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July 30, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #367: The Unlovable Losers

Theo era officially a failure. Plus: Ayo A Bull Now; Marc-Andre Mystery; Organizational Indictment; Andy Dalton Is Going Great!; World Learns About The Twisties; Red Star; and Fire Them.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #367: Unlovable Losers

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SHOW NOTES

* 367.

2:00: Cubs Failure Again Overshadows White Sox Success.

* Jed Hoyer stocks up on teenagers and burnouts.

* BREAKING: White Sox To Acquire Craig Kimbrel For Nick Madrigal, Codi Heuer.

* BREAKING: Javy Baez, Trevor Williams To Mets.

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40:30: Ayo A Bull Now.

Fact check: God had nothing to do with it.

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48:15: Marc-Andre Mystery.

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53:05: Organizational Indictment.

* Westhead, TSN: "For 45 minutes last Friday morning, former Chicago Blackhawks player Nick Boynton joined a Zoom call with lawyers hired by the franchise to share his memories of abuse allegations that first surfaced during the team's 2010 playoff run.

"Boynton, who was joined on the video call by his lawyer, told four attorneys with the law firm Jenner & Block that he remembered how former Blackhawks forward Jake Dowell had first told him during the 2010 NHL playoffs that two of their teammates had been sexually assaulted by Brad Aldrich, who was then Chicago's video coach.

"Boynton told investigators that, at the request of those teammates, he approached skills coach Paul Vincent, hoping that the retired police officer would convince the club's management to fire Aldrich and report the allegations to police.

"Boynton, who played seven games with the Blackhawks in the 2009-10 championship season and 41 games with the team the following year, said in his Zoom interview that many of Chicago's top stars knew about the abuse, based on their conversations in the locker room.

"They asked me who knew and I gave them names, basically everybody on the team," Boynton told TSN in an interview on Wednesday. "I said everybody fucking knew about it. I said you can talk to the coaches . . . I said talk to Torch [former assistant coach John Torchetti]. I called out Brian Campbell, and said talk to Patrick Sharp and talk to Kaner . . . The training staff knew. I'm sick of this wall of silence."

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1:01:11: Andy Dalton Is Going Great!

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1:05:49: World Learns About The Twisties.

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1:09:05: Dolson Does It!

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1:10:12: Red Star.

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1:10:35: Fire Them.

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BREAKING: Giants To Acquire Kris Bryant.

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STOPPAGE: 12:33

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:12 PM | Permalink

July 27, 2021

Revealing The Long But Hidden History Of Queer Women In Sport

As a white queer athlete, sports enthusiast and sociologist, I have forever searched for stories about queer women who earned their livelihood playing sports.

Stories shared in Lois Browne's non-fiction book The Girls of Summer (1992) and the Hollywood film A League of Their Own make scant mention of lesbian ballplayers.

There are some tales of brave souls who scaled cis-sexist and heteronormative barriers to come out in sporting worlds: Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Amélie Mauresmo in tennis; Patty Sheehan, Rosie Jones and Alena Sharp in golf; Sheryl Swoopes, Sue Bird and Brittney Griner in basketball; and Abby Wambach, Erin McLeod and Megan Rapinoe in soccer. Some of these women, like Swoopes and Griner, also dealt with racist barriers.

So, when Netflix released the documentary A Secret Love last year, I was thrilled that some of the little known history of gay women and sports was revealed. The film is a poignant portrait of a 71-year lesbian relationship between Terry Donahue, an infielder-turned-catcher with the Peoria Redwings of the AAGPBL, and her lover, Pat Henschel.

Screen Shot 2021-07-27 at 10.16.28 AM.pngTerry Donahue, fifth from the left in the front row, in the Peoria Redwings team photo in 1947, the same year she met her long-time lover, Pat Henschel/Netflix

Terry and Pat were two courageous women from the Canadian Prairies who fell in love and stayed together in Chicago, after Terry's last season of pro baseball. The film also opens up conversations about long-hidden histories of queer women, sport and pernicious legacies of racism.

The Documentary: Secret Loves

started playing for the Redwings in Peoria in 1946. During her off-season in 1947, Terry met Pat in a small town in Saskatchewan when the two were teammates on the Wildcats, a women's ice hockey team in the Western Canada Girls Hockey League.

Chris Bolan, Terry's great nephew, started filming Terry and Pat when they were in their mid-80s and only recently "out" to family members. Using interviews, photographs, baseball cards, home movies, poetry and letters, Bolan captures the women's shared passion for athletic pursuits, their enduring relationship and their marriage in 2015, a few years prior to Terry's death at 93.

A History Of Multiple Exclusions

The decades immediately after the Second World War in the United States and Canada were fraught with homophobic violence, including state-led purges of queer people from the military and public service. Medical experts pathologized homosexuals as "sexually maladjusted." Mass-marketed lesbian-themed pulp novels told titillating tales of gay women's torment and heartbreak.

Targeted for being "deviants," "sinners" and "national security risks" in the 1940s and 1950s, some lesbians found solace, belonging and lifelong love through involvement in sports.

At the same time, sporting access for gay women was structured by racism, class hierarchies and homophobia.

Terry Donahue's professional league banned African-American women. Also, baseball had a role in consolidating settler colonialism and Indigenous displacement across the U.S. and Canada.

White racial identities, middle-class comfort, financial investments and calculated secrecy protected Terry and Pat. After Terry's retirement from the AAGPBL, she and Pat worked at an interior design firm and lived in Chicago's predominantly white urban and suburban districts. Neither Terry nor Pat was roughed up, extorted or arrested during police raids on working-class gay and lesbian bars or drag balls in downtown Chicago's "black pansy" scene. Terry and Pat said they never frequented "those places."

Screen Shot 2021-07-27 at 10.19.28 AM.pngPat Henschel, left, and Terry Donahue in a scene from the Netflix documentary/Netflix

Meanwhile, residents of the predominantly African-American district of Bronzeville on Chicago's South Side, including working-class and poor queers of color, routinely endured anti-Black brutality, overpolicing, housing insecurity and precarious employment.

Feminine Beauty Ideals And Ticket Sales

In the 1940s, the age-old negative stereotype that competitive sport manufactures "dykes" out of girls and women must have made things difficult.

White female professional baseball players like Terry and members of the rival Rockford Peaches, Racine Belles and Rapid City Chicks were subjected to mandatory beauty and charm school lessons designed to ratchet up their cis feminine allure and to demasculinize their physical appearance. I marveled at a photograph of Terry and Pat in uber-feminine couture at a time when gender-transgressive butch lesbians were the most visible beacons of post-war lesbian life.

Along with evening curfews and "no dating" policies, the league's brass sought to reassure male spectators that white female players were, or appeared to be, heterosexually available - and thus worth watching.

Even in 2021, many LGBTQ and Two Spirit elite athletes stay hidden for fear of violence, on top of fearing the loss of fans, product endorsements and salaries.

Community Softball

A decade ago, U.S. Supreme Court Judge Elena Kagan was rumored to be a lesbian after a photo surfaced of her playing softball in the 1990s in Chicago. The vigorous disavowal of Kagan's queerness is a reminder of the lesbian stigma used to police women and hinder their athletic endeavors.

Besides professional baseball, community-based softball leagues have nourished lesbian subcultures in the west for decades. Softball leagues like The Haveners in Toronto's Ladies Softball League (1960s) and Big Apple Softball in New York (1977-present) have been oases for queer members in search of camaraderie and romance.

While these sporting spaces have not been inclusive and transformative for all queer, trans and non-binary folks, they have long symbolized the promise of precious refuge for participants.

Terry and Pat hid their lesbian selves for more than half a century because they felt they had to and because they could. They left behind rich memorabilia, as if they knew their archive would matter someday. And it does: the film foregrounds the sustaining love and respect between two women who survived repressive, anti-queer attitudes for decades.

Even today, women athletes are featured in only 4 percent of mainstream sports media coverage, outside of mass festivals like the Olympics. This invisibility denies viewers access to the awe-inspiring achievements of queer women, whose sporting prowess has always deserved more glory.

Becki L. Ross is a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:15 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2021

Traitor, Patriot

Attorneys for drone whistleblower Daniel Hale - who faces sentencing next week after pleading guilty earlier this year to violating the Espionage Act - on Thursday submitted a letter to Judge Liam O'Grady in which the former Air Force intelligence analyst says a crisis of conscience drove him to leak classified information about the U.S. targeted assassination program.

The 11-page handwritten letter begins with a quote from U.S. Admiral Gene La Rocque, who said in 1995 that "We now kill people without ever seeing them. Now you push a button thousands of miles away . . . Since it's all done by remote control, there's no remorse."

"It is not a secret that I struggle to live with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder," the 33-year-old Hale wrote in the letter. "Depression is a constant . . . Stress, particularly stress caused by war, can manifest itself at different times and in different ways."

Hale recounted that "The first time that I witnessed a drone strike came within days of my arrival to Afghanistan. Early that morning, before dawn, a group of men had gathered together in the mountain ranges of Patika province around a campfire carrying weapons and brewing tea. That they carried weapons with them would not have been considered out of the ordinary in the place I grew up, much less within the virtually lawless tribal territories outside the control of the Afghan authorities.

"Except that among them was a suspected member of the Taliban, given away by the targeted cell phone device in his pocket. As for the remaining individuals, to be armed, of military age, and sitting in the presence of an alleged enemy combatant was enough evidence to place them under suspicion as well."

In 2012 - the same year that Hale deployed to Afghanistan to support the U.S. Defense Department's Joint Special Operations Task Force and was responsible for identifying, tracking and targeting "high-value" terror suspects - the New York Times reported then-President Barack Obama, who dramatically increased U.S. drone strikes in the so-called War on Terror, "embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties" that effectively "counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants."

Critics condemned the policy as an attempt by the administration to artificially lower the war's civilian casualty figures - which by then already numbered in the hundreds of thousands, with most victims killed during former President George W. Bush's tenure.

Screen Shot 2021-07-26 at 11.44.25 AM.pngDaniel Hale/Bob Hayes, handout

"Despite having peacefully assembled, posing no threat, the fate of the now tea drinking men had all but been fulfilled," Hale wrote. "I could only look on as I sat by and watched through a computer monitor when a sudden, terrifying flurry of hellfire missiles came crashing down, splattering purple-colored crystal guts on the side of the morning mountain.

"Since that time and to this day, I continue to recall several such scenes of graphic violence carried out from the cold comfort of a computer chair. Not a day goes by that I don't question the justification for my actions. By the rules of engagement, it may have been permissible for me to have helped to kill those men - whose language I did not speak, customs I did not understand, and crimes I could not identify - in the gruesome manner that I did.

"But how could it be considered honorable of me to continuously have laid in wait for the next opportunity to kill unsuspecting persons, who, more often than not, are posing no danger to me or any other person at the time? Never mind honorable, how could it be that any thinking person continued to believe that it was necessary for the protection of the United States of America to be in Afghanistan and killing people, not one of whom present was responsible for the September 11th attacks on our nation. Notwithstanding, in 2012, a full year after the demise of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, I was a part of killing misguided young men who were but mere children on the day of 9/11."

It wasn't just men. Hale continued, describing what he called "the most harrowing day of my life:"

For weeks we had been tracking the movements of a ring of car bomb manufacturers living around Jalalabad . . . It was a windy and clouded afternoon when one of the suspects had been discovered . . . A drone strike was our only chance and already it began lining up to take the shot. But the less advanced Predator drone found it difficult to see through clouds and compete against strong headwinds.

The single payload MQ-1 failed to connect with its target, instead missing by a few meters. The vehicle, damaged, but still drivable, continued on ahead after narrowly avoiding destruction.

The driver stopped, got out of the car, and checked himself as though he could not believe he was still alive. Out of the passenger side came a woman wearing an unmistakable burka . . . And in the back were their two young daughters, ages five and three years old . . . The eldest was found dead due to unspecified wounds caused by shrapnel that pierced her body. Her younger sister was alive but severely dehydrated.

"Whenever I encounter an individual who thinks that drone warfare is justified and reliably keeps America safe, I remember that time and ask myself how could I possibly continue to believe that I am a good person, deserving of my life and the right to pursue happiness," wrote Hale, who said he became "increasingly aware that the war had very little to do with preventing terror from coming into the United States and a lot more to do with protecting the profits of weapons manufacturers and so-called defense contractors.

"The evidence of this fact was laid bare all around me. In the longest or most technologically advanced war in American history, contract mercenaries outnumbered uniform wearing soldiers two to one and earned as much as 10 times their salary. Meanwhile, it did not matter whether it was, as I had seen, an Afghan farmer blown in half, yet miraculously conscious and pointlessly trying to scoop his insides off the ground, or whether it was an American flag-draped coffin lowered into Arlington National Cemetery to the sound of a 21-gun salute.

"Bang, bang, bang. Both served to justify the easy flow of capital at the cost of blood - theirs and ours. When I think about this I am grief-stricken and ashamed of myself for the things I've done to support it.

"I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe, and when I finally left the military, still processing what I'd been a part of, I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong.

"Your Honor, the truest truism that I've come to understand about the nature of war is that war is trauma. No soldier blessed to have returned home from war does so uninjured. The crux of PTSD is that it is a moral conundrum that afflicts invisible wounds on the psyche of a person made to burden the weight of experience after surviving a traumatic event. How PTSD manifests depends on the circumstances of the event. So how is the drone operator to process this?

"My conscience, once held at bay, came roaring back to life. At first, I tried to ignore it. Wishing instead that someone, better placed than I, should come along to take this cup from me. But this too was folly.

"Left to decide whether to act, I only could do that which I ought to do before God and my own conscience," he concluded. "The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person. So, I contacted an investigative reporter, with whom I had had an established prior relationship, and told him that I had something the American people needed to know."

Hale was charged in 2019 during the Trump administration after leaking the top secret documents to a reporter, who according to court documents, matches the description of The Intercept founding editor Jeremy Scahill. He is the first person to face sentencing for an Espionage Act offense during the administration of President Joe Biden.

Hale's lawyers argue that his humanitarian motives, and the lack of harm resulting from his actions, warrant a lenient sentence. Defense attorneys Todd Richman and Cadence Mertz said that Hale "committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct committed under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States military's drone program."

Prosecutors, however, claim Hale's leaks were more egregious than those of Reality Winner, the former NSA whistleblower released last month after serving four years of a 63-month sentence - the longest ever imposed for leaking classified government information to the media. They assert that a suitable sentence for Hale would be "significantly longer" than Winner's.

This post is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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See also: Call Me A Traitor, a truly stupendous look at Hale from New York magazine.

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Previously in drone wars:
* Drones Not Just For Threats Against America Anymore.

* Why Obama Says He Won't Release Drone Documents.

* Obama's Drone Death Figures Don't Add Up.

* Dissecting Obama's Standards On Drone Strike Deaths.

* The Best Watchdog Journalism On Obama's National Security Policies.

* Everything You Wanted To Know About Drones But Were Afraid To Ask.

* Obama Claims Right To Kill Anyone Anytime.

* The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About.

* How Does The U.S. Mark Unidentified Men In Pakistan And Yemen As Drone Targets?

* Hearts, Minds And Dollars: Condolence Payments In The Drone Strike Age.

* Boy's Death In Drone Strike Tests Obama's Transparency Pledge.

* Does The U.S. Pay Families When Drones Kill Innocent Yemenis?

* Confirmed: Obama's Drone War Is Illegal And Immoral.

* Six Months After Obama Promised To Divulge More On Drones, Here's What We Still Don't Know.

* One Month After Drones Report, Administration Still Fails To Explain Killings.

* What If A Drone Strike Hit An American Wedding?

* Jon Langford's "Drone Operator" Debuts Again.

* Confirmed: American Bombs Killing Civilians In Yemen.

* Exclusive: Obama's Afghan Drone War.

* Obama's Dishonest Drone Legacy: A Cavalcade Of Absurd Lies About Civilian Deaths.

* Obama's Favorite Weapon.

* Obama Drone Disclosures A Sorry Half-Measure.

* Human Rights Groups To Obama: Time To Follow Through On Drone Promises.

* Documents Reveal U.K. Involvement In Secret U.S. Drone Campaign 'Kill List.'

