Friday, August 29, 2008

Larry Elder: "Stalwart" Sage or "Staunch" Whiner?

Larry Elder is one of Los Angeles's most stalwart conservative radio talk show hosts. You'd think such a clear and laudatory label would please the man. After all, he's not one to back away from his core conservative values and principles when engaging in an argument with a liberal who disagrees with him. As such, the terms stalwart and staunch -by their very definitions- are fitting tributes to his steadfast and principled stance on conservative issues. However, on his program this evening, Larry decided that the mainstream media (liberally biased beyond the pale in his estimation) was using these very same terms to discredit the announced Republican VP nominee, Sarah Palin. He argued vehemently that these media outlets described her as a "stalwart conservative" as a means to discredit her.

Mr. Elder went on to lambast the NY Times and LA Times in a broader way for their use of these two words when speaking of conservatives only. He said that the incidences of Democrats being referred to with these two "negative" adjectives (which I and the American Heritage Dictionary agree are not negative terms) were effectively non-existent. "You never hear them use that term to define a liberal," he remarked. Hmmmm, I didn't buy this at all.

So, when I got home I actually typed into the NY Times search engine these words: stalwart liberal. If the "sage" was indeed correct then my results should have been nil. The sage was...

... not right. There were over two pages worth of article results (all from the last 5 to 10 years) showing example after example of NY Times reporters' calling Democratic politicians "stalwart liberals" or vise-versa. In fact, no less than Joe Biden, the VP candidate himself, was referred to in an article on 8/23/08 in the NY Times as a "stalwart" of the senate. What a putdown, eh? Hardly. Staunch was no different. In fact, the term "staunch liberal" had an even deeper set of results, well over five pages and still going when I stopped counting. But all this doesn't even matter because the words are not derogatory by their very definition. And that's the point beyond all points here: The terms staunch and stalwart are not insults. Far from it.

The American Heritage dictionary defines stalwart like this: ADJECTIVE: 1. Having or marked by imposing physical strength. 2. Firm and resolute; stout.
NOUN: 1. One who is physically and morally strong. 2. One who steadfastly supports an organization or cause: party stalwarts.

Staunch is defined like this: ADJECTIVE: 1. Firm and steadfast; true. See synonyms at faithful. 2. Having a strong or substantial construction or constitution.

Larry, my friend, if these are descriptives you'd prefer not to go by, let me tell you that I know many a proud Democrat who'd gladly accept them, including me. Because I am staunch defender of liberal views, and a stalwart member of the Democratic Party. You can always start referring to yourself by the antonym, I suppose... the frail conservative.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Sports Fan's Tale

What is it about a stupid sports game that can reduce me to my 10 year old self in no time flat? It's such a ridiculous thing to invest the full spectrum emotions in a game, but I do it every time. Such was the case yesterday when my Dallas Cowboys came up short against the New York Giants. It wasn't supposed to happen. All four Fox NFL Sunday hosts predicted it wouldn't. Yet, when Tony Romo threw that last desperate pass into the end zone and had it intercepted... it did. And with that interception an entire season predicated on redemption (Romo's fumbled field goal snap cost the team a playoff game last year) was over. Just like that. Gone. The 13 wins versus only 3 losses were rendered meaningless. I was rendered joyless. And for the next hour or so the "sigh" became my only outlet.

Yes, it's monumentally cliche to draw broad and simplistic comparisons to life here, and I'm certainly no Frank DeFord, but that won't stop me from trying.

Investing in a pro sports team's season is replete with all the ups and downs of life itself. You see the possibilities, the hope, the promise of something big, and you get wrapped up in it. Each game is a new and exciting chapter as the season builds and transforms from a few initial contests into a fully formed narrative with individual stories that combine to form a more compelling group story. Teams take on personalities via these building narratives, and you in turn get drawn into the tale, placing your hopes and fears in their capable hands.

This year, for the Cowboys, the tale was all about a young savior named Tony Romo who bounced back from last year's devastating finale to resurrect America's Team. He was canonized as the second coming of Brett Favre by many, and he seemed to be living up to the hype. Each week he stepped on the field and dazzled fans and commentators alike with his high energy play and laser guided throws. He was the perfect son, and the city of Dallas embraced him as such. He could do no wrong! Then came the obligatory plot twist, this time in the form of a blonde bombshell pop singer. Her name was Jessica Simpson. Her father, a sort of modern day Colonel Tom Parker, having conscripted both his comely (but woefully inept) daughters into ill fated pop singing careers, now had his sights on another scheme: engineer a union of his rapidly fading starlet daughter with the rapidly rising star quarterback of the hometown team to stem the impending tide of finality that was encroaching upon said daughter's time in Hollywood. It would be the perfect vehicle to keep her bimbonic self in the limelight and to at least delay the inevitable descent into the permanent "where are they now?" file. She soon became Kim Bassinger in The Natural tempting Roy Hobbs with her feminine wiles and distracting him from the game. It was a necessary detour. After all, every good story needs "complications" in order to -as they say in Hollywood- "raise the stakes." And at least temporarily, it served to do just that. Suddenly the plot thickened, and the movie got more interesting as our heros were in jeopardy of losing everything over a girl. Helen of Troy she was, or at least Jessica of Tony, donning her pink number 9 jersey from high above the modern day Coliseum, pretending to be a wallflower as TV cameras zoomed in from all angles. But she was no wallflower. She was poison! Arsenic! Black death to all who would dare to spend a weekend in Mexico with her! Whatever she was, the media grabbed onto the delectable morsel of boy meets girl, girl hexes boy, boy blows season and savoured every salacious bite. Alas, however, as with all good stories this was a red herring.

The real achilles heel was the team itself. They were the sole architects of their own demise. Mental errors. Missed opportunities. The onset of lethargy. All of these were the true culprits in the unraveling of a tale woven with hope, possibility, and the promise of something big. But it was not meant to be.

And so, disappointment takes the place of expectancy. Grief supplants exultation. Fiction crumbles into heartbreaking reality. Yes, the pain fades. Slowly. But it never vanishes. It merely slogs off into its appropriate corner of the mind's file folder where it will be accessed on occasion for the next year until it all begins anew. The hope. The possibility. The promise of a story that even the best in Hollywood couldn't possibly script.