Saturday, April 23, 2011

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boxing Dispatch 4/16/11 – Berto vs. Ortiz

It says something about a fighter’s character when his immediate reaction to being handed his first defeat in 27 professional bouts is to say that he’s thankful that no one was injured.   Those were the first words out of the mouth of a still-stunned Andre Berto, upon hearing the judges unanimously award his WBC Welterweight title to the younger phenom, Victor Ortiz.    While words like class, grace, and dignity start springing to mind when you hear something like that, Berto’s other post-fight comments quickly brought him back down to earth; he rationalized the loss by claiming that he “felt off,” and said “that wasn’t me in there.”

It’s probable that the thing that felt “off” for Berto was suddenly finding himself being dominated by an opponent who normally competes in a lower weight-class, who is slower and has inferior boxing skills, and who entered the ring plagued by questions about his will and ability to take punches.

Berto had been scheduled to fight Shane Mosely back in January of 2010, but dropped out of the arrangement following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which counted members of Berto’s family among its victims.   Mosely went on to suffer a high-profile loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., while Berto went on to win technical knock-out victories over Carlos Quintana (27-2) and Freddy Hernandez (29-1) in the 8th and 1st rounds, respectively.  If the Berto-Mosley fight had taken place as scheduled, we likely would have been denied this Berto-Ortiz matchup altogether.

It’s often true that as much of boxing’s drama takes place outside of the boxing ring as inside.  This is illustrated clearly by the example of Victor Ortiz, an electrifying fighter whose back-story is legendary and compelling: Born to Mexican immigrant parents in Garden City, Kansas, he took up boxing in elementary school after his mother took off for good, leaving the kids in the care of their violent, alcoholic father.  When he also left a few years later, Victor and his siblings ended up in the foster care system.  He fell in with a rough crowd and began dealing drugs until his life was turned around by winning the Kansas Golden Gloves Championship.  A few years later, Victor and his brother moved to Denver to live with their older sister, who had just become a legal adult.  Victor continued boxing, attracting the attention of fighter-turned-trainer Roberto Garcia, who brought Victor to Oxnard, California to finish High School and continue his training.  Ortiz turned pro in 2004, at the age of 17.  As soon as he turned 18, he gained legal custody of his younger brother, who he is now putting through college.  

The arc of Ortiz’s professional story to date is equally dramatic: He quickly cemented his reputation as an explosive brawler and knockout artist, earning the title of The Ring Magazine’s Prospect of the Year for 2008.  He scored a second-round TKO against the tough Greek fighter Mike Arnaoutis in his first HBO fight in March, 2009, and he had won 8 straight fights before getting into the ring with Argentinian monster-puncher, Marcos Maidana, on a fateful April night in 2009.  It would prove to be a life-changing fight for Ortiz.

He knocked Maidana down three times in the first two rounds, but Maidana came back and commenced beating the tar out of Ortiz, culminating in a 6th round knock-down that prompted Ortiz to make the jaw-dropping decision to quit mid-fight – leaving fans and commentators stunned.  Immediately after the fight, this rising star further stunned his fans by saying “I don’t deserve to get hit like that” – a completely human and understandable comment anywhere other than in the world of boxing, where the idea of giving up and packing it in is opposed to every core value.
Dogged by criticism and questions about his confidence and ability to take a punch, Ortiz began his attempt at a comeback in a series of five fights that culminated in a disappointing and controversial draw against Lamont Peterson in December.   Ortiz had to understand that his matchup with Berto was, at best, probably a long-shot at redemption. He entered the ring as the acknowledged underdog with the odds stacked against him in virtually every way; he was a lesser boxer with slower handspeed, he was actually moving up in weight-class to fight at Welterweight for the first time, and, most importantly, those question marks were still hanging over his head –and likely inside his head as well – like stormclouds.

