The Sunday Driver, S1, E5: No Football for You.

A happy, hot Monday evening to you all; we will take our Sunday drive right now, the A/C on full, just like Dad used to do in the old ‘67 Bonneville. With heavy expectancy hanging in the hazy, humid air, we must first check in with our numbers.

As of this writing, the US has reported a total of 5,225,324 Covid-19 cases and 165,910 deaths, with 2,382,970 active cases and 444 deaths so far today. The tally just for Saturday and Sunday was 1,523 souls; with only four percent of the planet’s population, we are still at the head of the pack with 25 percent of its cases and deaths. It is notable that our total body count from Covid exceeds the war dead for every conflict in our history, minus the Civil War, and WW1 & 2.

Here in our beloved mitten, Michigan shows a total of 87,960 confirmed cases, 6,257 cumulative deaths, 557 new daily confirmed cases and eight newly reported Covid deaths. And while any of us may try as we might, we can’t imagine the horror, grief and conceivably preventable loss of a close family member from this virus.

But I now turn our car toward Michigan’s many sleep-away schools as we indeed imagine life without college football.

Wait ‘till Next Year?! 
You heard me right. While so many folks have done their damndest to ignore, deny or otherwise plow through the “corona hoax,” in a state that embraces Autumn Saturdays with religious fervor, a collective groan rose up over both peninsulas today upon hearing the news that for 2020, there is no Big 10 football to be had. Period.

To be fair, many saw this coming. Our regional “junior” conference, the MAC, which still produces pro prospects every year, announced their cancellation last week. Many public high school leagues canceled seasons, and the schools themselves recently confirmed that classes would largely be very hybrid, or straight-up virtual, to ensure safety, and avoid monster liability.

Reliable word of this gridiron travesty had initially come in through a tweet from sports journo Dan Patrick, stating “12 of the 14 Presidents from the Big 10 have voted against having a Fall College Football season. Iowa and Nebraska were the two that have been pushing to play.” According to the College Football News, “In the end, it was just too much. The Big Ten types have been hinting from the start that they didn’t believe they could safely make it all work. There were liability concerns, player safety issues, the lack of revenue from no fans in the stands . . . college presidents couldn’t make it work.”

Listening in on sports talk radio, there is a healthy mix of bellyaching, irrational recrimination, and informed realism, just like the range of reactions we have all seen to state-mandated closures, curtailments and protocols since St. Patrick’s Day. And I get it; football is the thing that millions of men and women relish and look forward to all year. With dudes in particular, it is a balm for the chafing end of Summer, a remembrance of glories and goats past, and an unintended national suicide prevention program. According to a report in the Citadel, the top 24 college teams in the US can gross their athletic department over $100 million per season.

And here is the silver lining to this playbook; as leagues, franchises, companies and institutions continue responding with thoughtful caution to our nation’s stubborn Covid stats, the pure capitalist model is rejecting anti-mask, anti-science, anti-smart, “own the libs” nonsense by voting with dollars and common sense. It’s about damn time.

Dishonor with Honor
Heading south toward the beltway, was it really only a short 46-years-ago that Tricky Dick Nixon, who failed to make the Whitier College football squad back in 1932, announced his resignation over Watergate, flashed a pathetic victory sign, and flew away on Marine One to disgraceful, relative safety from his crimes?

Perhaps like many other emergent senior citizens, while I was born during the New Frontier, Nixon was really the first POTUS fully cemented in my consciousness, from his ‘68 campaign and a cameo on Laugh-In, to his reelection, to a stink from Watergate so strong even a kid could smell it, to that weird, anticlimactic breaking news on our colonial-style Magnavox that Nixon was heading for the hills of San Clemente.

The scandal also resulted in the indictment of 69 of Nixon’s staff and associates, with trials or pleas rendering 48 guilty and not less than seven, including Attorney General John Mitchell, going to prison. When I was in journalism school during the Pleistocene Epoch, Nixon’s ascendancy and fall were the subject of a principal project I wrote, dubbed “Triumphs and Tragedies.” In it I spared no criticism, but did highlight some of the human anachronisms: Nixon founding and funding the EPA; Nixon imposing wage and price controls on a faltering economy; Nixon ensuring a sound safety net for the most disadvantaged; Nixon hosting a group of blind children in the Oval, kneeling down on the carpet with his eyes closed, and feeling the presidential seal so he could try and “share” their experience.

