Archive for October, 2008

There will be thoughts on the we’re-taking-every-other-week-off Illini, Kyle Orton’s smoking offense, and my continuing man crush on Derrick Rose soon.  In the meantime, here are some quick picks again on a Halloween weekend (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) INDIANA HOOSIERS (-2) over Central Michigan Chippewas
(2) Colorado Buffaloes (+3.5) over TEXAS A&M AGGIES
(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-2.5) over Iowa Hawkeyes (We’re on the semi-weekly schedule for Illinois showing up for games, so this ought to be a relatively easy win.  If the Illini lose this game, everyone should be fired.)

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Illini Games for the Season: 3-4
Overall Season: 15-11-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Baltimore Ravens (+1.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Miami Dolphins
(3) Detroit Lions (+12.5) over CHICAGO BEARS (I have a bad feeling about this game, where the Bears should win but the team comes out so flat that they’ll fail to cover.  If the Bears lose this game, everyone should be fired.)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Bears Games for the Season: 2-4-1
Overall Season: 11-10-3

(Image from Happy Hour Valley)

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In the aftermath of the 2006 mid-term elections, I wrote this post lamenting about how the Republican Party’s losses that year were indicative of a widening gulf between the libertarian wing (which I consider myself to be a part of) and the social conservatives. This trend has sprung up more prominently as an issue in the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks as it has become almost assured that Americans will choose Barack Obama over John McCain for President on November 4th (unless you believe that every single reputable poll is incorrect). The internal struggle between the various factions of the GOP is characterized in a number of ways (i.e. elites vs. evangelicals or urban vs. rural), but it still basically comes down to a fight over whether the party should focus on fiscal conservatism or social conservatism.

Since 1980, Ronald Reagan was able to create a coalition of those two conflicting groups that would be a force in American politics for a quarter of a century. Indeed, George W. Bush won two elections by leveraging this powerful coalition – the irony is that the splinter of the party is going to come on his watch (whether this was substantially his fault is a discussion for another day). Even before the nation’s economy became the predominant issue over the past month, John McCain was handed a Republican Party that was in disarray without a vision (and in turn, his campaign has failed to create any vision in its place). In the zeal with which the current leadership of the GOP to use the “50-plus-1” model of securing an ideological base with a slight majority, they forgot that moderate independents are the ones that elect Presidents in this country. This group increasingly felt shunned by the Republicans, which resulted in the changing of control in Congress to the Democrats in 2006 and putting the 2008 GOP Presidential candidate, no matter who it was, at a severe disadvantage against any Democratic candidate. The Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world believed that those people that didn’t meet every single litmus test of being supposedly conservative were RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) that ought to be kicked out of the party and ridiculed (Right Wing Nut House has a great post on this subject – despite the title of this blog by Rick Moran, who is the brother of Nightline anchor Terry Moran, it is actually one of the most well-reasoned and rationally-based conservative sites out there). Well, guess what – those so-called RINOs did end up leaving in great numbers, taking with them tons of independent voters that have similar viewpoints, and could very well end up giving the Democrats both the White House and a veto-proof Congress.

I’ll be straight-forward with you on my personal bias here – there is absolutely no political philosophy that I abhor more than populism. Most people that have my political worldview – fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and live in a large progressive city – would say the same thing. Traditionally, the Democrats have been the party most open to populists and they have certainly hammered home that type of message on the economic front in this election (which is why I will not be voting for Barack Obama). However, the Republican Party has increasingly become more populist since the 1990s (encapsulated by Pat Buchanan’s horrific speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention – of course, he came back this year and called Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention the greatest convention address ever). Even worse is the anti-intellectualism that seems to have come along with this rising tide of populism in both the GOP (once again, Rick Moran hits this point directly). As the evangelical and rural influence in the Republican Party has increased, so has the corresponding aversion to intellectualism. (Minneapolis Red Sox alludes to this in one of his latest posts.)  It wasn’t that long ago that people with higher income and educational levels were voting Republican by large margins over Democrats. Yet, the GOP has become so beholden to its populist wing that it is now the opposite, where the wealthy and highly-educated are actually voting for Democrats more (despite the lingering perception that the Republican Party is the party for the rich).

