Monday, May 30, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

I drafted this blog while completing a 2.1 mile jog on this Memorial Day:

I had not run for approximately one week, and I was losing patience.  It was 1 PM, during peak tanning hours, and the sun and heat were merciless.  There were legitimate medical and meteorological reasons to postpone this run, but I would not yield.  Where are my shoes?  Where are my sunglasses?  I lost patience searching for my iPod headphones, so I proceeded out the front door, miffed but ready to take on the heat.  I could not wait any longer.

Without music, I blogged.

I started to think that we are born into this world, most of us in hospitals, and our first role is that of patient.  We are dependent on the kindness of others for survival, so we learn patience as a reluctant patient.  There is no other way.

The next 20+ years are defined by our impatience, wanting to push ourselves and everyone around us faster, and consequently, with greater recklessness.  It is a miracle that we survived, but most of us did.  It was a helluva ride, over in an instant.  Patience is not a virtue to someone in their 20s.  It’s a character flaw.

Once family and kids come along, patience is lost with increasing frequency.  At times it seems so hopelessly lost that we lament that “we have no more patience.”   We realize that our patience isn’t ‘lost’ in the sense of being casually misplaced.  It has been stolen by our children.  Funny those kids steal their parents’ patience, yet still remain impatient.  Their cups never runeth over.

As the children leave the nest, patience is restored.  We drift towards retirement, often involuntarily, and we can relax…just in time to enter the phase of our lives as patients again.  Some 70 years after our first stint as a patient at birth, we are once again dependent on the kindness of others for survival, so we learn patience as a patient.  There is no other way.

On this Memorial Day when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for all that we enjoy today, let us remember those in the diplomatic arena, those who demonstrated patience and quietly averted many cataclysmic struggles on the battlefield.  We may never know some of the names of those who worked so hard in anonymity to avoid wars and loss of life, but on this day, I thank you that the list of the dead is not longer.

We are once again dependent on the kindness of others for survival.  Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Court Order

Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, No. 09-115

The Left and the Right both came up big losers in a recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision, and on balance, I think the Court got this one correct.

In 2007, Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act, not to be confused with the controversial 2010 S.B. 1070 law that allowed law enforcement to selectively ask the brown skinned, “Where are your papers?”  The Legal Arizona Workers Act, in summary, stipulated two things.  First, the state could mandate that private employers use the federal E Verify system to confirm the work eligibility status of all employees, and second, the state could impose penalties on private employers who are found to knowingly employ undocumented workers, penalties up to and including the loss of a license to do business within the state.

The Obama administration, immigrant rights groups, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Left, Left and Right) combined forces to challenge the law, but using different rationales.  The administration argued that the law usurps Congress’ sole authority to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.  Immigrant groups argued that mandatory use of E Verify, still considered to be a pilot program by the government, could lead to national origin-based discrimination in hiring.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued that allowing each state to create their own enforcement protocols would mean a web of 50 different rules and regulations, thereby increasing business costs of compliance.

I have some sympathy for the three positions, but that doesn’t change the fact that the law is legally sound and utterly reasonable. 
Congress should be doing its’ job and take up (and pass) comprehensive immigration reform that deals with border security, bureaucracy and process, discrimination, and a path to citizenship.  In the absence of leadership from the feds on this issue, states will continue to take matters into their own hands, and I for one cannot blame them for that.

I work regularly with the E Verify system, and my opinion is based on purely anecdotal experiences.  While the program is still considered to be in the pilot phase, I have found it to be fairly accurate, and much improved over the past few years.  I must caution, however, since there is a myth surrounding E Verify that it definitively provides proof that the person in front of you is the person they say they are.  The truth is that E Verify can confirm that the person they have represented themselves to be is legally eligible to work in the U.S., and nothing more.  Short of biometric information, that’s the best you can do.  E Verify, in my opinion, isn’t the problem, although it could evolve into the solution over time.

The third argument, that allowing the law to stand could encourage other states to add their own law to the national patchwork of immigration regulations, presents a real paradox for conservatives.  On the one hand, uniform regulations across state lines can reduce business costs.  On the other hand, uniform federal regulations take power away from the states.  When states’ rights and burdensome business regulations collide, who wins?  I’d like to hear this debated by the Republican candidates this fall, and watch them get tied up in philosophical knots.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and said that Congress had “preserved the ability of the states to impose their own sanctions” in an effort to control illegal immigration.  The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 placed employers on the front lines of immigration enforcement by tasking businesses with validating a worker’s identity and work eligibility once hired.  Shouldn’t the state then have the power to punish those businesses who duck that obligation?  It is doubtful that Justice Roberts and I will agree on much in the future, but on this occasion, darn it – he’s right.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Whip My Hair Back and Forth

Sony now has only one CD pressing plant in the United States.  Sales of music CDs have fallen by half since the peak in 2000.  Frankly, I am surprised that CD sales aren’t even lower than that, given the explosion of digital music.  I am facing the fact that the compact disc, once a new, shiny symbol of modern affluence for serious audiophiles everywhere, is limping towards extinction.  It is just another victim of progress in my life’s musical journey, and it makes me wonder what musical legacy my children will have.

Music and the marketing of music have provided mileposts along the highway of my life.  As a parent, I am now watching my children experience the sights and sounds that will write their life’s musical roadside signs, and I am trying to appreciate the memories they are gathering, without dismissing the entire experience as trite and destructive to their young minds.  It’s not easy. 

 For me, the journey began with the harmless 45 RPM record, and its’ A and B side tracks.  Having 4 older siblings, these discs were in abundance around the house, and I could slap them into the family Close and Play record player for a quick listen, or stack them 10 high on the spindle and let them play one after another.  I would spend hours after school in the late 60s and early 70s jamming to Vanity Fair’s Hitchin’ A Ride, or Sugarloaf’s Green Eyed Lady, or the one-hit wonder Zager and Evans haunting post-apocalyptic In the Year 2525.  Yes, I still know most of the words, or at least what I imagined the lyrics to be.  No long term psychological damage done, although that is open to debate by those who know me best. 

Back then, great music meant 3 minutes, 30 seconds tops, and everyone knew that a nickel on the arm above the needle would prevent skips over deep scratches.  Ah, sweet simplicity, sweet innocence.  Back then, CCR’s Lookin’ Out my Back Door was like a nursery rhyme (and not the tale of a John Fogarty LSD trip gone bad), and Iron Butterfly’s In A Gadda Da Vida, all 17+ minutes of it, was not going to lead to failing grades and a life of crime.  It might lead to long hair, but that was correctable with a pair of shears.  (Full disclosure: The drum solo might cause permanent hearing loss, particularly if you put your ear up against the speaker.)