As the opening bell was rung, both fighters came out fast, trading extremely-hard punches right from the start.  Ortiz quickly stunned the boxing world yet again by knocking Berto down twice in the first round.  Berto returned the favor by knocking Ortiz down in the second round, but, while regaining his composure, Berto never seemed to fully recover after being dropped at the start of the fight.  He never stopped using his superior speed to repeatedly-land sharp, powerful shots, but Ortiz weathered the toughest ones and proved that he was able to walk through most of the others. 

The fight quickly fell into a pattern of an increasingly tired and wobbly Berto appearing to use the ropes for support while acting as if he was purposefully fighting off of them and inviting Ortiz in.  Between rounds, his trainer repeatedly admonished Berto to “just box,” and he began to show hints of frustrated-concern bordering on desperation.  Instead of following his corner’s advice, Berto seemed to be hoping to catch Ortiz with a single powerful shot that would turn the fight around for him.  But Ortiz just kept walking through everything that Berto threw at him – simultaneously answering nagging questions about his own heart and chin – and then reciprocating by pummeling Berto with shots of a quantity and quality he had never had to endure up until this point.

The fight ended up with a total of 4 or 5 knockdowns – depending on how you counted them – a fact that gives you an idea of just how brutal and immense the conflict in that ring was.  And the fact that both fighters survived 12 rounds at this pace gave us all a clear understanding of just how tough and determined they really are.  In the end–according to HBO’s computers—Ortiz landed 282 punches to Berto’s 147, and the three judges gave him the fight in a unanimous decision.

The bout was no less dramatic in terms of its implications for these two fighters: Berto dropped from #3 down to #5 in The Ring Magazine’s welterweight rankings, while Ortiz went from being completely unranked to taking Berto’s #3 spot – ahead of Shane Mosely, and right behind Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., who also happen to occupy the #1 and #2 spots on The Ring’s pound-for-pound list.  Victor Ortiz was catapulted from boxing’s outlands to a prime spot on the waiting list for a potential matchup with Pacquiao or Mayweather, as well as doubtlessly winning the loyalty of legions of new fans.  The scuttlebutt on Berto is that he may have actually gained more respect and recognition for his tough performance in this single loss than in all of his successes put together.  Not a bad night’s work for the two fighters, all in all, and an object lesson in what makes this sport exciting and unpredictable.


The boxing world bore witness to a second earth-shaking upset this past weekend, when the 29-1, Puerto Rican WBO Featherweight Champion, Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez lost his title to Orlando Salido, a 34-11 Mexican fighter who had been knocked out five times previously, and came into the match as the 10-1 underdog.  But Salido’s performance proved consistent with the story hidden behind his stats: He went the distance with Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa in September, and also survived 12 rounds against Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004, not to mention the fact that all five of those knockouts took place over 10 years ago.  In the end, Salido walked away with the WBO Featherweight title, and Juanma’s fast-train to what was expected to be an epic, fan-friendly, kazillion-dollar match against  Gamboa appears to have been derailed – but let’s hope not permanently.

(Cross-posted at Bark, Bugs, Leaves & Lizards.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Boxing Dispatch - 4/8/11

I got hit with a double-dose of boxing disappointment last weekend: I missed the Finals of the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament, stood up by my usual partner in fandom -- a retired suburban elementary school teacher who is the only other person I know who cares about the sport to any degree.   There was also a major pay-per-view match that weekend that promised to be exciting, but was out of my reach financially. So, not for the first time, I turned to ESPN’s Friday Night Fights for my weekly boxing fix. 

That night’s featured bout pitted David Lemieux, an exciting young Canadian fighter against Marco Antonio Rubio, a seasoned Mexican veteran, in a World Boxing Council middleweight title eliminator.    The central theme of this fight -- hot young prospect vs. cagey veteran -- may have been a cliché on its face, but that could probably be said about a lot of what happens in boxing.   At its best, boxing transcends its clichés, telling familiar stories over again with enough drama and enough action to make them inspiring.  And, while maybe this fight didn’t end up rising to the level of pure inspiration, it still provided plenty of drama and a few lessons as well.