These Republican populists are more likely to be ideologues on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. This isn’t a good thing for the Republicans simply because of demographic trends which will likely come to fruition in this year’s election. The interior Western states that voted heavily for Bush in 2000 and 2004 have more libertarians as opposed to evangelicals, which means that they are less likely to vote on socially conservative issues (other than possibly gun ownership). Those states also happen to have the fastest-growing Hispanic populations outside of Florida, which will make the Republican Party pay for its nativist rhetoric over the past two years (even though John McCain was at the forefront of trying to get a compromise passed on this issue, which made him so unpopular with the GOP populist base that it almost doomed him in the party nomination process from the get-go). Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that McCain is poised to lose Colorado and Nevada, which would essentially make it impossible for him to win the Presidency.

At the same time, a number of Southern states are seeing rapid changes in their own demographics due to an influx non-evangelical and educated Northerners transplants. Case in point is Virginia, which has gone from a solid-red state to one where Obama appears to have a commanding lead as a result of the increasingly Democratic area of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. North Carolina has experienced a similar influx and, not surprisingly, what once was a lock for the Republicans is now a toss-up. Essentially, these moves are mirroring what has happened in suburban areas across the country, which were once rock-hard Republican bases but are now leaning Democratic. (When DuPage County is having toss-up races, the GOP should note that it’s in a whole lot of trouble.) Add in a worrisome economy on top of all of those demographic shifts and the likelihood of America witnessing a landslide early on Tuesday night (as opposed to staying up late to see if a couple of precincts in Florida and Ohio get their returns in to decide the election) is extremely high.

While John McCain’s campaign has been far from stellar at any level (whether it’s the incoherent day-to-day messaging, the pick of Sarah Palin as the VP candidate that has backfired with independent voters, or the complete lack of an overarching message as evidenced by this New York Times Magazine piece), it’s important to note that he personally is actually polling better than the Republican Party generally. This means that if McCain loses, it will be more because of the long-term political miscalculations of the party behind him (plus the economy) as opposed to anything his campaign could have possibly done. The Republican Party needs to take note of this since there will be the inevitable ill-advised mouth-breathing calls from the conservative media establishment in the event of a McCain loss that he failed to generate any excitement from the conservative base and moved away from the moral values of the party.

Even though I will be voting for John McCain because I truly believe he’s the one national politician of our time that has proven that he is an independent thinker even when it was politically detrimental to him (I personally like Obama and will ultimately be fine with him as President, but I concur with Ruth Marcus in failing to see how his policies break with the traditional Democratic Party approach at all – the fact that Obama’s incredibly well-oiled Chicago-style campaign has been able to get the American public to largely perceive that he is the supposed change agent while McCain is “four more years of Bush” is sad on a number of levels) and hope that he will somehow win (which would be kind of like saying that I hope that the Illini will get to the BCS National Championship Game this year – technically, they could if they win out and every team ahead of them lost every single other game, just as McCain could win by sweeping every single battleground state despite the fact he’s not leading in any of them with less than a week to go), in a way, a horrible loss for the Republicans next Tuesday would be a good thing long-term for the party. This will put the discord between the libertarians and the populists front-and-center such that the GOP has to figure out which direction it’s going to take since the old Reagan coalition will have become fodder for the history books. The Republicans have the opportunity to either perform a make-over to become a true majority party that invites intellectual debate or alternatively could choose to be a vocal minority that only cares about ideological purity. Is the party going to opt to grow and attempt to expand its base by adopting a libertarian platform in light of substantial demographic trends, even in the traditionally Republican strongholds in the South? Or is the party going to look to protect its evangelical core because they are the loudest and most activist group? If the Republicans take the former approach, they will retain me as a supporter in general. However, it will be the last straw for me and a whole lot of other people if the party decides to largely stick the same old socially backward tactics to scare up evangelical votes.