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:42 AM | Permalink

Gambling At The Grate

As a young adult, we knew a guy of the older generation who, prior to departing for Las Vegas for a couple of days, would say, "I hope I break even. I need the money."

Of course, if he were alive today, that glib gentleman wouldn't have to travel to Nevada to attempt to hold onto the cash he already possessed. At last count, 35 states have casinos, and any sports fan can legally open an account on FanDuel, BetRivers, DraftKings or PointsBet, the "Official Sports Betting Partner" of NBC Sports, the local carrier of White Sox games.

Tune in to any Sox game to not only watch a ballclub with a nine-game division lead, but also to learn about ways to make money gambling on Tony La Russa's charges.

It all sounds very lovely. There are so many ways to win. Simply wager on whether the Sox will win or lose, try the Over/Under for runs scored for each team or the entire game, make a bet whether the Sox will score in the first inning, and so much more.

What's missing from all the encouragement is the codicil that most people not only don't break even, but losers far outnumber winners. I mean, why does PointsBet exist? To lose money? I suspect not.

According to Legal Sports Betting, the 2,430 major league contests each pandemic-permitting season offer "half a million different wagering opportunities each and every season."

That much action has the potential to save the game from extinction, a possibility if you listen to the denigrators of the sport, formerly known as the National Pastime. So what if a game takes at least three hours and is filled with little more than walks, strikeouts and home runs? At least a bettor can win a few bucks at the end of the night.

The uptick in gambling on baseball just may be targeted on the demographic that the game most needs, according to people like Commissioner Rob Manfred, who frequently is tinkering with the rules to make baseball more attractive, especially to younger people.

Approximately one in five Americans bet on sports of which 80 percent are males. Of that number, half are between the ages of 18 and 34, a metric that no doubt has not escaped Manfred's observation.

Common knowledge tells us that the NFL receives the most action in terms of bettors and dollars, but baseball's daily grind has beckoned a bit more than one-third of people who bet on sports. That translates to millions of the nation's citizens. Meanwhile, 62 percent of the bettors wager on NFL games.

While the lords of baseball present an oft-repeated refrain of declining revenues, rising salaries and union woes, the 20- and 30-somethings buy bleacher seats, swill beer with their girl or boyfriends, and bet on the games. Maybe not at every park, but certainly on both sides of town in Chicago.

Having once been part of this demographic and from subsequent years observing same, invincibility tends to be a characteristic of this period, certainly more so than what lies ahead 10 or 20 years down the road. Assuming one is employed, single, a renter, and a lover of summer and the out-of-doors, why not wager a few dollars to entice the experience of going to the ballpark or watching the game on TV?

That's fine and dandy as long as one can afford the unperceived risk. As PointsBet buries the message, call 1-800-GAMBLER if problems arise.

With events such as last Monday when the Sox tangled with the Minnesota Twins in two seven-inning games at The Grate, those problems presented themselves with a richness seldom seen.

Most baseball gamblers first look at the pitching match-ups when making a wager. In the first game last Monday, a fellow named Griffin Jax - you can be excused if you haven't the slightest idea of who he is - was on the mound for the Twins, opposing All-Star Lance Lynn for the Sox.

This should have been a field day for the chalk players. Jax had been toiling at Triple-A for most of the season. He was making his sixth appearance for the big club and just his second start after being recalled from St. Paul. Jax came into the game with an 8.66 ERA over 17⅔ innings. Of course, Lynn has been a trooper all season as he was on Monday, pitching seven innings on a yield of five hits and one earned run.

Only problem was, for some inexplicable reason, Jax baffled the White Sox. He lasted four innings, and the only blemish was a solo home run by Tim Anderson as the game headed into extra innings tied at one. Meanwhile, Jax took a shower elated with the fact that his ERA plunged to 7.48.

The Twins scored twice in the top of the eighth off relievers Garrett Crochet and Ryan Burr, and when the tying run in the person of José Abreu died at second base with one out in the bottom of the eighth, the underdog Twins were victorious.

What was even more distressing, for all fans, not only the Sox bettors, was that Twins' ace José Berríos was facing the Sox in the second game, while Reynaldo Freaking López, of all people, had been promoted from Charlotte to face the Twins.

López, who unabashedly pitched himself off the team during spring training, had been struggling all season at Triple-A. In 10 starts, he was 1-6 with an ERA of 7.62. His teammates refer to Reynaldo as "Lopey," but most fans know him as "Dopey."

Nevertheless, he wasn't awful a week ago, just ineffectual. Departing after three innings, the Sox trailed 2-1, the first run resulting from Lopez's errant pickoff throw in the first inning.

Meanwhile, Berríos was throwing pitches that Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn might have had trouble hitting. Berríos was that good heading into the top of the seventh with a 3-2 lead.

But then it all fell apart for the Minnesota ace. Brian Goodwin singled; Berríos hit Andrew Vaughn with a pitch; and both runners advanced on a wild pitch bringing Gavin Sheets to the plate. Berríos fell behind 3-1 and then grooved a fastball to the Sox rookie, who propelled the ball far into the night. When it landed halfway up into the right centerfield bleachers, the Sox season added one more magical note. Uncharacteristically, La Russa even effused joy, hugging the Sox rookie slugger, and probably thinking, "We sure dodged a bullet in this one."

In addition to guaranteeing that the Sox wouldn't lose any ground in the standings, Monday's competition illustrated the extreme difficulty in predicting the outcomes of games that appear to be mortal locks.

If anyone needed further proof, Sunday night's encounter in Milwaukee provided plenty of evidence. Lynn again was involved, but this time he was matched against the Brewers' Brandon Woodruff, another All-Star with a glittering 2.04 ERA. The Brewers were a slight favorite to notch a sweep of the three-game series.

The Sox scored three times off Woodruff in the second inning, which was enough for a 3-1 win. Once again Lynn was superb, surrendering the lone run in six innings of work.

However, it was Lynn's two-run single that plated the winning margin.

Since coming over to the American League in 2018, Lynn was hitless in 11 at-bats. His last RBI came in 2015 as a member of the Cardinals. In 330 plate appearances in his career, Lynn is hitting .086. Yet his base hit to right field off one of top pitchers in the National League made a winner of the White Sox and confounded all the bettors as well as Lynn's teammates and the crowd of 36,877.

We learned last week that an ordinance permitting sports betting at Chicago sports venues, including The Grate, will be introduced to the City Council. Would-be wiseguys no doubt think this would be a wonderful development. Visions of running to parimutuel windows at The Grate in the fourth inning to place a bet on the Sox to score in the fifth creates an adrenalin rush. Just don't tell anyone they'll be lucky to break even, let alone pad their wallet.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:04 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2021

Scientists Gone Rogue

Walter Freeman was itching for a shortcut. Since the 1930s, the Washington, D.C. neurologist had been drilling through the skulls of psychiatric patients to scoop out brain chunks in the hopes of calming their mental torment. But Freeman decided he wanted something simpler than a bone drill - he wanted a rod-like implement that could pass directly through the eye socket to penetrate the brain. He'd then swirl the rod around to scramble the patient's frontal lobes, the brain regions that control higher-level thinking and judgement.

Rummaging in his kitchen drawer, Freeman found the perfect tool: a sharp pick of the sort used to shear ice from large blocks. He knew his close colleague, surgeon James Watts, wouldn't sanction his new approach, so he closed the office door and did his "ice-pick lobotomies" - more formally, transorbital lobotomies - without Watts' knowledge.

Though the amoral scientist has been a familiar trope since Victor Frankenstein, we seldom consider what sets these technicians on the path to iniquity. Journalist Sam Kean's The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science, helps fill that void, describing how dozens of promising scientists broke bad throughout history - and arguing that the better we understand their moral decay, the more prepared we'll be to quash the next Freeman.

icepick-surgeon-1000.jpg

"Understanding what good and evil look like in science - and the path from one to the other - is more vital than ever," Kean writes. "Science has its own sins to answer for."

Expert at spinning historical science yarns - his last book, The Bastard Brigade, was about the failed Nazi atom bomb - Kean presents a scientific rogues' gallery that's both entertaining and chilling.

Naturalist William Dampier, who influenced Charles Darwin's work, resorted to piracy to fund his fieldwork in the 17th century. He joined a band of buccaneers that seized gems, scads of valuable silk, and stocks of perfume in raids throughout Central and South America.

A century later, celebrated Scottish surgeon John Hunter worked with grave robbers to obtain bodies so he could study human anatomy. His colleagues emulated his approach, and the pipeline from corpse-snatchers to anatomists continued for decades.

The practice was tacitly accepted because it could yield valuable insights - Hunter discovered the tear ducts and the olfactory nerve, among other things - but the human toll was horrifying nonetheless.

At public hangings, so-called sack-'em-up men "sometimes even yanked people off the gibbet who weren't quite dead yet," Kean writes. "They'd merely passed out from lack of air - only to pop awake later on the dissection table."

In a way, though, the gruesome endpoints Kean describes - the scrambled brains, the ransacked ships, the deathbeds - are the least interesting part of his story. They mostly confirm philosopher Simone Weil's impression that real-world evil is "gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring."

What's more compelling is Kean's take on how the scientists justified their actions. They pushed aside thoughts of collateral damage - the lives they disrespected and damaged - by rationalizing that their contributions outweighed any harm they were doing.

Freeman's work at an early 20th-century psychiatric asylum convinced him of the unalloyed good of calming agitated patients via lobotomy.

"The ward could be brightened when curtains and flowerpots were no longer in danger of being used as weapons," Freeman said.

But it wasn't long before the downsides of Freeman's blinkered strategy showed up. Botched lobotomies killed some patients, while others, like John F. Kennedy's sister Rosemary, emerged unable to speak normally or care for themselves.

Kean excels at conveying each scientist's slide into corruption - one so gradual that, like the fabled boiling frog, they scarcely noticed they were in hot water.

Freeman was once a wunderkind neurology professor, beloved by his students. At some point, he opened a book by Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz and got religion.

Moniz claimed excising brain tissue helped end-stage patients recover enough to leave asylums, and Freeman felt inspired to help his own severely ill patients in the same way.

At first, it seemed like a reasonable approach of last resort. In Moniz's mid-century heyday, lobotomies became an accepted part of medical practice at asylums, and Moniz even won the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his advances in psychosurgery.

But then Freeman started performing more and more lobotomies, with fewer ethical misgivings. He increasingly used the crude ice pick to probe patients' brains, rather than Moniz's more traditional surgical tools. And he started offering the surgery to adult patients with less severe mental illness and, finally, to young children with mood disturbances. Why not operate as early as possible, he argued, before things had a chance to get out of control?

English naturalist Henry Smeathman likewise began with the highest intentions - he was an ardent opponent of the slave trade.

But years later, on a lonely posting to Sierra Leone, he yukked it up with slave ship captains in his free time, then signed on as a slave-trading agent himself.

His rationale? By putting his oar in, he could ensure his field specimens got fast passage on slave ships from Africa to England.

"Preserving dead bugs and plants meant more to him than preserving his morals," Kean writes.

Kean's catalogue of scientific ne'er-do-wells does have some notable gaps. While he briefly mentions Nazi doctors and their horrifying experiments on concentration camp prisoners, he skips entirely over early 20th-century U.S. eugenics, a branch of pseudoscience concerned with preserving "fit" human bloodlines and discarding the "unfit."

Founders of this movement, including researcher Francis Galton, in many ways prepared the ground for the genocidal crimes of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.

Yet Kean makes up for his omissions, at least in part, with the complexity of the portraits he does include. We learn about Smeathman's respect for his Sierra Leonean guides' natural history knowledge, and about how carefully Freeman followed up with each of his patients to document their progress.

Many unscrupulous scientists, Kean reveals, are far more like us than not. Though it's comforting to view them as alien, we have many of the same human tendencies they do - and, like them, we have a hard time detecting when the drip-drip-drip of moral compromise turns into a flood.

"Any one of us might have fallen into similar traps," Kean writes. "Honestly admitting this is the best vigilance we have."

To avoid such traps, Kean advises scientists to adopt clear ethical guidelines before launching any project, based on research showing that people behave more ethically when they assert their honesty at the start of a task.

He also advocates for a technique developed psychologist Gary Klein and championed by Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman called the premortem - thorough assessments of all the ways a planned research venture could go awry.

But the book stops short of specific policy implications on this score; there's no analysis of how well scientific premortems might work to forestall future dastardly deeds.

What's more, some scientists are already so far into the morass that premortems are out of the question.

It's fitting that Freeman's final surgery, an early 1967 lobotomy, ended in disaster. He failed to aim his pick just right, and the patient sustained a brain bleed and died. No doctor in the U.S. has performed a transorbital lobotomy since - at least, so far as the medical record shows - but lobotomies in general continued into the 1970s. It may be true that, thanks to Freeman's surgeries, some patients left asylums and returned to their families. But decades later, what is remembered most are the lives the ice pick destroyed.

This post was originally published on Undark.

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Previously by Elizabeth Svoboda:
* Why Science Denialism Persists.

* Why You Should Think Twice About Showering.

* The Strange History Of Binding Books In Human Skin.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:13 PM | Permalink

July 23, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #366: P.S. The White Sox

Now that the Cubs are officially irrelevant . . . Plus: The Cleveland Traffic Cops; Deer District; Our Olympians; Vax Lax; Yermination; TLR LOL; Q Anon; Unfolding Ugliness; Kofi Stays; Sky Notes; Sunday, Sunday, Sunday; and Just When We Let The Fire Back Into Our Show . . .

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #366: P.S. The White Sox

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SHOW NOTES

* 366.

:44: The Cleveland Traffic Cops.

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9:50: Deer District.

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23:05: Our Olympians.

* NBC Chicago: Meet Team USA's Olympians From The Chicago Area.

* Tribune: Meet The More Than 50 Athletes Who Have Connections To Illinois.

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26:45: Vax Lax.

* Big Leagues Balk At Endorsing Vaccination.

* But . . .

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30:45: Yermination.

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35:00: TLR LOL.

* Players Rebuke La Russa.

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38:11: Cubs Officially Irrelevant.

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42:00: Q Anon.

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42:55: Unfolding Ugliness.

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47:28: Kofi Stays.

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48:50: Sky Notes.

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50:45: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.

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54:05: Just When We Let The Fire Back Into Our Show . . .

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55:45: P.S.: The White Sox.

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STOPPAGE: 4:57

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:22 PM | Permalink

July 22, 2021

Big Leagues Balk At Endorsing Vaccination

Santa Clara County, where the San Francisco 49ers train and play their NFL home games, has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in California. As of July 11, more than 76% of its vaccine-eligible residents were fully vaccinated, partly because the county and the 49ers franchise turned Levi's Stadium into a mass inoculation site where more than 350,000 doses were administered over four months.

The 49ers themselves, however, are not so enthusiastic about the shots. In June, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that only 53 of the 91 players on the team roster - 58% - were fully vaccinated. The team has issued no updates since.

It's a familiar story in the world of professional sports. Despite resources that other industries can only dream of, most pro leagues in the U.S. are struggling to get their teams' vaccination rates to 85%, a threshold considered high enough to protect the locker room or clubhouse from spread of the disease. Only the Women's National Basketball Association, at 99%, can boast a highly successful campaign to educate and vaccinate its players.

GettyImages-1231069582_1350.jpgMore than 350,000 doses were administered at Levi's Stadium over four months, but just 53 of the 91 players on 49ers roster are fully vaccinated/Paul Morris, Bloomberg via Getty Images

And while the public might expect sports figures, and the rich leagues they play for, to help rally the national vaccination effort, that's not happening. Although the leagues and unions have advocated for players to get the shots, the industry clearly regards vaccination as a personal decision - not a responsibility.

"It's everyone's choice whether they want to get vaccinated or not," Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold said in June when revealing that he had not gotten a shot. "For me, I'm staying by myself right now. I don't have a family or anything like that. There's a ton of different things that go into it."

Comments like Darnold's and those of Buffalo Bills receiver Cole Beasley, who tweeted a long rant casting the covid vaccines as a threat to "my way of living and my values," have dominated news cycles. Meanwhile, the leagues themselves, whose overall vaccination numbers outpace those of the country at-large, pad around the topic carefully.

