Friday, June 23, 2006


Open Thread

Y'all are getting real good at this -- some 100 comments last week! Have at it -- and play nice!

Have a great weekend.

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The Other "F"-Word

Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen has made a nice brief -- and successful -- career as a "call 'em as he sees 'em" straight (ahem!) talking, politically incorrect guy. He wasn't afraid to pick profanity-laden fights with former members of the team and members of the press. Last year, his refreshing personality led his team to its first World Series championship in 88 years.

This year, his act may have grown stale. In the last few weeks, he harangued a rookie pitcher who didn't throw at an opposing player in retaliation for a White Sox player being hit by a pitch. After being publically upbraided by Guillen, pitcher Sean Tracey was sent back down to the minors.

Then last week, Guillen called Chicago Sun-Times columnist
Jay Mariotti a "fag." He was fined by the Commissioner Bud Selig and ordered to undergo the always handy standby "sensitivity training." The media has apparently grown tired of Ozzie.

Personally, I think Selig is well within his rights as manager to fine a manager for inappropriate language. After all, the commissioner's job is to make the sport attractive to all segments of society. Guillen shouldn't have used the word. He was probably accurate when he said that he didn't mean "fag" to refer to Mariotti's sexual orientation. On the other hand, unlike
the various meanings of the "N"-word, it's quite clear that Guillen meant it in a derogatory sense.

There are gay baseball fans in Chicago that might be offended by Guillen's preferred choice of insult (Mariotti, as far as I know, isn't gay). (Indeed, Jeff Passan files a rather cool column asking gay Chicago sports fans
what they think of Guillen.) Selig has to demonstrate that that sort of language isn't considered appropriate in his sport. However, my eyes tend to roll when I hear someone has been told to take "sensitivity training" clases. Exactly how does a short course change someone's basic behavorial and lifetime consciousness?

For that matter, should it?

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Your DHS Director At Work...

Glad to see that Mr. Chertoff is keeping himself busy with the important pressing issues of the nation:

"24" and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism:
Fact, Fiction, or Does it Matter?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Rush Limbaugh
Host, The Rush Limbaugh Show

The Honorable Michael Chertoff
Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

James Jay Carafano
Senior Research Fellow,
Defense and Homeland Security,
The Heritage Foundation

David Heyman
Director and Senior Fellow,
Homeland Security Program, CSIS

Howard Gordon
Executive Producer and Writer, "24"

Joel Surnow
Executive Producer, Creator and Writer, "24"

Robert Cochran
Executive Producer, Creator and Writer, "24"

PLUS Members of the "24" Cast:

Gregory Itzin - "President Charles Logan"

Mary Lynn Rajskub - "Chloe O'Brian"

Carlos Bernard - "Tony Almeida

Please note that Jack Bauer isn't present. Obviously, he was out busy saving the world, of course -- not participating in damn fool think-tank discussions with TV celebrities. Too bad other government officials aren't that focused.

Cripes! You can't make this stuff up.

video streamcast

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Holy Marilyn Monroe!

Thanks to regular reader "Eagle-Eye" Eric for passing along this wonderful homage to the Seven Year Itch.

No word on whether Tony Curtis was planning on participating in the Ladies Singles draw at Wimbledon.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006


Ghana Daddy Gone

Oh, well, despite the much greater domestic interest this time around, the great U.S. World Cup fantasy comes up short.

Ghana quite deservedly moves into the round of 16. In addition to their victory over the U.S., they shut out the same Czech team that beat the Americans 3-0.

It looks to be another long four years for the United States as we try to prove we belong with the world's best.

For what it's worth, House Republicans might want to rethink their restrictions on immigration. Instead of trying to keep Mexicans out, maybe if we just annexed Mexico, we might do much better four years from now in the next World Cup!

UPDATE: The Washington Post's global affairs blog has a discussion today about FIFA (the group that runs the World Cup) and if it is a better organizational paradigm for global affairs than the United Nations. Well, almost anything would be better than the United Nations. However, given the officiating in the games involving the United States (though that didn't necessarily cost them games, I remain skeptical about the sanctity of FIFA.

UPDATE II: Meanwhile, regular reader/e-mailer ERA sends in this question with an attached press release:

"Will Ghanan-born Freddy Adu play for the USA in 2010? Is he the "great hope" for US Soccer?"

