It’s 1951. Underneath the stands at Old Yankee Stadium, Joe DiMaggio dresses after a game, a gaggle of sportswriters crowding around his locker eager for a nugget of wisdom from Joltin’ Joe. A cub reporter from the 78 daily newspapers New York City had at the time elbows his way through and asks if he plans will celebrate tonight’s win with a late night rendezvous with Marilyn Monroe.
Joe’s eyebrows raise in a mixture of mockery and disbelief. ”I’m not going to answer that,” he chuckles. ”That’s a clown question, bro.”
As the entire world knows now, that quote didn’t come from the Yankee Clipper but the National Treasure, Bryce Harper. There were t-shirts for sale by the next morning, there are video mash up jokes, and, of course, tweets-a-plenty.
Mark it down: this is when Washington DC officially accepted baseball. For all Ryan Zimmerman’s heroics as the franchise’s first home-grown star since the relocation from Montreal and Stephen Strasburg’s at-times otherworldly pitching and always otherworldly hype, nothing feeds this particular home town crowd like a witty retort to the press. Inside the Beltway Bubble, pundits pondered over whether the quote might find it’s way to the podium at the White House briefing room.
Jokes aside, it’s a valid point. And one the other Mormon looking to stick around DC might think about. Harper’s disdain for the reporter (if not his word choice) might work for politicians. Remember the infamous 2008 interview where Katie Couric asked inane inquiries about Sarah Palin’s news consumption habits? Palin did herself no favors trying to answer what were pretty dumb questions.
When done right, a snarky, off-the-cuff comeback is more powerful than answering a question “the right way.” That reporter who wanted to know if Harper was going to crack open a cold one might have been put off by Harper’s flippant response, but it didn’t matter. The rest of the world saw it, and liked it, and unless that reporter is friends with Cole Hamels there isn’t much he can do. Harper’s message is out.
It’s doubtful that the communications firms in town are prepping an office for Communications Strategist Bryce Harper after his playing days are over – he may be a whale of a ballplayer, but his wisecrack was just a wisecrack. Maybe there’s a second lesson there though: that if you have to overthink your response to a question, your answer will suffer.
Or as Yogi Berra put it, you can’t think and hit at the same time.
Last night, Centric played the first two episodes of In Living Color from way back in 1990. This sketch was on the second episode:
If you had flipped over to the local DC news during the ensuing commercial break, you might have seen that Mayor Vincent Gray is rapidly losing public approval thanks to – you guessed it – a scandal. More than two decades later, DC residents still suffer corruption from city hall. They have company in other urban centers like Detroit. In most cases, corrupt urban centers are run by Democrats. In fact, that’s probably why they’re corrupt; without another political party ready to exploit scandal for political gain, politicians get sloppy and party leaders are less diligent about kiboshing candidates with skeletons in the closet.
In places like DC, the Republican party apparatus is almost non-existent – even if it’s well organized, national party committees and donors aren’t likely to funnel money into urban regions where wins are unlikely. But short term losses may net long-term gains, and the Gray scandal offers a prime opportunity for the DC GOP – or other, like-minded groups – to make a very plain case to the District’s voters.
You’ve tried it their way, the pitch could go, now give us a chance. You’ve tried big government, and it attracts corruption like a flame attracts moths. Maybe we can do better by doing less.
Again, the DC GOP (nor any counterparts in other cities) likely doesn’t have the extensive resources it would take for this kind of hand-to-hand combat. But if I was a wealthy Republican donor, I’d be interested to see what kind of traction a good, aggressive, forward thinking campaign could accomplish.
After all, Vincent Gray got elected, and he might as well have stepped out of this:
In a guest post on Social Times, entrepreneur Elle Cachette talks about her experience moving her business out of Silicon Valley. The business has since thrived, to the surprise of those who advised her that technology companies could not exist in the outside world.
In hindsight, Cachette finds the Valley overrated:
Stop digging. What you see is what you get - there is no gold in ‘them waters. Silicon Valley is the Hollywood of tech, where every waiter is an entrepreneur and every app is the next blockbuster… When you are in Silicon Valley, everything in the media environment confirms that you are indeed in the center of the universe. But similar to a communist North Korean regime, Silicon Valley drinks much of its own Kool-Aid.
First, it is ironic that in the geographic region that created so much of the technology that Americans now use to telecommute and communicate across great spaces there exists a culture that highly values proximity to a geographic region.
Second, the success of companies beyond places like Silicon Valley is another demonstration of the new realities of work – that almost any job can be done anywhere.
Third, if you substitute “Politics” for “Tech” and “Washington, D.C.” for Silicon Valley, the post would still make a lot of sense.
As Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were wrapping up their apolitical comedy and music show last, their crowd unwittingly demonstrated the reason many people are suspect of government running things like health care. Just after Stewart’s closing keynote, an errant DC Metro escalator at L’Enfant Plaza sped up and start spitting folks off, injuring four to six freshly-sane rally goers.
Luckily, Metro’s crack administrative staff was prepared since, according to Unsuck DC Metro (the best-titled blog in the history of the internet), a report issued a month before the rally detailed the issues with escalator brakes throughout the system.
This is probably a losing proposition in Your Nation’s Capital, where local government officials and their cronies seem to conspire to keep the District depressed. (Seriously, the unemployment rate in Southeast DC was as high as 28% in the last year, while the rest of the metro area was around 5-7%. It’s like they’re trying to keep people poor.) But it’s still an excellent commercial – calling out teachers unions with the type of blunt-force sarcasm and satire necessary to warrant a chuckle during the morning news. It’s been playing on the local channels for a few weeks now, and I expect it will continue through the mayoral primary next week.