"Push? No. Encourage," said Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, when asked at an MLB All-Star Game news conference about the union's position on player vaccination. "We've encouraged from the beginning."

And most players have shunned the role of public health spokesperson, making the pro-vaccination campaign a largely faceless one. Few have publicly endorsed vaccination or acknowledged receiving shots, even though the league's numbers suggest large majorities are vaccinated. Most don't want to discuss it.

In May, LeBron James pointedly refused to answer questions about whether he'd been vaccinated, saying, "Anything of that nature is all family talk."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett said he and his wife had received vaccines, but as for encouraging teammates, "It's to each their own. I don't know why people wouldn't get it, but whatever makes you comfortable, whatever helps you sleep at night, you do that."

Zachary Binney, a sports epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta (and a University of Chicago alum), believes pro athletes aren't that different from the rest of us when it comes to vaccines: "A lot of them are vaccinated. A lot of them are willing to become vaccinated. Some of them have concerns. And some of them just are not going to do it - and they are never going to do it."

In fact, most teams are doing well by overall U.S. standards. More than 70% of NFL and NBA players are at least partially vaccinated, according to reports. That puts both leagues' rates higher than they are for young U.S. adults as a whole.

Some players may be reluctant to speak up, Binney said, because the vaccine has been so politicized that they could lose fans by taking a stand one way or another - a far cry from the 1950s, when the country embarked on the nationwide March of Dimes campaign for polio vaccination with backing from ballplayers like Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson.

The country was united in viewing polio as a menace, whereas many conservatives shrug off the coronavirus. Then too, COVID's risks increase with age. Professional athletes are often in peak physical condition and may seldom visit a doctor outside of the team training room.

Sports teams' lack of leadership on the issue is a crucial miss for those pushing for greater vaccination rates, and it may also depress the chances of success within their own locker rooms, Binney said.

"One of the things we've learned is that people, not just athletes, are more likely to get vaccinated if the folks around them have become vaccinated," he said. "If your locker room leaders aren't speaking up, or if they're mostly sharing concerns or misinformation, that all has an effect on the numbers."

The NFL has set heavy restrictions on unvaccinated players - they must be tested daily and wear masks at team facilities, and can't leave the hotel when they're on the road - while mostly lifting the restraints on those who've received their shots.

The teams and union have informed players about the risks and benefits of the vaccines, even bringing in experts to meet with players. On a recent media call, Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFL players association's medical director, said players had contacted him with all manner of questions about the vaccines, including about reports of rare heart inflammation in young men post-mRNA vaccination, how long antibodies might last in their systems and whether the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization of the vaccines meant they were less well-tested than fully licensed products.

"They are serious, thoughtful questions that deserve serious and thoughtful answers," Mayer said during the call. "I'll say what our players say: They're grown-ass men. You give them grown-ass facts and they'll make a grown-ass decision."

For the NFL, the urgency of a looming pro football season may kick vaccination rates upward. Major League Baseball, meanwhile, reported on June 25 that 23 of its 30 teams had reached the 85% threshold, which triggers loosened restrictions - but acknowledged that its efforts to get more teams to that level had begun to stall despite months of advocacy.

"I can't make any assumptions about the other leagues, but baseball is such a mixture of people with differing opinions on everything," said Jerry Blevins, 37, who retired in April after a 13-year MLB career as a pitcher. Blevins got his first dose on the first day it was available to him.

But some star athletes, current and former, are taking a stand.

Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera agreed to serve as a spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's effort to promote vaccination. Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell, 87, got vaccinated and recorded a public service announcement on behalf of the NBA, as did San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and fellow Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Women's basketball has been in a league of its own, vaccination-wise, notes WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. Its campaign was led by the players union, which began providing information and addressing its members' concerns during a series of video conferences in December, before vaccines were readily available.

What came out of those conversations was a better understanding by the players of the outsize risk of COVID infection and death for Black women, who make up at least 70% of league rosters. By April, stars from the league were appearing in a public service announcement urging vaccination with the slogan "Our health is worth a shot," and appealing to Black women specifically. And they were receiving the vaccine themselves.

No other league, however, appears to have discovered such a catalyst, and the numbers show it.

"It's a different decision for everybody," the 49ers' Shanahan said.

Pro athletes, seldom of one mind, don't agree on this topic, either.

This post was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:18 AM | Permalink

July 21, 2021

Private Equity Comes For Janesville

This spring, 166 workers in Janesville, Wisconsin awoke to a nightmare.

OpenGate Capital, the private equity firm that owns their employer, Hufcor, announced it was moving their plant out of Janesville - taking those workers' jobs and livelihoods with it. It's the biggest business closure in Janesville since the Great Recession.

This isn't just another story about corporate globalization or pandemic upheaval. It's a story about predatory private equity run amok.

In too many cases with private equity, big firms acquire businesses and squeeze them for cash, routinely causing bankruptcies. OpenGate Capital, a Los Angeles firm that amassed $5 billion in revenue during its first decade in business, has run exactly that playbook in Janesville since acquiring Hufcor in 2017.

Hufcor, a market-leading producer of accordion-style doors and mobile room partitions, was profitable when OpenGate bought it. It maintained operations during the worst of the pandemic and even advertised $16 hourly wages and generous benefits as recently as January 2021. OpenGate is moving the plant to Mexico anyway.

Screen Shot 2021-07-21 at 7.22.50 PM.pngAmericans for Financial Reform

While Janesville was once a manufacturing hub, it has experienced the devastating consequences of unfettered corporate greed.

"What makes Janesville special in a lot of people's minds is that we really had the real glory years here," former state senator and activist Tim Cullen said. "But the fact is that we've lost those jobs and nothing has replaced them."

OpenGate has a history of buying companies only to close operations shortly thereafter, leaving communities across the country in the lurch.

To date, OpenGate has laid off 678 California workers from the Pennysaver classified ad magazine, 100 Wisconsin workers at its Golden Guernsey dairy plant, 140 employees of the Connecticut boxboard company Fusion Paperboard, and nearly 200 employees in Texas, Arkansas and Wisconsin who worked for the laboratory furniture company Hamilton Scientific.

The firm faced six lawsuits after abruptly laying off Pennysaver employees in the middle of a work day and failing to give workers their final paychecks. A court-appointed trustee also sued OpenGate for siphoning money from Pennysaver through a variety of shady tactics.

Similarly, employees at Golden Guernsey learned their company was closing when they showed up to work only to find the doors locked. And the firm shut down its Fusion Paperboard plant just three years after acquiring it - and only a few months after entering into a six-year contract with the local steelworkers union.

Even as hundreds of American workers have suffered from OpenGate's schemes, Andrew Nikou, the OpenGate founder and CEO, has not faced any meaningful financial or social consequences for repeated business failures at the hands of his firm. Instead, he sits on numerous boards - and he's even been in talks about a reality TV show built around his private equity business.

Hufcor employees, Janesville residents and union organizers have rallied against OpenGates' greedy and exploitative practices. At their side are elected officials who know that the whole country needs tough measures to reform private equity.

Baldwin was a co-sponsor of the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, the first major effort to reform the private equity sector, in the last Congress. It would curb the industry's worst abuses and prioritize people, not private equity profits.

We need a new push to pass this law. Unless we do, Hufcor employees won't be the last to suffer at the hands of private equity and its ruthless profiteering.

Elisa McCartin is an executive fellow at Americans for Financial Reform. This post was adapted from Take On Wall St and distributed by Other Words.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:01 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2021

TrackNotes: The Baffert Stakes

Saratoga is open for its 2021 meet.

That's the greatest news. Cards packed with stakes races that have stood the test of decades, including the Test Stakes. Top two-year-olds making their debuts. Where the horses are so good top to bottom, playing the tote board can be exciting and lucrative.

But all sports in this country are so screwed up, it requires fans to compartmentalize like never before if they choose to follow any game. I can't wait for the huge gambling scandal that we know is coming - unless owners cut in the players on the wagering pimping that major league sports are engaged in - to a big event, like the World Series or Super Bowl.

These sports are asking more and more and more and more out of fans while giving nothing back except vicious owners, horrible officiating, which, paradoxically, erodes betting integrity, and games legislated out of existence and priced out of reach. Even Jim "Coach" Coffman is disgusted with the standard operating sins of the Cubs, venal and mortal.

What about the kids? Is this really how they're going to be raised in sports, if they're even watching anymore?

Since we deal with horse racing here, let's talk about the stinking sewage flowing freely from track to track for the seeming aggrandizement of one man, as vile and corrupt as any Roman emperor you've ever heard of: Bob Baffert.

Before we get any further, if racing does not ban Baffert from all racing for at least 10 years, as it did with Richard Dutrow, I will be gone from the game. Maybe sooner if it starts looking bad, and even today, July 20, it's looking mighty bad.

Scrutiny has only come since his Medina Spirit was caught with betamethasone in his system after winning the Kentucky Derby in May. Two split blood samples tested in Kentucky proved it. As he has done for decades, he blamed environmental contamination on an ointment used for a skin condition on the horse.

Baffertian. Trumpian.

After Baffert and his legal team ran a preemptive strike and confirmed the rumors of a positive test, Churchill Downs Inc. almost immediately banned him and his horses from setting foot on any of its tracks. The New York Racing Association soon banned him from its tracks, most notably the prestigious Saratoga meet now underway. More on New York later.

But it's never his fault. "I do not feel safe training," Baffert said. "It's getting worse, to me. How do I enjoy, how do I move forward as a trainer knowing this can happen? It's a complete injustice, and we're going to fight it tooth and nail."

Baffertian. Trumpian.

Let's look back now. Baffert is a serial cheat and oh, by the way, he also kills horses.

The Washington Post reports on the 29 drug violations Baffert has been cited for; the seven horses who died either in their stalls or jogging in track workouts at Hollywood Park; and Baffert's hellacious record on horse fatalities.

One horse, Nautical Look, had morphine in its system. Baffert blamed a groom with eating a poppyseed roll near him; environmental contamination. In Seinfeld, that was a joke, but Baffert tried to intimidate the groom into admitting he did eat the poppyseed. The groom refused. And quit the business.

Baffertian. Trumpian.

The Post also found that Baffert is not only in the top tier in the number of horses dying under his watch, but that his deaths-per-1,000-starts ratio tops the industry. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has been vagabonding around the country dodging suspensions for his horse deaths, 122 versus Baffert's 74, although Hollendorfer's deaths-per-starts is much lower.

He was found to administer the thyroid medication thyroxine to all of his horses. Rick Arthur, California's medical equine director, said thyroxine can cause heart failure in exercising horses. The Post reported: The veterinarian chalked up Baffert's response to ignorance. "It's not uncommon to find trainers who don't understand medications and how different medications work," Arthur said. But because it didn't kill all his horses, it was alright.

At the time, Baffert, through his seat on the Thoroughbred Owners of California board, was behind legislation what would put a term limit on Arthur's job. Three of the board members had intimate business dealings with Baffert for either training or breeding. The rest were probably in some sort of awe of him or protection for him.

Two months after Baffert was cleared in the horse deaths, April 2014, the TOC dropped the proposed legislation.

How does Baffert get away with it? The Post's new report explains.

We go back to the cover-up of Justify's positive drug test after the 2018 Santa Anita Derby. The horse was found to have scopolamine, which Baffert and the complicit California racing officials attributed to jimson weed unsuspectingly mixed in the Justify's, and Baffert's Hopportunity, hay. Once again, going to the well with environmental contamination.

California officials blubbered that they couldn't have tested properly before the Kentucky Derby. Justify would not have qualified for the Kentucky Derby without winning at Santa Anita.

One of the central villains in the Justify cover-up, with Baffert looming over him like an executioner, was: Rick Arthur. He's also a veterinarian!

From the beginning, Arthur flat out said he would pave the way, through delay, for Justify to run in the Triple Crown. One of his specious arguments was "The way this case was handled was not a favor for Bob Baffert. The way this case was handled was out of respect for Justify." Yeah, because Justify might have a chance to win the Triple Crown, knowing Baffert's propensity to cheat.

"On April 26, records show, Arthur e-mailed CHRB officials that he had 'talked to Bob' and informed him the proceedings would not immediately interfere with Justify's Triple Crown schedule. 'I told him there would be nothing from CHRB before the KY Derby, unlikely before the Preakness and possibly not until after the Belmont,' Arthur wrote. 'I told him I thought there was a good indication that these were feed contamination,' the Post reported.

Advocating his own legal opinion, Arthur planted the seed of retroactively invoking the Association of Racing Commissioners International reclassification down of scopolamine to a 4/C violation, less than a traffic ticket. Although the CHRB had not formally adopted the guideline.

The process was also slowed by a test that found milkweed, not jimson.

The proper procedure would have been for the CHRB to have taken the positive test findings and filed a complaint against Baffert, no matter how serious they considered the infraction to be. That would have put the case in the hands of the stewards, perhaps a more independent bunch. But CHRB chief counsel Robert Brodnik wrote a memo basically making final findings that it was environmental contamination, and board president Bob Baedeker and Arthur decided not to make any complaint.

Baedeker spewed equine diarrhea to justify the decision.

"Baedeker said this week he changed his mind on not filing a complaint because he didn't want to pass the buck. 'I felt that we would've been dumping this in their lap, that we would've been putting them in an unfair position, and that we needed to go ahead and do the difficult thing, quite frankly, which is take responsibility for the decision.'"

Apparently, Baffert's political clout runs deep and the CHRB seems to have outsized power. The Post's reporting is based on a report by a California deputy attorney general. It said, "A court could find that the CHRB abused its discretion and acted in a manner that was arbitrary, capricious, or entirely lacking in evidentiary support." Ya think?

Back in New York, Baffert has received the benefit of two developments, one legal, one potentially outrageous. Last Wednesday, U.S. District Court judge Carol Bailey Amon granted Baffert a preliminary injunction against the New York Racing Association preventing it from enforcing its suspension.

The judge ruled that because NYRA did not provide Baffert a hearing, as a quasi-government agency, there was no due process. She also said that with due process, it doesn't mean NYRA doesn't have the right to ban Baffert. Churchill Downs is a private corporation. A distinction.

But just Tuesday, we found out that testing fluids were fucked-up by a New York testing lab and, perhaps, by Kentucky officials as well.

The Kentucky Horse Racing commission is alleging that the New York Equine Drug Testing and Research Laboratory did not adequately protect blood and urine samples. Baffert successfully moved in Kentucky to let him have a third test, besides the two positives he already had on Medina Spirit. He argued the urine test would confirm topical application of the salve, as if that matters.

The blood sample was damaged in shipping and the New York lab seemingly used almost all of the urine in its testing, after it promised to protect a certain amount for Kentucky. All that remains is about a milliliter of a "bloody liquid."

The head of the lab, Dr. George Maylin, refuses to explain how the samples were depleted, what the results of the tests are or even if they were performed. He wouldn't turn over the remaining sample until served with a court order, which is when KHRC found out it was basically lost.

What gives? Why would Kentucky send the entire samples and trust New York with due diligence? Did Baffert or somebody else in racing get to the lab?

Baffert attorney Craig Robertson was indignant.

"There seems to be some sort of implication, if not a direct accusation, that we have had some kind of direct communication with the New York lab and know testing has been done or what the results are," Robertson said. "That's just completely false."

Baffertian. Trumpian.

Baffert has never been in favor of drug reform in racing. He has spoken and lobbied all along for the continuance of Lasix, a drug that keeps horses from bleeding in the lungs, which can be considered a performance enhancer. It is also said to mask other drugs in a horse's system. I've never really heard him call for drug reform, especially on the softball TV interviews.

He cynically, to me, positioned himself to have found religion after trainer Jason Servis and several others were indicted for not only drugging horses, but also altering drugs, falsely packaging and distributing drugs. Wolves too close to the door for Baffert? He had perhaps his four most notorious drug positives after the Op-Ed ran.

Two of his top horses were caught in Arkansas and one of them again in Kentucky. Both states tossed the cases. Then came Medina Spirit.

What about Baffert? It is said he has told regulators, "Fine me all you want, but don't suspend me."

"He'll do anything to win, and he's got all his bases covered politically," Barry Irwin, owner of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, told the Post. "And because of that, he has become arrogant as hell. He's Mr. Teflon."

