Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get well Ueck!

Great rundown of why I've been lucky to have this guy announcing my team's games for my whole life. Why Bob Uecker is better than your announcer , with credit to the Miller Park Drunk.

Won't be the same to be grilling out in the early part of Summer without hearing Ueck ask me to throw on a Usinger's with Silver Spring Chipotle mustard. Hope to hear him back by the 4th. As someone 35, I wouldn't know what Brewer games would be like without hearing Ueck. For most of those awful 90's and 2000s teams, he and the Sausage Race WERE the only Brewers worth latching onto.

In the meantime, do I dare to care about NBA hoops for the next week, with the Bucks back in their series with the Hawks? Guess I can try to suck it up, except it's easy to suck it up the way that this Bucks team shares the ball.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Update: Stimulus still stabilizing, baggers still clueless, and Spring still springing

Looks like an influential member of the inner circle is now promoting the site ( you know who you are...), so I figured I'd give a quick update on some recent events.

1. As mentioned previously, the stimulus continues to do its job as a stabilization policy. New home sales went up nearly 27 percent in March, as people were clearly pushed to buy by the tax credits which require a house to be closed on by April 30. My father was one of these people, buying his retirement/ eventually permanent home in central Arkansas. Of course, some d-bag banker tried to claim he wasn't credit-worhty, despite 40 years of career work, his wife having 30 more years of employment, and my father having a documented track record of 37 years of responsible home ownership. Fortunately, he found someone else in time who wasn't a power-abuser, but it reminds you how much control businesses have in these transactions, and how they have the ability to mess over people who have played the game the right way, solely because they can.

This follows the BLS stats which show that 162,000 jobs were added in March, the most in 3 years . Sure, a decent number of these are Census jobs and other temporary measures, but those people are still working, are still paying taxes, and still buying things. Given where we were a year ago (remember DOW 7000, S&P 675, 700,000 losses a month?), this is a welcome place.

Obviously the key for both of these is if this lays the groundwork for an economy that doesn't need monetary and fiscal stimulus, and that needs to happen soon. But disaster has been averted, and that point cannot be hammered home enough.

2. Tax Day came and went with a small rabble of Tea-baggers complaining about things that are at best incoherent, and at worst not true. As Bruce Murphy at Milwaukee Magazine points out, Wisconsinites' state taxes and fees rank 19th in the nation, and the state is right at the middle in spending . As Murphy brings up, while Wisconsin's income and property taxes may be comparatively high, their sales taxes are very low (at 5.0% statewide) and fees for items such as car registration are miniscule compared to places like California or even Indiana.

A lot of the reason behind the "improvement" in the tax rankings is due to expanded tax credits and other reductions authored by the Doyle Administration, which has governed as a corporate-friendly centrist group along the same lines as the Tommy Thompson regime (with some of the cronyism and penalization of the cities and UW System thrown in for good measure). The REAL reason Doyle isn't running for a third term is because liberals threatened to bolt or stay home if he did, because of his record of selling out, and he couldn't win if that happened. These are the realities, reagrdless of how angry-man radio tries to portray Doyle as some kind of left-wing job destroyer. I WISH he was left-wing like they say he was, we'd probably in a lot better shape fiscally.

3. With the tax burdens in mind, the Legslature should regret not voting to allow Milwaukee County the chance to set up an RTA. Watch for an announcement in the coming weeks about multi-million dollar reductions in services for the next 2 years on MCTS, on top of the huge reductions and fare increases in recent years. Now, Scott Walker and co. may not mind, as it "proves their point" about how things need to be overhauled (instead of maintaining what was working, God forbid these guys do that), but for real people, this will hurt a lot. It also means that property tax (and therefore County residents) have to remain the large providers of funds for the bus, and it will put pressure on the state to make up aid once the new Census figures come out in 2012, which will undoubtedly give the Milwaukee area a smalller amount of aid to operate.

You think MCTS would have a better chance of surviving if the 62,000 people that attended pro sports events in Milwaukee last night all were kicking in 0.5% of the money being spent on tickets, drinks, and food? This is especially true for the 15,000 obnoxious Cubbie fans invading Miller Park- make THEM pay for our buses and parks. Why not? They're using our streets and freeways on their trips up here.

4. Cloudy and dreary today, but after the above-average temps the last 8 weeks, including the 6th-warmest March on record in Wisconsin as well as the well-above normal temps since October, I am not going to complain. Things are great in Wisconsin as they are, but when you combine it with a rare real Spring for weather, they get even better. And forecasts say Terrace Season will be back soon enough.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Get Bucky off WTMJ!

I just sent the following to UW Athletics. We'll see if they say anything about it, but I have a hard time believing I'm the only one that thinks this way.

"I am writing to discuss your alleged Milwaukee Badger sports afilliate- 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee. This station has consistently given short shrift to the Badgers as a priority and has consistently denigrated the university on its non-sports shows, and as a former Milwaukee resident, season ticket holder, and Badger Fund contributor, I would recommend finding another station to house Badger games in the largest media market in the state.