As my tastes expanded, so did my appreciation for the longer form rock experience, the album.  The concept albums of the 1970s demanded a complete listen, from one end to the other, or at a minimum, a full 22 minute album side of 4-5 tracks.  The music of The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys filled the house.  You had to listen through the whole album side because skipping songs one at a time was too labor intensive.  The exercise of standing up, walking over to the turntable, lifting the arm gently, tapping it slightly into position, aiming it above the groove you wanted, and lowering it manually without damaging the vinyl was like a stressful game of Operation (kids, ask your parents).  Consequently, you listened to songs that you initially didn’t like, but they grew on you.  You were better for the experience. 

Albums told a story through the selections of music, but also through the cover art, the liner notes, the lyric sheets, and free band posters.  Who could forget the novelty of the working zipper on Sticky Fingers, or the hours spent decoding the hidden messages about Paul’s demise on the cover of Sgt. Peppers?  Today’s digital music is more aurally precise, but it comes with fewer and fewer tangible, durable pieces of memorabilia, if any.  Downloading bits of data can never replace the thrill of unfolding the cover of a 3 album set for the first time and studying the mind-bending art inside.   

We’ve gone from albums of ten songs, to CDs (that allow you to skip songs easily via remote control), to individual digital songs, to ring tones.  My kids are missing out on….something.  I guess the death of the long form was inevitable.  Novels became short stories, then magazines (Reader’s Digest), then blogs, then tweets, then texts, then just consonants.  It seems as I get older, everything is getting shorter, more compact and smaller (well, not everything – yet anyway).  And that’s always bad, isn’t it?

So what has replaced the richness of the musical experience that the album offered me as a young man?  So what is Lucy, at age 6, my representative of the next generation, listening to?

This is the musical legacy of her youth.  Video imagery that distracts from the banality of the sound.  At least she also enjoys watching The Three Stooges on You Tube, so all is not lost.  She’s getting some culture.

The days are getting longer, and nights getting shorter.  Summers that used to last forever are over in moments.  What I really want back is my youth, and the album soundtracks that made youth so special. 

Well you run and you run to catch up to the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath
And one day closer…

Ah, let’s stay positive.  Some things are better now than in the ‘good ol’ days’.  iPods are better, but thankfully, the experience is enhanced because of my proper grounding in the classics.

I should be more concerned about the message in the music than the delivery medium, according to University of Kentucky psychologist Neil De Wall.  The Week reported that “he and his colleagues analyzed the lyrics of Billboard Hot 100 songs from the past three decades and found a steady increase in self-centeredness and hostility towards others.”  Their research noted a decrease in the word ‘love’, and a greater use of the words “I” and “me” over “we” and “us”.

Can’t say I’m surprised by that finding.  It has been well documented that as we become more interconnected and interdependent through technology, we simultaneously are becoming more isolated and more self-absorbed.  It’s the great paradox of the modern era.   

I could blame the music, or I could blame society as a whole.  Or I could remember that I grew up OK in spite of listening to Devo, Blondie, and the Ramones.  Ramones’ classics Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment and I Wanna Be Sedated didn’t define me, and hopefully Lady Gaga’s Born This Way won’t define my children.

Headphones on.  I’ll try to drown out the thought of Lucy writing a similar piece to this in the year 2055 about how modern mid-21st century music cannot compare to the depth and quality of the music represented by Willow Smith singing, I Whip My Hair Back and Forth in 2011.  Hopefully, that song won’t define her, and she’ll write her own musical legacy, byte by byte.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

WWOD on Memorial Day?

While I write mostly for my own pleasure, there are times when a paying gig is appreciated.  As you can imagine, I can be very non-partisan when it comes to my personal income, so it was without a hint of irony that I accepted this assignment from the Republican National Committee.  I have been asked to prepare the GOP response to Obama’s possible activities over the Memorial Day weekend, so I have to be ready for anything!
The writing formula is fairly (or unfairly, as you will see) straight forward, and consists of two mandatory ingredients – it’s Memorial Day weekend, and whatever it was, Obama did the wrong thing.  The resulting flavor from this mix of ingredients needs to reflect the personality and message discipline of the assigned GOP presidential contender, but at this early stage, they are all interchangeable, aren’t they?  Let me know how I did.  WWOD (what would Obama do) on Memorial Day?

What if…

…Obama Lays Wreath at Arlington Cemetery?

Special for Newt Gingrich:  “President Obama never misses an opportunity to politicize a solemn holiday, and today was no different.  The President, who never served in the U.S. military for undisclosed reasons, staged a first-in-history photo op at the graves of our brave men and women who fought against tyranny and socialism throughout our 400 years of existence as God’s Chosen Nation.  This brings into question his fidelity to our military, and one’s fidelity must never be open to question.
Special tweet for Sarah Palin:  “Wreaths are for Christmas, but of course, you don’t celebrate that holiday, do you?  Shame on you, BHO!”
Special for Rick Santorum:  “The First Lady wore a sleeveless dress to Arlington.  I find that deeply offensive and out of step with mainstream American values.”

…Obama Spends Memorial Day with Troops in Afghanistan?

Special for Mitt Romney:  “President Obama today used our brave fighting soldiers as political backdrops to draw attention away from his dithering and international apology tour.  After making a point to state that the US shouldn’t “spike the football” after the alleged death of Osama bin Laden, he now wants to remind Americans at every turn that he is a man of the military.  One is left wondering who the real Barack Obama is, since he seems to change daily.” 
…Obama Sends Video Message to Troops on Memorial Day?

Special for Michelle Bachmann:  “Today, on this special day when we commemorate those selfless builders of our national memorials, the President dishonored our fearless troops by not visiting them personally.  Instead, he hid safely behind the camera lens in his luxury office in Washington, far from harm’s way.  In this cowardly manner, the President acknowledged the soldiers with his words, but look beyond the elitist vocabulary – where was his flag lapel pin?  I think the message sent by the absence of that pin speaks volumes more than any prepared speech, and I believe that the American people can see through this patriotic ruse.  If he was one of us, he would wear the pin.”

…Obama Plays Golf?