David Lemieux is French Canadian by way of some Lebanese ancestry, and the undefeated 22 year-old has become somewhat of a sensation in Montreal – a city that has established itself as one of the world’s boxing meccas in recent years.    Since 2007, Lemieux banged out an impressive 25-0 record – 24 of which came by way of knockouts.   21 of these knockouts came in the first or second round, and he had only been past the third round a total of three times when he went into the ring on Friday night. 

At 30 years-old, Marco Antonio Rubio came into this fight as the long-in-the-tooth underdog, but he made it clear from the opening round that he wasn’t simply going to be fed to Lemieux like another piece of meat.   Rubio patiently built up a 49-5-1 record over two decades (among those losses is his notable 2009 defeat at the hands of Kelly Pavlik).  He entered the ring on Friday with years more experience, and having faced fighters of a higher caliber than anyone Lemieux had come across at this point in his career.

True to his reputation, Lemieux only waited for about 90 seconds into the first round before exploding with repeated combinations that drove Rubio back a number of times.  And, while the Canadian audience reacted with wild enthusiasm for every move Lemieux made,  you could hear over the airwaves that many of these were very hard shots.  But the course of the fight was essentially decided in that first round, when Rubio showed that he could effectively block most of Lemieux’s thudding shots and, more importantly, that he could stand up to the ones that Lemieux landed cleanly. 

Rubio had made his strategy clear before the fight; rely on his experience and toughness to survive the early rounds, and then take the younger fighter past where he was accustomed to going – and he stuck to this strategy throughout the fight.  Lemieux seemed puzzled at first, and then concerned, as the speed and power that have allowed him to roll over past opponents didn’t seem to faze Rubio.    Rubio continued to cover up and take Lemieux’s punishment, while gradually beginning to assert himself offensively – beginning with ginger jabs that turned into crisp combinations and hard body shots as the fight went on.

Lemieux came into this fight as a knockout artist who had never gotten into this kind of trouble before, and his confidence began to deteriorate visibly as Rubio managed to connect more and more while his own shots seemed to lack the desired effect.  But he wasn’t lacking in toughness any more than Rubio was, and when his trainer finally threw in the towel two and a half minutes into the 7th round following a knock-down by Rubio, the frustrated Lemieux clearly wanted to keep fighting. 
While anti-climactic, the stoppage made a lot of sense.  As Lemieux’s trainer explained to ESPN afterwards, the young fighter was doing everything right after being knocked down -- covering up, trying to weave and duck – but Rubio was still finding him again and again, and it was just a matter of time until Lemieux got hurt.  “Even if he would have recovered, I didn’t want Rubio teeing off on him,” he said.

With their careers on such different trajectories, the outcome of this fight would have meant very different things for these two fighters no matter how it ended.   Winning effectively delays the end of Rubio’s career, while a loss would clearly have hurt him more than it will the younger fighter..

For his part, Lemieux is still coming out of this fight as a dynamic, exciting fighter, with both his skills and his fan-friendly style intact, who most likely hasn’t even reached his prime yet.   There’s every reason to think that, if he’s willing and able to learn from what happened, this loss will end up being the kind of character- and career-building experience that has been  critical to the long-term success of a number of much-admired fighters.

This fight reinforced a couple of truisms about boxing:
First, that once you begin to move out into the wider world inhabited by a more elite class of fighters, being young, fast, and strong doesn’t guarantee you anything; willpower takes on a supreme importance.  And, as Teddy Atlas put it, Lemieux paid the price in this fight for a record built on soft opposition.  
Finally, effective and exciting boxing often resembles asymmetrical warfare:  many times it will be those who can take the most punishment, and not those who can inflict it, who will prevail in the end.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The National Security State vs. Freedom of Speech -- Rounds 1 and 2

I’m no fan of the Patriot Act, but there is one small section of it that even I assumed would be non-controversial; the prohibition of material support for terrorism.  Of course this does raise the question of how our enemies’ acts of violence tend to get labeled as terrorism, while similar acts of violence by our government and its allies never seem to earn that label.  But, leaving that aside for the moment, it’s fair to say that most of us would probably share some general common-sense assumptions about the kinds of goods and services that might constitute material support for terrorism. That list might include things like providing weapons, explosives, money, training, or logistical help to a terrorist group. 