(Image from Los Angeles Times)

Quick picks on a Bears bye week with the Illini visiting Madison (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (+4.5) over South Florida Bulls
(2) MIAMI HURRICANES (-3) over Wake Forest Demon Deacons
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (-2.5) over WISCONSIN BADGERS

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Illini Games for the Season: 3-3
Overall Season: 13-10-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (+3) over San Diego Chargers
(2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3) over New York Giants
(3) TENNESSEE TITANS (-4) over Indianapolis Colts

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 3-0

Bears Games for the Season: 2-4-1
Overall Season: 9-9-3

I was on a blissful vacation last weekend, which means that I thankfully didn’t have to watch a horrific couple of days of football from the Illini and Bears.  Therefore, I’ll direct you to Illinitalk and Blog Down Chicago Bears for their respective rants.  Onto this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (+2.5) over Pittsburgh Panthers – I have few rules in life, but one of them is that a Dave Wannstedt-coached team is not allowed to be ranked for two weeks in a row.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (-3.5) over DUKE BLUE DEVILS – The mighty might have fallen a bit in Miami, but they’re still light years ahead of Puke football.

(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-15.5) over Indiana Hoosiers – The bookies are absolutely KILLING me with another double-digit spread in favor of Illinois for the second week in a row (and we know how that turned out against Minnesota), especially with the Hawaii-style defense (as in no defense) that the Illini appear to be utilizing lately.  Still, WTF was I thinking in picking Indiana last week after they put up an embarrassing performance against Iowa?  I should have known better than to choose those Satan’s Spawn enablers.  Let’s hope that the Minnesota game was the equivalent of the Iowa game last year – a Zookian brain fart against an inferior team.

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 2-3
Overall Season: 11-9-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (+2) over Indianapolis Colts – The bookies have essentially made the Packers into my anti-Illini for gambling purposes this year, where I’m pretty sure every spread involving Green Bay so far has been within a field goal.  They’re way too enticing again, especially at home against an Indy club that largely running on reputation this season.

(2) CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) over New Orleans Saints – You know that the spreads are FUBAR this week when I’m including this game, which involves two scarily inconsistent teams.  I’m still in denial that we are entering a world where the Dolphins are a favorite against the Ravens and Vegas is spotting double-digits to Brian Griese versus a Mike Holmgren-coached team.

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-3) over Minnesota Vikings – The fact that the Bears have the same record as the Vikings right now is a complete abomination.  The New York Times pointed out that the difference between the Bears being 6-0 as opposed to 3-3 is a swing of a total of 8 points in an aggregate of 4 minutes at the conclusion of their 3 losses.  Meanwhile, the Vikings needed a questionable pass interference call to pull out a win against the pathetic Lions.  This really ought to be a double-digit spread for the Bears on paper, but Vegas correctly recognizes that there are still plenty of ways that we can pry defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter.

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 1-4-1
Overall Season: 6-9-3

FIRST BULLS RANT OF THE SEASON

On a final note, if Larry Hughes starts another Bulls preseason game instead of Derrick Rose (yes, I’ve been watching preseason basketball – there’s some serious b-ball withdrawl on my end), I will personally see to it that Vinny Del Negro’s rims are ripped off his car and sold off on Maxwell Street next Sunday.  In a remarkable turn of events, Stacey King actually stated something worthwhile on Tuesday’s broadcast by noting that the rest of the Bulls need to adjust to Derrick Rose’s game as opposed to the other way around.  My gawd, I think he’s got it!!!  There will be a justifiable fan mutiny if we continue to hear crap that Rose needs to be coddled into the lineup.  I agree that all observers need to temper expectations for production out of 19-year old rookie point guard, but he needs as much time on the floor as possible since this team needs to be built around his talent and skills instead of trying to wedge him into a rotation with 18 other undersized guards.  The regular season hasn’t even started yet and the presence of Larry Hughes is already making me twitch – this isn’t a good sign.  At the very least, I need to be able to take in the sight of two of my man crushes in Rose and Deron Williams going at each other in a special exhibition game at the Assembly Hall in Champaign on Friday night – I’m officially getting all tingly right now.

Go Bulls, Go Deron, Go Illini, and Go Bears!

