The Nationals

The United States Curling National Championship kicks off this weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. That’s right, Jacksonville. FLORIDA. For my Canadian curling friends: if Winnipeg is the curling “Mecca” of Canada, Jacksonville, Florida is its U.S. equivalent [insert sarcasm font here]. 

The United States Curling Association (USCA) brain trust is trying to grow the sport in non-traditional curling locales. And exposing the southern half of the U.S. to curling could increase national exposure, thus benefiting the future of the sport. But they’re trying too hard. By half. At least. There are far better destination cities, ones that are more accessible to the base of curling fans, than the armpit of Florida.

I’m sure the USCA will declare this a successful event. The gate will exceed their extremely low expectations. The stands will look like they’re filled to the rafters… because it’s an elementary school hockey arena that’s been vacant since the Vanilla Ice comeback tour.

This is not the venue to showcase the best curlers in our country–but it is the best venue if you’re trying to hide the complete fiasco you turned the National Championships into.  *Spoiler Alert* to the tens of Jacksonvillians about to watch a week of curling: you’re about to witness a farce. And the National Championship should be of consequence to the tens of Jacksonvillians cheering a sport they’re likely befuddled by already.

Side Note: this is not a condemnation of the athletes (yes, curlers are athletes now), some of whom are my friends. Many of those competing this week are dedicated individuals and playing a sport they love.

Because of the new points system instituted by the USCA, the men’s champion team won their right to represent Team USA at the World Championships in September at the Grand Slam of Curling (an exclusive field). Future Team USA made the semi-finals of this event and secured enough points so that all they need to do now to advance to the World Championships is not die. Over the course of the year, they amassed an insurmountable points lead over any other US team and, because our world representative is decided on total points and not by winning the National Championship game, Future Team USA will be Team USA this time next Saturday.

The fucked up points system isn’t Future Team USA’s fault. In fact, congrats Future Team USA, you had a great year. You’re clearly the best, having the best year, and you had the added bonus of not getting dead between September and today. You still have to show up and place third or higher to be named Team USA, but that’s a feat I’m sure you’ll accomplish. (I just called my retirement guy and had him take out all my money so I can bet on you. It’s booked.)

Again, this is not to take away from the spectacular year Future Team USA had. Arguably, it’s the best an American team has ever had on tour. Sources close to The Scotch say Future Team USA has worked extremely hard all year; they played an extremely aggressive schedule and their effort paid off. The Scotch got to watch a few of their games at the Golden Wrench Classic in Phoenix, AZ. They played better than any other American team. It really wasn’t close.

Another Side Note: The Golden Wrench Classic was a twrench photoremendous event: the top rated teams from across the world didn’t disappoint. The members of the Coyote Curling Club put on a helluva spiel. The hospitality was amazing. The ice was pretty good. Not Grand Slam ice but, for Phoenix, AZ club ice, it was mostly predictable and the speed was consistent. Arizona (of all places) should be the southern state to host a national championship. The Golden Wrench proved that. The club was filled for most draws with every silver haired Canadian snowbird in the Phoenix Valley. They actually had to turn some away at the door, as if it was the 4 p.m. early bird dinner special at the Del Boca Vista.

The Women’s curling side was a similar story. Future Team USA qualified in all of their tour events, earning enough points to lap the rest of the women’s field 6 times over. Congrats Future Team USA on a great year! They also didn’t die and, if they get to the podium this week, will be adorned with red, white and blue at the Women’s World Championships (where I expect they’ll medal, if not win the damn thing).

The Scotch will still watch (with the sound muted) as much of the tournament as possible via the Twelfth End Sports Network live webstream. I love to watch curling that much. However, I shouldn’t already know who our World Representatives will be. They should be determined on the ice next Saturday. Sports fans want drama and the glory. We want to see brooms thrown to the ceiling in pure joy after making the last shot of the game, to hear the roar of those 13 people in the Jacksonville stands. It’s what athletes train and compete for.

The Carolina Panthers are 15-1 in the NFL this year. They have a better record than the Denver Broncos, and yet millions of people will still gather around their giant teevees to watch the game tomorrow. We always want our National Champions to make the game winning shot, to hit the game 7 walk-off homer, to score the go-ahead touchdown in the “Super Bowl.” The USCA brain trust is making a mockery of our sports culture with this system. It’s counterintuitive to everything enjoyable about competing against one another. Devaluing what we love about sports.

Side Betting Note: The Scotch is taking Carolina (-6), the first half under (23), a team will score three times in a row, over 1 times the Golden Gate Bridge is shown during the broadcast, and over 2 minutes and 20 seconds for Lady Gaga to sing the National Anthem.

