lot better than we do our guys’ chances in politics. It’s a long story involving our Okie heritage and the late, great Mickey Mantle, but we’re lifelong fans of The New York Yankees, who look to be pretty darned good this year. Last year their emerging core of youthful stars, including a Rookie of the Year who smacked 51 homers, came a game short of reaching the World Series, and during the cold winter they signed a free-agent slugger who knocked 56 out of the park.
On a presumably warmer night a few weeks from now the unaffiliated Double-A Wichita Wingnuts will have their home opener down at the aging but venerable local ballpark by the Arkansas River, and that’s when baseball becomes serious. We’ve seen the Wingnuts play some great baseball from our seats in the smoking section with a couple of cigar-chomping friends, and last year they fell just a couple of runs short of a league championship, and we’re expecting another great season from our guys.
It looks likely the city will then tear down that aging but venerable local ballpark, which is the seventh-oldest professional ballpark in the world and witness to performances by such legends as Satchel Paige and Ron Guidry and Barry Bonds, and replace it with some shiny new structure and an affiliated Triple-A team with a presumably less goofy name than Wingnuts. Our old-fashioned conservative souls hate it, of course, but in baseball and the rest of the secular worlds things don’t always turn out to our liking. We’ll be back on the news today, in between watching the scores, but we’ll take time out to wish your team the best of luck and to wish you a very happy Easter.

— Bud Norman

The End of Football

This was the football season when we at long last stopped caring a whit about the game, but lacking anything better to do on a cold winter Sunday night we wound up watching most of the Super Bowl. It proved an entertaining game, and we enjoyed the company at the Super Bowl party where we spent most of the first half and the dive bar where spent all of the the second half, but we’re in no hurry for another football season.
Enthusiasm for the professional game is apparently down around the country, judging the attendance at the stadia and ratings on television, and there are various explanations afloat in the sporting media. One school holds that fans are offended by some of the players’ kneeling rather than standing during the national anthem, another holds that the public is put off by all the debilitating injuries so many players suffer through the rest of their troubled lives, and a certain minority complains the game has become too sissified. The even more rough-and-tumble sport of American politics somehow has something to do with all of this, and we think also has something do with the pro game’s declining popularity.
Football always was our third favorite of the big three sports in America’s holy athletic trinity, and the only one we never played on an organized basis or with any zeal. Being mostly but not entirely left handed, and possessed of poor eyesight and an instinctive fear of fast-moving hard objects, we were entirely ill-suited to baseball but nonetheless learned to appreciate our more athletically gifted peers and the mathematically quantifiable brilliance of what they did. As slow and earthbound as we always were, we could at least drive to the left or right and fade away and hit a short jumper if the defender shut off either lane, and we developed a fade away hook shot with either hand that even the bouncy kids couldn’t block, and although we were never anywhere good enough at basketball to even try out for a high school team that had two future National Basketball Association players and a couple of other top-tier collegiate players and another guy who would have been a star if he hadn’t accepted a baseball scholarship instead, but we got good enough that we held our own in some local and even back east pick up games and learned to appreciate how very good are the truly great players of the beautiful game of basketball.
Football, on the other hand, always seemed a more primal sort of sport. Our backyard and cow pasture experiences of playing the game with neighborhood kids taught us that it mostly involved players running into one another as fast and hard as they could, and thus advantaged the bigger and faster and harder fellow to an extent that the other fellow’s wile and cunning and strength of character could not negate, and by high school we opted for the debate team rather than the football team. Our pop attended the University of Oklahoma back when Coach Bud Wilkerson was racking up national championships and a still-standing record win streak, so all those Saturday afternoon Sooner games taught us an appreciation of the game’s subtle nuances and undeniably essential-to-civilization masculinity, but it was always our third-favorite sport.
The Super Bowl party we attended is annually hosted by a couple of local folk musicians as an excuse for all their folkie friends to have a winter hootenanny, and the few regulars at the dive bar were similarly uninterested in the game playing on the television, and according to stadia attendance and television ratings the rest of country is similarly losing interest in the pro game. That probably has something to do with those players who don’t stand for the national anthem, but as far we’re concerned they’re being disrespectful jerks to a flag than stands for their right to be disrespectful jerks, and we’re more bothered by all the wife-beating and bar-brawling and firearms violation charges all the hyper-masculine players rack up every year. All the head traumas and other debilitating injuries the players experience during the spectacle also take some of the fun out of it, as do the politicians who make hay of the national anthem and decry the supposed citification of the game.
Still, it was a good game. The long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles upset the recently dynastic New England Patriots, and it involved some missed point-after kicks and a risky-but-successful trick play on a crucial fourth-and-short situation at the end of the first half, and all-time great Patriots quarterback fumbling the ball at the end of the game because the big and fast and hard guys on the Eagles defense were bigger and faster and harder than the guys on the Patriots. We had no rooting interest in the game, just as we have no rooting interest these days in the more rough-and-tumble sport of politics, but it proved a diverting spectacle.
In any case, football season is over and the remaining cold weeks of winter will be preoccupied with the most beautiful game of basketball, and although our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers have lately been slumping we hold out hope they’ll be back in championship form come the championship tournament in March, and our beloved Boston Celtics have the eastern division’s best record in the pro game. Before the basketball season ends the pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring baseball training, the first sure sign that summer’s soon to follow, with our beloved New York Yankees and Wichita Wingnuts looking good, and we’ll hold out hope the more rough-and-tumble game of politics turns out just as well.

