After January 31 Ice Hockey Will Change Forever

kaneAt age eleven I put on a pair of old rental skates at the Ak-Sar-Ben ice arena in Omaha. After that I was hooked on hockey, but was an average player at best.  A Chicago Blackhawks season ticket holder I’ve long believed that the game could be more exciting.  Now the NHL might be on the verge of transforming its game, even though they may not realize it.

Hockey has suffered because there are too many men on a small ice surface.   This is exacerbated by blue line off-sides rules.  Doing away with red line off sides has helped open up the game a bit but not nearly enough.  Currently the offensive zone it is a mad scramble with 10  men scrumming around between the blue line and the goal line.  It is difficult to shoot and as a result most goals are scored through deflection and goalie screening.  The pure skating move or the dynamic slap shot to beat the goal tender is becoming rare.

I’ve thought for years that only the red line should remain and it should be used for icing purposes only.  There would be no blue lines and no off sides.  Under these conditions 5 on 5 hockey would be much more exciting.  Simply put, those darned blue lines “bunch up” hockey making the game less enjoyable.

This year the NHL is using 3 on 3 hockey for the 5 minute overtime period.  It is so darned exciting that I’m wishing for a tie so I can see 5 minutes of 3 on 3.  Sunday January 31 the entire NHL All Star game will be played 3 on 3.  This will be the beginning of the end for 5 on 5 NHL hockey.   Once fans get a taste of 3 on 3, with its frequent break outs and many scoring chances, they will never go back to the 5 on 5 game.

Some have told me that 3 on 3 will never catch on because fewer players are needed, but I’m not so sure.  With the furious action of 3 on 3 hockey four or five lines may be needed.  The goalies will have to work harder, making a back-up goalie even more important.

I’ve never met a hockey fan who won’t concede that 3 on 3 is more exciting than 5 on 5.
The NHL will have to comply, either by adopting 3 on 3 for the entire game or by taking out the blue lines and opening the entire ice surface to exciting freestyle 5 on 5 hockey.

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Millennial Paralysis Syndrome (MPS)

hallway studentsI have been a college Professor for 40 years. I arrive at the door of my classroom at the top of the hour, exactly when the class is scheduled to begin. When I enter the classroom the lights are on and the students are present in their seats.

Two years ago I first discovered the phenomenon of MPS.   As I walked down the hall I noticed my entire class of was standing around the classroom door. Approaching the window in the door I noticed that the lights were off and no one was inside the classroom. I reached for my keys, assuming that the facilities people had forgotten to unlock the classroom door. Much to my surprise the door was unlocked. I looked back at my students and said, “Didn’t anyone try to open the door?” They just looked back at me in silence.

This has happened 4 times in the past two years but not even once in my previous 38 years of teaching. My question is, “How do a group of people independently arrive at a classroom door and no one even attempts to open it?” Even more important is, “What are the characteristics of people who would be so paralyzed such that not even one of them attempts to turn the door handle?”

I’ve asked some of the students about this but I’m not getting any explanations that satisfy me. One student said that he was the second person to arrive but that when he noticed that the first person hadn’t gone inside he just assumed that the door was locked. Really? Couldn’t he have just tried the door to make sure? Or was he afraid to insult the first student by trying the door? One of my colleagues at the university thinks that this latest bunch of Millennials is “afraid to fail” or “afraid to look stupid” by trying the door in the presence of other students.

If this is the case we need to know why these students are so “sensitive.” Are they losing their one-on-one communication skills due to their dependence on “social media” and cell phones? Have they accepted political correctness to the extent that they won’t even question the judgment of others who are present? I don’t know. I don’t have a clue. However I am concerned about the future of this country. I’m pretty certain that we will require leaders who are at least bold enough to ask another if he has tried to open a door.

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Terrorists vs. The American Militia

terrorist

Despite what Obama says the Islamic Terrorist group known as ISIS has not been contained and seems to be establishing itself as a force that can blow up airplanes, bomb restaurants and shoot hundreds of people in concerts or sporting events.  As I write this article the city of Brussels, the administrative headquarters of the European Union, is on lock-down.  ISIS has not only murdered hundreds of innocent people but has now inflicted huge economic damage in both Paris and Brussels.  What is to be done about ISIS?  What is to be done about domestic crazy people like the crazy recluse who recently shot up the clinic in Colorado.

William Lind, in a recent article in The American Conservative Magazine, titled “The Logic of a Modern Militia”, argues that our current model of citizen protection is ineffective.  Police and government intelligence agencies may have the ability to detect and stop some terrorists before they do their damage but no government agency or police force will be able to stop all attacks.  For the families of those dead in Paris there is little comfort that “after the fact” the perpetrators have been killed or brought to justice.  Government police forces, whether they be federal, state or local, are largely ineffective against well designed terrorist plots.