We still haven’t talked about the USCA’s other brilliant idea: the High Performance Program. Sources tell The Scotch that this very loosely defined “program” is a debacle. It’s a self preserving, unaccountable, unmitigated disaster. Think the Bush Administration during Hurricane Katrina. Only worse.

The High Performance Program holds mock tryouts for an exclusive group of athletes in the summer. They then select teams from this “tryout” and fund them on tour. Most of these athletes are great curlers and great people. And most are dedicated to the sport and make huge sacrifices to follow their dreams. They aren’t the problem. The program is.

The High Performance Program doesn’t coach athletes to be better. There aren’t dedicated team practices where coaches analyze athletes’ deliveries and sweeping techniques. Coaches do berate players after a game about the shots they missed (I’m pretty sure the players already know about the shots they missed). But the off-ice training program is no more than a piece of paper athletes fill out stating that they went to the gym. While lifting a pencil can be a chore, it shouldn’t qualify as an “High Performance” workout.

If the U.S. wants to get to the medal stand of the Olympics and World Championships, the USCA needs to build a program with trained coaches and fitness experts. And it needs to be a truly accountable program, staffed with people who know what they’re doing. Hiring directors that know how to win and have a basic understanding of the American sports dynamic would be a nice start. The director they have now doesn’t fit either of those basic qualifications. His failure as director of the Scotland competitive curling program pales in comparison to the titanic shipwreck he has created here. Donald Trump says he knows how to win and he’ll have more free time shortly—Hey USCA, give The Donald a call.

The U.S. may never be able to consistently win titles on the World Stage like the Canadians can. The numbers just aren’t in our favour. We just don’t have the depth, and plus our youth have too many sports options. But if we aren’t going to win medals, let’s not win medals doing it the right way.

Good Curling.   

Prediction Segment for Entertainment Only (until The Scotch finds a curling sportsbook)

Women:

  1. Brown
  2. Christensen
  3. Roth
  4. Sinclair
  5. Anderson
  6. Lindgren
  7. Meechai

Men:

  1. Shuster
  2. Brown
  3. Clark
  4. Corbett
  5. Birr (in a tie break)
  6. Dropkin
  7. Fenson
  8. McCormick
  9. Clawson
  10. Leichter
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The Words Matter

The MerriamWebster online dictionary definition of discourse : The use of words to exchange thoughts and ideas.

The way our society communicates and shares ideas defines our public policy.

Faggot,” butthurt,” libtard,” n—-er,” femiNazi,b—h,” c—t,” “illegal,” bigot,” homophobe and, for the uber-intellectual, “troglodyte.

Disagreement can be edgy and effective without offending entire races, religions and classes of people.

But our discourse is now littered with these words and often accompanied with vitriolic attacks on the identities, affiliations and associations of the speaker. Find a popular social media post featuring President Obama and read the comment section. There’s a good chance a commenter will state that the President is a Muslim (derogatorily) and then connect his “religion” to his ongoing effort to destroy the U.S. (while conveniently omitting evidence).

Aren’t interweb comment sections where good ideas go to die?

Unequivocally, YES. The odds of changing the heart and mind of someone on social media by typing in a pithy comment (no matter how brilliant you think it is) are about as good as cracking aces holding 7-2 off-suit (poker reference). I’m sure it happens (as my laptop goes flying into the teevee), but it’s rare.

If social media was the only place where this dialogue was found, there might be less reason for concern. However, vitriol seeps. The same language is used on cable news, in opinion pieces in major newspapers, in political campaign ads, in presidential debates and even in the well of the U.S. Congress. This language, in some cases, digresses into more aggressive behavior, overt discrimination and violence against groups of people.

So why does this matter?

Policy discussions shouldn’t be measured the same as discussions you have at the neighborhood bar. Calling a buddy a “fucking idiot” for muting the game and cranking out three Journey songs in a row isn’t the same as debating the biggest issues facing our society. Words matter, especially when they affect public policy. Aside from being immature, labeling someone a “Socialist Muslim” to discredit their policy idea demeans their humanity, and it doesn’t validate your point in the discussion.

It also isn’t productive to simply call someone a “bigot” because they say ALL Muslims are responsible for terrorist acts. This may be the dictionary definition of bigotry, however, name calling doesn’t change the experience, which led to their discriminatory statement. It only creates a confrontation where both parties go on the defensive and retreat into their stubborn ideological corners. Elevating the discourse and changing the anecdotal experience of the perpetrator (obviously more difficult), will have a better chance of unrooting the cause of their hate.

When vitriolic language is used across the political spectrum, it makes it easier to dismiss the impact policy decisions have on a subset of people.

