Properly Welcoming The Huskers To The Big Ten

Saturday night, the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team plays its first conference game as a member of the Big Ten. When the ball is kicked off and that game begins, the long-awaited expansion of the Big Ten becomes a reality.

Fittingly, Nebraska’s first game is also a big game, and one that should give them a proper Big Ten welcome.  The undefeated, eighth-ranked Huskers travel to Camp Randall Stadium to take on the unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers, who sit at number 7 in the polls.  For a visiting team, Camp Randall is one of the toughest venues in the Big Ten, with the distinctive traditions found in many Big Ten stadiums.  Nebraska will have to endure the taunts of the Wisconsin faithful and then, when the third quarter ends, feel the field shake when the stadium rocks and the student section hops to House of Pain’s Jump Around.

It’s hard to predict what will happen in this game.  Wisconsin has pulverized its opponents, but it really hasn’t played anybody with a pulse yet.  (C’mon, Wisconsin — it’s time to start scheduling some more competitive out of conference games.  South Dakota?  Really?)  Nebraska has beaten marginally better teams, but has given up a lot of points.  Given the caliber of the opponents, there’s no way of telling how tough these teams are.  Saturday’s game will give us a tentative answer to that question.

As a long time Big Ten fan, I’ll probably be rooting for Wisconsin to win.  Although I welcome Nebraska to the party, I want the Cornhuskers to understand that they’ve joined a tough, hard-nosed conference with more tradition than any other.  A hard-fought loss in their first conference game seems like a very good way to send that message.

The Economics Of Early Primaries

Don’t look now, but states are jockeying to move up the dates of their primaries, caucuses, and other electoral contrivances.  Florida has indicated that it is going to move its primary to January 31.  If it does so, expect South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Iowa to follow suit, so they can maintain their current positions in the presidential pecking order.  Such a result could mean the Iowa caucuses happen on January 9, 2012.  Happy New Year!  It’s time to vote!

It’s silly to be voting in January, 10 months before the actual election.  No rational person would want to front-load the process because it increases the risk that a flukey candidate might get on a roll and knock everyone out of the race, only to be exposed months later as a hapless lightweight who isn’t ready for prime time.  Rick Perry’s recent bumbling, fumbling, stumbling performance at a Florida debate aptly demonstrates why it makes sense to draw out the process, to give the candidates the chance to mature and to give the public a reasonable amount of time to get to know who they’re voting for.

So why is there this irresistible impetus to keep moving things up?  States might claim it’s to maintain a tradition or because they want to have a say in selecting the candidates, but I think the real reason is money.  Huge sums are spent on political campaigns these days, and the media flocks to the early primary states.  Early primaries have more candidates and more campaigns spending cash, and states want to get their share.  So why not schedule an early primary and then sit back and watch the hordes of candidates, staffers, consultants, pundits, and reporters descend, fill your hotels, restaurants and bars, buy the TV and radio spots and employ the printing presses, and pump up those hospitality and sales tax receipts?

Early primaries are good business.

Running Risks With That “Ugly Sweater” Contest

People at our office are always coming up with events to try to keep the workplace interesting.  Recently they announced that, on some date in the near future, there will be an “ugly sweater” contest.  With that innocent, well-intentioned decision, they placed the fashion-challenged among us at enormous risk.

The problem is that, once you get beyond a solid colored sweater, there is no sure way of distinguishing an “attractive” sweater from a repulsive one.  This isn’t an issue for men’s attire; few guys have a taste for sweaters as vivid and outlandish as those worn by Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show.  Women are another story, however.  You may see sweaters with hanging fuzzballs or swaying threads of yarn, scattered sequins, ribbons, or spangles, large Brutus Buckeye figures, bright orange pumpkins, or fake fall leaves sewn on, or blinding abstract designs that could have been ripped from the walls of the Guggenheim.  And there appears to be no rule of thumb that allows you to safely place one sweater versus another in the humorous, isn’t-this-a-razz,”ugly” category.

Therein lies the awful risk.  A guy might cheerfully tell a fellow passenger in the elevator that their sweater is a sure winner in the “ugly sweater” contest, only to realize from the icy response that the event isn’t until the day after tomorrow.  Or he might compliment a co-worker about her lovely ensemble, and then be advised that she thinks the sweater is hideous and certain to prevail in the competition.   The opportunities for a colossal faux pas are endless.

The safest course is to stay in your office, keep your head down in the common areas, and avoid any discussion until after the contest day has passed and a period of apparent sweater normalcy has returned.