Ironically our founding fathers have already given us a superior solution to this problem; the American Militia.  The second amendment to the US Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to own firearms.  Most states allow us to take training courses that allow us to conceal and carry hand guns.  If ISIS or some other madman were to attempt to duplicate the Paris killing spree at a West Texas dance club the percentage of lives lost would have been greatly decreased.  Carnage would not be avoided entirely but if there had been even four or five French citizens in that theatre with concealed handguns the insanity would have stopped much sooner.  As William Lind states, “How do you stop lone wolf terror?   With every man available.”

On the television news last week a young father held his three year old son at a memorial site in Paris.  Flowers were in abundance.  He told his son that flowers and not bullets were the answer to this chaos.  The son questioned his father, wondering how bullets could be stopped with flowers.  The father was insistent that flowers were the answer.  It was a beautiful, idealistic moment but the child’s instinctive wisdom shone through.

These terrorists are heartless killers who care nothing for peace.  If we are to reduce the carnage caused by terrorists return gunfire is the only defense.  We need to stop demonizing firearms and encourage responsible American citizens to receive training and carry concealed weapons as allowed by law.  Concealed firearms in the hands of hundreds of thousands of trained, responsible citizens may well be the best defense against any kind of terrorism.  Ultimately the only answer for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Lind’s Article:  http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/logic-of-a-modern-militia/

 

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That Strange Game Called Baseball

Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs

Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs

The 2015 regular season in major league baseball is now finished.  Unfortunately the Twins did not make it to the playoffs.  The Royals are in again this year.  Madison Bumgarner won’t be ruining the Royals World Series hopes this year as the Chicago Cubs eliminated the Giants.  The Cubs earned the right to play the Pittsburgh Pirates (in Pittsburgh’s PNC park)  in a single-elimination wild card game this coming Wednesday night.  If the Cubs win they will play St. Louis in the playoffs.  Believe me, Wrigleyville is a buzz.

However, before the playoffs start let’s look at some interesing facts about baseball’s regular season.

Each major league baseball team plays 162 games during the regular season; 81 games at home and 81 games away.

During most regular seasons every team will win at least 60 games and every team will lose 60 games.  For example in this past 2015 regular season the St. Louis Cardinals, who had the best record in baseball with 100 wins, still lost 62 games.  On the other hand, the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 99 games on their journey to the worst record in baseball, still won 63 games.

Do the math:  If each team wins at least 60 games and each team loses at least 60 games, the entire fortune of each team’s season depends on the outcome of just 42 games.

This season St Louis with 100 wins and the best record in baseball still won only 61.7 percent of their games.   This means that they lost 38.3% of their games.  Even the mighty Cardinals lost more than one of every three games they played.  The odds are against even the top teams in baseball to sweep a series, so if your team sweeps a 3 game series it is big deal!  Managers are correct when they emphasize the goal of “winning a series” because even winning two of three games is more than can be reasonably expected over an entire season.  After all, if your team won two of three games in every series for an entire season it would have a winning percentage of .666 which would mean 108 wins and only 54 losses.  This record would most certainly qualify a team for a division title.  In the modern (162 game) era of baseball only the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46) and the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48) have won more than 108 games.

Finally the record for the best winning percentage in the entire history of baseball (.764) is held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who won 116 games and lost only 36 games!  Moreover, in the 1906 World Series the Cubs were fortunate to be matched against the hapless Chicago White Sox (known as the “hitless wonders”) who had the worst team batting average in the American League!  It didn’t matter; in one of the largest upsets in the history of sports the White Sox beat the Cubs in six games!

That’s Baseball!

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Hurray For Catholics!

 

Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois

Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois

Before I make my comments about the Catholic Church and Catholics let me insert a disclaimer. I am not Catholic, nor is anyone in my family. I am not well versed in the liturgy or the fundamentals of Catholicism. My experience and opinions about Catholicism rise largely from my association with Catholic friends from all over the world.

When I was a young kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s there was a lot of bad blood between Christians of all religions. The Baptists didn’t like the Presbyterians, the Lutherans didn’t much care for the Methodists, and Protestants of all stripes had nothing nice to say about the Catholics. I think that most of that foolishness has been buried along with those who espoused those views but that’s the way it was.

When I was a young man growing up as a “Jack Mormon” I attended early worship at 9:40 am every Sunday. This was followed by Sunday school at 10am and the main church service which lasted until around noon. If that wasn’t enough every Wednesday night my Father and I attended prayer meeting. With a mindset of “the less religion the better” I envied my Catholic friends who could get away with logging in only one hour a week. Later they were able attend church on Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning which I considered the ultimate religious perk!

As the years have gone by I have had the pleasure of having many Catholic friends and of attending mass in several countries. It is my opinion that many people in this world (myself included at times) have strayed from the religious values and eternal truths that we were taught as children. It is difficult to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads not only to salvation but to close families, higher incomes, better life decisions and lasting happiness. Unfortunately many people just don’t think about God anymore, nor do they pray or engage in an examination of their “spiritual health.”

Not so for Catholics. Call it guilt or habit or just blind obedience they SHOW UP for mass. While attending Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago today I saw Catholics of many races kneeling and praying shoulder to shoulder in common pews. Unlike many Protestant churches sparsely filled with old people these Catholic churches have within them many children as well as people in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties. Young parents sit in the pews with well-behaved children dressed in their best clothes. Some parishioners wear nice dresses, some wear suits and ties and some come in blue jeans. And testing the true mercy of the Lord our God, one guy even wears a Chicago Bears football jersey!