Soccer Superstar, Freddy Adu, Signs on With Milk

CHICAGO, IL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 06/21/06 -- Freddy Adu began his soccer career at 13, the youngest international soccer player in U.S. history. As one of America's brightest young athletes, Freddy knows the nutrients in milk help him score big on game day. He is the newest face of the "got milk"®/Milk Mustache campaign, joining the ranks of Andy Roddick, Donovan McNabb and Mia Hamm. The ad copy reads, "Kick into gear. Get noticed. On and off the field. The protein in milk helps build muscle, and some studies suggest teens who choose it tend to be leaner. Staying active, eating right, and drinking 3 glasses a day of lowfat or fat free milk helps you look great. Score one for milk." The ad debuts in the July 4th issue of Sports Illustrated.
Image Available:

Hmmm...Could Freddy Adu become the, um, "great black hope"? How appropriate would that be? If the United States can't "beat 'em" -- "have 'em join us?"

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Improv Your Life...

For those fans of Ragged Thots in the New York metropolitan area, the author will be performing this Friday and Saturday with "The Yes Show" improv troupe!

Drop by if you're able!

P.S. There's free beer too!

improv shows

Short form improvised scenes and songs using your suggestions.

Friday, June 23rd
Saturday, June 24th
8 pm

(general seating)
@ Stonestreet Studios
48 West 21st Street, 8th Floor

Directed by Ralph Buckley

home / shows / workshops / group / team / calendar / contact
©2004 The Yes Show

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Well, You Need A-O-L... spell "asshole".

You've got customer service...from HELL!

UPDATE: This is not an isolated incident apparently. This blog prints a letter sharing her experience with AOL as she tried to cancel her recently deceased mother's account:
After explaining that my mother was killed in the accident, the rep told me that he was sorry that my mom was unhappy with the service. He then suggested lowering the number of hours per month to reduce the bill. I said "she was killed." The rep then said, "I understand what you are saying, I'm just trying to come up with a solution."

Well, at least this customer service rep didn't ask to speak to the woman's dad -- like the guy talking to Vincent Ferrari did.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Forsaking How Many Others?

Regular reader/commenter An Interested Party, (a.k.a. AIP) passes along this examination of the infidelity question with respect to Republican candidates. The focus is on John McCain, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani:

Until relatively recently, a self-confessed adulterer had never sought the presidency. Certainly, other candidates have been dogged by sex scandals. In the 1828 presidential election, John Quincy Adams questioned whether Andrew Jackson's wife was legitimately divorced from her first husband before she married Old Hickory. Grover Cleveland, who was single, fathered a child out of wedlock, a fact that sparked national headlines during the 1884 election (though he managed to win anyway). There have been presidential candidates who had affairs that the press decided not to write about, like Wendell Wilkie, FDR, and John F. Kennedy. And there have been candidates whose infidelities have been uncovered during the course of a campaign: Gary Hart's indiscretions ultimately derailed his 1988 bid, and in 1992, during the course of his campaign, Bill Clinton was forced to make the euphemistic admission that he "caused pain" in his marriage.

But it wasn't until 2000 that McCain, possibly emboldened by Clinton's survival of his scandals, became the first confessed adulterer to have the nerve to run. Now, just a few years after infidelity was considered a dealbreaker for a presidential candidate, the party that presents itself as the arbiter of virtue may field an unprecedented two-timing trifecta.

McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money. In 2000, McCain managed to deflect media questioning about his first marriage with a deft admission of responsibility for its failure. It's possible that the age of the offense and McCain's charmed relationship with the press will pull him through again, but Giuliani and Gingrich may face a more difficult challenge. Both conducted well-documented affairs in the last decade--while still in public office.

Giuliani informed his second wife, Donna Hanover, of his intention to seek a separation in a 2000 press conference. The announcement was precipitated by a tabloid frenzy after Giuliani marched with his then-mistress, Judith Nathan, in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, an acknowledgement of infidelity so audacious that Daily News columnist Jim Dwyer compared it with "groping in the window at Macy's." In the acrid divorce proceedings that followed, Hanover accused Giuliani of serial adultery, alleging that Nathan was just the latest in a string of mistresses, following an affair the mayor had had with his former communications director.