Also from the Post: "Monty Roberts, a trainer who has agitated for more humane treatment of racehorses throughout his six-decade career, said that Baffert has long been one of the most important voices holding the sport back from reform. Asked whether he was surprised by the finding that Baffert's barn was the deadliest in California, Roberts laughed.

"If it surprised me it would be that I expected more," Roberts said. "Bob Baffert has moved his way up the ladder to the extent that he has the most influential, the wealthiest owners in the industry, that he takes on the highest-quality horses possible - because he wins races. And he pushes the envelope to the extent that they give their lives for his bank account."

Baffertian. Trumpian.

Baffert doesn't run that often at Saratoga, usually just carpetbagging in for a big stakes race, of which Saratoga has several. If he tries this summer, I hope NYRA clamps his ass and runs his horses through massive testing, pre-race. They've done it before.

We can't be confident that racing will discipline Baffert as he deserves. The huge first step would be for the Kentucky commission to ban him and disqualify Medina Spirit. Then, as with Dutrow, other state racing commissions would follow suit.

But racing didn't personally like Dutrow. He bragged about giving Big Brown steroids, which was pretty legal at the time. Racing didn't like that.

Baffert seems to have some sort of magnetism or charisma that I don't get. To me, he's used up all of his racing capital. I'm starting to believe Baffert and his nefarious owners fully believe these horses are "just animals." Collateral damage. Sickening to think of.

The empty heads who seem to feel the sport needs Baffert, no. It needs to get rid of him. And it's been doing just fine without him for this short time.

People who disagree with making an example of him because of who he is are wrong. As with all things sports in this country, Baffert was TV-overhyped while others have won thousands more races - admittedly not always without controversy.

For the people who know nothing of racing except Baffert, that's precisely why he should be banned. He compromised the racing and the wagering. He drugged horses. He killed horses.

I don't think we'll be seeing much of Baffert at Saratoga.

That buys me another six weeks in this game.

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Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:40 PM | Permalink

So You Think You Know What's Good For You?

There's a great moment in George Eliot's 1861 classic Silas Marner, where a young woman bemoans how people with "neither ache nor pain" want to be "better than well." Written more than a century before the rise of the "wellness industry" of exclusive gyms, self-help and endless supplements, the phrase is prophetic.

Now comes So You Think You Know What's Good For You?, a book promoted as the "ultimate health guide" from Australia's highest profile doctor. A medical journalist with a global reputation, Norman Swan has been a broadcaster with the ABC for almost 40 years.

Despite it's smug title, and a few possible flaws we will get to later, the book has lots of welcome common sense and evidence-based tips for living healthier. And some surprises too, such as suggestions for how young queer people might best come out.

Screen Shot 2021-07-20 at 4.32.19 PM.png

Perhaps this book's greatest strength is its key message, often repeated, that with health, it's better to focus on the bigger picture, the whole complex package, and not obsess too much on a few of the individual bits and pieces of the puzzle. Rise above the nutrients and think more about sharing a decent meal with loved ones, because, "social connectedness is the foundation of well-being."

The Wellness 'Bullshit'

One of the big myths busted early in the book is what Swan delicately calls the "bullshit" idea that wellness is some state of perpetual bliss we can all aspire to. "Wellness and well-being" he writes, "are intermittent phenomena," appreciated because they stand out from the rest of our lives.

The odd bit of myth-busting aside, the book covers a lot of familiar ground. Sugar rots your teeth. Eating better, exercising more and drinking less booze will boost your chances of staying healthy longer. We've heard it before, but it doesn't hurt to hear it again. And unsurprisingly, it's convincing when it comes from this respected celebrity.

Just reading the book's opening pages made me reach for a mandarin. By day two, I'd decided to get off the couch, stop reading so much George Eliot, and do some more vigorous exercise. By day three, our household was stocking up on extra garlic and discussing extra virgin olive oil around the dinner table with our 7-year-old.

Food, Fads And Fasting

The strongest section of the book is about food. Amid the analysis of different dietary fads, there's some simple advice:

The more plants you eat as a proportion of your diet, the better.

The classic Mediterranean diet, with its olive oil and leafy greens, gets a very big tick. Vegan fasting, despite no strong evidence to support it, is deemed worth a go.

Additives and enhanced food are written off as more about marketing than nutrition. Vitamin and mineral supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry based on very little science. "Largely a con," says Swan.

The Elements Of Surprise

Despite an early promise in the book there'll be no human interest stories, there are quite a few anecdotes about the author, which will no doubt please his fans. We learn that Swan almost never sleeps, loves a daily nap, hates almond lattes, is recovering from a salt-addiction, and once consulted a dietician who suggested the reason he was hungry all the time was because he ate too much.

More seriously, we hear stories from a grey Scottish childhood with a father who "hadn't a clue about child rearing," and see glimpses into a year-long episode of "stomach-churning anxiety" due to illness, separation, pain and loss.

One powerful story features the 4-year old Swan on a visit with his father to a Christmas carnival. Against his wishes, the toddler was "plonked" alone on a fast-moving ride and his resulting screams of terror were misread by his "gormless dad" as just being the normal fun of the fair.

He uses the anecdote to highlight the stress that can come from a loss of control. And that opens a great section on how society's structures can undermine our sense of control on a mass scale, and how so much of our health is determined by government policies on housing, education and fairness.

A tragic example of how economics can determine health comes from recent estimates that high prices and low incomes mean that 3 billion people can't afford a healthy diet.

The Bit About Sex

One whole section is titled "The sex thing," which, like the rest of the book, contains a good dose of common sense. There are musings on whether a rating system is needed for pornography, strong endorsement of the role of condoms, and caution about cosmetic genital surgery.

Particularly welcome was the celebration of the clitoris, whose role in the reality of sex is still stubbornly ignored by too much of the wider screen culture. "The vast majority of women do not orgasm with penetrative sex alone" writes Swan, because "the clitoris is usually the source of women's orgasms."

And there's a mention too of the push to label women's common sexual challenges as a medical condition of low desire. "Call me a cynic," he writes, "but creating a name for a problem is a prerequisite for the pharmaceutical industry to find a treatment."

He's dead right. My book Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals documented how an alliance of sex researchers and drug companies have repeatedly tried to create new categories of illness in order to build billion-dollar markets. And in my book with Alan Cassels, Selling Sickness, we expose how this problem of medicalizing ordinary life is widespread across the medical landscape.

Some Non-Fatal Flaws

One weakness, for me, was the book's structure. There are lots of very short bites, sometimes not so coherently arranged, and a feeling now and again that words were written very quickly. The section on potential health impacts of screens and devices was just seven pages, compared to other sections that ran for more than 70 pages.

Another minor concern is the referencing. There's a mountain of references at the end, but no use of endnotes, so it's sometimes hard to tell which statements arise from evidence, and which are Swan's analysis.

A deeper concern is that parts of the section on "Living Younger Longer" might feed unhealthy obsessions with constantly measuring all those individual risk factors, such as weight, waste, blood pressure and cholesterol.

The "worried well" are already the target of unbalanced promotion disguised as journalism that urges us to test more and more frequently for the early signs of heart disease, dementia and cancer, without any mention of potential downsides, such as unnecessary diagnosis and treatments that may bring us more harm than good.

The book has the occasional poke at drug or food industry marketing, but doesn't go into much detail. You won't read, for instance, that medicine's evidence-base has been distorted through commercial funding and influence, or about global campaigns, such as The BMJ's, to forge more independence from industry, and produce more trustworthy evidence.

Similarly, the book has the occasional enthusiastic plug for the value of medications - for depression, high blood pressure or high cholesterol - but there's no mention of the huge threat to your health from overdiagnosis and the overuse of tests and treatments.

'Good Enough'

But let's not quibble. The book champions the value of context, cautions against getting too distracted by tiny details, and concludes with a warning that we're all at risk of "knowing more and more about less and less."

And as Swan reminds us, when it comes to health, going for "good enough" may ultimately be much healthier for us, than trying desperately to be "better than well."

Ray Moynihan is an assistant professor at Bond University. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:11 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2021

That Was Fun - But Not Necessary

There now. Feeling better this morning? All that worry about the cheating Houston Astros being far, far superior to the White Sox went for naught. All those knee-jerk tweets about the needs for a second baseman, a right-fielder, a catcher and help for the bullpen seem so silly after the events of the past two days. Now it's José Altuve, Carlos Correa and their buddies who should have their doubts after Tony La Russa's squad embarrassed them over the weekend.

In case your wi-fi was on the fritz the past few days, the Astros came to town having swept the White Sox four straight in Houston a month ago. And after the local group waltzed through a 7-1 loss on Friday night in front of 34,000 onlookers, the first of three such crowds at The Grate who showed up to boo and berate the visitors as much as anything else, you might have thought that the front-running Sox were destined to become a second-tier ballclub. Of course, that would have been a big mistake.

The stalwart crew, behind the near-perfect pitching of Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodón, rebounded fiercely with resounding 10-1 and 4-0 victories, sending the tainted Astros onto their next destination with second thoughts about dominating the Chicago White Sox.

Prior to Saturday's contest in which the South Siders clubbed five balls that left the yard to support Giolito's three-hit complete game, Fox analyst A.J. Pierzynski, a darling of White Sox past, claimed that La Russa's outfit sorely needed to beat Houston basically to show that this was possible. A confidence-builder, the former Sox catcher proclaimed.

Needless to say, the two wins were exhilarating and payback for those five previous setbacks against a team the Sox very well could meet in October. But were they absolutely required? A perusal of playoff series' this century provides a possible answer.

Look no further than the other side of town for an example. The Cubs recorded seven straight wins over the Mets during the 2015 regular season. After winning a wild card contest and beating the Cardinals in a division series, the New Yorkers were the only hurdle to clear on their way to the World Series.

Only problem was people failed to inform the Mets about their ineptitude when facing the Cubs. The result was a four-game sweep by the boys from Queens as the Cubbies had to wait a year to grab the glory.

There have been 141 post-season series' in the past 21 years in which the contestants had faced one another during the regular season. In 60 of those, the team that had lost the season series reversed the tables in October. Not quite half the time, but pretty darn close to it.

Returning to the 2015 season, the Mets bowed to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series in five games. The Royals arrived at the Classic by eliminating both the Astros and Blue Jays, two clubs that bested them during the regular season.

More recently in 2019, the Washington Nationals proved to be a completely different team after their first 50 games, 31 of which they lost. In the six months of the season, the Nats had a combined record of 7-13 against the Brewers, Dodgers and Cardinals. You know where I'm going with this. That's right. They beat all three of those clubs en route to winning the World Series, topping the Astros, sans garbage cans, in seven games.

There are a number of other instances which defy explanation, such as 2007 when the Yankees swept all six games from Cleveland only to bow to the Tribe 3-1 in the ALDS. Just last season, after eliminating the White Sox, the Oakland A's faced the Astros, a club they'd beaten seven of 10 times, only to lose to Houston in the division series three games to one.

And Ozzie Guillen's 2005 White Sox champions dispatched the Red Sox and Angels during the playoffs, two clubs that had winning records against the Sox in the regular season.

As long as we're talking about the '05 champions, who finished the regular season at 99-63, comparing them with the current version of the franchise is worthwhile. The champs were 39-33 against teams .500 and above. So far this season, La Russa's guys are an unimpressive 18-25, although that certainly could change in the next two-plus months as the Sox (hopefully) become healthy.

The World Series champions beat up on division foes to the tune of 52-22, while the 2021 group is 30-15 against the Central at this juncture. With the Minnesota Twins (39-53) providing the opposition at The Grate beginning this afternoon with a doubleheader, the Sox very well could hike that record in the four-game series.

The Twins have had notable success since 2002, making the playoffs nine different seasons. They eliminated Oakland in the ALDS in 2002 but now have lost nine post-season series' in a row. In doing so, Minnesota has a dismal record of 3-25, including 18 straight losses, the most recent being last season when the Astros beat them two straight in one of those best-of-three wild card encounters. Keep in mind that those clubs from Up North have won lots of regular season games, but for some inexplicable reason they stumble badly once the leaves change in October.

What it all boils down to is that the team that gets hot and comes together at the end likely winds up on top. The White Sox had a wonderful ballclub in 2005, but few observers figured that they could go 11-1 in the post-season. However, their pitchers performed beyond all expectations, and they got some unexpected clutch power hitting from people like Scott Podsednik and Geoff Blum.

Years ago, teams like the Yankees beginning in the 1920s and the Dodgers in the '50s, when they wisely signed talented Black players, could race through the regular season into the World Series, the only post-season competition scheduled. The possibility of having a cold spell in a division series was absent. Rarely did a less-talented team collect the top prize.

But those days are long gone. Today's grind presents more chances of falling and being discarded along the wayside. Despite what happens in this 162-game journey, the boys who come through at the very end gather the ultimate prize.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:06 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #365: Wobbly Cubs Change Climate

Front-office fail. Plus: White Sox Begin Ceremonial Second Half; Party Time Italian-Style; Dunkin' Keith; Party Time Bobby Portis-Style; Scottie Gonna Pippen; Bears OLs Catch Up With Cutler; Candace's Cover; Red Stars Pwn Dash; On Wisconsin; and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #365: Wobbly Cubs Change Climate

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SHOW NOTES

* 365.

* Earth's orbit.

* NBC News: The Moon's Natural Wobble Alters Earth's Tides. With Climate Change, That's Bad News.

* Discover: Giant Ripples Under Louisiana Are Evidence Of The Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Impact.

"When the Chicxulub impact blasted into the Yucatan Peninsula, it generated massive tsunamis that left their signature thousands of miles away."

* Nikkei Asia: Why Asia Loves The Low-Key But Rising Sport Of Badminton.

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7:39: Cubs Fire Sale.

* Essentially traded All-Star Kyle Schwarber for Single-A "prospect" Bryce Ball.

* Greenberg, Sun-Times: Cubs May Regret Letting Joc Pederson Go. Seriously.

* Dear Barry Rozner et al . . .

* Sara Sanchez, FanGraphs: Kyle Schwarber Has Leveled Up His Power.

"In D.C., he's worked with Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long, who notably guided Daniel Murphy during his offensive breakthrough with the Mets, to change his swing mechanics into something tighter and better at capitalizing on Schwarber's leg strength . . . "

* Free Willy.

* ProPublica: The Billionaire Playbook: How Sports Owners Use Their Teams To Avoid Millions In Taxes.

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35:00: White Sox Begin Ceremonial Second-Half.

* Sanchez, FanGraphs: Yoán Moncada Is A Big Reason The White Sox Are A Juggernaut Despite Injuries.

*

We hate what Steve Stone has become.

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Bonus Stoney.

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44:13: It's Party Time, Italian-Style.

* Abby Zimet, Common Dreams: When You Win, You're English. When You Lose, You're Black.

* Andre Spicer, The Conversation: England's Management Style.

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48:35: Dunkin' Keith.

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55:00 It's Party Time, Bobby Portis-Style.

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57:26: Scottie Gonna Pippen.

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1:00:06: Bears Offensive Lines Catch Up With Jay Cutler.

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1:02:45: Candace's Cover.

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1:04:15: Red Stars Pwn Dash.

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STOPPAGE: 9:12

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:25 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2021

When You Win, You're English. When You Lose, You're Black.

In a flood of vitriol as repugnant as it was predictable, three young Black English soccer players were assailed with racist abuse - to get real, a way-too-genteel term for foul swill like "Go kill yourselves nigger monkeys" - after each missed penalty shots in a tied Euro 2020 final Sunday, effectively handing Italy the victory.

In a sport, country, world still deeply and intractably hierarchical, thus did the supremely accomplished Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka learn again, though they likely know it well, that for many "their perceived Britishness is provisional, dependent upon their ability to kick a ball."

Despite the advocacy work of Kick It Out and other anti-racism groups, the longtime abuse by bigoted, swiftly enraged white fans of the world's most watched and played sport - see monkey chants, Nazi salutes, banana peels thrown on the field - has only grown worse in recent years with the rise of right-wing nationalism and the growing diversity of once-all-white European teams, especially when, as the young, newly multi-ethnic British team did, they take a knee before each game to protest that reality.

Dispiritingly, that modest act sparked audible boos from shut-up-and-dribble morons - aka "the fuckwits on this island" - who want to be left in privileged peace to see them perform, and never mind their humanity.