Most of us will probably be surprised to learn that our government’s own interpretation of “material support” is far less intuitive, and, in fact, goes way beyond these things to include non-violent political speech by U. S. Citizens.  This was the crux of the government’s case in its 2010 prosecution of the Humanitarian Law Project, a U.S. non-profit organization that works to promote human rights around the world.  The Law Project worked with a Kurdish group that had been engaged in a decades-long violent conflict with Turkey, a key U.S. ally.  This Kurdish group was included on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

(A side note about the designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations:  this list tends to be made up of official enemies and typically excludes equally-violent groups and governments who are partners or allies of the U.S.   Once the State Department designates a group as an FTO, there is no way for the group to challenge or appeal that designation.  It is a highly-political, and highly-subjective designation, and one that obviously carries extremely serious consequences.)

So the Humanitarian Law Project was working with a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization – which, admittedly, sounds pretty bad on its face.   A closer look at the nature of that work, however, reveals that the Law Project was actually teaching the Kurdish group non-violent methods of addressing their grievances under Turkish and international law – essentially showing them a pathway out of armed struggle and into the peaceful political arena.

Still, the U.S. government maintained that this work amounted to material support for a terrorist organization and took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the government in June of 2010.   The thing to remember about this ruling is that there were no accusations of arms shipments, or training in explosives, or financing by the Humanitarian Law Project that would have helped the Kurdish group carry out violent acts.  Our government’s case hinged on the idea that non-violent speech, when coordinated with a designated Terrorist group, amounts to material support.  The Supreme Court went further, and justified the denial of first amendment rights based on the mere concern that this non-violent political speech might somehow help to legitimize a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.  This is where the real danger lies.

Now that this door has been opened, it’s hard to see any clear limits—if there are any—on the government’s ability to criminalize dissent merely by claiming that dissent could possibly –even inadvertently—help legitimize an official enemy.  It’s not hard to imagine where this is likely to lead.

Like many others of my generation, I first became politically aware in the 1980s, during the surge of activism that swept through American college campuses in opposition to the Apartheid system in South Africa. If this law—or the government’s particular interpretation of this law—had been in effect 25 years ago, myself and tens of thousands of other Americans who participated in the Anti-Apartheid movement could have been subject to prosecution for material support of terrorism (it’s easy to forget that Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was also designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization at that time).   Also liable for prosecution would be former President Jimmy Carter, due to his efforts to foster peace processes in different parts of the world, which has necessarily involved his communication with the different parties to those conflicts.

It shouldn’t be surprising that, once the Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on the prosecution of the Humanitarian Law Project, the government immediately turned around and started to use the same law against elements of the U.S. anti-war movement.   In September of 2010, three months after the Supreme Court ruling, federal agents carried out a series of seven coordinated raids on the homes of activists in Minneapolis and Chicago.   They confiscated computers, cell phones, and loads of documents (political and personal), along with books and artwork – even seizing a poetry journal from an activist’s teenage child.

It was at this point that the government revealed that a Grand Jury had been convened in Chicago for the purpose of investigating whether these activists or their associates were guilty of violating the material support law.

(A side note about Grand Juries: they meet in secret, considering evidence provided by a government prosecutor.  People targeted by these investigations don’t have the opportunity to see or respond to this evidence.  Those targeted by these investigations are also required to appear before the prosecutor and Grand Jury without an attorney to represent them.  The government can also decide to unilaterally “grant” a form of immunity that eclipses a person’s right to remain silent, which means they can be jailed for contempt if they refuse to answer the prosecutor’s questions.)

At the time of the September raids, FBI agents issued subpoenas ordering 14 activists to appear before the Grand Jury.   By Christmas, the number of subpoena’d activists grew to 23.  All of these people may end up being forced to make a choice between answering questions about their own political beliefs and activities, or the beliefs and activities of their friends and family members (who could then be drawn into the investigation) or face being jailed for refusing to speak.