But the most notorious of them all is undoubtedly Gingrich, who ran for Congress in 1978 on the slogan, "Let Our Family Represent Your Family." (He was reportedly cheating on his first wife at the time). In 1995, an alleged mistress from that period, Anne Manning, told Vanity Fair's Gail Sheehy: "We had oral sex. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'" Gingrich obtained his first divorce in 1981, after forcing his wife, who had helped put him through graduate school, to haggle over the terms while in the hospital, as she recovered from uterine cancer surgery. In 1999, he was disgraced again, having been caught in an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide while spearheading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

Despite the scandalous details, whether the press will air them is still an open question. When it comes to personal morality, liberal commentators have long argued that the press has one standard for Democrats and another for Republicans (and another one entirely for the Clintons). It's possible that the mainstream media will fail to apply the same scrutiny to the known transgressions of Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain as the Times did to rumors about Hillary Clinton's husband. But for that to happen, the press will have to resist four powerful political dynamics that will almost certainly be pushing to get the story out.

One example of adultery, divorce and remarriage should not necessarily be disqualifying (in a political sense). However, a serial pattern of that behavior should give the voter pause that the individual is pathological in a certain important area of his (or, conceivably, her) life. Clinton stayed married, but Monica demonstrated that his serial adultery bordered on recklessnes. McCain could, arguably, get a pass in that his extramarital activity was long ago and he has been since remarried for some time. If there is not a more recent example, the press may let, ahem, sleeping dogs lie.

On the other hand, I think the Giuliani and Gingrich situations pose a larger problem. The examples are more recent and there are vivid scenes that played out publically -- and can be contrasted with politically. Newt's affair was going on while Clinton's impeachment was unfolding; he can say that he didn't commit any perjury the way Clinton did, but the public may deem his behavior hypocritical and possibly reckless.

Similarly, Giuliani announced the break-up on TV before talking to the wife -- just days after going for a late-night public stroll with his mistress with cameras all around (and portrayed on the front page of city tabloids). His actress-wife's declaration -- also carried live on local television -- that in addition to his newly announced "friend," Giuliani had, in fact, had a long-lasting affair with a mayoral aide created a surreal atmosphere. Needless to say, these kind of actions don't always go over well with the public (though the earlier affair with the aide was one of the worst-kept secrets in the city).

As it unfolded live on the stage that is New York six years ago, I wrote about the political implication (for conservatives) of Rudy Giuliani's extra-curricular activities and his very public break-up with Donna Hanover.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Behind The Curtain

Washington Post intel staff writer Barton Gellmann reviews Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine. Suskind has, interestingly, become as integral a real-time recorder of administration of George W. Bush as two guys named Woodward and Bernstein were to that of Richard Nixon:

This is an important book, filled with the surest sign of great reporting: the unexpected. It enriches our understanding of even familiar episodes from the Bush administration's war on terror and tells some jaw-dropping stories we haven't heard before.

One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, 'This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was 'echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,' Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now? Those questions form the spine of Suskind's impressively reported book.

In interviews with intelligence officers, Suskind often finds them baffled by White House statements. "Why the hell did the President have to put us in a box like this?" one top CIA official asked about the overblown public portrait of Abu Zubaydah. But Suskind sees a deliberate management choice: Bush ensnared his director of central intelligence at the time, George J. Tenet, and many others in a new kind of war in which action and evidence were consciously divorced.
Obviously, Suskind does not have the same impact as W&B -- which different people with different ideologies will see in different ways. However, he first broke the story in Esquire back in 2002 on Karen Hughes' departure from the White House and the seeming rising tension between Karl Rove and Andy Card. He floowed that with the January 2003 piece quoting John DiIullio on the administration's "Mayberry Machiavellis."

Next came the Paul O'Neill cri de coeur The Price of Loyalty (the subject of which being such an eccentric ultimately may have drawn away from some of the
legitimately keen criticisms of the White House). Finally, Suskind hit full stride with the New York Times Magazine article with the now-infamous "reality-based community" line.

And now he has come up with the book that, at one time, Woodward would have written. But now Woodward himself is, ultimately, so much a part of the establishment, that he has gotten to the point where he finds himself
compromised in controversies such as the Plame-Wilson saga.

