On Pandemic Panics, Basketball Brawls, and That Impeachment Matter

At this point we’re desperate to opine to about anything other than the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but there’s not much else in the news. A disease spreading in China might yet kill us all, and here in the Sunflower State there’s much talk about the big brawl that broke out between the University of Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas State University Wildcats in the final seconds of their men’s basketball contest, but that’s about it.
The recent outbreak of the deadly and contagious coronavirus in Wuhan, China, which is China’s sixth most populous city and more populous than any American city, is indeed a tragedy and a matter of concern. The city is a crucial part of China’s very interactive economy, which is a crucial part of a very interactive global economy, and given all the international travel that occurs these days there’s no telling how that might wind up. Even so, we don’t worry it will wind up killing us all.
By now we’ve survived the Swine Flu and the Ebola Virus and AIDS and all sorts of pandemic panics and other apocalyptic scenarios, and we like our chances with this one. The ruthless commies running China are an unsavory lot, but we have to admit they’re ruthlessly efficient at cracking down on this sort of thing. Even during the Trump administration the American government tends to be less ruthless and more lax about these things, but so far they’ve kept us alive, so we expect they’ll do so again. With all due respect and sympathy to the many fine people of Wuhan, for now it’s not a Wichita problem.
That big brawl between the KU and K-State basketball squads was something to see and a much bigger deal around here, and the footage of massive athletes brawling into the handicapped section was endlessly replayed to sports fans around the country, and although it looked awful it’s ultimately much ado about nothing. We dropped out of K-State but retain an affection for its sports program and as lifelong Wichitans are mostly fans of the Wichita State University Wheatshockers and have no affinity for the haughty KU sports programs, so we look at it from the same biased lens as we do the Trump impeachment trial, but so far as we can objectively tell the hated Jayhawks are mostly at fault.
The melee started in the closing seconds of a lopsided KU victory, which was expected because the Jayhawks are their usual championship-contending selves and the Wildcats are lately mediocre at best, and the game was being played on the hallowed hardwood of KU’s Allen Field House, where the Jayhawks rarely lose. According to the voluminous but inconclusive video evidence the K-State benchwarmers who were playing out the waning minutes just wanted the game over with, but there was a taunt or a push by a KU player, and then a taunt and a push back by a K-State player, and then both benches cleared and the brawl wound up spilling over into the laps of the spectators in the handicapped section.
One of the KU players was clearly videotaped lifting a metal folding chair above his head, pro-wrestling style, with a KU assistant coach preventing him at the last moment from bringing it down on someone’s head, and so far the National Collegiate Athletic Association is coming down harder on the Jayhawks. Both teams will suffer suspensions, but the Jayhawks will suffer more, as their suspended players are more valuable, and they’re already underdogs to the Baylor University Bears in the Big XII conference race, while K-State is just fighting for a slot in the consolatory National Invitational Tournament, where they might do well.
It will all work itself out without any real bother to ourselves, we expect, so tomorrow we’ll get back to worrying about that impeachment trial. As we follow it we’ll be well reminded that sometimes ruthlessness works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

–Bud Norman

Politics, Hoops, and the Politics of Hoops

March madness has descended over the globe, and we don’t mean the mess in Ukraine and the South China Sea and all over the Middle East and at the Federal Reserve Board or any of the rest of the world’s reigning insanity. We’re talking about the excitement attending the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship basketball tournament, a matter that is arguably of less importance but generates far more wagers and press coverage. At least the president’s priorities are in order, as he has once again found time in his presumably busy schedule to fill out his brackets.
The presidential picks have become a much-ballyhooed annual event over the past five years, and are always presented with appropriate pomp and circumstance on the almighty ESPN cable network. So far the president’s picks haven’t proved more prescient than any other office-bound amateur’s, but ESPN takes them seriously enough to have come up with some fancy “Barack-etology” graphics and a nauseatingly fawning program featuring the president himself, and the rest of the media are obliged to take note. No one ever notes that the president seems to be watching an awful lot of college basketball while the world comes apart at the seams and the economy continues to sputter, so the White House can assume with some confidence that enhancing the president’s basketball-watching regular guy image compensates for any damage to done to his reputation as a serious statesman.
Our main interest in the story was that the president did not predict our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers squad would prevail, despite their thus-far- unblemished record and number one seeding, but this did not surprise us. The ‘Shockers are lightly regarded by many experts because they play in the lightly-regarded Missouri Valley Conference rather than one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences, and their impeccable underdog credentials are offset by their undeniable political incorrectness. Our boys play in the Charles Koch Arena, named for the local half of the billionaire businessmen brothers who are the Democratic party’s favorite boogeymen, the defensive-minded coach makes his recruiting trips on corporate jets loaned by the local corporate jet-makers, another popular whipping post of the progressive movement, and the team is whole-heartedly embraced by the God-and-gun-clutching denizens of this old-fashioned town smack dab in the middle of that vexing red splotch on the electoral map. There’s no political point in the president pandering to Wichita or anywhere in Kansas except perhaps Lawrence and the more, ahem, “urban” portions of Kansas City, Kansas, so most ‘Shocker fans were not expecting his endorsement.
The president apparently prefers the Spartans of Michigan State University, which is also unsurprising. Michigan is a bluer state than Kansas, although the unions have recently been on the run there and it seems in danger of growing purple, and the Spartans are  a good team who also play in one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences. Just as the pridefully egalitarian types tend to insist on Ivy League credentials for high public office, they also tend to be downright elitist in their basketball prognasticating. While perusing the comment boards on the latest college basketball news the other day we saw a posting by a fellow we happen to know who was dismissing our beloved ‘Shockers as the equivalent of Cowley County Community College, and we found it amusing because we happen to know him as a self-professed Marxist professor of some sort at at some prestigious College Back East. He went to the University of Kansas, where James friggin’ Naismith himself once coached and Wilt Chamberlain once roamed the lanes and there are more storied basketball stories than you can bear to hear to a KU alum recount, and we think it a hoot that our friend learned both his Marxism and his basketball snobbery there.
As is our strict policy here, we offer no predictions regarding the outcome of anything. Such prudence ensures that we’ll have a better track record than the president, whose picks from the Baltics to the brackets have proved questionable, and we don’t claim his expertise in these matters. We certainly can’t say we have the spare time to devote to scouting every team in the field that the president apparently enjoys. Even so, we’ll admit to a faint hope that a politically incorrect underdog from that God-and-gun-clinging red splotch in the middle of the U.S.A. will do well.