Little wonder, then, that after both Rashford and Sancho and finally Saka, just 19, missed penalty shots to give Italy the win, all three and Raheem Sterling, another black player, were bombarded by almost 2,000 vengeful tweets, some deemed "high risk abuse." Many used the word "nigger." None bear repeating.

Gratifyingly, the rest of the world was appalled, dubbing the onslaught "abhorrent," "disgusting," "reprehensible," with many arguing social media platforms must be held accountable with "real life consequences."

"These three young men stood tall and shouldered a massive moment for their country," noted one fan. "They fell short. It happens. To turn against them (because) the result didn't go your way is unforgivable."

Royalty and politicians joined in, though some of their outrage was less than convincing. Many derided the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson, who declined to condemn the boos and has compared Muslim women in hijabs to "letter boxes," and xenophobic Home Secretary Priti Patel, who argued fans have the right to boo "gesture politics," as akin to arsonists yelling 'fire" after they pour the gas.

"We see you," wrote one after Patel huffed racism "has no place in our country." "That's what you say about immigrants."

Others said they were grateful, given her rhetoric, she hasn't deported the dark half of the team.

The abuse was especially devastating to blacks who'd seen the diverse team as a sign of change in a long-racist British landscape.

"Those young men have done more in a matter of weeks for my sense of belonging and pride than this government has done in ten years," wrote one. "They represent the best of us."

"The whole country should stand firm behind every player in this heroic team," wrote another. "Win as England, lose as England."

Still, change comes hard, bitterly noted Ahmed Ali: "When you win, you're English. When you lose, you're black."

Added another, "This is why we take the knee. Praying for a better future."

Perhaps the most venomously targeted was Marcus Rashford, at 23 the oldest in the group and a gifted striker for Manchester United who always took a knee, wore "United Against Racism" shirts and was visible enough in his activism that, after England's loss, nasty MP Natalie Elphicke sniped, "Would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics?"

Of Caribbean descent, he grew up poor and often hungry in industrial Wythenshawe, in, he once wrote to MPs, "a system not built for families like mine to succeed."

One of five kids of a single mom working three jobs, he'd go visit friends "who understood my situation" if there was no dinner at home.

During the pandemic, he began a campaign to feed 400,000 hungry kids in Manchester and, ultimately four million kids across the country, shaming the government into a U-turn to restore free lunches and other subsidized meals, getting businesses to join the effort, and insisting, "These children matter . . . And as long as they don't have a voice, they will have mine."

Within hours of the loss to Italy, a mural of Rashford - "Take pride in knowing your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose" - was defaced in what police called "racially aggravated" vandalism.

Just as quickly, steadfast locals began swarming the site with hearts, notes, messages of good will declaring Rashford absolute star, role model, wonderful human, King of England.

"You are truly a kind amazing hero," wrote one, and from Reggie, age six, "Thank you for all our dinner."

A moved Rashford sent thanks, apologies, resolve: "I can take critique of my performance all day long, (but) I will never apologize for who I am and where I came from."

By Tuesday, another digital mural honored all three players and Rashford's had become an ad hoc shrine to racial justice.

Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 1.29.15 PM.pngChristopher Furlong/Getty

Street artist Akse restored the image - now awash in notes of veneration and respect - sign-waving crowds held Black Lives Matter rallies, Rashford was "overwhelmed, thankful, lost for words," and the amity kept coming. Samples: "Head up, king . . . We go again, lad . . . We bloody love you, mate. Onwards."

There may yet be hope.

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Previously by Abby Zimet:

* When John Prine Gets To Heaven.

* The Taste Of Subservience.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:22 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2021

England's Management Lesson

Over the course of England's journey to the Euro 2020 final, one of the most fascinating plays was happening just off the pitch. Whenever the TV camera cut to the team's manager Gareth Southgate, he was occasionally seen standing alone on the edge of the field, urging his team on.

But most of the time he was deep in conversation with his assistant Steve Holland. It is regular proof of how Southgate approached key decisions and planning.

Those plans, and England's progress in the competition, led to Southgate's style of management and leadership being widely celebrated. Some pointed out his supportive approach to players, his focus on creating a positive atmosphere, and his willingness to listen.

He was also praised for drawing on knowledge and experience from outside the soccer world. Others highlighted his own experiences as a player, and indeed, research does suggest that on the whole, it is ex-players who tend to make the better soccer managers.

Another interesting aspect is that Southgate treats management itself as a team sport. Instead of being the sole authority figure, he is part of a larger team of decision-makers, all of whom have an influence on the squad of players.

Screen Shot 2021-07-14 at 11.05.38 AM.pngEPA-EFE/Carl Recine, POOL

Southgate is far from alone in this approach. Most major sports teams now involve a large team of managers and assistants and a similar kind of expansion has become apparent in the business world too.

Sometimes this increasingly large cadre of managers serves primarily to shield a leader from the harsh winds of reality and external criticism. But good leaders use their management teams as a way to expand the availability of skills and perspectives. Indeed, Southgate used his as a way of bringing in a wide range of expertise in areas including tactics, physical performance and nutrition.

Southgate also practices what is known as "shared" or "distributed" leadership. This is when the responsibility of managing and directing a team is not heaped on the shoulders of a single individual. Instead, it is shared around, distributed between the wider management team and also among the players.

Research has found that patterns of shared leadership are quite common in sports teams. And outside of sport, it also seems that teams which share leadership and decision-making tend to perform better.

Team Goals

In some large firms, rather than leadership being vested in a single managing partner, it is often distributed among a group of highly influential people. Recent research has found that collective leadership is vital in driving large scale and change in these organizations.

Screen Shot 2021-07-14 at 11.07.07 AM.pngA huddle of shared leadership/Recina

Southgate's approach to leadership reflects wider changes within soccer and society. A recent study of English football culture points to a shift away from what the authors term "Beckhamization," after the former England captain and Manchester United star player David Beckham - a popular and instantly recognizable symbol of that period of football history (though, it is not suggested the culture was his creation).

During the 1990s, the study claims, this "Beckhamization" saw high-octane management practices imported from the corporate world into soccer. Individual talent was highly valued, generously rewarded and strictly managed - but this celebration and focus eventually bred a culture of toxic individualism.

In recent years, this has been replaced by "Southgateism", a leadership style which that study describes as "modest, self-deprecating, down-to-earth, diverse and progressive."

Southgate's style of leadership (and perhaps future success) is likely to remain the subject of much discussion. Like many iconic leaders, he will be widely imitated, so expect to see plenty of middle managers showing up to work wearing waist coats and thin ties. But hopefully, they will also seek to copy his serious approach to shared leadership and collective responsibility.

Andre Spicer is a professor of organizational behavior at the City, University of London. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:41 AM | Permalink

They Flirted With Disaster

I'm travelin' down the road
I'm flirtin' with disaster

"Lead singer Danny Joe Brown died on March 10, 2005 at his home in Davie, Florida. He was 53. The cause was kidney failure."

I've got the pedal to the floor,
My life is running faster

"Bass guitarist Riff West died on November 19, 2014, at age 64, after a lengthy illness caused by severe injuries suffered in a car accident."

I'm out of money, I'm out of hope,
It looks like self destruction

"Drummer Bruce Crump died on March 16, 2015, at age 57, from complications after a twelve-year battle with throat cancer."

Well how much more can we take,
With all of this corruption

"On June 19, 2006 guitarist Duane Roland died at his home in St. Augustine, Florida at the age of 53. His death was listed as being of 'natural causes.'"

We're flirtin' with disaster,
Y'all know what I mean

"Guitarist Dave Hlubek died of a heart attack on September 2, 2017, at the age of 66."

And the way we run our lives,
It makes no sense to me

"Bass guitarist Banner Thomas, age 62, died from complications of pneumonia and rheumatoid arthritis on April 10, 2017."

I don't know about yourself
Or what you want to be, yeah

"Jimmy Farrar, who was frontman from 1980 to 1982, died of heart failure on October 29, 2018, at 67."

When we gamble with our time,
We choose our destiny

"Singer Phil McCormack died on April 26, 2019 at 58."

I'm flirtin' with disaster every day
And you are too, baby

"Guitarist Steve Holland, the last original member of Molly Hatchet, died on August 2, 2020, at age 66."

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Steve Rhodes:

Here's how this post came about. A few days before my trip to the Wisconsin Dells last weekend, Tim sends me this:

This e-mail exchange follows:

STEVE: But these have like one original member, right? Not quite good enough or bad enough!

TIM: Hm, I'm kinda surprised - Night Ranger's lineup is basically the original one. Molly Hatchet, not at all (most recent member joined in '84 and he's the keyboardist).

Esp. surprising to see Blades back with them from '96 on. According to Wikipedia that's when Nugent went solo again.

Current members

Kelly Keagy - drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals (1982-1989, 1991-present)
Brad Gillis - lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals (1982-1989, 1991-present)
Jack Blades - bass, lead and backing vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitars (1982-1989, 1996-present)
Eric Levy - keyboards, synthesizers, piano, backing vocals (2011-present)
Keri Kelli - lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals (2014-present; touring appearances in 2012 and 2013)

Current members

John Galvin - keyboards, synthesizers, piano, programming, backing vocals (1984-1990, 1995-present)
Bobby Ingram - lead, acoustic and slide guitars, backing vocals (1987-present)
Shawn Beamer - drums, percussion (2001-present)
Tim Lindsey - bass, backing vocals (2003-present)
Jimmy Elkins - lead vocals (2019-present)

STEVE: How can they even call themselves Hatchet? NO! Molly Hatcheted, more like!

TIM: Via Wikipedia, literally every original member is dead. Those guys lived hard.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:35 AM | Permalink

A People's History Of Uptown

Working with graduate and undergraduate students as well as community members in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, a new digital research and curricular project led by University of Illinois Chicago professors Anna Guevarra and Gayatri Reddy chronicles almost 200 years of history in the North Side community.

The project, which started in 2017, originally centered on the history of global Asian migrations to Chicago, but as Guevarra and Reddy did archival research for the project and engaged with community organizers in Uptown, their focus began to shift.

As a result, the project expanded to include the rich, deep and long histories of multiethnic people's displacements as well as their resistance to such efforts, and subsequent emplacements in Uptown.

The project visualizes and narrates these stories, beginning with the displacement of the Potawatomi and other Native communities at the founding of Chicago in 1833, as well as subsequent urban renewal policies over the course of the last century that have led to disputes over land, housing, health care and education.

"Dis/Placements: A People's History of Uptown, Chicago" tells Uptown's story through a host of different platforms and mediums - virtual radical history walking tours, interactive three-dimensional timelines, podcasts, artwork, zines, photo essays and geographic information system storymaps, to share a counter-history of urban planning and urban removal in Chicago.

"This project is dedicated to the people of Uptown who continue to fight, and who have been endlessly generous with their support for this project," said Guevarra, UIC associate professor and founding director of global Asian studies, and project co-founder.

A key community liaison for one of the projects in the Dis/Placements portfolio has been Emilie Lockridge, who has held various leadership roles for the Winthrop Family Reunion Committee for the past three decades.

Lockridge's ancestors migrated from Tennessee to Chicago as part of the Great Migration in the 1910s and moved to the 4600 block of North Winthrop Avenue in the 1920s. It was one of the first blocks to be settled by Black residents on the North Side of Chicago, and it also was the only block they were allowed to live on due to an informal race restrictive covenant. She vividly remembers her childhood visiting grandparents on this block every weekend. She moved to Uptown in 1969 where she remained until 1985 when she married and moved to the Chatham neighborhood.

Through artwork, storytelling sessions, podcasts and family photographs, the Winthrop Avenue Project illustrates the vibrancy and resilience of Black life on the block while also sharing the story of racial segregation on Chicago's North Side.

"What I hope people will take away from the project is to understand the uniqueness of our families, although under legal segregated restrictions, we were, and still are, a tight-knit extended family," she said. "It's been a privilege helping to connect family members and those who lived on the block who were not related to us, but were 'family' nonetheless."

Much like what her relatives and the extended Winthrop family did for Lockridge, she hopes the project can help pass along the shared ideals and histories to younger generations.

"Our ability and desire to be able to come together in love and respect for one another is rather uncommon nowadays. The values that our parents and the elders, or seniors who resided on the block, instilled in us, we have carried throughout our lives," she said.

With graduate students serving as project collaborators, research assistants, and interns and undergraduate students participating via classes taught by the two project founders, Guevarra and Reddy believe the project insightfully captures and represents histories of resistance to state and market-driven forces of urban renewal, as well as the resilience and value of working-class lives and multiracial solidarities in Uptown. The project also showcases the value of truly collaborative research and teaching methodologies, and serves as an important example of the benefits to studying at a top-tier urban public research university.

"We think that it reflects UIC's strategic priority of community engagement and is a model of how research and teaching intersect powerfully to engage students, faculty and community leaders," said Reddy, UIC associate professor of gender and women's studies and anthropology, and project co-founder.

Shilpa Menon joined the project as a research assistant in 2018, just one year after arriving from India to begin graduate studies in anthropology.

"Assisting professors Guevarra and Reddy over these past three years has been transformative to my experience as a migrant to the U.S. Having no background knowledge from being schooled in history in the U.S. made the process very interesting for me," she said.

Menon worked primarily on the walking tour, which features 11 sites with unique histories of grassroots resistance to urban renewal efforts in Uptown.

It begins with an account of Native American displacement in Chicago through the story of the American Indian Center and other American Indian movements in Uptown.

"By tying this history to the American Indian Center, we want to show that Native American communities continue to be a part of urban contexts," she said. "An unexpected aspect of this story is that of the Chicago Indian Village, a lesser-known and more radical movement of Native Americans in Uptown. They actually took over federal land in Illinois in the 1970s, demanding their due from the settler government."

Another walking tour site highlight relates to the Original Rainbow Coalition and is linked to what was once the office of the Young Patriots Organization, or YPO, a gang-turned-community-organization of working-class Appalachian migrant youth. In the late 1960s, the Black Panthers in Chicago led by Fred Hampton, reached out to the YPO and created a political alliance.

Working alongside the Black Panthers, the YPO became vocally antiracist, making the Confederate flag stand for not just Appalachian identity, but the history of slavery and inequality that it signified. The alliance grew stronger when the Young Lords, a group of Puerto Rican radicals fighting against gentrification, joined them to form the Original Rainbow Coalition, according to Menon.

"Today, it seems unlikely that poor white men displaced from rural economies, Black activists, and Puerto Ricans fighting for sovereignty would find common cause, but it is certainly the need of the hour. This tour site features the visions of the coalition leaders, and it is remarkable how profoundly their words speak to us today," she said.

Undergraduate students in global Asian studies courses taught by Guevarra and Reddy also contributed various creative projects - digital stories, zines, photo essays, ceramic artwork - that narrate and represent the rich multiracial, working-class, and migrant histories of Uptown.

One assignment, inspired by public art in Uptown, had students write about activism through art.

Cyril Dela Rosa, an urban studies major, wrote about an X-Men mural, which was created by an unknown artist and formerly on display at 4455 North Broadway. It was one of many artistic expressions of support for the Black Lives Matter movement that appeared in Uptown during the summer of 2020.

"The choice of focusing on X-Men was particularly striking to me because I happen to be an on-and-off comic book reader who followed the likes of Storm and the other X-Men through both their movie portrayals and their originally drawn panels," said Dela Rosa, who is also pursuing minors in global Asian studies and geographic information systems at UIC.

In his essay, he considers the artist's choice to depict Storm and the X-Men as related to elements of community-building and solidarity, while also representing many different facets of the Uptown neighborhood.

"By coming together as the X-Men, these Mutant superheroes find a community and strength in numbers as students under their teacher - the namesake Professor X. The X-Men were also significant to the world of Marvel as they were introduced as a diverse and inclusive representation of heroes from various backgrounds and identities," he wrote.

The Dis/Placement project aligns with Rosa's urban studies interests because he said it unveils the impacts of urban development, gentrification, and displacement, but offers different tools to shed light on these matters: storytelling and oral histories.

