I Know Michigan Needs All The Practice It Can Get, But . . . .

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez

The Detroit Free Press has broken an interesting story in which unnamed current and former players claim the University of Michigan football team has violated NCAA rules regulating off-season workouts, in-season demands on players and mandatory summer activities. The allegations center on strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis and off-season conditioning requirements. Michigan has launched an investigation, and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez apparently reacted emotionally to questions about his treatment of his players at a press conference today.

I don’t know the truth of the allegations, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Rodriguez and his staff bent NCAA rules to the breaking point. Big-time college football is extremely competitive, and Michigan fans have high expectations and enormous pride in their program. Last year, Michigan had a nightmarish season in which the team lost 9 games and got absolutely crushed by the Ohio State University Buckeyes. It’s safe to say that another year like last year would considerably shorten Rodriguez’ career at U of M.

Lord knows that after last year Michigan needs all the practice it can get. What it really doesn’t need is NCAA sanctions imposed for rules violations following a year of such dismal failure. It will be up to the coach and athletic department to rebuild the Michigan program the right way. I seriously question whether Rodriguez is the right man for that job.

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The Lockerbie Bomber, Oil, And Justice

I’ve posted before — here and here — on the indefensible decision of the Scottish government to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the terrorist convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The British press is all over the story, digging to see if there were grounds other than “compassion” for the release. The London Times is now reporting that the Lockerbie bomber deal was motivated by British interests in securing a potentially lucrative Libyan oil contract for BP.  Letters written by British justice minister Jack Straw some time ago seem to confirm the link.

I suppose every country has to look after its own interests, but I am keenly disappointed that the Brits would sacrifice justice for oil and cash.  I have always admired the British, and I think America has benefited by having a stalwart, dependable ally.  It is sad to see that relationship traded away for a few billion pounds.

The Sad Story of Badfinger

For some reason, I was thinking today about Badfinger, the rock band with the saddest fate.

Badfinger

Badfinger

Badfinger actually had an auspicious beginning. The Beatles liked them enough (despite their ridiculous hairstyles) to sign them to their new Apple record label in 1968. Over the next few years, they came out with a string of high-quality pop hits such as “Come and Get It” (written by Paul McCartney), “Baby Blue”, “Day After Day” and “No Matter What.”

Then, as happens so often in the rock business, success turned things ugly. After achieving worldwide fame, the band hired well-known New York businessman Stan Polley as business manager. Polley turned out to be a scoundrel, stealing the band’s money and leading them into a bad contract that resulted in a painful lawsuit. The band’s fame diminished in the midst of these troubles.

In 1975, The band’s lead guitarist, Pete Ham, hung himself out of despair over his finances. His suicide note ended thus: “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.”

After a half-decade of inactivity, two of the remaining members had a legal dispute over access to earnings and rights to the band’s name. Following an argument on the telephone, one of them, Tom Evans, hung himself in his garden.

Ironically, their songs are mostly heartwarming. Here is a performance from their happier days:

Badfinger – “Baby Blue”


Winds Of Change In Japan

News articles are reporting that a significant political shift has occurred in Japan, where the ruling party apparently has been pulverized in an election. The Liberal Democratic Party, which has controlled the government in Japan for decades, is forecast to go from a large majority in the lower house of Japan’s Parliament to a small minority. The BBC summarizes the differences in the platforms in the two parties here.

I’m not sure that elections in other countries say anything about politics in America, but in Japan the combination of a recession and record high unemployment proved to be a potent force for change. What also is interesting is that the Liberal Democratic Party has been in control of Japan pretty much continuously since 1955 — for for all but 11 months since that time. It is impossible to imagine America governed by one party for such a long period of time. We have a strong tradition of quick dissatisfaction with the party in power and a resulting “throw the bums out” reaction.