Special for Tim Pawlenty:  “On a solemn day when we remember those who went before us, those that gave their lives defending American exceptionalism, it is unconscionable that the Leader of the Free World would disrespect their memory by playing golf.  As you will recall, President Bush pledged not to play golf while our troops were in harm’s way; too bad this President couldn’t show the same respect.  Perhaps if he were born in Minnesota, the son of a milk truck driver, whose mother died of cancer when he was 16, and an avid ice hockey player turned successful two-term governor, he would have more respect for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.” 
…Obama Cancels his Golf Game?

Special for any undeclared candidate who needs a boost:  “President Obama, in a transparent attempt to pander to race fans everywhere, cancelled his Memorial Day golf game to spend time at home.  Isn’t it interesting that he encouraged the White House to leak a story that he chose instead to watch the Indy 500 in his government subsidized home theater?  Clearly, he will do anything for the white vote.”

…Obama Picnics with Family and Friends?

Special for Herman Cain:  “One minute, he is legislating a fat free diet to the American public, mandating what we can and cannot eat.  The next minute, he’s all over the TV eating fried foods and pastries.  You can taste the hypocrisy.  What’s wrong with a delicious and nutritious Godfather’s pizza, anyway?  This weekend, enjoy a 4 topping large pizza for only $15, delivered fresh and hot in 30 minutes.”

…Obama Stays Out of Sight, Reportedly Working?

Special for Ron Paul:  “First of all, the government should never mandate a holiday.  If we allow set holidays, it is a slippery slope before all your liberties are taken away from you.  That said, on this holiday weekend, this President chose to flaunt his high paying government job in the face of those struggling to make ends meet, thanks to the recession of his making.  Solely because of Obama’s callous disregard for the high tax rates that choke patriotic job creators in this country, millions are out of work, and he chooses this solemn occasion to hide in his office.  He is “spiking the football” in the face of the unemployed by working himself.  How insulting to those hard-working Americans who cannot find work to have their President literally bragging about his government job.  It’s outrageous!”

Remember, every time you read these statements in the papers or on your favorite Internet news source this weekend, I make a nickel.  Hooray for the Invisible Hand, and thank you to all who have served our nation. 

Now, where did I put that flag pin?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The LeBron-ization of Politics

In 2010, the sporting world spent months in anticipation of the decision that its brightest start, LeBron James, would make regarding free agency.  Would he stay home, in Cleveland, or would he risk it all and take his talents elsewhere in search of the elusive championship and greater glory he craved?  The anticipation of his decision led to a one hour extravaganza on ESPN, creatively named The Decision.  His announcement came in the first 5 minutes of the program, leaving the previously rabid viewers with 55 minutes of boredom to fill by surfing for what else (anything else) might be on television that night. 
The initial aftermath of The Decision was ugly for LeBron.  He was harassed by jilted supporters for leaving them behind.  He had to woo his new fans for moral support and lucrative endorsement deals.   The buildup to the decision was more exciting than the actual decision, and news cycle callously moved to something else more titillating within minutes.  After The Decision, it was time for hard work, practicing his moves, meshing with new teammates, and reclaiming his now tarnished image.  The monotony of every day work is not made for TV. 
The machinations of our current GOP political class remind me of LeBron’s The Decision.  The entire primary season thus far has been one, long dull foreplay before he or she deems the electorate worthy of The Decision: Will he/she run?  Some have made an announcement that they have scheduled a date for an announcement of their intentions to make a future announcement.  I can’t blame these White House hopefuls for employing the LeBron strategy of creating buzz around nothing.  It keeps their names in the papers and in the blogs without having to answer any challenging questions about how their decision will translate into a personal championship (aka, the Presidency) within the next 20 months.

“______ is running for President.  Now, what else is on until next October?”

Several candidates have decided not to take their careers and their legacy “to the next level”.  Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Donald Trump (so far), Chris Christie (so far), Jeb Bush (so far) have re-signed with their current teams, and will remain on the bench.  Rick Santorum has scheduled his “The Decision” episode for the first week of June, and Mitt Romneycare is still negotiating the rights for his announcement program.  Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are still talking with their agents and publicists, and teasing party leaders with tweets and red meat primary speeches for a vegetarian general electorate.  Free agency is on hold for those two.  Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich are going for the gold.  Those four have already told the public, “I’m Takin’ My Talents to…Des Moines?”, and they are suffering the post-decision gotcha questions, just like our 6’10” global icon did last year.

“Can you win?”

Like LeBron, it isn’t all about the individual.  He couldn’t win alone.  Championships are made by surrounding yourself with talent.  I’m not sure if Team GOP has enough talent on its roster to surround their nominee with a winning team.  The Republican offensive game plan is filled with gimmick plays (i.e. birth certificate conspiracies and guilt-by-association innuendoes), and it takes a strong defense to win this championship.  Today, Obama has the better defense on his side (Bush only kept America safe from January 2001 until early September 2001 – Obama has kept America safe for 2 ½ years, and he has that big OBL trophy over his fireplace).  Of course, all this could change in a matter of hours in our microwave culture.

Like LeBron, money is a huge factor in the decision.  As Miami Heat ownership will tell you, it takes money to win.  Can the candidate raise enough to compete through the entire primary season?  We all know LeBron can…

In between The Decision and the Iowa caucus, it’s the political regular season, and as we all know, no one cares about the regular season.  For our political players, it’s a seemingly endless parade of strange hotels, stranger cities, and venues half-filled with adoring fans and nutty hecklers looking to get their faces on TV (or YouTube).  No one watches the regular season in politics…except diehards like me.

Once The Decision is made by these pols to run or not to run, the early thrill is gone.  Primary voters may run to their TV sets and laptops to see what else is on…at least until the Iowa caucus.  All these candidates and potential candidates vying to be the next ‘global icon’ are better milking The Decision timeline for as long as possible.  Right now, it is the only exciting part.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bend It Like Lucy

Last night, I received the call that every parent dreams about for their aspiring child athlete.

“We’re interested in your daughter playing for our team.”

I was speechless, and we all know how difficult that is to achieve.  I was woefully unprepared for this invitation, an invitation that we did not pursue, mind you.  I took a deep breath.  I focused to control my voice inflection.  I needed to speak deliberately while maintaining a conversational tone.  I didn’t want to seem over-anxious, or allow my personal pride in my daughter’s skill to cloud my professional judgment of her marketability.  It’s show time.  My kid is counting on me.  I found a kitchen chair and forced myself to sit instead of pace the room with nervous excitement.

