When (And How) Is A Candidate’s Health Fair Game?

There is a very interesting Senate race underway in Pennsylvania. The race promised to be unconventional from the beginning, with tall, bald, goateed, tattooed, sweatshirt-wearing Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman taking on TV celebrity and political neophyte Mehmet Oz. But the race really took a turn when Fetterman suffered a stroke in May–an apparently severe stroke that Fetterman now says almost killed him–causing “Dr. Oz” to go on the attack about whether his opponent is healthy enough to do the job.

There are lots of issues that candidates for a Pennsylvania Senate seat would logically address, but Fetterman’s health became a focus after his campaign limited his appearances and he has had obvious problems with halting speech when he has participated in rallies. The Oz campaign, which has been trailing in the polls, has tried to capitalize on the issue by pressing for a debate. And, because modern politics can’t resist the gutter, the Oz campaign has done so in cheap and mean-spirited ways–such as by promising that it would pay for any medical personnel Fetterman might need to have on standby during a debate.

The Oz campaign tactics have been sharply criticized, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and others have increasingly recognized that Fetterman’s fitness to serve is a legitimate issue. As the PPG editorial put it: “If Mr. Fetterman’s communication skills have not yet recovered sufficiently to effectively debate his opponent, many voters will have concerns about his ability to represent them effectively in Washington.” The editorial also noted that the Fetterman campaign was unduly optimistic about his condition and his prognosis, and that recovery in the aftermath of a stroke is “notoriously unpredictable.”

Yesterday the press reported that the Fetterman campaign has agreed to a debate on October 25–two weeks before Election Day. The parties are still wrangling about details, but one of the conditions that has been agreed upon is that Fetterman will be able to watch a closed captioning device during the debate to deal with his acknowledged auditory processing issues, and that debate viewers will be told about that. With a debate now on the schedule, the PPG has called upon the Oz campaign to stop the attacks that, in the newspaper’s words, has turned the race into “an exercise in insult comedy rather than a serious contest on the merits of the candidates as potential U.S. Senators.”

Anyone who has known a stroke victim, as many of us have, will recoil at a political system in which an opponent thinks it is appropriate to disrespect and make fun of someone struggling with post-stroke limitations. Even by modern political standards, that’s low. At the same time, strokes clearly can be debilitating, and it is reasonable to question, with decency and respect, whether someone recovering from a stroke and experiencing impaired auditory processing can actually perform the duties required of a U.S. Senator. I expect that many curious Pennsylvania voters will tune in on October 25, wondering what they might see.

The Elf, Himself

I was on the road yesterday and happened to catch some sports talk radio hosts making fun of the Cleveland Browns’ new midfield logo, shown above. They were laughing at the idea that a football team would feature a giant elf on the field. They compared Brownie the Elf unfavorably to one of the old Rice Krispies elves, arguing that he looks angrier and somewhat disturbed. And they professed not to understand why an elf would be associated with the Cleveland Browns, arguing that a logo of a dog–due to the Dawg Pound section of fans in the stadium–would be a much better logo. .

The sports radio hosts are not alone in dissing Brownie the Elf and the Browns’ field. One article even suggests that the Browns specifically picked the elf logo to gin up controversy and distract from the team’s on-field problems last year and its dubious off-season decision to go all in for Deshaun Watson, the quarterback who was obviously facing a long suspension due to multiple claims of sexual misconduct.

I’m a supporter of Brownie the Elf, and evidently so are lots of other Browns fans–which is why the running elf won the poll the Browns ran to select their new midfield logo. And while I wouldn’t expect sports radio hosts or sportswriters to actually do any research before voicing their ill-informed opinions, I think Brownie is a great choice. Why an elf? It’s obvious: the team has long been known to fans as the Brownies, and a brownie is a synonym for an elf–just like pixie and sprite. The elf has been associated with the franchise for decades, much longer than the Dawg Pound, which didn’t really start until the 1980s. And the elf is showing fierce determination because he’s running the football and getting ready to give a devastating elfin stiff-arm to a would-be tackler.

