Jon Reed Goes Off On... March 2008
Tuesday, March, 25 2008
Verizon Mobile Sports: Disrupting a Dinner Date Near You
Verizon is running a clever series of commercials right now for its ESPN-driven sports update service, where you can get all kinds of sports scores and highlights right on your cell phone. On the surface, it seems cool for the so-called sports “nut” - if you want to get your sports updates wherever you are, why not give it a try? It’s the backstory that I find both amusing and a little repugnant. The amusing part? ESPN first tried to launch this service on its own, with its own phones and service, and suffered a rare, humiliating commercial failure. There’s definitely something funny about seeing ESPN’s marketing turd all shiny and new with Verizon’s name and logo trying to cover up the warmed-over smell.
The second aspect, the repugnant part, comes into play with the idea that it’s somehow cool or appropriate to sneak peeks at your scores and highlights in the midst of all kind of formal occasions - in the case of the two commercials I’ve seen, company meetings and baby showers. It may seem harmless to promote such behavior, but anyone who has ever tried to give a presentation while some attention-deficit-disorder douchebag pounds text messages to vague social prospects knows that this kind of technology is nibbling away at the last remaining social conventions. I know this: if I see some glory days fraternity brother cheering when Alex Rodriguez manages to luck into a clutch hit in the middle of a talk I am giving, I’m gonna step away from my PowerPoint and pound his phone into shrapnel.
It’s great to have the convenience of updates, but is it too old-fashioned to wonder whether this makes us better human beings? If you can’t wait till you get home to find out whether the Sox left a runner stranded on third in the sixth, then you probably have a personality defect. The constant barrage of incoming information makes us terrible listeners, lacking focus for the people and projects that deserve our time and attention.
I watch and listen to a lot of sports, and if I don’t see a need for such a service in my life, it makes me wonder about the headspace of the people Verizon is marketing to. Of course, this problem is hardly limited to sports. I’ve been out on social occasions where someone got involved with a text message in the middle of a one-on-one conversation with me, without even bothering to excuse themselves or apologize. I guess it’s possible that I am such a terrible conversationalist that people are doing this out of social desperation, but I’m going to hold onto the illusion that it’s worth it to listen to me.
At any rate, whether I am worthy of focused conversation is irrelevant. What is relevant is that I’m not going to put up with it. The first person who checks their Verizon score update in the middle of a dinner date with me gets to contend with the bill all by themselves. They can watch the highlights all they want while I drive off in search of someone who still prefers human contact to constant childish stimulation.
Thursday, March, 06 2008
Congress Strikes Out on Clemens Hearing
A few readers have asked for my take on Roger Clemens. I have held off because my rule is that I try not to weigh in unless I have something to contribute that has not been added before. It’s a pretty stern test - after all, how many things in this world are truly original - but at least I try to avoid just adding to the noise.
With Clemens, it was hard not to pile on. Obviously Brian McNamee is not someone to go on a workout regimen with, and I think he’s coated with something that wouldn’t wash off easily in the shower, but that aside, Roger Clemens is clearly a cheater and a liar, and more objectionably, a bullying serial-lying cover up artist brandishing his power to talk down to us and attempt to shape his media message with impunity, and anyone who doesn’t realize this is either an apologist, a disinterested non-sports fan, or in serious denial.
But that’s not the point. Clemens is becoming like OJ: a polarizing topic that everyone has made up their minds up on. Further evidence is not likely to sway anyone; the only way to win this kind of argument is to put your fist in someone’s face, and then of course you have invalidated the intellectual integrity of your own position.
But I was disgusted by a different aspect of this matter. I am hardly the first person to comment on this, probably I am more like the last. But what I found disheartening was how the entire Congressional hearing devoted broke down along party lines. All the Republicans fell in line as McNamee-bashers, and all the Democrats were Clemens skeptics.