— Bud Norman

In the Mean Times

We can be quite scathing in our criticisms at this publication, but we always strive to do so with a certain literary subtlety and a proper respect for decorum and the bounds of reasonable discourse. By temperament and policy we forbid foul language, ad hominem arguments, or the snide sort of punning nicknames typical of schoolyard taunts, and in no circumstances will we ever wish a slow and painful death on any person’s children.
That last prohibition seems the least one can do, but these days even that modicum of civility is becoming distressingly rarer. A seething hatred that hopes for the death of political opponents’ children, and is not embarrassed to publicly express itself, is now commonplace. Three typical examples have recently appeared in the news, and although we are heartened that such vitriol is still considered newsworthy each of the stories illustrate that this murderous tendency has gone beyond the comment sections of the more fevered internet sites and into the mainstream of politics and academia.
One story concerns the Sacramento Democratic Party’s communications chairman, of all people, who responded to a “Tweet” advocating the de-funding of Obamacare by writing on his own “Twitter” account: “May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases.” The author of this witty riposte is not only a paid spokesman for the Democrats in the capital of the nation’s most populous state, he’s also a self-described “communications pro” who has a web site named “It Matters How You Say It.” He eventually apologized for his outburst, but only after a series of even more vulgar responses to his critics and a fair amount of public pressure on his employer, and has since been forced to resign from his party post.
Similarly hateful invective is being hurled from the ivory of towers of academia, of course. Another story concerns a prominent fundraiser for the University of California-San Francisco who “tweeted” her desire that all “Obamacare nonbelievers” be denied healthcare. She cheekily added “Let them eat their McDonalds,” which can be interpreted as a death wish as well as the usual San Francisco culinary snobbery. Sarah Palin earned much ridicule and scorn by fretting about the existence of politically-motivated death panels in Obamacare, but openly advocating for them apparently earns a nice job in California’s higher education system.
Yet another story involves a journalism professor at the University of Kansas, who took to the “tweets” after the mass murder at Washington’s Navy Yard to say “The blood is on the hands of the NRA. Next time, let is be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” Simultaneously mean-spirited and self-righteous, the “tweet” has attracted much attention in the Kansas media, even if many of them have politely declined to mention the professor’s desire for the murder of young children and instead explain the controversy in terms of an “anti-NRA” argument, and has become a popular topic of conversation in the state. Even with such friendly reportage, presumably from past students still grateful for an easy “A” in his courses, the outburst has sparked enough outrage among the gun-loving Kansans who pay his salary that the professor has been suspended. Academic freedom advocates have rushed to defend his right to be a simple-minded boor with no respect for the freedoms of others, and they might well have a point, but surely he can be relieved of his duties at a journalism school named for the great Republican writer and editor William Allen White because he uses ALL CAPITAL LETTERS like some deranged internet troll.
The same sense of anonymity and invulnerability that drives the average deranged internet poll is no doubt responsible for these harangues by supposedly respectable people, and a popular culture that is constantly blaring out profane boasts and violent threats over a thudding hip-hop or heavy metal beat probably has something to do with it, but we suspect the serious nature of the current political controversies is the primary reason. Democrats will have plenty of examples of similar hatefulness coming from their ideological opposites, but it’s far more common and widely accepted among their own party. All of the political power achieved by the left does not seem to have placated it, and the embarrassing results of their power seem to have left them downright snippy.
The more polished Democratic politicians still refrain from violent fantasies about their opponents’ children, at least in public, but even the most prominent among them are now prone to incendiary insults. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has recently described the “tea party” legislators attempting to limit the debt and de-fund Obamacare as “anarchists” and “fanatics.” It’s nice to know that “anarchist” is still a term of opprobrium in Democratic circles, given their longtime indulgence of the black-masked thugs going by that name who terrorized the past several international economic summits, but the insult does not bode well for any bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. At the very highest levels of the Democratic party the president routinely tells audiences that his opposition is motivated by the desire to cause the poor and sick to suffer while making the environment uninhabitable, and it invariably gets a big hand from the hand-picked crowds of true believers. With such mean rhetoric coming from the leaders, it’s not surprising that the followers would start hoping for the death of sons and daughters.
It would be nice to see a more cordial discourse, and not just because it would return the debate to matters of fact of logic and undeniable results which the Democrats would prefer to avoid. Such hateful talk is not good for those Democrats’ impressionable young children, and we wish those little whippersnappers nothing but the best.

— Bud Norman