Of course my prof’s favorite part of the piece was the quote from my own father when asked to comment on the entire mess. A smart, often jocular man who served his country at sea in two wars, and tried to do his best by his family, my Dad turned quite taciturn and simply uttered “Nixon was framed.”

Turning to the modern era, any fair assessment of Nixon’s various crimes in the headlines of the time are mere child’s play and school hi-jinx when compared with the daily treason of Donald John Trump. In fact, the one apt comparison would be the newer discovery that prior to his election, Nixon conspired with Kissinger, Madame Chennault of the Nationalist Chinese and others to foil LBJ’s efforts at a negotiated end to Vietnam. This horrific betrayal of American interests for Nixon’s own, cost thousands of American lives, but was not even on Nixon’s impeachment menu.

With Trump’s justifiable impeachment, we have obstructions, manipulations, outright purges and perjuries, complicity with foreign powers and a modern GOP so feckless, lawless and morally bankrupt that they enabled this man every step of the treasonous way. The biggest difference with Nixon? He still had the shred of decency that compelled his retreat.

Musing specifically on Trump’s failings in the context of the pandemic, Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis recently wrote “Flag-wrapped patriotism is no substitute for compassion; anger and hostility no match for love. Those who flock to beaches, bars, and political rallies, putting their fellow citizens at risk, are not exercising freedom; they are displaying, as one commentator has noted, the weakness of a people who lack both the stoicism to endure the pandemic and the fortitude to defeat it. Leading their charge is Donald Trump, a bone spur warrior, a liar and a fraud, a grotesque caricature of a strong man, with the backbone of a bully.”

The Envelope Please
Pulling back for a Telstar view of our country from above, the RCP polling average for the past week still shows Joe Biden with a sizable, though shrinking lead of 6.9 points over Donald Trump; Georgetown U has the high mark for Biden at +13, with Rasmussen reliably showing a tiny three-point lead nationally.

Biden’s battleground average also shows some slippage, with an average lead of +4.8 across the states of AZ, FL, MI, NC, PA and WI. Michigan continues to hold generally steady with EPIC/MRA posting a Biden lead of +11, but numbers appear to be solidifying toward a race that’s too close for comfort. So if you’re one of a slim majority of Americans who wish to see our Republic rid of the Orange Julius, what Veep advice would you offer to Biden?

With a vice-presidential selection imminently at hand, as we turn toward home I humbly offer this brisk drive-by assessment of the finalists. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), chair of the congressional black caucus (CBC), has an uncomfortably warm history with Communist Cuba, including multiple visits there as an activist in the 1970’s, and highly flattering remarks on Fidel Castro, rendering her a kiss of death for much needed Florida; hard pass. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is a strong new voice and has done admirable work in containing the pandemic in her state; such a good job, in fact, that she is both sorely needed to continue her stewardship, and has already suffered the ire of the state’s anti-maskers and flat-earthers, who’ve made her Cruella DeVille for saving their very lives. That’s a no-go, regardless of race.

Rep. Val Demmings (D-FL) is also a fresh face, and has law-enforcement bona-fides, though she suffers from an undefined lack of what they call “Q-factor.” Similarly, former National Security Adviser Dr. Susan Rice has some more defined drag on her chances, namely the “B-word,” as in Benghazi. Though Rice is brilliant and such smears are hateful and undeserving, it renders her a liability where an asset is badly needed.

Moving to Georgia, former State Rep. and near-guv Stacey Abrams (D) is bright, energetic and relatable, and her voting rights work for Fair Fight Action is highly relevant and helpful. That said, with Joe Biden at 77-years-of-age, though he is fit, the health of the number two is critical, and Abrams may have some health-related concerns; like it or not, it matters, and always has.

Lastly, we pause in front of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the only former contender for the top job in the group. She is highly intelligent, pleasant, ambitious, funny-as-hell or tough-as-nails where necessary, and comes with a law-and-order patina handy down the stretch. In fact, folks have whispered that she’s “too ambitious,” an absurd bit of misogyny, and the type of double-standard that a Vice-President Harris would smash to bits. I no longer bet on anything, but my money’s on her.

So with a quick apology for taking the long way on this drive, keep the shiny side up, dirty side down and we’ll see y’all next time.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.