Of course, one of the things that the Republicans cited to justify their view of McNamee-as-liar was the much-contested Canseco party, an aspect of McNamee’s testimony that looks to be well on its way towards total vindication. But nevermind that, as long as they were able to give McNamee a huge on-camera beat down. One Republican, Mark Souder, gave somewhat of a balanced view, but that was it for independent thinking.
The hearing made more fascinating television, but it was devastating as well. After all, if our leaders can’t demonstrate an ability to think for themselves and take their own stands, even when it goes against party lines, then how can we possibly solve the more pressing matters of the day? Is anyone in Washington addressing real problems, or are we just marching in lockstep party lines, out of deference to party leaders and their agendas? And if it’s the latter, is the name of that political system “democracy,” or should we be calling it something else?
If the job of such a hearing is to get to the truth, then there was somewhat of a positive late breaking development recently, when the chair of the committee, Henry Waxman (Democrat) and the ranking Republican, Tom Davis, sent a letter to the Department of Justice recommending that Roger Clemens be further investigated for the possibility of perjury. All the Republican blowhards who implied the committee was deadlocked because Clemens and McNamee had both bastardized the truth are now lined up in unity behind McNamee’s obviously greater credibility.
McNamee’s lawyers said that the committee owed him an apology. I’m not sure if they owe McNamee much of anything, but they do owe the American people an apology.
To be fair, some of the information cited in the letter to the DOJ (such as additional documentation that Clemens was indeed at Jose Canseco’s party that day) came out after the fact, but even the willingness to assign such significance to the party on the day of the hearing was a result of the Republican members of the committee willingly swallowing the agenda of Clemens’ lawyers, who wanted to poke holes in the credibility of McNamee’s testimony by nibbling on the edges of a very solid center.
It was disgusting how the Republicans on the committee ignored decency, not to mention evidence, to rip into McNamee. Blustering Dan Burton (a spousal cheater who had no problem going after Clinton for the same during his impeachment hearing) had no qualms raking McNamee over some very hot and hypothetical coals, in the process overlooking all the legal history of how drug dealers and those caught in similar schemes almost always lie at first before the full truth comes out and they realize they can’t save themselves unless they offer up their friends on a platter.
Dan Burton, walk down the street to the DEA and spend a few hours there. You’ll learn that the lying thug who eventually comes clean to save his own skin is a very common occurrence. But Burton wasn’t the only offender, just the loudest one. Tom Davis, Republican co-chair himself, pitched nice, slow softballs over the plate to Clemens, including casting doubt on the nanny who said that Clemens was at Jose Canseco’s house that day, by asking Clemens, basically, “she doesn’t have very good English, now, I hear,” to which Clemens basically said, “no sir, she doesn’t.”
We find out later that the nanny’s English is fluent, albeit with an accent. But since her testimony puts big cracks in Clemens’ account, we might as well throw her under the bus with Clemens’ mother, wife, and anyone who ever had the misfortune of being around Roger when he was trying to shovel dirt on the truth. Bottom line?
I think these guys lined up against McNamee not just because Clemens had done a lot of pre-hearing palm-pressing that surely implied future Republican party donorship, but because they clearly don’t like the idea that some McNamee clone could come crawling out of a gutter from their own lives and bring them down with a bunch of old needles (or their equivalent) and testimony that bends but somehow doesn’t break.
And don’t think that because the Republicans gave in once the cameras were off and went along with the evidence instead of their agendas that I give the Democrats a pass either. It was just as disappointing to see the Democrats lining up on one side of the ideological aisle as seeing the Republicans lining up on the other. You couldn’t help but get the impression that none of our nation’s leaders had the ability to perceive the issues without utter submission to their own party’s roadmap.
Clemens has made his own bed, and the bold nature of his denials have put him in water that should become hotter than anything Barry Bonds has felt. His insistence on appearing in such a hearing and thus exposing himself to perjury charges is something that his ill-conceived lawyers should have steered him away from. But no amount of spin can save them now. I just hope that the biggest story of that ill-conceived hearing - the intractable divisions that gridlock our country’s elected officials - does not go unnoticed by the voters who head to the polls in the elections to come.