Revisiting the Rooney rule

The NFL is looking to diversify its front offices, and turning to a play that has worked before:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that the league will institute a Rooney Rule for women when it comes to all NFL executive positions

“You can see that progress is being made and our commitment is, we have something called the Rooney Rule, which requires us to make sure when we have an opening that on the team or the league level that we are going to interview a diverse slate of candidates.

“Well, we’re going to make that commitment and we’re going to formalize that we, as a league, are going to do that for women as well in all of our executive positions. Again, we’re going to keep making progress here and make a difference.”

Uh… Did anyone catch that? Maybe a female commissioner would know how to form a coherent sentence.

Let’s try again: The league is implementing a version of its “Rooney Rule” for front office searches, mandating that women are included in searches. When implemented in 2003, the rule required teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching vacancies and eventually front office jobs.

Surely, teams have brought in “check-the-box” candidates they had no intention of hiring just to keep on the sunny side of the rule. There is no mandate to hire minority coaches, only to interview candidates.

Yet, the rule has clearly worked – teams have hired more minority coaches in the past 13 years than they had in the previous eight decades. There is unmistakable progress.

Two possible reasons for this stand out.

First is the opportunity for media buzz. Coaching searches aren’t conducted in secret; as soon as an NFL coach is fired, local and national media speculate about who might be next. The candidates who make their way to team headquarters for an interview are duly documented. This puts even the minority candidates’ names out there as potential head coaches. Even if a would-be coach doesn’t get a job during one offseason, he strengthens his candidacy for the future. Hiring a first-time head coach isn’t easy for most notoriously risk-averse NFL front offices, but that option becomes more palatable if the candidate has been discussed as a head coach prospect.

Second, the Rooney Rule interviews may be dog-and-pony shows to the team executives, but they don’t have to be for the candidates. Thanks to the Rooney Rule, a minority candidate has a chance to prepare and endure the interview process. Again, it might not help him get the first job he interviews for, but go through a practice run can only help in future years, when his candidacy may be more serious.

Teams won’t hire unqualified candidates, but rules like this can help qualified candidates prepare. The ten minority coaches who have been hired since the Rooney Rule’s inception weren’t hired because their teams were forced to interview them, but the rule might have given them valuable experience or put them on teams’ radar when coaching vacancies popped up.

If the NFL is serious about getting more women in its front offices, this is probably a good place to start.



The aging, bitter childhood detective

CBS will welcome detective Nancy Drew to its programming lineup soon, but not the Nancy Drew you might remember from the dusty shelves of your elementary school library:

The drama, which is in development, is described as a contemporary take on the character from the iconic book series. Now in her 30s, Nancy is a detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world.

And, promises the network, she will not be white; Drew could be Brazilian… or Chinese… or somethin’ weird. It’s the age, though, that Katrina Trinko of Acculturated has an issue with: “[I]f Nancy’s ethnic and racial background was irrelevant, her age and independence were not. And that’s what the new TV series completely misunderstands.” Trinko points out the appeal of Nancy Drew books to girls in the elementary-to-middle-school age range, offering a role model in the wise-beyond-her-years sleuth able to outwit the adults in her life.

Yet the new Nancy Drew allows CBS to offer kids an important lesson: No matter how full of promise your life seems, eventually the weight of adulthood crushes us all. Your dream job as a kid will turn out to be a dreary, soul-sapping endeavor that bleeds a little more hope from your reservoir each day.

Why should CBS stop with Nancy Drew? Maybe the clean-cut Hardy Boys could go for a gritty, modern reboot. Older brother Frank would have his act together and boast a cushy, if uninspiring, job monitoring crime statistics in the Bayport mayor’s office. Younger brother Joe would run what had been their late father’s detective agency, but now with a low-life clientele who pay him to tail cheating spouses or dig through trash cans looking for reasons to evict tenants. Their lives would intersect when a city council candidate asks for Joe’s help doing shady opposition research, and he stumbles on a corruption scandal that goes all the way to city hall. (Rhea Perlman would make guest appearances as Aunt Gertrude.)

Does anyone think Encyclopedia Brown would have kept solving crimes for a quarter a day (plus expenses)? Flash forward to see Leroy Brown running IT for the Idaville police department while secretly pining in vain for police chief Sally Kimball. The neighbors on his cul-de-sac include Bugs Meany, who has trained his dog to do his business on Encyclopedia’s front lawn, and shady investment banker Wilford Wiggins, who constantly tries sell Encyclopedia suspect financial products or recruit him into one of his several fantasy football leagues.