And exactly who are these activists on whom the government is so keen to spend tax dollars investigating?   They are a mix of young and older people – many are parents with families of their own.  About half of them are active members or leaders within their Unions.  Several of them are teachers.  They have been involved in community organizing around police brutality, the rights of poor people and immigrants, and in opposition to U.S. wars in Latin America and the Middle East for many years.  A number of them played key roles in organizing large, high-profile protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention.  Each one of them is passionate about peace and justice, and they all have deep roots in their communities.  None of them have done anything significantly different from what thousands of other activists around the country have been doing.  So the short answer is; they’re not exactly Al Queda.
We don’t have to agree with their specific views, but we all have a responsibility to defend their right to express those views peacefully.  If you would like to find out about ways to support these activists or learn more about this situation, you’ll find the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website useful.

and here are two useful articles about the September raids:

Over 225 Unions and Community groups have passed resolutions or issued statements of supports for these activists. Here is one from a coalition of Chicago-are faith-based organizations.

And finally, I recommend reading the Supreme Court’s Holder Vs. Humanitarian Law Project decision – especially the dissent by Justice Breyer.

(Cross-posted at Bark, Bugs, Leaves & Lizards.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes Virginia, There Is A Class War

(Pre-post disclaimer: For selfish reasons, I'm posting this without any links.  None of the figures I mention are in dispute, and they're easily-accessible on the inter-webs.)

I had originally intended to continue posting on events in Wisconsin as they blew up in February, but I found myself repeatedly overtaken by events -- and by events, I mostly mean the assault on what’s left of the American labor movement that has now spread to many other states, including here in Illinois.
And, for the record, calling this an assault on what’s left of the labor movement is, unfortunately, dead on.

It isn’t news that the American labor movement is in serious decline.  Back in 1945, 36% of all American workers belonged to Unions; this included 33.9% of private sector employees, and 9.8% of public sector employees.  Fast forward to 2011, and less than 12% of American workers are Union members.  Additionally, the composition of that total has flip-flopped from what it once was; now including 36.2% of public sector employees and just 6.9% of private sector employees.  At this point the NEA and the AFT – the two largest Unions representing teachers and education employees – together account for more than one quarter of all Union members in the United States.

The logic implicit in these numbers is not lost on our enemies: If you want to weaken or destroy what’s left of the American Labor movement, you have to attack the public sector Unions. And to effectively go after the organized public sector you have to target the two teachers’ Unions.  As I explained to a group of suburban teachers and school support staff leaders last week, this puts a huge target on their backs.  It also helps explain why attempts to vilify teachers seem to be so prevalent in the corporate media, as well as why school reform – at least as it’s conceived of in polite society – has an explicitly anti-teacher and anti-Union character.

So, in the spirit of those “You Are Here” spots that you find on maps in shopping malls, I offered my group of school employees this snapshot: The decline of the labor movement over the last 40 years has coincided with increasing levels of wealth and income inequality (which had actually been decreasing until the 1970’s, but now—by our own government’s calculations—have risen to actually make us “less equal” of a society than countries like Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt).   98.5% of all key investments are in the hands of the top 10% of our population (the richest 1% actually own more than half the shares traded on Wall Street), while the face of home ownership – typically the biggest investment of working and middle class families – is being permanently altered by a record-high and still-increasing foreclosure rate, and millions more people are falling behind on mortgages that outweigh the value of their houses.   Benchmarks of our economic growth have been decoupled from median income, so that the President can trumpet an economic recovery against a backdrop of near-record unemployment that touches almost every family, and an official poverty rate that now encompasses one in six Americans.

Through all of this, the growing influence of our corporate and financial sectors has allowed them to effectively partner with a willing government to write their own regulations.  Massive taxpayer-funded bailouts have socialized losses while keeping profits in private hands, and corporations now feel confident enough to turn their attention to areas like Social Security and education.  Cuts to public budgets at the Federal, State, and local levels combined with tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals amount to an upward-transfer of wealth of historic proportions.