I've barely begun reading the book. However, what strikes me is how Suskind got career intelligence people to speak on the record. It suggests he has as far a reach as Woodward and Michael Gordon, author of Cobra II, which is also filled with on-the record careerists (military officers in the case of Gordon; intelligence officers, in the case of Suskind). Regardless of where one is on the Iraq War, one is struck by how this administration has managed to create such ill will from career professionals. At a certain point, this becomes more than just sour grapes from this CIA person or that general or that NSA guy or that colonel. At what point is the probem at the top of the chain of command -- as opposed to the middle?

Which, of course, forces us to say that it seems to come down to Dick Cheney's world -- his vision. There's technically no problem with having a powerful vice president. But what is too powerful? And what is the true nature of the power-sharing between Bush and Cheney? And I'm posing this as serious question. Suskind says that some intel and counterrrorism professionals refer to Cheney as "Edgar" -- as in Edgar Bergen the ventriloquist. The implication, of course, is that Bush is the dummy (as in the toy). It's all nice and fun to make those kind of jabs. But what are the real-world implications of this, in terms of actual accountability in this administration? I think those are the more intriguiging questions to pursue.

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Truth is B.S....

...when the B.S. is Bill Simmons.

He says everything that needs to be said about the NBA Finals (Yeah, I know, I know..."You mean, pro basketball is still being played?")...especially the atrocious nature of the NBA officiating, the ridiculous suspension of Jerry Stackhouse after Game 4 and the general better brand of basketball that the Mavericks play. Oh, and count me a Mark Cuban fan, too (though he loses points if he hires Dan Rather).

The only thing that Simmons doesn't address are two questions that have bothered me for quite some time:

1) Is Pat Riley the most annoying coach of all time (yes, including Phil Jackson)?

2) Is Shaquille O'Neal the most over-rated player of all time? One of Bill's reader's makes a great point:

That reminds me, here's an interesting question from California reader Brian Ackerman: "After watching Shaq miss more free throws, I can't help but ask: Is there another situation in sports where a seventh-grade girl can be more proficient in a key part of the sport than one of the most dominant professional players of all time? I can't make the question any more basic. There are literally hundreds of 12-year-old girls who can shoot free throws better than him. That fact alone must beg the even deeper question: Can NBA basketball really be a sport, given the above-mentioned situation?"
Exactly. How can someone so awful at a fundamental skill in a certain sport be considered one of the best ever? If he weren't 330 pounds, would he have much success even scoring?

Oh, and this doesn't even take into account the fact that he has been the second best player on whatever team he has been on for the last eight years (Kobe was the better player on the Lakers and Dwayne Wade is clearly the best player on the Heat.) And yes, I know that Shaq is the better interview and funnier guy.

Well, anyway, feel free to discuss, before, during and after tonight's game.

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A Funky American in Germany

I should have pointed to this last week, but I zoned on it.

My Post colleague Tom Elliott hung with some German pals during the first full week of the World Cup. The self-declared Funky Pundit
blogged and photo-ed up a storm.

Go check his site. Lot's of way-cool stuff over there.

Tom's back in the office today, but the pictures of his time in Deutschland will live forever!

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Dan & Connie...

...eleven years after their wonderful, though ultimately failed, experiment ended, they are together again in almost-overlapping he's gone/she's gone weirdly, riding off into the sunset...

Well, what else is there to be said, but...


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2008 Hijinks

If the biggest cliche in politics is "XXXX days/weeks/months is an eternity/lifetime...", the next favorite is, "It's later than you think." (Yes, these are somewhat contradictory. What do you expect? We're talking politics and you're demanding consistency from me!?!?!?)

Anyway, in the spirit of the latter phrase, it's about time to start checking into some '08 candidates. Thus, for the informed learning of RT readers, here are a couple of piecess on possible contenders in the next presidential race.

My erstwhile colleague Ryan Sager notes that
Sen. George Allen of Virginia comes correct on the gnarly issue of campaign finance "reform":

"Republicans do not need, and should not attempt, to muzzle their opponents."

Nancy Pelosi? Harry Reid? Howard Dean?