I also like the elf choice because it says a lot about Cleveland, which has always gone its own way and marched to the beat of a different drummer. Lots of people have disparaged Cleveland over the years, but in reality it’s a great city with a lot of heart, a blue-collar mentality, and a quirky sense of humor, besides. Picking an elf for the field is just another way for Cleveland to show those qualities for all to see and reaffirm that the Best Location in the Nation isn’t worried about the tender sensibilities of sports talk show hosts or the conventional, boring, market-driven decisions of other NFL teams. And the fact that the running elf goes back to the days when the Browns were regularly competing for, and frequently winning, the NFL championship, doesn’t hurt, either. Given the Browns’ struggles since they came back to the league in 1999, why not pick a logo that harkens back to the team’s glory days?

I’m glad the Browns picked Brownie the Elf to grace the field. Now let’s just hope that this season we can celebrate what happens on the field, too.

Hot, Then Not

The classic real estate saying is “location, location, location.” The 2022 supplement to that adage might be “timing, timing, timing.”

For the last few years, we’ve been hearing about how hot the housing market has been in many places. Now there are many signs that the hot markets across the globe are abruptly cooling off, according to a Bloomberg article. It reports that increasing costs of borrowing, with central banks raising interest rates sharply to try to deal with inflationary pressures, are causing potential borrowers to think twice about paying big bucks for houses. As a result, houses in the formerly hot markets are looking at double-digit percentage declines in asking prices, and economists are forecasting a significant housing market downturn in 2023 and 2024. That’s a real problem for those people who have a significant chunk of their assets tied up in their houses–especially if they’ve paid “hot market” prices for them.

Yesterday’s consumer price index report in the U.S., which showed inflation is still far above targets, won’t help matters. The higher-than-forecast inflation numbers, notwithstanding recent declines in fuel prices, not only caused the stock indexes to tumble dramatically, it also is expected to convince the Federal Reserve to ratchet up interest rates again next week to try to wring the inflation out of the economy. That move would increase borrowing costs still farther and put even more pressure on potential buyers who would need to finance any home purchase. As interest rates rise, those potential buyers become more and more likely to stay put in their current housing and stay out of the housing market.

History teaches us that hot sellers’ markets don’t stay hot forever, and yet when such hot markets are here, some people expect them to continue indefinitely. It doesn’t take much for a sellers’ market to turn into a buyers’ market–especially if you are a buyer with ready cash who doesn’t need to take out a mortgage to make a purchase. It looks like that is the process that is underway right now, and as long as inflation remains high, that shift is likely to accelerate.

Skin Story

Many of us have spent significant chunks of time this summer dabbing and smearing lotion on ourselves and our family members. It used to be called suntan lotion; now it’s called sunscreen or even sunblock. Some worried people search constantly for ever-higher SPF numbers due to fear of sunburns and dermatologist cautions about sun-related skin cancers.

The sunscreen issue is interesting when you think about it. Our ancient ancestors obviously spent a lot of time outdoors, hunting and gathering, and they didn’t have ready access to drugstores that provided rows of 50 SPF lotions. So how did they deal with the sun?

I ran across an interesting article by an anthropologist that tries to answer that question. He notes that the early humans didn’t fear the sun, thanks to their skin–specifically, the crucial protection provided by the epidermis, the outer layer of skin that adds new cells and thickens with increasing exposure to sunshine in the spring and summer, and eumelanin, a molecule that absorbs visible light and ultraviolet light and causes skin to darken due to sunshine. Because early humans didn’t radically shift their sun exposure by, say, hopping on a jet to Costa Rica in the dead of winter, their skin could adjust to their local conditions and provide all the sun protection they needed. In effect, their skin became well adapted to providing the protection needed in their local area. (Of course, they may have looked a bit leathery by modern standards, but they weren’t worried about such things in their desperate bid for survival in an unpredictable and unforgiving world.)