Another deep inhale, exhale.  How could I not be just a bit excited?  The future was now so bright, I had to wear shades.  I could visualize the four jewels of the celebrity endorsement dollar:  shoe, car, clothing-line, soft-drink.  Personal trainers and coaches, international tournaments and development camps, the endless dietary supplements, and sports psychologists – this would be our new reality, and it would all culminate with…dare I speak it?...a scholarship to a four year university.  It’s the Holy Grail of competitive youth athletics.  A free ride to the college of my – her (excuse me) – choice was on the horizon, there for the taking, and the coach/recruiter voice on the phone held the key.  Show me the money.

At last, someone outside of our Circle of Trust had recognized her talents with a soccer ball and two feet.  This was sweet vindication for all those hours of backyard practice, the early morning games, the countless orange slices and endless parade of leaky juice boxes.  The days of chasing her friends on the field instead of the ball seemed so very distant.

Did I mention Lucy is 6 years old?

Interestingly (or sadly) enough, this is a true story.  I did take a call last night from a coach who sees Lucy’s potential in soccer, and wants us to start thinking about travel teams and coaching options in the future.  For all you cynics out there, this was not a ploy to convince me to part with any of my hard earned money for an ‘exclusive’ camp.  All indications are that this was a sincere head’s up for us to begin thinking about where Lucy may commit her time over the next few years, not today, but in a few years.  I appreciated the call, and we will think about it.

I am left with one simple question, however – isn’t this too soon?  While in the abstract, tracking kids into competitive sports programs at such an early age is easy to dismiss, the emotion surrounding The Decision carries more nuance when it is your little angel being praised and groomed for potential success.  As an adult, I know that every kid will not get a trophy forever, but what if my kid could, with a little hard work and commitment, be one of the few that did?

I feel like the Tiger Dad. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

I share with you below a brief piece on executive compensation.  At the end of the brief piece, I have several questions:

CEO pay levels increased at a marked rate over 2009, buoyed by strong company performance, according to results from the Wall Street Journal/Hay Group 2010 CEO Compensation Study, which examined how CEOs at large companies were compensated across all forms of pay in fiscal year 2010.

The study focused on the primary elements of compensation for CEOs of the 350 largest U.S. companies to file their final definitive proxy statements between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011. Among the findings:

After two years of declines, total direct compensation for CEOs jumped 11 percent in 2010 to $9.3 million.

Base salaries remained flat at $1.1 million, while annual incentive payments increased by 19.7 percent to $2.2 million, yielding a 12.8 percent increase in overall cash compensation at $3.4 million.

For the first time in two years, long-term incentives grew by 7.3 percent to $6.2 million.

Pay levels aligned with strong results in company performance, with surveyed companies achieving a median 17 percent increase in net income and providing a total shareholder return of 18 percent.

“CEO pay has been under significant scrutiny, and some may have expected to see a different outcome in the 2010 proxies,” said Irv Becker, national practice leader of the U.S. Executive Compensation Practice at Hay Group. “But don’t let the figures misguide you," he added. “The real story is under the hood of executive pay. Many companies have re-structured programs to align pay with performance by putting greater emphasis on performance-oriented long-term incentive programs.”



If we continue to reward CEOs short term success in the markets, aren’t we incentivizing behaviors that are counter-productive for our nation’s long-term economic health?

The large income gap between the richest and the poorest within a country is one of the defining factors of Third World nations.  It is a source of tension and sometimes violence in these countries.  Shouldn’t we be more worried about the expanding chasm between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us? 
If these guys are the “job creators” who need lower tax rates and more loopholes, why is unemployment continuing to hover at 9% at the same time executive pay is up and corporate earnings are up?  Following the “job creator” logic we’ve been fed, shouldn’t these companies with expanding bottom lines be hiring?

How could these results reported by The Wall Street Journal be true during the administration of someone we are told is extremely “anti-business’?

In 1950, top executives earned 24 times the average worker's pay, 122 times in 1990 and 550 times in 2009.  Is this healthy for America?

How long before I am accused of being anti-success, communistic, unpatriotic, or worse, for pointing these things out?

Could it be that we are not being sold the truth?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doodles and Scribbles from Contender Turned Pretender

Fans of comedy everywhere were crushed to hear that The Donald would not be pursuing the presidency in 2012. I am sure that it was a difficult and gut-wrenching decision for this patriot. No doubt he went through several drafts in order to communicate his thoughts and feelings on the subject with clarity and grace. As luck would have it, I got my hands on some of his scribbles and doodles, notes he made while trying to summon the proper sentiments to inspire his adoring minions.

For your reading pleasure, here are excerpts from the rejected drafts of the Donald Trump announcement that he would not seek the Republican nomination for President in 2012:

“After a period of intense soul-searching, I am still looking for one. While some may believe that this qualifies me for the highest office in the land, I am not as convinced. Therefore, I will not seek the nomination of my party.”

“I appreciate the recent polls that show me winning the presidency with little or no credible opposition in 2012, and I have enjoyed being your President these past few weeks; however, I must resign the office of President, effective noon tomorrow. It’s been a helluva ride.”

“I have decided that I will not seek the Republican nomination in 2012 in order to spend more time with my family.”

“My lovely young bride Melania has told me many times in the past that it is better to withdraw early, and for once, I will take her advice. I hereby withdraw, and I hope that I have not made too much of a mess.”

“I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that The Celebrity Apprentice, airing Sunday nights at 9 PM on NBC, has been picked up for another hit season. The bad news is that I will not be your President…yet.”

“I have recently learned that the annual salary of the President of the United States is $400,000. Is this some kind of a joke?”

“During the most recent episode of The Celebrity Apprentice, which airs every Sunday night at 9 PM ET/8 PM CT, I had a revelation in the boardroom while trying to decide whether to fire Meatloaf or LaToya Jackson. I thought to myself, ‘This is what I was meant to do. This is my best destiny, and where I can do the most civic good’. Therefore, I will remain in this role, leader of celebrities raising money for the charities of their choice, and not run for the presidency…yet. Stay tuned.”

“I will run, and no one can stop me. Romney, I’m coming for you, pretty boy.”