WTMJ has what can at best be described as an inconsistent basis for broadcasting Badger games. Badger basketball is frequently pre-empted for Bucks' regular-season games and Brewers exhibition games. Weekly Badger talk shows and coaches' programs are sent to other stations with no consistent home or broadcast, and Badger hockey (including tonight's title game, check to the left side of the link) is nowhere to be found on TMJ. Yet WTMJ constantly promotes itself as "Wisconsin's sports leader," and uses calls from Matt LePay as a key part of that branding. With thousands of UW grads and many more fans in the Milwaukee area, we deserve the ability to find our Badger broadcasts and programs on a single station and at the times that the games are occuring. The much smaller Marquette constituency has no problem locating their shows on 1130, WISN, but Badgers do not get the same luxury in a town they should have preminent status in.

In addition, WTMJ constantly denigrates this great unviersity on their airwaves. Daily shows hosted by people such as Charles Sykes and Jeff Wagner mock the university's culture and academic acheivements. Those of us that love this university and all that it is associated with are insulted when we hear a Charles Sykes promo in the middle of our Badger games, and do not need to hear those loudmouths disrupt our enjoyment of listeneing to Badger games.

Sykes and Wagner also act as a favorable front group for politicans such as Scott Walker and Glenn Grothmann, who are in favor of drastically cutting state funding to the university, which drives up to tuition to unaffordable levels for many Wisconsinites and Badger fans. TMJ talk show hosts are also are heavily associated with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), an institution that threatened the UW's commitment to fair and quality research by signing a contract with faculty member Ken Goldstein. WPRI further sullied the UW's reputation when Goldstein had to back out of the contract because WPRI was manipulating the results of his research to fit their anti-UW and public services agenda. This great university does not need to be associated with a station that uses itself as a platform to constantly knock down the UW.

Such a move away from WTMJ could give a serious boost for UW sports and in how it is portrayed in local Milwaukee radio. There are two other Milwaukee all-sports stations that would love to have Badger sports full-time in WSSP (1250AM) and WAUK (540AM). Both already carry Badger sports as the secondary home for Bucky when WTMJ pre-empts Badger programming for professional sports or their daily talk shows. In addition, both have commitments to other teams that can be described as minor at best (1250 has the Admirals), and both would probably be willing to make those commitments secondary to taking a full load of Badger football, basketball, and hockey.

Either station may pay more than WTMJ in order to establish itself as a Badger station, especially given that those listeners would then continue to listen to their stations when the Badgers are not on the air. In addition, 1250 or 540 would not have talk show hosts who denigrate the university like WTMJ does today, so I believe a move to one of these stations would be a win-win for the university, the station, and the grads and fans that closely follow Bucky in the Milwaukee area. It is not coincidental that WTMJ's station ratings rise in Fall, when Badger and Packer football is in full swing. Radio consumers stick with the station that they get their sports or other key programming from, and there is little doubt that many Badger fans do the same with WTMJ. This means that station is still on WTMJ when their talk-show hosts come on during the day and spew their anti-UW and Madison agendas.

In closing, I would recommend making WTMJ pay for their second-class treatment by UW by looking elsewhere for its Milwaukee affiliate, and am curious to know when Badger Sports Properties' contract expires with WTMJ. I have little doubt that there are thousands of Badger alums and fans such as myself that would like to see a permanent home for Bucky in Milwaukee, and away from a station that rips it whenever the games aren't on.

A double alum, football season ticket holder, and lifetime Badger,
Jake ******"

P.S. Another reason to get Bucky off WTMJ. Journal Broadcast Group has given nearly $15,000 to Walker this election cycle already . In addition to being patently unethical (how can reporters cover Walker fairly when the bosses are giving him cash?), Scotty boy's the one without the college degree. You think he'll care about the UW or any other type of higher education when he's in office?Edit: Capper notes that it's a refund of previous ads of Walker's on TMJ that never ran. But that reiterates the point, because radio stations make money on selling ads, and you don't want to piss off your clients.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hoops, baseball and our economy

That was a tremendous NCAA basketball tournament that wrapped up. It had everything you wanted- tons of close games decided late, some shocking upsets, an amazing run by a small school in Butler, and a classic final game that was decided with the last shot in the air.

I consider March Madness the greatest annual sporting event in America, and it works in a way much like how what we would like to believe our country works. There are many more areas in the country that have teams get into the tournament, and many people can relate to some college that is playing, even if they don't care about basketball itself. If you win your little conference title, you get your chance on the floor against the big boys, and sometimes the little guys get the job done. And the title isn't determined by some fixed formula that gives massive benefits to the big boys and makes it near impossible for the lower-resource schools to get through- you gotta earn that spot on the court. Most often, it is not the team with the most individual talent that takes the title (i.e Kentucky, Roy Williams' Kansas teams), but it's the team that can combine its assets the best to be the best team out there. Sure one or two guys mightbe superstars, but often it's glue people like Nolan Smith or Brian Zoubek that play within their roles that take the team to the next level. Duke's students may be overwhlemingly trust-funders that don't have to work hard to end up on top, but their basketball team did, and deserved the title they got (as much as it pains me to say that).