The article posits that the change in the relationship between humans, skin, and sunshine occurred about 10,000 years ago, when home sapiens began to develop more of an indoor life and exposure to the sun began to distinguish the lower class from the upper class. People became more mobile, too. The disconnect was exacerbated when people started to take vacations to warmer climates that abruptly changed sun conditions without a ramp-up period allowing their skin to adapt. In short, the trappings of civilization and class removed the previous balance between skin and local conditions and deprived our skin of the time needed to adjust to gradually increasing sunshine.

Does that mean you should try to recreate the former balance by staying in the same place, spending as much time as possible outdoors, and accepting the wrinkles and leathery look that are the likely result? The article says no, because your skin probably isn’t matched to your current location, and your indoor time is going to interfere with the process. That means we all need to keep dabbing and smearing to prevent sunburns and skin damage.

Incidentally, the highest-level sunscreen that is available now is 100 SPF, which is supposed to block 99 percent of ultraviolet rays. The ancients would shake their heads in wonder,

Ancient Surgery (And Post-Operative Care)

One of the most tantalizing aspects of human history is how little we know about our ancient forebears. Once you go back more than 5,000 or 10,000 years, to the period before written records and the age of surviving structures like the Sphinx and the pyramids of Egypt, there is little specific evidence of what humans did or how they lived. And the great length of that unknown period of human prehistory, stretching back tens of thousands of years, dwarfs the length of the historical record.

We tend to assume that our prehistoric ancestors were crude, ignorant people who hunted, ate, reproduced, and lived short, dangerous, violent lives. Every once in a while, however, scientists uncover something that challenges that assumption. The latest evidence that the ancients were more knowledgeable and more capable than we might have thought comes from a cave in Borneo, where scientists unearthed a 31,000-year-old skeleton of a young adult. The remarkable feature of the skeleton was that the bones revealed a successful amputation of the individual’s ankle–and that the patient then lived for years afterward.

Successful amputations require significant medical knowledge. Practitioners must know about the structure of bones, blood vessels, and muscle tissue, where and how to cut to remove the ruined bone and flesh, the need to leave flaps of skin to cover the remaining exposed bone, and how to close the wound, stop the bleeding, and avoid infection. Before this recent discovery, the oldest known evidence of an amputation dated to 7,000 years ago in France. The Borneo discovery pushes that medical knowledge back to a point more than 20,000 years earlier, and indicates that, in at least some areas, ancient humans were much more medically sophisticated that we believed. It makes you wonder: if Borneo communities had knowledgeable doctors 31,000 years ago, what other medical knowledge did they possess, and for that matter how sophisticated were their scientific, religious, philosophical, and political beliefs?

There is another, equally compelling conclusion to be drawn from the Borneo discovery. The wound healed, and the patient, who scientists believed was a child when the injury occurred, lived for years afterward. Given the rugged local terrain, like that shown in the photo above, surviving with only one working leg would have been impossible without the help of caregivers–and in all likelihood the entire tribe or local community. That necessary reality confirms that our ancestors weren’t thoughtless savages, but were decent, generous people who took care of each other. That conclusion also makes me feel better about our species.

Check The Weather Forecast . . . .

If the Cleveland Browns have won their first game, it can only mean that Hell has frozen over, dogs and cats are living together, and mass hysteria.

And speaking of hysteria, who wins a game by kicking a 58-yard field gold after a dismal fourth quarter collapse? Only the Browns! Their kicker, rookie phenom Cade York, will never have to buy his own dinner in Cleveland again.

Singing The Sad-Eyed First Game Blues

The first full day of the NFL season is here. For fans of the Cleveland Browns, like me, that means bracing yourself for another first-game loss to kick off the season. Every such loss, and every new season of failure, moves this once-storied franchise farther away from the glory days of Otto Graham, Jimmy Brown, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar, and other members of gritty, always competitive teams. Browns fans hope for the best, but fully expect the worst, because we’ve been so conditioned by futility we can’t have confidence about anything. And every year, we inevitably find ourselves singing the sad-eyed first game blues.