"These means of uplifting experiences and stories of those that have come and gone give life, weight, and legacy to the struggles that endure within urban spaces like Uptown," he said. "While my urban studies classes often analyze the impacts of urban development through quantitative research or policy creation and implementation, the work of Dis/Placements instills the value of personal connection and collective growth when doing community-focused work."

Explore the "Dis/Placements: A People's History of Uptown, Chicago" website or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Project organizers welcome the submission of stories or archival material about Uptown for potential use in the project at displacements.chicago@gmail.com. Donors of memories and archival material will be credited on the website.

Support for the project was provided by the UIC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research Award for Creative Activity in the Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the University of Illinois Strikeforce Racial Justice Community Research Grant; and the U.S. Department of Education via the UIC Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Initiative.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 AM | Permalink

CPD Hiring Is Racist

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General's (OIG) Public Safety section evaluated the demographic impacts of the Chicago Police Department's (CPD) multi-stage hiring process.

That process is often a lengthy one, including numerous stages designed to evaluate a candidate's cognitive ability, physical fitness, personal background, physical and mental health, and other predictors of job performance.

CPD's leadership has articulated the importance of a diverse Department, but the representation of minority candidates is markedly reduced over the course of that multi-stage process. OIG found that CPD has a disproportionately high attrition rate for Black candidates, especially Black female applicants, which contributes to the low number of Black officers hired, with certain stages of CPD's process most responsible for decreasing Black representation in the candidate pool.

Additionally, for female candidates, both a low application rate and the disproportionate impact of the hiring process decreases female representation by the time of hire.

The objectives of OIG's evaluation, led by the Public Safety section working coordinately with OIG's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director and Compliance unit, were to determine whether there are patterns in attrition rates for different demographic groups and which specific stages of the hiring process most impact the demographic composition of CPD's candidate pool.

Also, OIG assessed whether CPD's applicant data allowed for unique applicants to be tracked throughout the hiring process; the time it took applicants to complete the hiring process; and the data regarding candidates whose applications succeed through the entire hiring process.

OIG found that demographic representation among hired police officers substantially differs from representation in the initial applicant pool. Additionally, OIG found that:

Black candidates, while comprising 37% of the initial applicant pool, comprised just 18% of the pool of candidates invited to CPD's Academy. Conversely, Asian, Hispanic, and White candidates increased in their proportion of the applicant pool by the end of the hiring process.

Female candidates submitted fewer applications at the start of the hiring process, comprising 34% of the initial pool. The proportion of female applicants decreased throughout the process, representing only 27% of those invited to the Academy.

CPD's formalized preferences for applicants who are Chicago Public Schools high school graduates and veterans may improve racial diversity, while veterans' preference may increase the gender imbalance.

Academy recruits were clustered by neighborhood, and therefore poorly represented geographic areas of the city may warrant the targeting and tailoring of future CPD recruitment efforts.

The failure to track individual candidates at each stage in the process and other data limitations impair analysis of the equity of CPD's hiring process.

OIG recommended that CPD evaluate the stages of its hiring process for biases that most contribute to the disproportionate attrition of Black and female candidates, and implement changes to improve candidate longevity and boost candidate preparedness.

OIG made 17 recommendations to CPD and the Office of Public Safety Administration (OPSA) Human Resources to help with implementing benchmarks for diversity in hiring, which included the following:

* Provide candidates more details about disqualifying standards in the background investigations process and seek ways to shorten the length of the nearly year-and-a-half long hiring process.

* Assess the equity of accessibility for test preparation sessions and test materials, and seek ways to lower administrative hurdles for candidates.

* Coordinate with the City's Department of Human Resources (DHR) to review the procedure for applying status classifications to candidates, and have DHR establish and use consistent and appropriate race and ethnicity classifications in all CPD and DHR forms used throughout the hiring process.

* Apply consistent and appropriate gender categories.

CPD and OPSA responded jointly and agreed with OIG's recommendations, committing to continue to evaluate the hiring process and look for ways to improve it. CPD and OPSA committed to several changes to their hiring process with expected implementation in the near term.

"The outcomes of CPD's hiring process do not reflect the City's rich demographic diversity - not because of the pool that goes into the process, but because of the pool that comes out of it," said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. "It is the disproportionate attrition of minority candidates throughout CPD's process - not a lack of minority applicants - that drives underrepresentation of certain demographic groups among those hired by CPD.

"CPD's hiring process produces disproportionately high attrition rates for minority and female applicants, especially Black men and women. In this report we have identified those stages of CPD's process at which most of the disproportionate impact occurs, and recommend that CPD examine its process to ensure it is not contaminated by any bias. We are pleased that that CPD and OPSA have agreed with our recommendations, and we urge swift attention to changes that would make CPD better and stronger by virtue of being more diverse."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:16 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2021

Quincy's Top 10 Episode Titles

10. Go Fight City Hall . . . to the Death

9. Whatever Happened to Morris Perlmutter?

8. Slow Boat to Madness: Part 2

7. Dear Mummy

6. The Law Is a Fool

5. Sword of Honor, Blade of Death

4. Next Stop, Nowhere

3. The Last of Leadbottom

2. Slow Boat to Madness: Part 1

1. The Hot Dog Murder

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:11 AM | Permalink

The Billionaire Playbook: How Sports Owners Use Their Teams To Avoid Millions In Taxes

At a concession stand at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Adelaide Avila was pingponging between pouring beers, wiping down counters and taking out the trash. Her Los Angeles Lakers were playing their hometown rival, the Clippers, but Avila was working too hard to follow the March 2019 game.

When she filed taxes for her previous year's labors at the arena and her second job driving for Uber, the 50-year-old Avila reported making $44,810. The federal government took a 14.1% cut.

On the court that night, the players were also hard at work. None more so than LeBron James. The Lakers star was suffering through a painful strained groin injury, but he still put up more points and played more minutes than any other player.

In his tax return, James reported making $124 million in 2018. He paid a federal income tax rate of 35.9%. Not surprisingly, it was more than double the rate paid by Avila.

The wealthiest person in the building that night, in all likelihood, was Steve Ballmer, owner of the Clippers. The evening was decidedly less arduous for the billionaire former CEO of Microsoft. He sat courtside, in a pink dress shirt and slacks, surrounded by friends. His legs were outstretched, his shoes almost touching the sideline.

Ballmer had reason to smile: His Clippers won. But even if they hadn't, his ownership of the team was reaping him massive tax benefits.

For the prior year, Ballmer reported making $656 million. The dollar figure he paid in taxes was large, $78 million; but as a percentage of what he made, it was tiny. Records reviewed by ProPublica show his federal income tax rate was just 12%.

That's a third of the rate James paid, even though Ballmer made five times as much as the superstar player. Ballmer's rate was also lower than Avila's - even though Ballmer's income was almost 15,000 times greater than the concession worker's.

Ballmer pays such a low rate, in part, because of a provision of the U.S. tax code. When someone buys a business, they're often able to deduct almost the entire sale price against their income during the ensuing years. That allows them to pay less in taxes. The underlying logic is that the purchase price was composed of assets - buildings, equipment, patents and more - that degrade over time and should be counted as expenses.

But in few industries is that tax treatment more detached from economic reality than in professional sports. Teams' most valuable assets, such as TV deals and player contracts, are virtually guaranteed to regenerate because sports franchises are essentially monopolies. There's little risk that players will stop playing for Ballmer's Clippers or that TV stations will stop airing their games. But Ballmer still gets to deduct the value of those assets over time, almost $2 billion in all, from his taxable income.

This allows Ballmer to perform a kind of financial magic trick. If he profits from the Clippers, he can - legally - inform the IRS that he is losing money, thus saving vast sums on his taxes. If the Clippers are unprofitable in a given year, he can tell the IRS he's losing vastly more.

Glimpses of the Clippers' real-world financial results show the business has often been profitable. Those include audited financials disclosed in a Bank of America report just before Ballmer bought the team, as well as NBA records that were leaked after he became owner.

But IRS records obtained by ProPublica show the Clippers have reported $700 million in losses for tax purposes in recent years. Not only does Ballmer not have to pay tax on any real-world Clippers profits, he can use the tax write-off to offset his other income.

Ballmer isn't alone. ProPublica reviewed tax information for dozens of team owners across the four largest American pro sports leagues. Owners frequently report incomes for their teams that are millions below their real-world earnings, according to the tax records, previously leaked team financial records and interviews with experts.

They include Shahid Khan, an automotive tycoon who made use of at least $79 million in losses from a stake in the Jacksonville Jaguars even as his football team has consistently been projected to bring in millions a year. And Leonard Wilf, a New Jersey real estate developer who owns the Minnesota Vikings with family members, has taken $66 million in losses from his minority stake in the team.

In a statement, Khan responded: "We're a nation of laws. U.S. Congress passes them. In the case of tax laws, the IRS applies and enforces the regulations, which are absolute. We simply and fully comply with those very IRS regulations." Wilf didn't respond to questions.

Ballmer's spokesperson declined to answer specific questions, but said that "Steve has always paid the taxes he owes, and has publicly noted that he would personally be fine with paying more."

These revelations are part of what ProPublica has unearthed in a trove of tax information for the wealthiest Americans. ProPublica has already revealed that billionaires are paying shockingly little to the government by avoiding the types of income that can be taxed.

The records also show how some of the richest people on the planet use their membership in the exclusive club of pro sports team owners to further lower their tax bills.

bobble-desktop-0706-v2.png "Mr. DeVos complies with all federal, state and local tax laws and pays his obligations in full," a spokesperson for Daniel DeVos said in a statement, adding, "I don't intend to comment on the accuracy or inaccuracy of any data obtained illegally." Representatives for Philip Anschutz, Anthony Davis, Josh Harris and LeBron James declined to comment. Representatives for Stan Kroenke, Justin Verlander and Tiger Woods did not respond to inquiries by ProPublica. A representative for John Henry declined to receive questions about his taxes. Floyd Mayweather's tax lawyer, Jeffrey Morse, declined to comment about the boxer's tax numbers, but in response to questions about the fairness of athletes paying higher rates than owners, he said, "It is a discussion worth having."

Figures above reflect adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018 added together. The tax rates were calculated using the total federal income taxes paid during those two years, including both the employees' and employers' share of payroll taxes. Credit: Lucas Waldron/ProPublica

The records upend conventional wisdom about how taxation works in America. Billionaire owners are consistently paying lower tax rates than their millionaire players - and often lower even than the rates paid by the workers who staff their stadiums. The massive reductions on personal tax bills that owners glean from their teams come on top of the much-criticized subsidies the teams get from local governments for new stadiums and further deplete federal coffers that fund everything from the military to medical research to food stamps and other safety net programs.

Veeck's Wreck

The history of team ownership as a way to avoid taxes goes back almost a century. Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians in the 1940s and later the Chicago White Sox, stated it plainly in his memoir: "Look, we play the 'Star Spangled Banner' before every game. You want us to pay income taxes too?"

Veeck is credited with convincing the IRS to accept a tax maneuver even he described as a "gimmick." Player salaries were already treated as a deductible business expense for a team. That was not controversial in the slightest. But Veeck dreamed up an innovation, a way to get a second tax deduction for the same players: depreciation.

The way he accomplished this was by separately buying the contracts before the old company was liquidated, instead of transferring them to the new company as had been done before. That meant that the contracts were treated as a separate asset. The value a new owner assigned to that asset when he bought the team could be used to offset taxes on team profits, as well as any other income he might have. (Defenders of the practice contend that it's not double-dipping since the deductions are taken against two separate pools of money: the money used to purchase the team and the day-to-day operating budget.)

Team owners, Veeck wrote in his memoir, had won "a tax write-off that could have been figured out by a Texas oilman. It wasn't figured out by a Texas oilman. It was figured out by a Chicago hustler. Me."

Once the IRS accepted this premise, the natural next step - owners assigning as large a portion of the total team purchase price as possible to player contracts - was elevated into a sport of its own.

Decades ago, Paul Beeston, who was president of the Toronto Blue Jays and president of Major League Baseball at various times, famously described the result: "Under generally accepted accounting principles, I could turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss and I could get every national accounting firm to agree with me."

The depreciation of tangible assets, and their decay over time, is often intuitive. A machine in a factory and a fleet of cars have more obvious fair market values and life spans before business owners will have to pay to replace them. Take, for example, a newspaper business with a printing press that cost $10 million and will last for, say, 20 years. The idea of depreciation is that the newspaper owner could deduct a piece of that $10 million every year for the 20-year lifespan of the press.

But amortization, the term for depreciating nonphysical assets, was less straightforward. Sports teams are often mainly composed of these assets. Valuing and assigning a life span to a player contract or a TV deal was more subjective and thus vulnerable to aggressive tax maneuvers by team owners.

Several NBA teams claimed that more than 90% - in one case, 100% - of their value consisted of player contracts that could be written off on the owner's taxes, according to league financials that emerged in an early 1970s congressional investigation.

By that time the IRS had begun a series of challenges of valuation methods by team owners, part of a larger fight across industries about how business owners should be allowed to write off so-called intangible assets. The tax agency insisted that companies should only be able to write off assets with a limited useful life.

In an effort to stop the endless litigation, Congress inaugurated the modern era of amortization by simplifying the rules in 1993: Under the new regime, the purchaser of a business would be allowed, over the span of 15 years, to write off more types of intangible assets. This might have been welcome news for the sports business. But Congress explicitly excluded the industry from the law.

Following lobbying by Major League Baseball, in 2004, sports teams were granted the right to use this deduction as part of a tax bill signed by President George W. Bush, himself a former part owner of the Texas Rangers. Now, team owners could write off the price they paid not just for player contracts, but also a range of other items such as TV and radio contracts and even goodwill, an amorphous accounting concept that represents the value of a business's reputation. Altogether, those assets typically amount to 90% or more of the price paid for a team.

That means when billionaires buy teams, the law allows them to treat almost all of what they bought, including assets that don't lose value, as deteriorating over time. A team's franchise rights, which never expire, automatically get treated like a pharmaceutical company's patent on a blockbuster drug, which has a finite life span. In reality, the right to operate a franchise in one of the major leagues has in the last few decades been a license to print money: In the past two decades, the average value of basketball, football, baseball and hockey teams has grown by more than 500%.

ProPublica uncovered the tax breaks used by team owners by dissecting reports sent to the IRS that capture the profit or loss of a business. Still, untangling the precise benefits can be difficult. For example, some owners hold their team stakes in companies that also had unrelated assets - a corporate nesting doll that makes it impossible to determine the losses a team produced. The examples mentioned in this article are instances in which it appears the owners did not intermingle assets and the team's ownership structure is clear based on ProPublica's analysis of the tax records, court documents, corporate registration data and news reports.

Ballmer's Billions

When Steve Ballmer offered to buy the Clippers in 2014 for a record sum, the team's longtime owner, Donald Sterling, was taken aback.

"I'm curious about one thing," Sterling said at a meeting later recounted by his lawyer.

"Of course, what is the question?" Ballmer responded.

Sterling proceeded: "You really have $2 billion?"

The size of the offer was impressive considering the context. In 1981, Sterling had paid $12.5 million for the club. In the three decades that followed, Sterling had become notorious for neglecting and mistreating the team. He didn't provide a training facility for years, forcing the team to practice at the gym of a local junior college. He heckled his own players during games. After games, Sterling was said to parade friends through the locker room so they could gawk at the players' bodies.

But even Sterling's mismanagement couldn't stop the Clippers' rise in value. Players kept signing with the Clippers - drafted rookies because they typically have no other option if they want to play in the NBA and veterans because there are a finite number of teams to choose from. TV deals also grew in value. The Clippers had little fan support, and they oscillated between being league bottom-dwellers and a middling franchise. But before Sterling sold the team, the Clippers were expected to sign a new local media deal worth two to three times more than their previous deal.

The beginning of the end of Sterling's tenure came when he was recorded by his mistress telling her not to bring Black people to Clippers games. The NBA moved to force Sterling out. Ballmer swooped in, outbidding Oprah Winfrey and others. (ProPublica couldn't reach Sterling for comment. His wife, Shelly, who co-owned the Clippers with him, defended their tenure in e-mails to ProPublica, saying they weren't the only owners whose team didn't own a practice facility and suggesting her husband did not heckle players. "I GUESS WHEN THERE IS NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT WHY NOT TRY TO WRITE SOME SCUM," she wrote.)