For example, the media will often dehumanize people by calling them “illegals,inferring they are on the wrong side of an arbitrary line (probably decided by killing someone else). This overt language makes it is easier for policymakers to take away liberties and displace families: they are no longer fellow humans sharing the Earth, they are merely “illegals.”

Another example is not so subtle. In recent comments at a town hall, Governor of Maine Paul LePage uses words such as “G-Money” to insinuate black men are travelling to Maine (I’m assuming from places where he thinks black people live) to deal drugs and impregnate “young, white girls.” The Governor is placing blame on a specific race of people for the perceived ills of his state. Instead, he could have easily used the opportunity to expand discourse into a productive policy discussion on drug addiction and criminal justice reform.

Donald Trump, who is the leading Republican for the Presidential nomination has used words to prey upon the fears of a segment of the electorate who are disenchanted by politics. The Scotch will explore this phenomenon in more depth in an upcoming post.

 I chose discourse specifically as my first topic. Analyzing the use of specific verbiage in the media, on the campaign trail and in policy making will be a pillar of this blog. Not attacking the attacker is of utmost importance and the way we use words will ALWAYS matter. 

Swearing: effective. Name calling: not so much.

The First Sip

The Scotch – A diatribe on the political spectrum, with occasional interjections into the minutiae of life that make it tolerable.

This is the intent of The Scotch and here’s why I think you should read it:

Because you want an entertaining perspective on public policy, politicians and the campaigns that got them there — plus all the things that fascinate me.

Wait, that’s in the subtitle right? But why THE SCOTCH?

Because of my sharp wit and wry sense of humor! My experience and expertise informs the credibility of the commentary. I have over 15 years of professional political experience. I’ve run local and congressional political campaigns. My federal, state and local policy experience, along with working in government and public relations, gives me a vast background and unique perspective on policy and the politicians who champion it. I offer dynamic context to the political world around us.

Want to know why The Donald won’t go away? Have trouble understanding The Tea Party because you think they are fucked-up-crazy (yes, there will be swearing) and you don’t get why they are still a thing? Or why liberals get mired in romantic Sorkinian idealism (see Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders, et al.)? I’ve worked at every level of government, for Republicans and Democrats, and in blue states and red states, and I want to write about it.

If you crave wry commentary and pithy observations on all things politics, this is the blog for you. I write about novel policy ideas that may have a chance to help people and the bat shit crazy piece of legislation that won’t. I explore unique campaign and messaging tactics from the school board to the Presidency. No issue will be out of bounds, although I tend to focus on issues of sustainability, secularism, education and healthcare.

But this isn’t only about politics. As you can interpret from the subtitle, I have eclectic interests. I’m an avid hiker. I’ve explored several national parks and reached the summit of a few ’14ers, including the tallest peak in the continental United States. I’ll update you on my latest trek with captivating photos, and I’ll give you advice on what gear you need, where to stay, and the best food choices around your destination hike. Think of it like a consolidated space for some expert #hikerchat.

I watch a shit ton of sports. Baseball, specifically the Dodgers is my favorite, but I love watching (and betting) on all the sports ball (and puck). I like to think of myself (kindly) as a degenerate gambler. And, as a retired curler, I obsessively watch curling… even though I haven’t found a way to gamble on it (working on this). For the big sports story of the day, last night’s amazing game, the upcoming match, or sound betting advice (entertainment purposes only), I got you covered.

If I can’t write as much as I want, it is probably because I’m in the middle of a poker tournament. It’s a passion. I read the books and am always willing to talk about a hand or a scenario to try and improve my game. I played in one World Series of Poker event in 2015 and hope 2016 allows me a few more. I love to yell at muppets calling down their three outer to the river and then cracking my pocket aces (if you aren’t a poker player, this means me acting like a 7 year old when I lose). <Sigh>… process over results, process over results.

Cooking is a hobby, and I’m always looking for a “Chopped Challenge.” I love a good beer (IPA) and a better scotch. I’ll share the good and the not so good of both. I’m not the most avid teevee or movie watcher (if only I could focus on new shows instead of obsessing over How I Met Your Mother reruns), but I’ll be more than happy to give you my take on the new Star Wars or why you should stop watching House of Cards. Like now…. Stop watching! I don’t know why Kevin Spacey is doing this to us!

Finally, I’ll comment on the day-to-day complexities I find absolutely vapid, such as double spaces after periods, walking on the wrong side of a sidewalk (we live in a society with rules people) or whatever else is irking me in the moment.

That’s it, right?

For now–but there’s always a “what’s next?” Got a question? Ask. Got a comment? Make it. Please subscribe and share widely and I hope you find this…