The Browns’ opening day record since they returned to the NFL in 1999 is mind-boggling. Their ineptitude in the first game is historic; no other NFL team even comes close. The Browns are a seemingly impossible 1-21-1. I’ve written about it before, and I’ll do so for as long as first-game losses continue to mount, because perhaps nothing better captures the sense of doom and defeat that Browns fans must endure. You would think that, over a period of more than two decades, a favorable bounce or some other good break might turn the tide in a game, but it never happens. We Browns fans are trapped in a repeating loop of disaster, absorbing gut punch after gut punch, and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

How will the Browns fare this season? Preseason tells us nothing, because most of the Browns’ best players didn’t play a snap. That’s makes it hard to draw any conclusions– which might be a good thing, because the team that did play looked pretty mediocre. I feel like the Browns have some talent, but I know from past experience that dumb plays, stupid penalties, and freakish occurrences have caused losses that shouldn’t have happened. The fact that the Browns will play their first game against their former quarterback Baker Mayfield also produces the kind of story line that seems tailor-made for another dismal Browns loss.

And yet . . . I continue to hope. Being a Browns fan is embedded deep in the core fibers of my being, and I just can’t help myself. I’m like the guy in the old joke who repeatedly slams his forehead into a wall, and when someone asks him why he is doing it, he says: “Because it feels so good when I stop.” Maybe, just maybe, this is the year it will stop.

Halves, Wholes, And Rounding

Recently I have been trying to lose a few pounds and get down to an aspirational target weight. As an inevitable part of that process, I have left the happy land of whole numbers and entered the territory of halves, wholes, and rounding.

Whole numbers are great and, for the vast majority of purposes, are perfectly adequate and indeed preferable. The whole concept of “rounding” basically was developed solely to avoid those confusing and inconvenient fractions when calculating paychecks or the cost of a single gallon of milk. But there are times when more precision clearly is needed, if only for purposes of positive self-image, and the fractional numbers thus must enter the equation. The two obvious instances are when you are focused on weight and age. (Quarters and halves also come in handy when you are telling the time, of course.)

Every child starts out with their parents measuring their age in weeks, then in months, then in half years. And virtually as soon as the kid develops sufficient speech skills, accounting for those half years become very important. The child realizes that age is associated with positive attributes–like being able to stay up later–and insists that the half year be noted when their age is given. They are four-and-a-half, not just four. Later, when adulthood is achieved and moving up in age isn’t viewed quite so positively, those half-years are discarded and we are perfectly content to stick with our age at the last birthday until the next birthday rolls around.

When losing weight is at issue, the mental calculation is is the opposite. The downward movement of a quarter pound or a half pound on the scale is a crucially important milestone to be celebrated as an incentive to continue whatever you’ve been doing to shed the weight. Trim supermodels and Hollywood stars presumably don’t do this. But when losing weight is your goal and personal resolve is a key part of the process, you think of your weight in precise half and quarter pounds, with no upward rounding permitted.

Downward rounding, on the other hand, is perfectly appropriate.

A Royal Loss

I was saddened to read of the death of Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. A young woman when she ascended the throne in 1952, she reigned for 70 years, presiding over her country from the dawn of the Cold War, in the aftermath of World War II, to the internet age. Her astonishing longevity was historic and is best reflected (for Americans, at least) in the realization that Harry Truman was President when Queen Elizabeth took the throne–one of 14 Presidents who served during her reign. As Queen, she worked with countless British Prime Ministers, including notable historical figures like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. And along the way, the Beatles wrote and performed a catchy little song about her. Obviously, Elizabeth was a monarch who left her mark.

I’m no fan of the British royal family, and I don’t understand why some Americans are fixated on their weddings, christenings, dalliances, and disputes. Nevertheless, I admired Queen Elizabeth. She did her job diligently, with class and attention to her duties as queen. I always thought her stiff-upper-lip, do-your-duty, get-the-job-done attitude aptly reflected the character of her country. She accepted her role and honored it with her efforts, her discretion, and her innate understanding of what it meant to be queen.