And who wouldn’t want to see a surly, middle-aged man-child version of Nate the Great – unemployed, living with his parents, and constantly catching flack from his successful cousin Olivia?

Maybe CBS is onto something here.

Politics and Grassroots

The coming endorsement from Jeb! Bush

The Republican presidential field will start to slim down after tonight’s Iowa caucuses and next week’s New Hampshire primary. Over the next two weeks, the would-be contenders will start dropping out and throwing their support behind a former opponent.

How’s that going to work when it’s Jeb Bush’s turn?

Fundraising troubles combined with his respect for the office mean that, barring a stunning New Hampshire comeback, the former nominal frontrunner will be out sooner rather than later. It’s a stunning fall based on the national media coverage of his campaign, but unsurprising to observers who saw no natural path to the nomination for Bush in what was a deep, accomplished, and grassroots-friendly Republican field.

And it means there’s an endorsement coming up. Who wants it?

Other candidates have to be cringing. As they climb over each other to shed the dreaded “establishment” label, what could be worse than having to share the stage with – and get glowing compliments from – an inside-the-beltway brand name like Bush?

Fellow Floridian Marco Rubio is the most likely recipient of Bush’s blessing. After weeks of Bush-aligned super PAC attacks on Rubio, won’t that press conference be awkward? One question his attacks on Rubio’s Senate attendance or immigration stance, Bush would descend into several minutes of stammering, uncomfortable double-speak about “leadership” and “accomplishment.”

What will it be like if Bush opts for Ted Cruz? One can only imagine Cruz forcing an uneasy smile and awkward handshake, all the while worrying about his grassroots support as the poster child for policitcal inside baseball extolled Cruz’s Senate experience in Washington, D.C. But at least Cruz would feign grace; should Bush choose Rand Paul he might find himself getting into an arcane policy debate with the Kentucky Senator during the endorsement announcement. Neither one of those guys seem like they’re okay losing an argument.

Naturally, Donald Trump will take any endorsement, so he’d have no problem sharing the stage with Bush. Bush, on the other hand, might look like a hostage telling a video cameras through clenched teeth that his captors are treating him very very well. Naturally, Trump would praise Bush, speak reverently about the Bush family, and avow his respect for their service.

Then, for old time’s sake, he’d give Jeb a good noogie.

Culture, media, Uncategorized

Disney princess study shows people have too much time on their hands

Linguistic researchers have logged hours upon hours of dialogue from Disney movies, and found that in the most recent ones, male characters speak three times as often than female characters:

And yet, in one respect, “The Little Mermaid” represented a backward step in the princess genre… The plot of “The Little Mermaid,” of course, involves Ariel literally losing her voice — but in the five Disney princess movies that followed, the women speak even less. On average in those films, men have three times as many lines as women.

The data come from linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer, who have been working on a project to analyze all the dialogue from the Disney princess franchise. Because so many young girls watch these movies — often on constant repeat — it’s worth examining what the films are teaching about gender roles.

Dangerous right? Let your dughters watch Disney movies at their peril. The researchers divide the Disney princesses into two “eras”; Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are classics, and the modern era is from The Little Mermaid on. In the classic era, female characters speak as much or more than males; outside of Tangled and Brave, no Disney princess movie from the past half-century has more than about 40% of its dialogue spoken by women.

At Acculturated, Carrie Lukas notes that many of the loquacious gents in these movies are side characters (“the modern-day Jiminy Crickets such as Sebastian inThe Little Mermaid or Olaf in Frozen”) who aren’t even human, and whose gender may not be super clear in the traditional sense.

But there’s something else afoot. Ask yourself, Who are the bad guys in these movies?

Snow White had her Evil Queen. Cinderella had her wicked stepmother and two moronic stepsisters. Aurora, which is apparently Sleeping Beauty’s given name, had Maleficent. Sure, Ariel had Ursula, but Ariel also didn’t have a voice for much of the movie. Since then, most of Disney’s big bads have been boys. After Ursula, the next major bad gal was Rapunzel’s stepmother in Tangled. And surprise: That would be the next movie where female dialogue eclipsed males. (The “bad guy” in Brave was a bear, I think, so it’s a different case.)

(Sidebar: though Jafar serves to underscore this theory, I’m throwing Aladdin out as a “princess movie.” Though Jasmine is marketed heavily as part of the pantheon of “Disney Princesses,” Aladdin is not a princess movie. You can tell because it is named after the male protagonist. This is a hint. You might as well kvetch about Nala not getting enough lines as the “princess” in The Lion King. Also, how much of the 90% of the male dialogue in Aladdin came from Robin Williams?)