Ballmer, one of the richest people in the world, wasn't just motivated by his love for basketball. He expected the team to be profitable.

"It's not a cheap price, but when you're used to looking at tech companies with huge risk, no earnings and huge multiples, this doesn't look like the craziest thing I've ever acquired," he said at the time. "There's much less risk. There's real earnings in this business."

Two years later, as the league negotiated a new contract with the players union, Ballmer portrayed the team's finances in a much different light. "I'm a new owner and I've heard this is the golden age of basketball economics. You should tell our finance people that," he told a reporter in 2016. "We're sitting there looking at red ink, and it's real red ink. I know, it shows up on my tax returns."

But losses on a tax return don't necessarily mean losses, as large or at all, in the real world. Ballmer was acquiring a team that had skyrocketed in value over the previous decade. And there was the benefit for his taxes: He was allowed to start treating the Clippers - including those player contracts and TV deals - as if they were losing value.

teamvalues-desktop-0707.pngNational Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School and Forbes (Note: Forbes did not provide data for the NHL for 2005.) Credit: Lucas Waldron/ProPublica

From 2014 to 2018, records show Ballmer reported a total of $700 million in losses from his ownership of the Clippers, almost certainly composed mainly of paper losses from amortization.

The evidence examined by ProPublica showed the Clippers have often been profitable, though many of the glimpses into the team's finances are from before Ballmer took over. Leaked NBA records during Ballmer's tenure showed the Clippers in the black as recently as 2017. Audited financials disclosed in the Bank of America report just before the sale showed the team netting $14 million and $18 million in the two years before Ballmer took over, with projected growth in the future. Tax records for the pre-Ballmer era examined by ProPublica showed the team consistently making millions in profits. Forbes has also estimated the team generates millions in annual profits.

Nevertheless, Ballmer reported staggering losses from the Clippers to the IRS. Those losses allowed him to reduce the taxes he owed on the billions he has reaped from Microsoft stock sales and dividends. Owning the Clippers cut his tax bill by about $140 million in just five years, according to a ProPublica analysis.

Players Pay

Unlike billionaire team owners, millionaire players are virtually guaranteed to pay a large share of their income in taxes.

The law favors people who are rich because they own things over people who are rich because they make a high income from their work. Wages - the main source of income for most people, including athletes - are taxed at the highest rates of all, topping out at a marginal rate of 37% plus an extra 3.8% for Medicare. The government takes a smaller share of money made from, say, selling a stock. That's not to mention the benefits available to people who own businesses, such as the paper losses created by buying a sports team.

So while Ballmer's tax rate for 2018 was 12% on his $656 million of income, Lakers star Anthony Davis paid 40% that year on $35 million of income. Tiger Woods made $22 million and paid 34%. Floyd Mayweather paid more than 37% on his $53 million income. Justin Verlander made $30 million and paid a 39% cut.

(In each instance in which ProPublica refers to "income" in this article, we are referring to adjusted gross income, which the IRS defines as earnings minus certain items like alimony or student loan interest payments. We calculated tax rates the way government agencies and many economists do, by including not just the Medicare and Social Security taxes automatically taken out of workers' paychecks, but also the share employers are required to pay for those programs on behalf of their employees. The rationale for including the employer's share as part of the employee's tax burden is that employers pay less in wages because of these costs. These levies make up most of the tax burden for the typical worker, a low but still significant percentage for millionaire players, but a negligible share or nothing for billionaires like Ballmer who typically don't take salaries and other forms of income these taxes apply to.)

In a few cases, star players have bought pieces of pro sports teams. But that doesn't automatically get them the low rates enjoyed by the typical billionaire owner. Michael Jordan, for instance, owns the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and a tiny stake in the Miami Marlins baseball team. His share of the Hornets produced $3.6 million in tax losses in 2015, even though the team was estimated to be in the black that year. He still makes a large portion of his money from Nike though, which is taxed at a high rate. That year, for example, he paid 38% in federal taxes on $114 million in income. Jordan's spokesperson declined to answer specific questions.

Ballmer's tax advantages reduce the revenue flowing to the federal government. At the same time, he has publicly bemoaned the perils of having a government that spends more than it takes in. He has founded a nonprofit, USA Facts, that provides data on government spending. "Nobody wants to sacrifice anything in the short term so that we don't leave these huge debt and deficits to our children," he told Fox Business three years ago. "That drives me crazy."

NFL: No Financial Losses

Perhaps the savviest tax play for billionaires interested in pro sports is buying a football team. Financial analysts believe it's exceedingly difficult to lose money running an NFL franchise.

"I think the NFL is the only sport where each team is profitable and viable," said mining tycoon Alan Kestenbaum, now a part owner of the Atlanta Falcons, in an interview with Bloomberg.

The NFL's TV ratings dominance, easily surpassing the NBA and other major leagues, is at the center of the sport's money machine. Each of the 32 teams - from the small-market Buffalo Bills to the brand behemoth Dallas Cowboys - takes an equal share of national revenue, mostly derived from broadcasting deals. In 2019 alone those deals generated $9.5 billion, divided into $296 million slices for each team. The league recently re-upped its contracts with the networks and added Amazon's Prime Video streaming service in an 11-year, $105 billion deal. On the expense side of the ledger, the biggest line item, player salaries, is limited since the league enforces what's known as a hard salary cap.

Those two sources of profitability drove the record $2.3 billion price of the last NFL team to change hands, the Carolina Panthers. But the sale triggered a dramatic swing in how the team's finances were reported to the IRS, records show. The Panthers suddenly went from producing large profits to suffering major losses.

The Panthers were built into a thriving business by Jerry Richardson, a one-time NFL player turned fast food restaurant magnate, who was awarded the expansion franchise in the early 1990s. In addition to its share of the league's national TV deals, the team quickly built up another major revenue source, selling out virtually every game to an enthusiastic local fan base in Charlotte. Success followed on the field. By 2016, led by MVP quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers won the NFC Championship and made the Super Bowl.

With the amortization benefit from the early years of the team used up, the Panthers produced millions of profits every year, with margins growing annually in the five years through 2017, tax records of Richardson and several previous minority owners show. ProPublica estimated the team's annual income based on the tax information of a complex web of team entities, as well as leaked financial statements published by Deadspin.

That year, after Richardson was at the center of a lurid racism and sexual harassment scandal, he announced he was putting the team on the auction block. Several billionaires put in bids. The winning bidder was David Tepper, founder of the hedge fund Appaloosa Management. Tepper, who made his fortune trading distressed debt and once hired Ashlee Simpson to play his daughter's bat mitzvah, is now the league's richest owner.

The $2.3 billion Tepper paid would produce amortization expenses of around $140 million per year, according to the IRS' general guidelines. That annual expense would wipe out any Panthers profits for tax purposes.

The team swung from a large taxable profit before its sale to a tax loss of about $115 million, according to a ProPublica analysis of IRS records, after Tepper's purchase in 2018. There's no evidence anything significant about the Panthers' real-world revenue and expenses changed between 2017 and 2018. The only major difference is the team changed hands, and Tepper now gets a tax benefit through his new entity, Tepper Sports Holdings.

Tepper's hedge fund is a massive producer of capital gains income - in the past decade, he has often reported more than $1 billion in annual income - so the tax losses produced by the Panthers are extremely valuable to him. A spokesperson for Tepper didn't respond to questions.

Golden Losses

The same year Tepper bought the Panthers, the NHL's newest hockey team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, accomplished what only one expansion team had done before by making it to the league finals in its inaugural season. Since then, the Golden Knights have continued to win. Off the ice, they've been among the best in the NHL at motivating fans to spend money on team apparel, and the Golden Knights have consistently sold out their home games.

The team's owner, William Foley, the chairman of insurance giant Fidelity National Financial, made it clear he wasn't in the business of losing money.

"We developed a conservative business plan," Foley told a reporter in 2017, the first year the team played. "I didn't want to write $20 million checks every year."

He likely didn't have to. Forbes estimated millions in profit for the team from 2017 to 2019. But for tax purposes, records show, the team produced losses of more than $57 million during those years. That was thanks in part to the team's ability to write off the $500 million expansion fee that Foley paid to the NHL in 2016.

In a statement to ProPublica, Golden Knights Chief Legal Officer Peter Sadowski did not respond to questions about amortization. He did respond to a question about one of the team's income streams, noting that the money from season ticket deposits was "used to pay rent, to employ hundreds of people, provide outstanding entertainment and create a source of pride for our community."

The Golden Knights' tax losses helped offset the money Foley made from his other ventures, saving him more than $12 million in taxes over two years, according to a ProPublica analysis.

The value of sports franchises, as noted, tends to rise inexorably - but teams sometimes lose money along the way. Internal NBA records obtained by ESPN in 2017 showed that the league's clubs were averaging almost $18 million in net income that season. But nine of the 30 clubs were in the red.

Even when a team spends more than it takes in, an owner can still end up on top. The amortization benefit can turn a loss into an even larger loss, which can then be used to offset other income and save money on taxes.

For example, Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, was able to lower his taxable income by about $443 million from 2005 to 2018 because of his stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, tax records show. In that same period, the team reached the pinnacle, winning its first-ever NBA championship in 2016.

In e-mails to ProPublica, Gilbert's lawyer wrote that the team consistently loses money.

"During the entire time after Mr. Gilbert's purchase of the team, the Cavaliers has operated with an actual loss (negative cash flow/negative income) unrelated to any depreciation or amortization and there have been no funds to distribute to Mr. Gilbert or any other owner," he wrote.

The tax write-off for amortization, Gilbert's lawyer argued, is essential to all businesses, from restaurants to factories to sports franchises. Without it, he wrote, "there would be no capital investments made by owners and businesses would be taxed on revenue without properly taking into account all costs necessary to generate that revenue. That would be antithetical to capitalism and fatal to the United States' economy."

Gilbert's lawyer added that the Cavaliers owner has paid "enormous" taxes for many years. He also wrote: "Your e-mail makes reference to other wage earners such as the players and their salaries. The facts are this: Mr. Gilbert is the only party referenced in your e-mail who has undertaken any risk. Mr. Gilbert has risked the purchase price paid for the Cavaliers, his subsequent capital contributions, the debt he has personally guaranteed and the players' salaries which are guaranteed . . . To compare the guaranteed salaries of the Cavaliers' players as an applicable measure of Mr. Gilbert's tax rate is absurd."

Advocates for team owners point out that when owners sell their teams, they have to pay back the taxes they avoided by using amortization. But even if owners ultimately repay the taxes they skipped, deferring payment of those taxes for years, sometimes decades, essentially amounts to an interest-free loan from taxpayers. An owner could reap huge gains by investing that money. If owners die while holding their stake, as many do, the tax savings may never be repaid. And their heirs can generally restart the amortization cycle anew.

Bob Piccinini was a minority member of the group that purchased the Golden State Warriors in 2010. He made his fortune turning Modesto-based Save Mart Supermarkets into the largest family-owned grocery chain in California. Already a part owner of multiple baseball teams, he entered the basketball world not because he had a particularly keen interest in the sport, but to make money.

"Sports franchises continue to go up in value," Piccinini said at the time.

His tax information shows he bought more than 7% of the Warriors. From 2011 to 2014, he reported total losses of $16 million. Nearly a decade's worth of tax data from other Warriors owners, also reviewed by ProPublica, showed many millions in losses - all of it during a period when the team rose to become historically dominant.

Meanwhile, leaked financials obtained by ESPN from 2017 show the Warriors to be an extremely profitable business, netting $92 million in one season alone. Forbes estimates also put the team well in the black during that period. A Warriors spokesperson declined to answer a series of specific questions, instead providing a one-sentence statement: "Over the course of the last decade, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into our team on the court, our overall operation and, of course, the construction and opening of a new, 100 percent privately financed arena in San Francisco."

Piccinini died in 2015. The court records about the inheritance he left his children don't specifically mention his stake in the team or whether his estate paid taxes following his death. But the tax code likely would have allowed his children never to repay the government for the paper losses their father enjoyed. It would also have permitted Piccinni's heirs to begin claiming paper losses of their own.

In the years since, Piccinini's son, Dominic, has been a courtside regular at Warriors games. An occasional actor in his 20s, Dominic has an Instagram profile that shows him high-fiving Stephen Curry and other players mid-game and posing for photos with rappers including Drake and E-40. In 2019, he and a friend went viral when ESPN panned to them drinking from golden chalices.

In an interview, Dominic told ProPublica that he allowed his family's lawyers to handle the tax details of his inheritance, which granted him and his siblings equal shares of their father's stake in the Warriors.

"It's just the darndest thing," he said in a phone call from a vacation in Mexico. "I'm a lucky son of a bitch, there's no way around it."

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. The Secret IRS Files is an ongoing reporting project. Sign up to be notified when the next story publishes. Or text "IRS" to 917-746-1447 to get the next story texted to you (standard messaging rates apply). Also: Do you have expertise in tax law, accounting or wealth management? We'd love to hear from you.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Steve Rhodes:

I just want to point out that when wealthy tax evaders say they are merely doing what the law allows, we need to point out that the laws get written they way they do because wealthy tax evaders hire lobbyists to write them that way.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:28 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2021

Here Comes October

With one swing of the bat by Adam Engel on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, the White Sox wound up nestled in about as good a position as anyone could have hoped for going into the All-Star break this week.

Engel's three-run, 10th-inning blast, his fifth homer in just 46 plate appearances due to injury, overcame a rare blown save by closer Liam Hendriks. Once the potential tying run - a fly ball off the bat of DJ Stewart in the bottom of the 10th - settled into Engel's glove a foot in front of the centerfield wall for the game's final out, the South Side crew could breathe easily knowing that a four-day respite loomed ahead.

While Hendriks couldn't nail down the victory in the ninth inning for what would have been his league-leading 24th save, Matt Foster, he of the 6.15 ERA, registered his first ever. Not only was it a 7-5 win over the last-place Orioles, completing a three-game sweep, but coupled with four wins in Chicago at the end of May, the Sox swept all seven games against Baltimore this season. In the entire 120-year history of the franchise, no Sox team had recorded seven straight wins without a loss in a season series against one team.

But wait. There's more. Lots more.

The Sox hit their high-water mark of the season Sunday, 19 games over .500 at 54-35. They hold an eight-game lead over second-place Cleveland.

With the Sunday's win, Tony La Russa's outfit had sandwiched two five-game win streaks around three losses primarily against sub-.500 clubs. The Sox have pummeled teams with losing records this season to the tune of 38-11. So what if they're 16-24 against the clubs with winning ledgers. That only matters come playoff time.

Talking about October baseball, Baseball Reference had the Sox's chances to make the playoffs at 98.5 percent going into Sunday's action. They were overwhelming 98 percent favorites to stay atop the Central Division. At worst, the projection for the rest of the season leaves the Sox with a 87-75 record, in which case they'd trail Cleveland's best projection by a game. At the same time, the prognosticators see the Sox winning as many as 101 games. Wouldn't that be nice?

Looking at the standings at the All-Star break going back to 2015 - not counting last year when there was no All-Star Game - of the 30 teams in first place in each of the six divisions, 21 held onto the top spot for the remainder of the season. And the nine who dropped out of first place still qualified for the post-season, thus giving further encouragement that the current South Siders will be playing in October.

As mentioned, Cleveland trails the pace-setting Sox by eight games. Again, going back to 2015, the Dodgers, who trailed the Giants by 6½ games in 2016, made up the most ground of any team since 2015, eventually winning the division by four games. No club in this time frame has come from as far back as Cleveland is now.

To summarize, barring a total collapse, the White Sox will be a playoff team for the second consecutive campaign.

However, if the odds prove prescient, going deep in the playoffs is another story. Once the regular season resumes for the Sox on Friday, the Houston Astros will visit The Grate, the same ballclub that embarrassed the South Siders in Texas last month, sweeping the Sox four straight while outscoring them 27-8.

The Astros have a 31.5 percent chance to win the AL pennant, says Baseball Reference, while the Sox come next at 22.6, followed by the Rays at 21.5 and the Red Sox at 15.2. The Dodgers, even though they trail San Francisco by a couple of games, remain favored to win the World Series at 32.5 percent compared to the Astros at 15.5. The odds of the Sox winning it all stand about one in 10.