And then, in January of 2010, came the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the 5-4 ruling that overturned years of precedent and effectively opened the floodgates for corporate spending in our electoral campaigns.   The effects were obvious almost immediately, as an unprecedented volume of corporate dollars began pouring into the mid-term election.

As I asked my group of teachers and support staff leaders: What should we logically expect from a newly-elected crop of Governors and legislators whose campaigns were funded by corporations?    The answer—an astonishing assault on public employees (i.e. what’s left of the labor movement) at the state-level:   Collective bargaining rights are currently under assault in 18 states.  The diminution or elimination of pensions is threatened in 28 states.   13 states are considering implementing or strengthening existing “right to work” laws.  “Merit pay” for teachers is being considered in 9 states.  17 states are threatening to outlaw payroll deduction of union dues.  24 states are considering new school voucher measures.  Additionally,  seniority, teacher tenure and evaluations, and health care benefits are being targeted in a number of states.

These coordinated assaults are the logical outcome of this unprecedented increase in corporate money and influence in our political system; that’s the bad news.   The really bad news is that what we are seeing is only the beginning, and it’s almost certainly going to get much, much worse.

And the question of how to fix this is no longer as simple as we once might have assumed. While most of us have probably taken the idea of life in a liberal democracy for granted, the reality is that the game is now significantly rigged in a way that it hasn’t been before.  This raises a chilling question – one that is as uncomfortable to articulate privately as it is unlikely to be raised by the official punditry on television news shows: once loosed, can this corporate genie be put back in the bottle?

The task of relying on traditional electoral involvement to try to identify and vote-in “good politicians” to push back this corporate tsunami is at the very least daunting, and at some point—if we haven’t already—we are bound to reach a tipping point where the corporate grip on our electoral system is so strong that efforts to reclaim it through traditional means may no longer be viable.  (How do you tell your Civics class that we may be moving into a period of U.S. history in which the ballot box may go the way of the Model T, and where efforts to make meaningful change must take place outside of the electoral system?)

But there’s good news too; bolstered by powerful examples of solidarity and civil disobedience in Tunisia and Egypt, direct action has been a vital component of the battles in Wisconsin and many other states.  And as much as teachers and other education employees have been targeted in these assaults, they have also been in the forefront of the resistance to them – partly because they are being targeted, and partly because, although they tend not to think of themselves this way, on a certain level they are seen as leaders within their communities.  With that role comes a voice, an ability-, and a responsibility to fight back.

The key role of educators was apparent again over the weekend as British Unions brought together half a million people – the second largest rally ever to take place in London – to protest against that country’s public sector cuts and corporate tax breaks.  And we really don’t need to look beyond our own history – to the struggles to end slavery, for Civil Rights, against imperialist wars, as well as the fierce battles that were necessary to create our labor movement in the first place – to find examples of how our predecessors fought to make change outside of traditional electoral routes.

It may be true that the events of any given period will always create some kind of ripple effects for future generations, but the scope and intensity of the assaults now taking place in our lifetimes will certainly shape the world of our children and grandchildren.  Unless we are willing to doom them through our own inaction, we can’t allow ourselves to feel too far removed, or too cynical, or too cool.   It’s time to put on a pair of comfortable shoes and hit the streets!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

In The End There Can Be Only One

Displaced Aggression -- Final League Report

A hush fell over the northwest suburbs on Sunday, as Dingobros and the Turduckens faced eachother in our Championship matchup.  The ensuing action was less-than-pretty, but the outcome was not unexpected; It seems that, at least this time, the ESPN geeks got it right.  The Dingos, after an oedipal elimination of their own father’s team in round 2, ended up posting their fourth-lowest score of the entire season – which was sad, but still enough to derail the hapless Turduckens, whose own dreams of glory were pinned on the unlikely prospect of Steven Jackson cranking out 34 points in Sunday night’s game.  In the end he came up with 11, and the Dingobros held on to Our Beloved League’s virtual trophy for a second straight year.  Anyone smell a dynasty?