Try Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), presumed 2008 presidential candidate, in a laudable attempt to return the Republican Party to its historic role as opponent of political-speech regulation. While Newt Gingrich has been railing against 2002's McCain-Feingold legislation in recent months, Allen's attack on the GOP's current effort to regulate so-called 527 groups -- independent organizations banned from coordinating with candidates or parties -- makes him the first top-tier '08 candidate to come out swinging against campaign-finance "reform."

Whether it's enough to force a serious confrontation on the issue between status quo politicians such as Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Bill Frist and the fed-up conservative base remains to be seen. But it's at least a start. And where the various candidates line up on the issue over the next year and a half will tell Republican primary voters quite a lot about who's on board with Karl Rove's vision of a permanent, principle-less majority and who's ready to ready to rethink the mistakes of the last five-plus years.

Allen's attack on speech regulation (and threat to aid a filibuster) comes in a letter to Frist dated June 9, and is signed by six of his Senate colleagues: Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), John Sununu (R-N.H.) and David Vitter (R-La.). It has received little attention from the press, but it's quite a stinging rebuke to the party's leadership.
It would be nice to have at least one Republican reaffirming their belief in quaint notions such as the First Amendment. Good for George Allen being the first one out of the block.

Meanwhile, my friend Jim Pinkerton zooms into the mind of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich:
If I can help shape the agenda for both parties in 2006, I can win the presidency in 2008.

I'm looking now at the recent record, starting with two hot issues: health care and immigration. On health care, the June 12 Washington Post ran a front-page story, "States' Changes Reshape Medicaid/New Restrictions Aim to Save Money"; the piece gave me, and my group, The Center for Health Transformation, credit for instigating the shift toward prevention and personal responsibility among Medicaid recipients. Outcomes are improved, and money is saved -- it's a win-win for governors of both parties.

And as for immigration, I was one of the first to see the importance of border control. Even before 9/11, I argued for a Department of Homeland Security. So now, Bush's plan for guest workers will have to wait. The House Republicans, who still listen to me, will be the big winners; they will block the White House plan and reap the benefit with the voters. By contrast, the Senate Republicans sided with the White House, taking the side of open borders; now they will reap an unpleasant political whirlwind. Indeed, the Senate whirlwind-reapers include most of the '08 hopefuls: John McCain, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel and Sam Brownback. All voted wrong this year; all will be blown away in the GOP primaries.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are using my political ideas. Look at this headline in The Hill on June 15: "Democrats can't get enough of Newt Gingrich's slogan." Back in March I had said the Democrats could recapture Congress by using a two-word slogan: "Had enough?" Those two simple words, after all, were used by the Republicans back in their victorious year of 1946.

And now the Pelosi Democrats, proving again that they have no ideas of their own, have taken my advice. Here's a quote from that newspaper piece: "During her speech to the liberal group Campaign for America's Future this week, [House Democratic Leader Nancy] Pelosi asked the crowd, "Have you had enough?'"Those Democrats sure are blockheads. I tell them to use a 60-year-old campaign slogan, and they do it. Maybe I should next tell them to buy a big billboard at Ebbets Field.

The whole column is quite good and, I believe, a fairly accurate reflection of Gingrich's thinking (and no, I have no insider knowledge in that regard). Oh, and, Jim? You should have give William Safire some props for your shameless lifting of that "inside the mind of X" gimmick! ;-)

By the way, I don't feel it necessary to throw in the disclaimer every time I mention Gingrich that I used to work for him. I believe that fact is pretty well known -- generally and certainly to regular readers here. I haven't made a determination on whom I plan on supporting in '08 -- if anyone. I hope to treat Newt -- if he runs -- just as I would any other White House aspirant.

Yep -- cynically, viciously and without remorse.

Let the games begin!

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Sunday, June 18, 2006


Father's Day Good Sports

The following originally ran June 19, 2000 over at National Review Online.

A few things have changed since it's original publication -- most notably Kobe Bryant's reputation which took some self-imposed bruises. However, I think the overall point remains true -- and is given more poignancy with Earl Woods' recent passing (more gems from my early-00's NRO run can found by clicking on the Ragged 2.0 link at left).

Happy Father's Day to all -- especially the "Big Daddy" column regulars, Bill, Rob & Ed!!!


Father's Day Good Sports: Tiger & Kobe
Where they learned their values.