Of course, we're talking about predictions and forecasts here, and we know that history, while looking favorably upon our White Sox, can be quirky.

The 1951 New York Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13 games on August 11 before going on a 16-game winning streak and ending the season with 37 wins in 44 games to tie Brooklyn for first place. Bobby Thompson's pennant-winning home run - "The shot heard 'round the world" - in the third game of a playoff completed the Giants' epic run.

The Yankees overcame a mid-July 14-game deficit in 1978 and beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff, thanks to the memorable home run by former Sox shortstop Bucky Dent. The Yanks then went on to win the World Series.

Moneyball highlighted the Oakland A's' 20-game win streak in 2012 as the team rallied from 13 games behind on June 30 to grab the AL West division, going 57-26 the last three months of the season. Bowing to the Tigers in the League Division Series ended the A's' aspirations.

And most recently, the 2019 Washington Nationals were crawling along on May 23 with a 19-31 record and wound up winning the World Series.

With the trade deadline approaching on July 30, general manager Rick Hahn will be cautious since his ballclub will gain two key additions in the coming weeks without having to sacrifice any future prospects in a trade. Eloy Jiménez, idled all season, began a rehab assignment last weekend at Winston-Salem and should be back with the Sox by August 1. Centerfielder Luis Robert isn't far behind. No other contender will be able to add that kind of talent for the stretch run.

Jiménez already drew as much attention as his mates last weekend in Baltimore. In his first game back on Saturday, Jiménez had a couple of hits including a home run to left field. In eight plate appearances, he hasn't struck out as he split time between left field and DH.

Meanwhile, Robert, who managed to stay on the field the first 25 games of the season, is ramping up his baseball activity in Arizona. A Gold Glover last season, Robert was hitting .316 before he tore his right hip flexor on May 2.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal also is slated for a return in mid-August after surgery last week to repair a knee tendon.

Leury García has taken pressure off Hahn by filling the void at second base due to Nick Madrigal's season-ending injury. Pittsburgh's Adam Frazier and Arizona's Eduardo Escobar, who initially signed with the Sox in 2006, have been most frequently mentioned as trade targets for Hahn.

However, García arguably has been the Sox top player since Madrigal went down a month ago. Leury is slashing .321/.402/.915 in 24 games during this recent stretch, driving in 20 runs and playing a solid, if not spectacular, second base. Only José Abreu, with 66, has more RBIs than García's 39 for the Sox this season. No one saw this coming. The idea of making a trade to replace García makes little sense at this juncture.

As mentioned, four players from the Sox regular starting lineup - Jiménez, Robert, Madrigal and Grandal - have been sidelined for prolonged periods, yet the club has been in first place every day since May 4. There have been many contributors, but none as important as the five starting pitchers whose combined 3.39 ERA is second only to Houston's 3.35 in the American League.

So while the injuries have been huge barriers to hurdle, the team's starting staff has barely missed a regular turn. Had any of Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodón, Dylan Cease, or Dallas Keuchel been sidelined for a considerable stretch, La Russa's crew wouldn't be 19 games over .500 today.

One might argue that Michael Kopech could step in to provide a more than suitable replacement, but he also missed time with a hamstring problem. Kopech is back now, and in two one-inning appearances last week, he retired all six batters he faced, striking out all of them. Kopech threw 28 pitches, 23 for strikes.

Before the snow flies, Kopech very well could be the determining factor for how far the Sox can go because he can be a force out of an inconsistent bullpen, and La Russa may be able to get five or six innings from Kopech in a starting role. Kopech just needs to stay healthy.

If Hahn can swing a deal for a proven relief pitcher, he might be willing to part with a prospect or two, but he might be just as smart to keep checking the waiver wires. Signing rejects Jake Lamb, Billy Hamilton and Brian Goodwin has worked out splendidly so far, and those additions didn't cost him one young player from the farm system.

La Russa hasn't suffered from a shortage of critics since he was hired last October, but that cadre of complainers seems to have shrunk with the team's success so far. Say what you will about the manager's strategy and handling of young players, but one trait unknown to the venerable skipper is complacency. Whether they're eight games in front or eight games behind, the goal won't change in the coming days and weeks.

This weekend against Houston could preview the future, even though the Sox will be performing without some of their key players. The Astros rallied for six runs Sunday in the bottom of the ninth inning to nip the Yankees 8-7. José Altuve's three-run walkoff shot was the game-winner. Houston also is 19 games above the .500 mark. They're 26-17 on the road and 7-3 in July. This isn't Baltimore coming to town. We'll get a glimpse of what may turn out to be a match-up made for October.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:03 AM | Permalink

July 8, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #364: Christmas In July

Expecting a cardiac event this weekend. Plus: White Sox Have Won Their Division; Cubs Open To-Go Window; Unsteady Eddie; NBA Finals Features Dreary Interior Cities; The New Boston; Eurotrash; The COVID Olympics; Sky Lark; Red Stars Dine 'n' Dash; and Chicago Fire On Fire.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #364: Christmas In July

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SHOW NOTES

* 364.

* Ty Cobb's lifetime batting average: .366 (OBP .433; OPS .944).

* Babe Ruth's lifetime batting average: .342 (OBP .474; OPS 1.164).

* Kris Bryant (U).

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7:45: Chicago Fire On Fire.

* Vavel: Continue Their Winning Ways.

* Raphael Wicky.

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12:25: White Sox Have Won The Division.

* Adam Eaton designated for assignment: Why don't people like you? Due Monday.

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21:34: Cubs Open To-Go Window.

LOL.

*

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32:56: Unsteady Eddie.

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39:24: NBA Finals Feature Dreary Interior Cities.

* Christopher Emmanuel Paul's Phoenix Suns vs. Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks.

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47:05: Titletown, USA.

* Tampa Bay is the new Boston.

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52:28: Eurotrash.

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54:33: COVID Olympics.

*

*

*

*

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59:48: Sky Lark.

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1:00:44: Red Stars Dine 'n' Dash.

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1:01:36: Christmas In July.

* Where Rhodes is going this weekend.

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STOPPAGE: 6:13

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:22 AM | Permalink

July 5, 2021

Yerminated

The Yerminator has been terminated, and we should have seen it coming.

Not only was Yermín Mercedes never going to hit .300, and perhaps not even close to it, but changes in today's game were stacked against him from the very beginning.

Please understand. When the White Sox former-Designated Hitter started the season with eight straight hits and was clipping along with a slash line of .415/.455/1.113 at the close of April, he had created a burgeoning legend. His energy, confidence, demeanor, and that strong stocky frame, energized the team and its fandom the first month of the season. He closed the gap that the devastating injury to Eloy Jiménez had left in the middle of the club's lineup.

This was an unexpected, exciting development, and if you got caught up in the overt joy and the I-can't-believe-it passion of it all, you were not alone.

However, when Mercedes was shipped out to Charlotte last Friday, his slashing had diminished to .162/.236/.443 over 32 games beginning on May 18. He had homered once in that stretch.

Some observers blamed manager Tony La Russa for chastising his 28-year-old rookie for his ill-fated 3-0 swing, and resulting home run, against the Twins in a 16-4 blowout. While that might have blindsided Mercedes, sending him into a funk, far more important factors determined his unfortunate turnaround, not the least of which were pitchers who quickly began exploiting his weaknesses. Word tends to travel fast in the world of major league baseball.

The role of the DH, except in a few specific cases, also doomed Mercedes. He stopped hitting, the only skill asked of him, while more talented teammates languished on the bench. The Sox weren't able to abide by this arrangement.

The rationale behind the birth of the designated hitter in the American League back in 1973 was a solution for putting more offense into the game and eliminating an almost-sure out by having pitchers grab a bat. When Ron Blomberg, then of the Yankees, stepped to the plate on April 6, 1973 as the first designated hitter in baseball history, aging players, who couldn't run but still could hit, also got a new lease on their careers.

Frank Thomas, the greatest hitter in White Sox history, played just 38 games in the field the last eight seasons (2001-08) of his career before retiring at 40. Another Sox Hall-of-Famer, Harold Baines, was a fine outfielder until his knees dictated that he become a full-time DH. Baines played until he was 42, but during his final nine seasons (1993-2001), he appeared in only two innings in right field. That was in a Sox game in 1997 when, fortunately, Harold wasn't called upon the handle a fly ball.

Of course, the Big Hurt and Harold were not alone as far as veteran players whose physical limitations no longer permitted them to play defense. The careers of Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez were extended by eight and 10 seasons, respectively, once they became full-time DHs. Same with Big Papi in Boston.

We have very few of those kinds of designated hitters in the game today. With the notable exception of the Twins' Nelson Cruz, who turned 41 last week, DHs in present lineups usually are regular players who take turns in the designated hitter spot. Rotating the DH gives managers an opportunity to give players like José Abreu and Yasmani Grandal a bit of a rest as they don't have to play in the field. Almost every American League club employs this arrangement.

Cruz's 66 appearances at DH this season is the most by any player. He hasn't played in the field all season, and that is unlikely to change. The Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton is the only other player to toil solely as a DH, appearing in 60 games without being called upon to play in the field. In fact, the oft-injured Stanton, who's only 31, has been a one-way player the past two seasons.

Other players, like Boston's J.D. Martinez, Houston's Yordan Alvarez and Tampa Bay's Austin Meadows, might be their team's primary designated hitter, but they all also play frequently in the field. Even future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, now 38 and in his 19th season, has almost as many starts at first base (28) as he does at DH (34). Meanwhile, Mercedes, a catcher by trade, has played only two innings this season in the field, the second of which came in the ninth inning of last Wednesday's 13-3 blowout of the Twins.

You have to assume that La Russa and the Sox front office have a low opinion of the Yerminator's ability as a catcher. However, in nine minor league seasons, he threw out 38 percent of would-be base stealers. So far this season, Grandal has cut down seven of 24 steal attempts for a 23 percent mark, while Zack Collins is 5-of-29 for 15 percent. Grandal's defense has improved the past few weeks as he healed from right knee inflammation that troubled him during spring training. Meanwhile, no one is going to confuse Collins with Johnny Bench when it comes to the craft of major league catching.

Nevertheless, Mercedes never got an opportunity to display his skills, or lack thereof, behind the plate. For what it's worth, in his first two games back in Triple-A, he played in the field on Saturday and DHed on Sunday.

This all adds up to the reality that the number of strictly designated hitters today has shrunk tremendously, and Yermín Mercedes is never going to hit enough to become a member of this elite group. Barring injury, chances are slim that we'll see him back at The Grate anytime soon - or maybe never again.

Meanwhile, the Sox continue to hold a six-game lead in the American League Central. Their five-game win streak was broken on Saturday in Detroit, and the fellows dropped a 6-5 decision on Sunday, thus losing two-of-three to the Tigers.

This should not be shocking, especially since Grandal and Yoan Moncada both were idled by a sore calf and bruised hand, respectively. Much has been said about the weakness of the AL Central. However, the Tigers, since opening the season at 9-24, have been 29-22 since then compared to the Sox 32-21. Detroit also is 17-12 at home since May 7. Neither Dallas Keuchel nor Lucas Giolito pitched effectively over the weekend against a Tiger team that has some pop.

Now it's on to Minnesota and Baltimore before the All-Star break. Those two clubs are a combined 44 games under .500. The flight of the Yerminator now has ended, but we still are waiting to see how far his former team can soar.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:08 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #363: June Swoons

Cubs suck, Sox survive. Including: Thermo-Bat!; The Captain's Mystery Illness; Who Knew What When?; Former Bulls On Parade; Illinois Exodus; NIL Mill; Wade Grade A; Red Stars Short A Star; Fire Doused; and The Euro.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #363: June Swoons

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SHOW NOTES

* 363.

2:45: Thermo-Bat!

"When playing baseball or softball, it is hard to improve your swing when you can't tell where on the bat you hit the ball," Arlington Heights sixth-grader Lila Nanisetty says. "My invention changes color in the spot that you hit the ball."

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4:58: Cubs Suck Slowly, Then All At Once.

* American Family Field.

* Bernie Brewer.

* "How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked. "Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually, then suddenly." - Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

* Dorsey, Sun-Times: It's Time For The Cubs To Have A Real Conversation About Jake Arrieta.

*

June swoon.

*

Next Drummer Up.

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20:02: Sox Rocks.

*

*

*

*

*

Gavin Sheets is the son of former major leaguer Larry Sheets, not Ben Sheets.

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40:21: The Captain's Mystery Illness.

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43:11: Who Knew What When?

*

*

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48:45: Former Bulls On Parade.

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51:45: Illinois Exodus.

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55:17: NIL Mill.

*

*

*

*

Geiger counter is what we were looking for. Geiger counter.

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1:02:31: Wade Grade A.

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1:04:10: Red Stars Short A Star.

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1:04:39: Fire Doused.

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1:06:24: The Euro.

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STOPPAGE: 8:04.

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:34 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2021

More Homeopathy Hokum

Selling falsehoods? A cross-sectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma.

Abstract

Objective: To identify the frequency and qualitative characteristics of marketing claims made by Canadian chiropractors, naturopaths, homeopaths and acupuncturists relating to the diagnosis and treatment of allergy and asthma.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Canada.

Data set: 392 chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic and acupuncture clinic websites located in 10 of the largest metropolitan areas in Canada, as identified using 400 Google search results. Duplicates were not excluded from data analysis.

Main outcome measures: Mention of allergy, sensitivity or asthma, claim of ability to diagnose allergy, sensitivity or asthma, claim of ability to treat allergy, sensitivity or asthma, and claim of allergy, sensitivity or asthma treatment efficacy. Tests and treatments promoted were noted as qualitative examples.

Results: Naturopath clinic websites have the highest rates of advertising at least one of diagnosis, treatment or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (85%) and asthma (64%), followed by acupuncturists (68% and 53%, respectively), homeopaths (60% and 54%) and chiropractors (33% and 38%).

Search results from Vancouver, British Columbia were most likely to advertise at least one of diagnosis, treatment or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (72.5%) and asthma (62.5%), and results from London, Ontario were least likely (50% and 40%, respectively).

Of the interventions advertised, few are scientifically supported; the majority lack evidence of efficacy, and some are potentially harmful.

Conclusions: The majority of alternative healthcare clinics studied advertised interventions for allergy and asthma. Many offerings are unproven. A policy response may be warranted in order to safeguard the public interest.

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This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license.

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Previously: Dear Pharmacists: Stop Selling Snake Oil.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:57 AM | Permalink

Arlington Heights 6th-Grader Invents Thermo-Bat!

Arlington Heights sixth-grader Lila Nanisetty was honored recently for her ingenuity at the sixth annual Invention Convention U.S. Nationals. She was among over 400 award-winning K-12 inventors from across the nation who were celebrated at a virtual awards ceremony held on June 24.

Nanisetty won the Best Engineering Award for Thermo-Bat.

"When playing baseball or softball, it is hard to improve your swing when you can't tell where on the bat you hit the ball," she says. "My invention changes color in the spot that you hit the ball."

Watch Lila explain her invention in this video:

Invention Convention Worldwide is a global K-12 invention education curricular program mapped to national and state educational standards that teaches students problem-identification, problem-solving, entrepreneurship and creativity skills and builds confidence in invention, innovation and entrepreneurship for life. To participate, students are required to submit a video presentation of their invention, a prototype, an inventor's logbook showing the journey of their invention process and a poster board highlighting key points of the invention process.

This school year, over 120,000 students from across the world participated in an invention convention program.

In an effort to ensure that students who worked year-round on their inventions received the proper recognition they deserved in a safe way, the competition was once again hel virtually. Prior to advancing to the U.S. national event, students competed at local and regional levels. To participate in Invention Convention, students had to submit a video presentation of their invention, a prototype, an inventor's logbook showing the journey of their invention process, and a display board highlighting key points of the invention process.

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Previously: Chicago-Area Student Inventors Changing The Game.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:55 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - Can Making Music Remake The Mind?
TV - The Real Mayberry.
POLITICS - Top 10 Pretrial Monitoring Facts.
SPORTS - The Women's Fall Chicago Tennis Classic.

BOOKS - Against Ramp Meters.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Recall! Elk Grove Village Empanadas.


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