These are diverse people but they are one in their Catholicism. No matter how any outsider wishes to judge their religious dedication I say one thing is for sure; these Catholics take at least a minimum of one hour a week to pray, to listen to God’s word, to reflect and to be reminded of who created them and what he wants them to do. In what is becoming an increasingly crappy world where people are setting themselves above their creator and floating far beyond the solid moorings that have served humanity for thousands of years, these Catholics are humbly keeping the faith. I admire them.

God bless them.

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Two Good Photos?


Once in a while I snap a photo that looks really, really good.  I’m going to share two of them with you today.  Both of these photos were shot with a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or 4 cell phone, although I’m sure that most smart phones have good cameras these days.  I’ve got a digital camera around here somewhere, but it is irrelevant now that my phone has a superior camera.  Besides, when that “photo opp” moment comes, your phone is in your pocket while your camera is usually in a drawer at home.

The first photo was taken on March 7, 2015 near Witoka, Minnesota at sunrise.  It was one of those “pull over, get out of the car” photos.  It is a reminder that every day we are given the gift of a cloud formation, a sunrise or a sunset so unique that it has never appeared that way before, nor will it ever appear that way again.  The only proper response to such beauty is gratefulness.

wonderful wrigleyThe second photo was taken this month at Wrigley Field.  The sun is shadowing the crowd but the field of play is in bright sunlight.  It looks like a photo that was altered to look like a painting but it is straight from the camera.  Those who have attended ball games at Wrigley will note that the two new “jumbotrons” are now installed, part of a 5 year renovation program.  The historic scoreboard above center field will not be altered and is as iconic to Wrigley Field as its ivy-covered brick outfield walls.

I’m no photographer.  I’m sure that anyone who has taken a photography 101 course in college could find plenty wrong with both of my photos.  It’s just the law of averages that one out of 500 photos will be a good one.  I hope you enjoyed them; that’s good enough for me!

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The Case for Being a “Rational” Sports Fan

 They say that the term “fan” is short for the word “fanatic” or an almost uncontrollable exuberance toward one’s favorite sports team. The common belief is that a “true sports fan” is gleeful when his team wins and suffers great emotional distress when his team loses. The true fan is glued to every pitch, every forward pass, and every shot from inside the blue line. His blood pressure can get quite high during a championship series. Losing a World Series, a Stanley cup or a Super Bowl can cause a “true fan” days or even weeks of depression.

I know because I’ve been there. As a fan I’ve had more than my fair share of positive experiences over my lifetime. As a kid growing up in Omaha I watched the Nebraska Cornhuskers win back to back collegiate national championships. When my kids were youngsters we rooted for the Twins in their 87 and 91 World Series championships. I’ve had the pleasure of cheering on the Packers in their 1997 and 2011 Super Bowl Championships. Most recently the Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in the past six years reaffirming again and again my decision to become a Blackhawks season ticket holder in 2009 when nobody wanted Blackhawks tickets.

The disappointments have been there for me also. I was depressed for a week when the Packers lost to the Broncos in the 1998 Super Bowl. I’m also a member of the world’s most masochistic group of fans on the north side of Chicago. The Chicago Cubs never fail to disappoint having won their last World Series in 1908, six years before Wrigley Field was built.

All of these ups and downs, elation and the sick feeling in my stomach over the past fifteen years have led me to adopt a brand new philosophy toward sports teams and sports in general. My approach is different from most, but for me it makes a lot of sense.

Here’s my take. It’s not my job to support my favorite sports team. The opposite is true. They are here to entertain and please me! So practically speaking how does this work out? If it is a close game or my team is pounding the heck out of their opponent I’m glued to the television. But if the Cubs or Twins are down by six runs in the second inning, I’m shutting the darned television off. I might check the score in an hour or so, but if there’s no improvement I’ve got a million better things to do than watch them choke. The same is true for the Packers, Twins, or Blackhawks. Notwithstanding that they are my favorite teams none of them are worth my personal suffering. It is their job to please by winning the game! It is not my job to dutifully suffer with them when they’re in distress.

There are folks who say I’m a “fair weather fan.” It’s OK with me if you want to use that label. I would instead reply that I’ve grown into a “rational” sports fan that maximizes my delight upon winning and minimizes my costs (irritation, sadness, frustration) if losing. It is the job of my teams to give me “fair weather” every game! I’m also a sports bigamist, rooting for two baseball teams (Twins and Cubs) and two football teams (Packers and Bears). We all lead busy lives with many great ways to spend our time. Fan or not, I’m not going to waste my time watching my favorite multimillionaires stink up the place. After all, where on the ticket is it written that I have to stay for the whole game and suffer? Likewise, where is the implied contract that I have to keep the television on until I’m depressed?  Try my approach. You might be able to stop taking your blood pressure medicine.

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