— Bud Norman

The Days Grow Short When You Reach September

Labor Day went well around here, with the Wichita Wingnuts heading into the double-A American Association playoffs with a 4-1 regular season finale win over the Salina Stockade that featured several defensive gems, a hospitable old hippie friend of ours charbroiling copious amounts of bratwurst and burgers and other red Kansas meat while handing out Pabsts and blaring old Doors records on the sound system, and the weather was nice and hot. Still, there was no shaking that melancholy feeling the holiday always brings.
Although the autumnal equinox is still a couple of weeks away and the warm weather is likely to linger past that, today nonetheless marks the end of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. School is back in session, Congress is ending its recess, and by longstanding social agreement everybody else also gets down to serious business. The rigorously timed violence of football has already started to supplant the more leisurely paced and gentlemanly sport of baseball, the white shoes and straw hats are replaced by more somber apparel, school buses are once again slowing traffic, and conferences are being convened all over to assess the various messes the summer has left us in, and what might become of it in the fall.
The reconvened Congress finds itself with plenty of work to do. Summer’s end brought a thousand-year-flood that left America’s fourth-most-populous city under several feet of water, so they’ll have to find some way to pitch in on the calamitous cost of that, which wouldn’t be easy in the best of circumstances. In these circumstances they also face hard and fast end-of-the-month deadlines to pass a continuing spending resolution to keep the government fully open and a debt-ceiling increase to pay for it, which is always hard enough even without a thousand-year natural disaster to help pay for, and that’s not to mention the nutcase North Korean dictatorship that’s been making increasingly plausible threats to start a nuclear war that would make that thousand-year-flood look like a minor inconvenience.
There’s also the complicating factor of Trump, and everything he’s been up to over the summer. The Republican-controlled Congress was never technically in recess, for fear that Trump would make some crazy recess appointment to inoculate himself from the ongoing congressional probes into “Russia,” and nothing that has transpired during their unofficial vacation has likely been reassuring to them. Trump threatened to force a government shutdown unless all the spending resolutions and debt ceiling increases and whatnot included funding for his campaign promise of a border wall, which is a cause few other Republicans and absolutely no Democrats are willing to fight for, but that was before the thousand-year flood happened so there’s some hope Trump once again won’t make good on his threats. He’s also ramping up the anti-immigration rhetoric on other fronts, and although there are plausible arguments for some of them this probably isn’t the best month to be making them.
Throw in the nutcase North Korean dictatorship threatening a nuclear war and Trump’s intemperate responses, the leaks about “Russia” that are reaching thousand-year-flood levels, and the more open animosity between the Republicans in Congress and the relatively newly-fledged Republican in the White House, along with the ongoing fact that the Democrats are as always a complete disaster, and it looks to be an anxious September. The political consequences of not offering needed help to the flooded fourth-most populous city of the country or allowing the government to shut down its assistance would be dire, though, and the federal default that would shortly follow a failure to pass another damned debt-ceiling increase would be comparable to a nuclear war, so we’ll hold out hope that all the self-interested parties involved will reach some mutually beneficial agreement just ahead of the hard-and-fast deadlines.
In the meantime we have own bills our to pay, as we’re sure you do, and we’ll trust that most of the rest of us will somehow get down to such necessary business. There’s still some baseball left to provide solace, and not long after that ends basketball season starts up, with the Wichita State University Wheatshockers looking like a championship contender, and there will always be another summer, perhaps one more lazy yet not quite so hazy or crazy as the past one, and hope springs eternal.

— Bud Norman