Robert A. George is an editorial page writer for the New York Post.

What does it take to become the "heir to Air"? In other words, how do you make the next Michael Jordan? Well, it's beginning to seem that Michael Jordans are not created. They are born — and raised. By fathers.

Tiger Woods could not have picked a better moment to have a record-shattering victory at golf's U.S. Open — because it was Father's Day. Like Jordan, Woods currently towers, not just over his own sport, but over all sports as the premier athlete. Like Jordan, he has become the ultimate crossover spokesman — not in racial terms, but economic ones: He sells everything from Nike clothes to American Express, from Titleist golf clubs to Buicks and a whole lot more.

But he is most like Jordan in that a father has been front and center in his life. Earl Woods, of course, helped stoke his toddler son's interest in golf from the very beginning. He claims that Tiger was talking about winning championships from the age of five.

Perhaps James Jordan did not seek to raise the greatest basketball player, but Michael never demurred about the role his father played in his life. It was, in fact, the elder Jordan's senseless 1993 murder that precipitated Michael's first retirement. Perhaps the last awe-inspiring Father's Day performance prior to yesterday occurred in 1996. That was Jordan's first championship since his father's death three years before. Both Jordan and Woods represent rare athletes who compete at a high level, yet manage to comport themselves as civil human beings off the area of play. Of course, Woods is so young that one hesitates to project what sort of person he will be, but right now he appears to be following the Jordan model.

Bill Stephney doesn't think the similar images of Jordan and Woods are just coincidence. Stephney is a record company owner and producer (he just finished supervising the music production of the Shaft movie soundtrack). An African-American, he also spends as much of his free time as possible discussing fatherhood issues. He sits on the boards of both the Urban League and Wade Horn's National Fatherhood Initiative. He has also created his own organization — Families Organized for Liberty and Action (FOLA) — to focus on fatherhood issues in the Hispanic and black communities.

Stephney points to family structure as the reason that these two men are not just at the apex of their particular games, but rule the endorsement-sports nexus in their particular eras. "I think the presence, or lack thereof, of a father in the home is a reliable predictor, in professional basketball at least, of whether a given player is going to be a 'good citizen' or not. Look at Michael, on the one hand, and Isaiah Rider and Dennis Rodman on the other." Rider, after being with several teams, was cut by the Atlanta Hawks last season for repeated insubordination. Rodman is, well, Rodman. One could also look at the New York Knicks' Latrell Sprewell. Though having become something of a well-behaved player since he hit the Big Apple, Sprewell was the villain of the moment in 1997 when he choked his coach. In addition, Sprewell, his own father absent most of his life, has sired three children by three different women.

By contrast, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant — on the verge of his first championship — also draws favorable comparisons to Jordan, on and off the field. He grew up in Italy where his father Joe played pro ball. He went straight to the NBA without going to college. Far from being too immature for the league, the now 21-year-old Bryant has purchased an Italian team and installed his dad as its general manager.

Tiger's dominance suggests that Bill Stephney's "predictor" extends well beyond the social culture of pro basketball. Tiger and Kobe stand out as the "new Jordans" because, like Mike, their fathers have been there from the beginning to give them an emotional balance of which many African-American athletes seem bereft. While the Knicks' Larry Johnson and Cleveland Cavalier Shawn Kemp have twelve children by ten women between them, neither Bryant nor Woods (both single) has children. Both are reportedly in stable relationships, with Bryant set to be married this summer. It is a testament to the image that Tiger Woods has cultivated that his only recent misstep was being picked up cussing after a missed putt this past weekend. Imagine that, a pro athlete apologizing, not for beating up his girlfriend or being caught with some illegal substance, but for swearing!

Woods dedicated his U.S. Open victory to his dad, whose health problems prevent him from attending some of his son's tournaments. No one would call Earl Woods perfect. He has said a couple of foolish things since Tiger's professional debut four years ago. For that matter, so has Richard Williams, who raised and coached his daughters Venus and Serena on public tennis courts in Los Angeles; Serena is the defending U.S. Open champion. Of course, no one is perfect. But if it's agreed that raising children into mature adults is the most important job any parent can perform, then we must tip our caps to the elder Bryant, Woods, and Williams for the sparkling jewels that they have given professional sports and the world.

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