You never had to worry about Queen Elizabeth writing a tell-all book, engaging in public shenanigans, or doing anything remotely disreputable–but unfortunately for her, you couldn’t say the same thing about her family. In addition to her royal duties, she had to deal with an often fractious clan and tried to keep some of its members from embarrassing themselves and the country. It had to create more than its share of heartache and personal pain for her, but I’m quite sure that many Britons applauded her efforts in that regard.

Monarchies are an anachronism in this day and age, and it must have been difficult and exhausting to keep that anachronism afloat during ever-changing, turbulent times. Elizabeth II was a steady hand at the helm and piloted the institution well. It will be interesting to see whether King Charles, who ascends the throne at the ripe age of 73, will exhibit the same kind of tact and sensitivity.

The Morning Cup Choices

Every morning, I make a pot of medium-strong coffee to start the day. But making the coffee is only the first step in the coffee consumption process. Next, I must choose a coffee cup to hold that precious, energizing black gold. That means I have to really get my sleep-addled brain working and make considered, deliberate choices from an array of distinct options that are available.

Our smallest cup, at the right above, is a narrow, somewhat dainty cup that probably holds about half as much coffee as you would get if you filled the lobster cup on the other end of the line. Its smaller exposed surface area means your coffee will stay fractionally warmer if you are taking your time with your morning joe. Not surprisingly, I never choose this one.

Lately I’ve been going with the cup that is next in line. It’s thicker than the white one, which means it has a good heft as you lift it to your lips, it has a cool bicycle drawing on the front, and it was a gift from my mentees. It has more exposed surface area and is a bit larger, but still doesn’t deliver an overwhelming amount of coffee. I can slug down all of the coffee in this cup when it is still hot and head back for more–which I always do.

From there we move to the Harbor Cafe cup, which (as the name indicates) is your standard restaurant coffee cup, slightly larger than the preceding cups and with still more surface area. This is a good cup to choose if you want to drink a fulsome amount of coffee quickly and feel the heat of the coffee radiating through the thin sides of the cup.

From there, we really move from cup to mug territory, with choices that provide increasingly colossal amounts of coffee and surface areas that are approximately birdbath sized. The lobster mug at the end is enormous, and the coffee it holds cools off quickly. The lobster mug is the right choice when you are going to have a busy day and you need to gulp down a lot of hot, black, highly caffeinated liquid into your system as quickly as possible. It’s not a cup for those who dawdle over their java, because they are going to end up with a cup of unsatisfyingly cold coffee, No, the lobster mug sends your brain a message: sleep has ended, a busy day has begun, and you’d better pick up the pace in all things.

Bears In Pools

If you are considering whether to put a swimming pool in your backyard, as part of the process you undoubtedly receive a lot of legal disclosures about the risks involved in installing any kind of pool. I find myself wondering, however, whether you receive warnings about . . . bears.

I thought of this important question after seeing a news story about how a home security camera caught a bear going for a dip in a backyard pool in Monrovia, California. You can see the article and the video here. In the video, the bear climbs over a rear wall, tumbles to the ground, sniffs around the pool, then decides to take a lap and cool off before exiting the premises the way he came in.

I thought the video was unusual until I did a search for bears in pools, and found that there are a lot of YouTube videos and stories about incidents in which bears decided to take a swim in a pool. The videos show bear swims across the country, in California, Tennessee, Florida, and even New Jersey (where the bears probably have a Jersey accent). The bears aren’t picky about their swimming venues, either: they’ll gladly splash around in In-ground or above-ground pools. They don’t even mind a belly-flop, as shown in the picture above.

The homeowner who posted the video of the bear climbing his back wall for a swim took it in good humor, saying there was “never a dull moment” in his household. I wonder, however, how enjoyable it will be lounging in that pretty little pool in the future, knowing all the while that at any moment a bear could climb the wall and dive in. It’s hard to really relax when you are on bear alert and have to keep one eye open for a visit from a furry friend.