Many of the non-protagonist male characters that hog the script serve as either the evil-doers or as buffoonish comic relief. Neither is a particularly favorable image. Would Frozen have been a better movie for women if the slow-witted Snowman had been voiced by Melissa McCarthy? (By the way that could have been hilarious.) That is the answer to the “problems” these researchers have found, and it isn’t clear that it improves the messages these movies send to young girls.

What is clear is that someone got paid to watch an awful lot of Disney movies.

Crummy Little Podcast, Sports

Maybe all the teams should move to LA

The Rams are moving back to Los Angeles. The Chargers and Raiders want to move to L.A., too. Ron burgundy’s hometown could lose its football team, but might coax the ruffians from Oakland down to the southern end of the state. As the teams play musical chairs, local governments are trying to figure out what they’ll have to pony up for new stadiums.

Got all that? Me neither. Luckily, my old pal Vince Vasquez helps me figure it all out on this week’s Crummy Little Podcast.


The flawed Hall of Fame ballot

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are going in to the Hall of Fame. Both clearly belong, and Griffey was almost unanimous.


Now, predictably, there are some demanding explanations from the three voters who left Griffey off.’s Phil Rogers believes they owe fans an explanation:

What were you possibly thinking when you left Ken Griffey Jr. off your Hall of Fame ballot? How can you possibly justify turning a cold shoulder on a center fielder who won 10 straight Gold Glove Awards, hit 630 home runs and was the face of his generation?

First off, this isn’t how democracy works. Votes are kept secret at the discretion of the voter for a reason: to allow for unpopular opinions.

Second, let’s not pretend like this is an election for something really important. Baseball is entertainment. It’s interesting. It’s fun to follow and talk about. But we aren’t discussing what to do about ISIS here.

Third, this process really isn’t how democracy works. The voters (who, incidentally, are baseball reporters and not players, managers, or front office members) get ten votes, which they can use on anyone within the pool of eligible players. It isn’t a straight up-and-down vote on each career, but a selection of the ten most worthy from an arbitrary pool.

Rogers and others acknowledge the concept of a “strategic vote” – the idea that, with Griffey a likely lock to get 75% of the vote, a few writers could hedge their bets and vote for someone else if they felt strongly for them. One year ago, I made a case for doing just that. At ESPN, Jayson Stark wrote about leaving Mike Mussina off the ballot because he only had 10 spots to work with. Stark felt Mussina was deserving, but couldn’t vote for him. Kevin Davidoff of the New York said Tim Raines was his eleventh choice.  Raines fell 23 votes short, which makes you wonder how many eleventh votes he would have gotten.

The point is not that the three voters who skipped Griffey have a compelling case for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, but that the voting system doesn’t do what it was intended to do – which is provide a referendum on each player’s career.




Funny Stuff, media, Politics and Grassroots

The real reason Oregon isn’t the same

There are plenty of questions about the way police and the media are handling the wildlife refuge occupation in Oregon. Bernie Sanders drew an immediate comparison to police brutality issues,  and  he wasn’t the only one asking whether the militia would have been summarily executed had they been black or Muslim.

The reality is that this situation isn’t the same because, unlike terrorism or a Black Lives Matter protest gone awry, this is actually pretty funny.

There aren’t hostages. There weren’t any forest rangers beheaded on video. There’s only a rag tag bunch of rednecks with legal guns holed up in a building people rarely ever go to.

When faced with terrorism (real terrorism, that is) we tend to become resolute. When faced with injustice, we become outraged. There is nothing here to get outraged or resolute over. There are just a few Duck Dynasty wannabes, probably getting drunk off some homemade hooch in the middle of nowhere, and taking to Twitter and Facebook to beg for snacks.

Snacks! This is hilarious.

Illegal? Sure. Wrong? You bet. But this is “terrorism” like John Candy and Rhea Perlman’s invasion of Canada in 1995’s Canadian Bacon was terrorism. Opponents are mocking them as “Y’all Qaeda.”


Most serious observers understand that in an American West which still smarts from government overreach at Waco and Ruby Ridge, an armed standoff could go sideways right quick. Hopefully, they’ll get desperate enough to leave soon. In the meantime, we can share a chuckle at the folks who really think they’re sticking it to the man by squatting in a birdwatching shack.