Of course, the group behind the ads, the Center for Union Facts, might want to be careful – their antagonists’ version of blunt force might include populating the area under the end zones at the New Giants Stadium.
Google’s new bike-friendly option on GoogleMaps (GoogleBike?) came just in time for DC. Your Nation’s Capital will connect the Capitol and the White House with a bike path – right down the middle of the road, removing traffic lanes. Luckily, DC doesn’t have a traffic problem or anything.
DC’s bike commuters doubled in the past decade or so, going from 1% of the commuting population to over 2%. Meanwhile, Metro’s ridership has only risen about 25% in a similar time period – to a total of 726,000. One out of five commuters use Metro, which has its share of well-documented safety issues.
A bike path sounds like a great idea.
The NHL’s trade deadline passed yesterday, and the Washington Capitals acquired four new players to add depth to a team that already has the best record in hockey. A few weeks back, the NBA trade deadline saw the Caps’ roommates, the Washington Wizards, dumping their best players, waving the white flag in an effort to get better next season.
If you would have asked a Washington sports fan to imagine that scenario just a few years ago, they might have required heavy hallucinogenic help. The Wizards were a playoff-caliber team, though never a serious championship contender; the Capitals had a half-full arena, the fans were lackadaisical, and the only place to see playoff hockey inside the beltway was on a TV screen.
In the background of these two teams going in different directions, Caps owner Ted Leonsis is trying to buy out the Pollin family for control of the Wizards. Though the deal has hit stumbling blocks over how each side values the team, sports fans in Your Nation’s Capital should be eager for it to go through.
Having been a Yankee fan for 31 years and nine months tomorrow, I’ve been spoiled in many ways by George Steinbrenner. The once-mercurial owner has taken on a gradually lessened role in the pure baseball decisions and has relinquished much of the control of the team to his sons, but has never wavered in the Yankees’ larger organizational goal of winning championships. That means that at baseball’s trade deadline, if the Yankees need a player, they’re going to be buyers and not sellers.
Caps fans are getting a taste of that this year. How many owners, sitting on the NHL’s best record, would sit on their hands and count their money from ticket sales? Leonsis has told the DC hockey faithful loud and clear that he’s going for a championship. It’s the right way to run a sports team. And, as the richest team in baseball can attest, excellence is good for business.
This past weekend dropped a foot and a half of snow (or more) on the Washington, D.C. are. And since six inches is enough to grind Your Nation’s Capital to a halt, the Blizzard of ’09 was dubbed the DC Snowpocalypse.
The weather event was a fitting way to end a year that has seen an increased level of attention paid to online social networks. Those of us glued to the local NBC news coverage found elfin weekend meteorologist Chuck Bell giddily inviting users to get involved by emailing him pictures and name suggestions (his favorite was “Shopper Stopper”). A Snowpocalypse page quickly popped up on Facebook, and those on Twitter used the hashtags #snOMG and #DCsnowpocalypse to discuss the onslaught.
Google has released their 2009 Zeitgeist report – a summary of popular search trends along various topics. Lists like this are usually predictable – the most-searched-for baseball team was the Yankees; the alphabet soup of AIG, GM, and TARP led bailout-related searches.
But search results can also give a good concept of popular thinking on key news topics. For instance, the top term used in healthcare-related searches is “Obama.” That seems to indicate that, for better or worse, people are closely identifying the President with the health care reform issue. Also interesting is that the Heritage Foundation was the #5 search term in this category – which could mean that Americans are open to hearing alternatives to what has been circulating on Capitol Hill.
Google also looks at localized search topics for several major cities. Movie theaters and school websites dominated the results, especially colleges. In DC, the top term was “fcps blackboard” – the portal for the Fairfax County public school system. This actually says a lot about the Washington, DC workforce and commuting patterns. (I knew I had company on my daily commutes into and out of Your Nation’s Capital from Merrifield, but had no idea it was enough to alter search results; Metro clearly needs more trains.)
That education websites are so popular also notes another trend. Around the Thanksgiving table this year, my soon-to-be brother and sister in law commented that they hadn’t seen their daughter’s recent report card, despite the marking period having ended. They explained that they just check her grades online.
Pollsters can call voters, ask questions, track answers, and get a pretty good idea of what folks are thinking. Still, there’s an element of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in that method – that the very act of measuring could affect the responses to poll questions. Internet searches are somewhat anonymous.
As the old saying goes, you are who you are when no one is watching.
Marion Barry’s defenders in his latest flap are accusing the Washington City Paper of racism. The free weekly fronted their coverage of Barry’s latest public embarassment with a quote his former girlfriend apparently left on his voicemail: “You put me out in Denver ’cause I wouldn’t [perform a specific sex act which, if I wrote it, might get my blog flagged as 'not safe for work'].”
It’s a legitimate question for people in neighborhoods to wonder why the City Paper – which again, is free and readily accessibly to kids – should use such vulgar language. Barry and his minions have no beef. They may complain that a white politician would not be covered the same way – as if late night talk show hosts hadn’t chewed up and spit out John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Bill Clinton, etc. (Also: other politicians who don’t get this kind of coverage include the ones that don’t kick their mistresses out of hotel rooms for refusing to perform sex acts.)
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, apparently racism is a close second-to-last. Those who would cry racism in this case forget that Barry’s latest public embarrassment is just that – his latest, and not his only, public embarassment.
It should be noted that charges that Barry was stalking his former girlfriend were dropped, and that the legal side of the dispute appears to be an overreaction to a private situation. Given this, I was a little surprised that Barry didn’t resort to his tried and true defense when it comes to girlfriends who get him into hot water with the law.