“The stockholders of this country deserve a better return on their political investment than I can offer at this time. I am willing to contribute, however. I invite all declared candidates for the nomination to the Trump Resort and Casino in Atlantic City for a series of pay-per-view debates on fiscal issues. Tickets are available on my website, and if you type in the promo code “TRUMP”, you will receive a $10 voucher for the Trump Gift Shop.  This is going to be spectacular.”

“The best way to reduce the deficit is to create good jobs right here in New York and Atlantic City. Therefore, I have decided to best serve America by increasing the size of my business empire in the private sector. That’s really what the polls are saying – Grow, Donald, Grow. I hear the call of the electorate, and I vow to continue in my role as Job Creator-in-Chief.”

“Now that the top position at the IMF (International Monetary Fund) is available, I must turn my prestigious business acumen to the international finance community, where I can best serve the world, instead of just one little nation.”

“If I were to lose, I might not get my Sunday night time slot back. That’s a chance I just can’t take. I owe it to the loyal viewers of America.”

“I prayed about my decision, and He spoke to me. Apparently, the world is coming to an end on May 21st, so running for President isn’t in the cards.”

"I have sent my crack investigators to RNC headquarters, and you won't believe what they've found.  I can't reveal their stunning findings yet, but let's just say, I won't be running this time." 

Michelle Bachmann, we need you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Britches: A Love Story

Come visit me at my new home, 

We are fast approaching the ten year anniversary of the end of Britches as a retail institution in the Washington, DC area. I am constantly amazed by how many people miss the store, and wish they still had Britches as a shopping option. Of course, had all these people actually shopped at Britches instead of just thinking about it, the chain would still be in business. I will try not to let that lingering bitterness cloud my writing.

I get asked about Britches quite a bit, since I did work there from 1987 until 2000 (with a short 18 month sabbatical in the cellular business). I should be an expert on all things Britches, including the story of its demise. I hated talking about the end of Britches for a long time. I took it personally when someone would look at me in an accusatory manner, and sigh aloud with a touch of blame, “That was a great store.” I felt this was the person’s way of saying to me, “If you had only suggested one more Schnitt, if you had accessorized those Big Mitch shorts with a woven belt (2 for $5, or 4 for $10!), if only you had fully stocked the front two-way display with the proper size run of teal Columbia Whirlybirds (with zip out, reversible down jacket), Britches might still be around today.” My dreams were haunted by window display dust bunnies that frightened away would-be shoppers and a shortage of Merry Britches large shopping bags the Saturday before Christmas. For the record, it wasn’t my fault. I, like many of my loyalist Britches friends, tried our best. Forgive us, darn it, as I have forgiven myself finally, and now I can tell the tale.

To this day, I get the question, “What ever happened to Britches?” Here is a summation of my stock answer. In the future, I will refer all questioners directly to this blog post to save time and breath. I encourage my former BGO and BGT colleagues to add their own theories to this post.

The Price Spiral: Once you start playing the mark down game, it becomes a death spiral, and Britches started playing the mark down game in the 1990s. As we all know, price is only an obstacle in the absence of value. Britches offered a tremendous value in its clothing, but got scared during 1990s economic downturns. They used too many sale gimmicks (twofers and buy one, get one), and trained the loyal customer base to wait until the prices went down. We employees were trained in the axiom that cheaper price usually meant cheaper quality; however, once the markdowns started coming in the front door, that axiom was out the window, and the customers waited us out.

Over-Expansion: In the late 1980s, Britches added a women’s division for both the casual and dress genres (Britches Great Outdoors for Women – WBGO, and Britches for Women – BFW). In hindsight, womens wear should have remained as part of the mix in the existing locations instead of locking into expensive, long-term lease in area malls. We could have saved on labor costs, too, but I digress.

Around 1992, Britches began an aggressive expansion that saw men’s Great Outdoors’ store locations pop up in states far flung from the DC market, places such as Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Arizona. Total store count peaked at 127 across three divisions (men’s outdoors, men’s suits, and the fledgling outlet chain). Instead of establishing a strong presence in a few markets, Britches tried to establish a small presence in a lot of markets, and in the process, lost their unique culture.

Maybe if Gene Kilway hadn’t fallen asleep during all those real estate meetings…just kidding, Gene, if you’re out there.

Competition: During the true heyday of the Britches casual division in the mid-1980s, think about the competition that did not exist at that time – J. Crew was a catalog business, Abercrombie didn’t appear until the 1990s; American Eagle had a reputation for low end merchandise; Aeropostale didn’t exist; Banana Republic sold army surplus clothing. Manufacturers didn’t have their own brick and mortar locations, like Nautica and Tommy Hilfiger do now. They had to sell to stores like Britches to move their goods. Once that started to change, Britches didn’t keep up. For awhile, it was the only game in town; by 1995, you could buy a rugby shirt in 20 different stores, and no one seemed to care that our rugbys had rubber buttons.

Casual Friday: When it came to suits and business attire, Britches of Georgetowne was the gold standard. Like the Outdoors division, it had no real competition at its peak beyond Raleighs and area department stores. Joseph A. Banks hadn’t come along at that point. The suit division was too slow to pivot to meet the clothing needs of the new workforce that no longer needed 10 Nick Hilton suits and 15 Joseph Abboud ties. The stores were allowed to remain stuffy and tired, with their dark woods, brass railings, dim lighting and suspender-snapping sales team. Customer intimidation by sales team arrogance is not a recipe for revenue growth.

Ownership: Rick Hinden and David Pensky sold Britches to CML in the 1980s, and there were the obvious pressures as a publicly traded entity to increase revenue and expand the company. I am not certain that would have happened had Britches remained privately held. The real death blow was the sale in approximately 1998 to Paul Davril, a wholesale distributor based in California. I was never close enough to the books to know for sure, but it sure seemed to me that the absentee owners (we saw them twice a year) were more interested in a tax write off and an outlet for the goods they could not sell themselves. The company’s heart was removed, and that was reflected in the cheap clothes that filled the outlet stores.

Impatience: Richard Fulwood, hired from Limited Express as Director of Stores in the mid 90s, had the ship on the correct course, yet they pulled the plug when sales did not turn fast enough. He helped update the look and feel of the stores and the staff in one short year, but he wasn’t the clothing buyer. He couldn’t be blamed for the buckle-back khaki pants or the vertical stripe Henley sweaters (or Scott Warren affectionately called it, the “swenley”). The impatience with the sales turnaround left Fulwood on the outside looking in, and the company never really improved from that point forward.