(Image from ESPN.com)

Many years ago, a young Frank the Tank spent his Saturday mornings with a fairly consistent TV-viewing routine: The Smurfs, Looney Tunes, and capping it all off with Soul Train.  As you wrap your mind around the image of a half-Polish/half-Chinese toddler sitting around watching Soul Train in rapture (of course, host Don Cornelius was the definition of encouraging diversity, as evidenced by inviting these guys as guests at one point), please note that I was a massive hip-hop fan long before it was considered to be mainstream and since I lived in a household without cable (meaning no MTV or BET), Soul Train was pretty much the only television outlet available for me to get my dose of favorite music.  Not only that, the Chicago broadcasts of Soul Train on WGN included a heavy rotation of the greatest commercials of all-time – you can only imagine the horror on my Taiwanese-born mother’s face when I requested that we take a detour to the Museum of Science and Industry so that we could stop by Moo & Oink.  So, I got a little emotional when I found out that the old Soul Train reruns were being taken off the air for good (there haven’t been any new episodes since 2006).  Don Cornelius helped bring R&B and hip-hop to the masses in an era where those genres were considered to “niche” markets.  Now, even the NFL has moved away from using aging white rock stars to headline the Super Bowl halftime show… what?  (This blog post pretty much sums up my feelings about Bruce Springsteen – he’s not bad and there are certain songs such as “Glory Days” that are among my favorites, but I’ve just never felt that he was as great of a songwriter and rock star as he’s made out to be by much of the the general public.)  OK, so there still needs to be some work done.  However, when you look at the top Billboard songs over the past decade, you’ll see the charts dominated by either hip-hop or at least hip-hop influenced acts.  All of those artists should be grateful to the work of Don Cornelius and Soul Train for paving the way when that music wasn’t quite as accepted.

(Ed. note: You may have noticed that I’ve referenced Color Me Badd twice in the last week, which is unusual since no person on Earth has acknowledged their existence for the past 18 years.  Let me just tell you that after my research of the “band” on YouTube, I felt the same elation of uncovering some life-altering treasure as the archaeologist from Jurassic Park that found the prehistoric mosquito encased in amber.  Of course, there’s some blissful ignorance of the collateral damage that will surely come from these discoveries, which means I’ll likely become a pregame snack for a velociraptor within the next couple of weeks.)

(Image from Museum of Broadcast Communications)

I’m off to Napa Valley for the weekend, so the truncated parlay posts continue for at least one more week.  For your enjoyment, here’s a nasty dunk from last night by Celtics rookie Bill Walker:

While I was impressed with the dunk when I caught it on SportsCenter last night, what got me to rewind my DVR numerous times was the fantastic sight of the entire Celtics bench, particularly superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, going absolutely bonkers for a rookie to the point where they had to hold each other back from spilling onto to the court (in a preseason game, no less).  If you’ve read my blog for the past several years, you’ll know that I’m of the general opinion that winning creates team chemistry more than the other way around.  However, there’s something to be said for how tight the Celtics appear to be as a team – Kobe Bryant has posterized opposing players hundreds of times in the same manner as Walker but the rest of the Lakers are usually too busy hitting on the flavor of the month actress sitting courtside to notice.  At the same time, the sight of Andres Nocioni and Kirk Hinrich going nuts on the bench for a Tyrus Thomas dunk would be only slightly less awkward than this piece of history.  Anyway, here are this week’s football picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) INDIANA HOOSIERS (+6) over Iowa Hawkeyes
(2) MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (+2.5) over Vanderbilt Commodores (It’s time to cash in your Vandy chips)
(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-12.5) over Minnesota Golden Gophers

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 3-0

Illini Games for the Season: 2-2
Overall Season: 10-7-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) Green Bay Packers (+2.5) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Jacksonville Jaguars
(3) Chicago Bears (-2.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-0-2

Bears Games for the Season: 1-3-1
Overall Season: 5-7-3

Fear not, Chicago baseball fans.  We have two saviors to get us through Saturdays…

… and Sundays (at least when we’re playing Detroit).

Juice and the Neckbeard carpet bombed the Detroit Metro area for a combined total of 765 yards of offense this past weekend, leading the Illini and Bears to thrash Michigan and the Lions by a collective score of 79-27.  With Illinois tossing its Bo Schembechler voodoo doll for the first time since I was a senior in college and the Bears putting together its first complete game since the season opener (granted, the Lions will do that to you with or without Matt Millen), I can’t be too down on the White Sox elimination.  (Cubs fans deserve to be pissed, though.)  More thoughts are coming later this week.

(Images from Chicago Tribune)