But perhaps it is fitting that Major League Baseball started up yesterday, because in many ways, MLB works much like how our country REALLY works. MLB features some distribution of revenues between teams, but the revenues a Yankees or Red Sox can generate through local radio and television deals overwhelms the amount of revenue a team like the Brewers or the A's can get. Given that all of the teams in MLB are in the same labor market for players, and that players can move relatively easily from team to team once they hit free agency, small-revenue teams have to pay every bit as much as big-market teams to get the same caliber of player, regardless of the differences in items such as cost of living or room for advancement This will help to explain how an arbitrator could legitimately give an average player like Corey Hart a salary near $5.0 million- because other teams have paid the same amount to the same level of player. In fact, a players' lower chances of off-field revenue or on-field success may mean that smaller-revenue teams have to pay MORE for the same player- Wickett and Russell on 1250 AM call it "the Milwaukee tax.".

But it goes deeper than that when comparing baseball's economic structure with the overall economic one. A major advantage the big-revenue teams have is the ability to be wrong. They can offer an extra year or two of guaranteed salary or overpay for a player coming off an injury because if that player doesn't pan out, it's still a small amount of their payroll, and they can cast off the excess baggage with no major hurt to their team. Smaller-revenue teams can't afford to be tied down with a risky long-term contract because it is much more damaging to have to hold on to a dead asset, and their flexibility to right the mistake is greatly compromised.

The same holds true in our greater society. People with money and resources have a much greater ability to take chances and have more confidence in being able to make their moves because they can AFFORD TO LOSE. Poorer people are often locked into their job with their substandard health care and lame town because they can't afford to end with nothing for any amount fo time. Therefore, they become a lot less likely to go back to school, move into a different career, or relocate to a better community- coming up short is far too great a risk to take, so they remain in their current, losing situation instead of making the move that would be more likely to end up with a better outcome.

This is why safety nets like national health care, unemployment, and available student loans are so important, because it expands (or maintains) the choices that remain available to the average citizen, and lessens the chance that they get forced into a substandard result due to their options being limited. And our overall society suffers as well, since you now have individuals taking employment and productivity below what they should be doing, just like how financial constraints keep a number of teams from even trying to compete with the big-revenue clubs. In MLB, you see interest being depressed in numerous markets (think KC, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Milwaukee under the Seligs), and understandably fans and even players see no major reason to care a lot, since trying hard does not lead to a much different result. It also leads to a 2-tier league where the groups are clearly on different levels of play and expectations....much like what we see in America today.

And the remarks from the winners and losers are much the same, too. Check out Yankees President Randy Levine chiding Brewers owner Mark Attanasio for mentioning the Yankees' huge payroll and budget advantage over the Brew Crew. To an extent Levine's correct, the Yankees are doing what they can to have the best chance of winning under the current system. This includes paying anything they want to free agents and bidding millions to unknown foreign-league players, which are luxuries that smaller-makret teams can't take advantage of for every available player that comes down the pike. This is a lot like how a trust-funder gets extra connections to colleges and employment that open a lot more doors than it does for the average schmoe. Maybe we should give a bit of credit for the trust-funder if they reach a level of success after going through those doors, but Levine's comments are much like trust-funders and othber elites asking "Well, why should you punish my success?"

The bottom line is, 1. a healthy system is the only reason you'd have a chance for that success in the first place, and if the system falls apart and there's less nationwide interest in the game, you'll probably lose too, and 2. You really aren't showing that you're any special, you just ended up doing what you probably should be able to do- win a game that favors you. You should appreciate the advantages that you've been given, and if you really cared about the game, you'd work to make it possible for more people to have a chance to win. Not only does this spark more interest and competition, it makes any success you do have on the more level playing field a real accomplishment, instead of a medicore outcome. Maybe you'd even become worthy of your high self-opinion.

These folks naively think they'll never be the ones that could lose, Losing teaches you limits, and people lose a lot bigger when the rich are allowed to be richer at the expense of everyone else, so more people see the limitations now more than ever. Maybe it's the Midwesterner in me, but I think it's a good thing to find out, as maybe it forces you to recognize what CAN be done, and achieve those realistic goals. Unfortunately, not enough people learn that lesson of limits, and continue the hubris of throwing their weight and opinions around at the great expense (and resentment) of everyone else. In MLB, many of the big-revenue teams and a lot of members of the players union don't want what's best for the game- because they want to stick with what makes them rich and successful. Understandable but still weak, because it shows a lack of vision, and a lack of caring about the game that gave you the opportunities that you owe your success to in the first place. This holds true in baseball, and in American life today.