Surprisingly, hot and heavy action continued outside of the Championship bracket, with six of our teams continuing to add and drop players through all three rounds of post-season consolation-play.  N.O. Brass upped the number of Saints on its starting lineup to 6 in hopes of rekindling some mid-season mojo, but were nonetheless trounced by the Salukis in round 3.  The Duestakers and HellFire Club appeared to have lapsed into auto-pilot, losing to Gonk’s Revenge and Dayment respectively, and Mental Garbage beat the tar out of the Pulled Hammies, who led the auto-pilot/zombie pack all season.

Token Female and the Lakeviewers continued the pointless slugfest that we all hope is not a reflection of their real-life marriage, and the 4-10 Blue Devils unexpectedly and ironically rode up the consolation ladder on a three-game winning streak, leaving the Wackers to finish the season the same way they started it; as our League’s Fredo Corleone.

We’ll have to leave it to historians to tease out whatever greater meaning might be found in our 2010 season.  In the face of the Dingobros’ iron grip on the throat of victory, we band of merry losers are now left to lick our wounds and reflect on the sobering fact that a middle-schooler has now kicked our butts for two years in a row.  For our part, we laughed, we cried, experienced fleeting triumph and burning humiliation, and no matter what else they say about us, they’ll have to admit that we all took hard shots and came back for more – like Brett Favre, but without the sexting.

Thanks to all of you for another bang-up season, and congratulations to Dingobros, two-time holder of our League’s pimp-goblet of a virtual trophy. Until next season – Ojo Del Tigre!

Respectfully Submitted,
Commissioner Tom

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And Then There Were Four

Displaced Aggression League Report -- Playoff Week 1

Round 1 saw our little corner of the world turned topsy-turvy, as the three top-seeded teams and a former champion/perennial spoiler were pitilessly eradicated by an assortment of malicious Cinderellas.  In the end, grief counselors had to be bused in, and our League’s brightest and best were reduced to pointing out exactly where on the doll their opponents had touched them.  
Sunday’s violence had the sudden and unexpected feel of a penitentiary-shanking: The Dingobros literally clawed their way into the playoff bracket and ate the baby of a stunned first place Hellfire Club, and the Salukis squeaked out a 4-point win that put a brutal and definitive end to Gonk’s Revenge.
In the two playoff matchups that remained unsettled until Monday, both the Duestakers and the Turduckens hoped to make up 9-point deficits in the Bears-Vikings game. The Duestakers bet their paycheck on Adrian Peterson‘s knee and lost, granting a reprieve to a thankful N.O. Brass, while the Turduckens, high on 26 points courtesy of the Bears Defense, stepped deftly around the battered remains of Team Dayment and breathed their own sigh of relief.
Several other matchups took place in the unfortunately–named Consolation Ladder – across the tracks on the seedy side of the League – where, in terms of raw enjoyment, the proceedings are typically on par with a time-share seminar or a gathering of Greek Orthodox widows.  The dismal reality of life in this reverse-image of the playoff bracket was summed up on these very pages back in 2008 (note this year’s coincidental Round 1 re-matching of the four teams mentioned):
It’s not as easy to muster excitement about what passes for Round 1 action in our League’s hobo-camp of a consolation ladder; a virtual Island of Misfit Toys where the losers are left behind to scrounge up whatever comfort they can from cheap liquor and the flaming debris of their tragic seasons.  Here we find the accursed Wackers lining up to pummel Mental Garbage for a second week in a row, while Dayment and the Turduckens square off against each other like winos armed with broken bottles.  What is the point, you may ask?  It has something to do with the Loser’s Code, something that’s not easily understood on the sunny side of the street.  It boils down to simply not wanting to be the worst of the worst.  These ragged clubs may stink like Satan’s butt-rag, but they’ve still got enough heart to go down fighting like Chupacabras.
Respectfully Submitted,
Commissioner Tom