That’s my take anyway, and I am sure that many former employees or shoppers will have their own opinion(s) on what happened to a once powerful brand in the DC market. Many of you BGO alums most certainly will blame the Meadowday backpack “lifetime guarantee”, and just as many will argue that the shark was jumped once the Warthog was released with the tail up. There are a number of villains among the merchandise selection over the years, but I hesitate to blame one over another.

Perhaps the real reason resides in my closet today. I still have a pair of Montgomery pants that looks good, isn’t worn out, and fits. Why keep shopping at Britches every season if it’s “Clothing for Life”? I mean, besides the need for fresh, undented cans of chili…

RIP BGO/BGT 1967-2002 from Employee #06906-2

Friday, May 13, 2011

The 5Ks of the Running Man

As Richard Dawson announced during the opening segment of The Running Man game show, ”It’s time to start…RUNNING!”  Of course, with that cry, Dawson was sending his contestants off to battle death at every mileage checkpoint against murderous villains with their low tech, yet deadly weapons, so the comparison to my running in the occasional local 5K is not exactly apropos; however, it is time to start running.  It’s May on the calendar, and the (early) July of my life.

Last Saturday, I ran my first 5K of the 2011 charity season, the prestigious Oak Hill Prowlin’ and Growlin’ 5K.  My finish time is not what I would have liked, and I placed 52nd in a field of approximately 350 runners.  My consolation prize was that only one gentleman that was older than me finished better.  Some 60 year old guy that they flew in from North Potomac, MD for the race beat me.  He probably had a sponsor’s exemption, and skipped the after-race PED testing tent.  It’s no matter.  I do it for my health and in the spirit of friendly competition, not to crush old men, women and children on the asphalt course of broken dreams.  Watching the losers, heaving and wheezing across the finish line after I have already finished is just a side benefit, not the main motivating factor.

Over the years, I’ve come to find out that running a 5K isn’t so bad, once I realized that a 5K does not mean 5,000 – the ‘K’ stands for kilometers, which is much more manageable for a race.  I started signing up for these after the 2001 marathon, when I realized that running for 26.2 miles, while an admirable accomplishment, is plain dumb.  It’s an enhanced interrogation technique, no question about it.  For me, the marathon was a one-time parlor trick, something that I trained to do one time – never again.  The experience did awaken a joy of running within me, however, and for that, I gladly endure the foot issues and the chafing.
You should run.  You should begin by signing up for one of your local 5K events this summer.  If you plan to participate in one of these fun runs, however, you’ll have to fully immerse yourself in what I like to call the 5Ks:

Knowledge – Read up on proper training regimens for the distance.
Knees – Use short, low strides to lessen the pounding on your fragile, aging knees.
Kommitment – Put your goal setting skills to good use, and stick with your plan to run the scheduled distance regularly, rain or shine.
Khallenge – Don’t quit, and run through discomfort (but not pain – know the difference).
Konfidence – Know that you can do it.  I remember people lining the marathon route 10 years ago shouting inspirational messages, such as “Oprah did this – so can you!”  At the time, I wanted to stop running and throw the motivational speakers off the overpass, but I couldn’t stop at the time.  Whenever you think the distance is too far or you feel too tired, remember – Oprah did it.  I was beaten in the marathon by a guy wearing a Kermit the Frog costume.  If he could finish, so could I, and so can you.

We all find our own motivation.  Personally, I keep running for a number of reasons:
·         Clean my lungs
·         Ascetic exercise to purge all toxins from years of recreation
·         Time to listen to deep tracks on my iPod
·         Clear my head
·         To draft my next blog post
·         To get out of the house alone for a few minutes
·         To steal landscaping ideas from around the neighborhood
·         To stay young
·         To stay thin
·         To school those 20-something punks I play hockey against
·         To model healthy habits for my kids
·         To make that first beer taste even better
·         So I can eat mostly whatever I want
·         For Bucko, because he can’t

Maybe, like Arnold in the classic The Running Man movie, I am battling death at every mileage checkpoint.  I may not be up against Buzzsaw, Dynamo, and Fireball, but that 60 year old runner from North Potomac seems just as intimidating at mile point 2.

“It’s time to start…RUNNING!”

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Ultimate Game Show

It’s been 4 days since the first Republican Presidential debate, sponsored by Fox News, was held in South Carolina.  I recorded the entire spectacle like any other political junkie would for future viewing.  I started the replay on Thursday night, but I only survived the first 45 minutes of the debate.  I’ll try to finish the remainder of the show tonight.  I learned a tremendous amount of new information during the limited time I did spend with the program.  Apparently, the 5 candidates view the Obama presidency as seriously flawed in every way.  Who knew? 

The line up at this stage on that stage does not contain much star power.  Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and two others with even less name recognition — former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and pizza magnate/radio talk show host Herman Cain participated in the event.  They're the only candidates who met the sponsors' criteria to participate. Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party required all participants to have formed a presidential exploratory committee, filed state Republican Party paperwork and paid $25,000 to get on the primary ballot.

Wearing the immunity idol this week were non-candidates Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and half-term Governor of AK; Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner and accomplished bass player; Trump, the reality TV show host and carnival barker; and the coy Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels.  They could not technically be voted off Nomination Island because of a verbal debate gaffe if they did not participate.

The field will grow, even as our attention span withers.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to tweet his intentions for a full-fledged run today or tomorrow.  Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michelle Bachmann – who knows when they’ll Facebook their plans.  Dissatisfaction with the choices runs deep, however, even with these potential players.  Iowa Republicans have sent a delegation to New Jersey (Iowans would never go to NJ voluntarily) to woo every neo-con’s favorite bully, former college classmate of mine, Gov. Chris Christie.  No doubt conservatives would nominate Reagan, Weekend at Bernie’s style, if they thought they could get away with it.  Come to think of it, I’ll bet the birthers would believe it and vote for the late President…

Back to Thursday evening’s debate festivities.  What struck me most was the game show format, and the mandated 60 second responses to questions that require hours to fully answer.  I expected Richard Dawson to come out on stage and kiss each contestant.  (“Welcome to the show, love.  Let’s meet the other members of your family, shall we, darling?”)  I had forgotten how hollow and staged in particular the early debates can be.  Lord help us when we add more suits (and pants suits) to the mix.

