The Buckeye Women

Last night Kish and I decided to take it easy and stay at home, and I decided to watch some basketball.  As I did some channel-surfing I stumbled upon the Big Ten network and the pregame show for a semi-final game in the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament between Ohio State and Wisconsin.  Basketball is basketball, so I decide to watch a bit.

Jantel Lavender

It turned out to be an exciting, offense-oriented, up-and-down game, and I watched it from beginning to end.  After trailing for virtually the entire game, Ohio State finally pulled away at the end, winning 82-73.  I came away very favorably impressed by the skills and athleticism of the women on both teams.  In Ohio State’s case, the team seems to be well-stocked with excellent players, led by unflappable low-post star Jantel Lavender, who seems able to hit bank shots from anywhere around the key and drains her free throws, and Samantha Prahalis, a scrappy, emotional, dribble-between-the legs point guard who can hit the three-pointer, make the no-look pass, or drive to the hoop.  Together, they scored 56 points.

Not having a daughter, I’ve never followed women’s sports.  I know some guys don’t like women’s basketball because there are no dunks, but I appreciate the kind of team basketball that was on display in yesterday’s game.  The Buckeyes will play Iowa for the tournament championship at 4:30 this afternoon.  The game will be televised on ESPN2, and I’ll be watching.

UPDATE:  The Buckeye women came from 16 points down to edge Iowa in the closing seconds.  Jantel Lavender was tremendous, scoring a career high 35 points to lead the Buckeyes to victory.

Greece And California

The Greek debt crisis is putting enormous strains on the European Union.  Greece is heavily in debt.  Its 2009 budget deficit was projected to reach 13 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.  Greek’s mounting debt problems prompted fears that Greece would default, causing investors to sell Greek debt instruments, which in turn put pressure on the European Union’s common currency, the Euro.  As a result, European financial and political leaders are pressuring the Greek government to impose unpopular austerity measures, and some members of the Greek community have been protesting those cuts.  In the meantime, Greece is appealing to Germany and France, as the financially stronger members of the EU, for support.  The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, says the EU has to support Greece or give up on the idea of a common currency and common political future.  The German government seems to be more on the fence.

The interesting point about this story is not that it has happened — with Greece’s borrowing-oriented, over-the-top welfare state mentality, a budget crisis was inevitable, and other debt-laden EU countries are not far behind — but the cultural and political fissures that have been exposed. In Germany, in particular, citizens and politicians are resisting bailing out the Greek government because they believe they are subsidizing sybaritic, free-spending ways of the Greeks.  In Greece, workers can retire at 63; in Germany, they must work until age 67Some Germans believe that the salaries paid to Greek civil servants are too large, that Greeks are too lazy, that the Greek culture is corrupt, and that Greek farmers are swindling the EU.

What the Greek debt crisis really demonstrates is that any political union must be based on trust and equity.  When times get tough, there must be a sense of shared sacrifice and shared values.  Eventually, if enough Germans believe they are being played for saps because they are working hard to support the unsustainable lifestyles of pleasure-loving Greeks (and others), they will refuse to continue to do so and the European Union will fracture and fail.

There is a lesson in all of this for California, which is facing its own version of a serious debt crisis.  Over the long term, California cannot expect the federal government to bail it out of its budget problems.  It won’t take long before hard-working Texans, or North Carolinians, or Ohioans, will object to subsidizing California’s absurdly generous public pension system, its unwillingness to cut programs, or its oppressive regulatory regime that has caused many companies to flee the Golden State for more business-friendly locations.

America is more politically and culturally cohesive than the European Union; Texans have much more in common with California than Germans have in common with Greece.  Still, the pressures that come from the ant subsidizing the grasshopper are the same, and would better be avoided by California getting its budgetary act together.