Regardless of my opinion on the flaws in the nominating process, I still watch all the rough and tumble fun, and I have some comments on each contestant to share with you today:

Rick Santorum
  • Stated that we should have toppled the Iranian regime 18 months ago “when we had the chance”.  Yes, overthrowing another Middle East country would have been a great strategic move, Einstein.
  • Spent a few minutes defending that he was not anti-Islam…while simultaneously proving that he was anti-Islam.
  • “Fully supports” the Ryan budget plan.  Republicans in Congress don’t even fully support the Ryan Plan.  Based on recent statements, Paul Ryan doesn’t even support the Ryan Plan.
  • My favorite part – Santorum claimed that the President controlled all legislation and could have gotten any bill passed that he wanted in his first 2 years.  The Constitution still includes a role for Congress in passing legislation, last I checked.  Rick, that’s a silly statement to make.
Herman Cain:
  • Has no opinion on Afghanistan.  None.  Says he’d ask the “experts” after he wins, and then decide on what to do.  I’ll tell you what, vote for me, and I’ll do the same.
  • Loves the Fair Tax.  He and Huckabee have that in common.  Hopefully once Huckabee joins the race, they’ll be a full discussion of that option among the combatants.  Tax policy needs a debate in specifics, not generalities – boring, but important.
  • On foreign policy, the Cain Doctrine is – if it doesn’t help the US, we won’t participate.  Practitioners of genocide around the globe will be thrilled to hear that.
Ron Paul:
  • His Libertarian views actually dovetail with too many liberal ideas for him to have any shot with the Far Right primary voters. 
  • He advocates an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
  • He advocates for an end to all secret prisons and torture of prisoners.  In fact, when Santorum said that torture led to the killing of OBL, Ron Paul said, “That’s a lie.”
  • Against national tort reform, but advocates all tort reform at the state level.
  • Poor guy has aged since last campaign, while his supporters seem to get younger.  His fans were out in full force in the audience.  What they lack in decorum they make up for in energy and enthusiasm for their candidate.
Gary Johnson:
  • I keep up with presidential politics, and I did not know this guy.  Easily the least presidential looking character in the bunch.  He’s looked like the guy getting sand kicked at him on the beach…by Jimmy Carter.
  • “People who are on unemployment for too long are lazy, and if we stopped all payments, they’d find work right away.”  Yes, if only we’d try harder, we’d be at full employment according to Mr. Johnson.  Good idea, Ebenezer. 
  • Here’s a winning argument from Johnson – cut Medicare by 43% and let the states figure it out.  Good luck with that one.  Hopefully, one candidate on the GOP side will eventually address health care COSTS in their proposals, instead of just shifting existing costs to the people.
Tim Pawlenty:
  • This guy has been practicing, and he was clearly the best prepared to address national issues through the prism of South Carolina politics.  He was a little stiff, but hey, he’ll get better.
  • I give credit to Fox News for this question, and I paraphrase: “Gov. Pawlenty, you have voiced opposition to Romneycare in Massachusetts, but 84% of Massachusetts residents say that they like the state’s program.”  Pawlenty never addressed that finding in his response.
  • Chris Wallace nailed him with another question, basically accusing Pawlenty of balancing the Minnesota budget with accounting tricks, and pushing mandatory expenses to future budgets.  Pawlenty will be a target because he’s the most electable candidate in this field, but I did not expect the first shots of the season to be fired by the moderator.
  • Pawlenty said we should have assassinated Gaddafi in the 1980s.  Did I hear him correctly?  We as a nation should kill the leaders of other nations as policy?  Hopefully, other nations will not endorse the same policy.
  • He railed against the NLRB for its involvement in dictating to Boeing where it could and could not set up shop in the U.S.  For the record, I completely agree with him on this issue.  A private U.S. company should have the right to establish their operation in any state they please.  He was smart to hammer this issue that is so important to South Carolina.  It’s a jobs issue, plain and simple.
I may never finishing watching this debate episode, so don’t keep hitting refresh looking for Part II commentary.  Besides, it will be a few more months before “the tribe has spoken”, and someone’s torch gets extinguished, either for lack of crowd support or lack of funds.  It’s best to tune in for that part of the show anyway, and let me suffer through the boring parts for you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rock of Love on Mother’s Day

Let’s all raise our cell phones in the dark in tribute to the women who rocked our world from Day One – our mothers.  We would love an encore to appreciate them just a little longer, wouldn't we?  Moms have had a special place in rock history, and I’m not just talking about The Mamas and the Papas.  How many rock songs can you name that use the word “Mama”, over and over and over again (not to mention “Baby Baby Baby”)?  It’s clear that even those anarchist guitar players hold a special love for their moms.  Moms rock. 

There are rock and roll songs that cry out for Mom’s help (Styx Renegade: “Oh Mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.”)  There are songs that recall the prescient advice from our mothers (Springsteen’s Blinded By the Light: “Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, oh but Mama, that’s where the fun is.”)  There are furtive confessions made to mothers that don’t really make much sense at all (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: “Mama I just killed a man; put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he’s dead.”)  Let’s face it.  They loved their mothers enough to include them in some songs, but methinks they might have been on the pipe at the time.  I mean, if he just killed a man, don’t sing it – you're making her an accessory after the fact.  And why bring Galileo in it?

So excluding country songs and easy listening ballads, what are the great rock and roll mother songs of all time?  (Not to be confused with the mother of all rock songs, which would be a different list).  With all due respect to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention (not represented on my list), here’s what’s on my mix this year:

Mama Told Me Not to Come –Three Dog Night:  That’s right, rock fans.  Three Dog Night finally realized that their mother’s advice was right, but probably a few groupie encounters too late.  Should have listened the first time, boys.
Mother – Pink Floyd:  This has to be on everyone’s list.  It’s on mine because it is the only song so simple on guitar, that I figured it out myself without chord assistance.  It helps not to listen to all the words and analyze what they mean; otherwise, you get kinda bummed out.
Mother – Police:  Could be the worst 3 minutes 5 seconds of sound The Police ever recorded.  Before CDs and digital music, you had to actually stand up, walk over to the turntable, lift the needle after O My God, and carefully place at the beginning of track 5 (Miss Gradenko), lest the party end when it came on.  The song’s name is Mother, however, and I could not ignore that.  It meant something to Stewart Copeland, so it means something to me.
Lady Madonna – The Beatles:  Wasn’t the Madonna Jesus’ mom, before Madonna Louise Ciccone came along with her music videos and kabbalah worship?  Lady Madonna had “children at her feet”, “making ends meet”.  That’s a model mom. 
Mother’s Little Helper - Rolling Stones:  I guess it had to be tough being Keith Richards’ mom.  Can’t blame her for needing a little extra to get through the day with a Keith Richards' teenager in the house.  We were all easier to raise than that guy.
Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby? – Rolling Stones:  Hey, baby, she standin’ in the shadows.
Welfare Mothers – Neil Young:  As Neil Young and Crazy Horse crooned, “welfare mothers make better lovers.”  This sentiment flies in the face of conventional conservative wisdom that welfare recipients are lazy.  Conservatives never listened to Neil Young anyway. 
Mother and Child Reunion – Paul Simon:  This is a song that I recommend listening to again.  Not a regular spin on your favorite FM station, but Paul Simon is a musical genius.
Mama – Genesis:  Phil Collins screams 'Mama' a few times in the song, and that reminds me a lot of my house on any given day.  Someone yelling for mom.  I am confident it was like that in your house, too.
Your Mama Don’t Dance – Loggins and Messina:  This song is for all those old, stodgy moms out there who won’t dance at weddings, scowl when they hear the word “hell” in public, and own a wide variety of underwear in both white and beige.  They’re still cool, though, ‘cause they are our moms.
Motorcycle Mama – Sailcat:  One hit wonder Sailcat has earned a place on my mother list.  I used to love this song as a kid.  Very simple, hypnotic beat that gets stuck in your head, much like the nagging entreaties from our mothers to either clean our rooms, make our beds, or do our homework.  These excerpts from the lyrics speak for themselves:
Your eighteen you can do what you like.
You'll be the queen of my highway, my motorcycle mama.
We'll see the world through my Harley.
And maybe in a year or two, we'll have a little one, she'll look just like you.
We'll add on a sidecar, electric guitar. We'll be a trio,
the baby makes three, oh.

Happy Mother’s Day, moms.  You all rock, and we love you for it.  Just for today, we’ll turn the volume down.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Leash the Fury

Summer has come early again for Washington Capitals fans.  Despite the 25% increase in playoff victories this spring versus last year (2010 – 3 wins, 2011 – 4 wins), the golf courses will be teeming with Ovechkin jerseys and Happy Gilmore wanna-bes this Mother’s Day weekend.  It was not supposed to happen this way.

My son is becoming used to Capitals playoff disappointment at a young age.  Last year’s bitter Game 7 choke at the hands of Le Habs brought tears and sniffles.  This year’s Caps’ whimper in the semi-finals only reddened his eyes for a few brief moments.  By the time they lose early in the playoffs next year, Thomas will barely register an audible ‘harumpf’.  He is learning, the DC way.
Growing up as a NY Ranger fan, I never had the experience of high expectations being dashed in the NHL playoffs.  I had no expectations.  When you listen year after year to the derisive chant of “1940” (the last year before 1994 that the Rangers had won the Stanley Cup), the scar tissue builds up pretty thick.  As the old saying goes, “There’s no crying in the blue seats”.  Combine the Ranger fan experience with a few seasons of 1970s NY Mets baseball, and disappointment becomes part of the DNA. 
But this isn’t NY.  This is Washington, where loudly blaming someone or something for our personal pain is the number one spectator sport in the stadium, on the rink or in the bowels of Congress.  I watched all or part of close to 70 Capitals games this season, so I do have an opinion on what is wrong with a team that has earned the #1 seed two consecutive seasons and flamed out pretty dramatically in the early playoff rounds.  I am ready to assign blame.

I blame OV…and Semin…and Boudreau…and their relative youth and inexperience…and bad bounces…but mostly OV.

Let’s take a look at my runners up for the Blame Award:

Bad bounces:  Green scored on his own goal with a shot off his skate.  Scott Hannan had a beautiful tip in goal – against his own team.  Backstrom missed two easy goals – that just bounced over his blade.  These are poor excuses for games they still should have won, but I mention them because that’s playoff hockey.  One or two bad bounces can mean the difference between a sweep and a 7 game series.

Youth and inexperience: Carlson did not look as confident on the blue line as he was during the regular season, when his name was in the mix for the Calder Trophy.  Marcus Johansson had a great series against NY, then disappeared against the Lightning.  Neuvirth is basically a rookie (who played as well as you could expect, and then some).  But face it – this team could still be a year or two away.

Semin:  Great individual skill with the puck is fun to watch, but whenever I fan on a shot, I call it a “Semin”.  If the Caps go on the PK in the 3rd period, it’s a 50-50 proposition that it was a Semin hook or Semin hold in the neutral zone.  I think it’s time to trade him for some real value.  Less flash, more substance would serve them better in May and June.

Boudreau:  He deserves praise for changing the style of this team from run-and-gun to defensive minded in less than a season, while still earning the top seed in the East.  That’s pretty amazing.  Now, if Boudreau is the one telling Semin and Ovechkin to shoot every time they touch the puck, then I blame Bruce.  If it is Bruce not making the proper adjustments against a trapping style defense for the 2nd straight year, I blame Bruce.  I have to admit, it is hard to overlook the last 4 years of playoff futility and not question the man at the top.  If Scotty Bowman is interested and still lucid, let’s find him.

OV:  Here is what I see from Ovechkin: poor puck management.  He cannot control the puck consistently.  The King of the Overskate.  No doubt that he can be a highlight reel machine, a one man army.  I do not question his effort or his commitment to winning.  I was glad to see his individual production down this season as the team continued to roll up points.  I thought he was learning to share the wealth, sacrifice for the team defense, act as a decoy if it helped the Caps win.  When the chips are down, however, he tries to do too much, and the team suffers.
Truth be told, I’d rather have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Zetterburg or (forgive me, my son) Sid the Kid, pre-concussion.  They can control the puck in the offensive zone.  They make the players around them better.  Perhaps OV is told to shoot all the time, and he needs different coaching.  I am open to that; however, when he tries to curl and drag around every defenseman in the league, and it only works 10% of the time, he might want to try to be a bit more creative.

Maybe the team just needed one more painful learning experience to grow towards achieving the ultimate goal – Lord Stanley’s Cup.  At least that is what I am telling my son.

The Caps motto of “Unleash the Fury” has been replaced for the summer with the more popular slogan, “Wait’ll next year”.  At least the Nationals are still in playoff contention.  My son can hold on to that.