Making A Winter Even Colder

By all accounts, the good people of the United Kingdom may be in for a rough winter. It will be even worse if the economic conditions cause some of the country’s excellent pubs to close–including a pub that is reputed to be the oldest continuously operating pub in the U.K.

The pub is Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St. Albans, and its problem is the cost of energy. The pub says it has been serving thirsty customers their pints and pies for 1,200 years, but now its energy costs have doubled. And, being a public place, a pub can’t conserve energy by turning off the lights in certain areas during business hours, as a British home could. The cost increases, and the fact that winter tends to be the slow season for pubs, raises the possibility that some pubs will close–which would make the bleak mid-winter even bleaker.

The pub businesses in the U.K. have warned that the crushing costs for electricity, heating, and other pub supplies might cause widespread closures, and resulting job losses. They say that pubs have faced an average 150% increase in energy costs, and the impact of the costs is causing “irreversible damage.” Some pubs say they are dealing with a 400 percent increase in the cost of a one-year gas supply contract, and some say they can’t get a contract at all. (Pubs are not alone in suffering, incidentally, the average household faces an 80 percent increase in energy costs.) The costs increases are attributed to the Russians exercising periodic shutdown control over natural gas supplies, which has caused fears that supplies might be cut off entirely in the winter to increase Russia’s political leverage in its war against Ukraine. The fact that the U.K. doesn’t have extensive gas storage facilities doesn’t help the price volatility, either.

Times have been tough for the pubs over the last few years; they were forced to close during the COVID pandemic, and they are dealing with changing drinking habits in their communities. But it’s impossible to absorb increased costs of the kind pubs are facing without also dramatically increasing prices to customers- which would cause further deterioration in pub business.

I’m hoping that the pubs somehow make it through, and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks gets a chance to give visitors a warm, friendly place to quaff a pint or two for another 1,200 years. I can’t imagine a trip to England without spending at least time in its iconic pubs. Pubs are one of the things that make England England.

“Quiet Quitting” And Labor Day

Happy Labor Day! On this day set aside to celebrate working people–and give them a day off, too–it’s worth spending a few minutes thinking about work and jobs and a supposedly recent development in the labor sector: “quiet quitting.”

“Quiet quitting” has been the subject of a lot of discussion recently, in articles like this one. It’s a seemingly elastic concept that can mean different things to different people. For some, the notion is all about setting boundaries; you will work hard during the normal workday but not take on additional responsibilities that would intrude into your private life and produce burnout. For others, it means doing the least amount of work needed to avoid getting fired by an employer who recognizes that, in the current labor market, it may not be able to find someone better to fill the position. “Quiet quitting” evidently got that name on TikTok, where “quiet quitters” have been posting videos about their decisions.

Of course, “quiet quitting” might have a modern brand, but the underlying idea is nothing new. Anyone who has worked for any length of time has had “quiet quitters” as co-workers. I remember some from my first job, as a “bag boy” at the Big Bear grocery store in Kingsdale Shopping Center circa 1973. They were the guys you didn’t want to get matched up with on a project, like retrieving abandoned carts from the parking lot so the in-store supply was fully stocked. You knew they would retrieve a few carts at a deliberate pace, but you would do most of the work so the two of you wouldn’t get reprimanded by the boss. I quickly decided that I didn’t want to be a “bare minimum” guy, always at risk of getting canned, but since then I’ve also been fortunate to have jobs in my working career that I found interesting and well worth the investment of some extra, “off the clock” time.

Is “quiet quitting” a bad thing? I don’t think it is, but in any event it is a reality. The labor market, like the rest of the economy, is subject to the law of supply and demand. “Quiet quitting” is a product of the invisible hand at work; it reflects the fact that the demand for workers right now exceeds the supply. There is nothing wrong with sending a message to an employer that employees won’t put up with having new responsibilities piled on their plate without fair compensation–that’s one of the signals that allows the invisible hand to work.

But “quiet quitting” also has a potential cost, and a potential risk. The cost might be the impact on your self perception and your reputation among your co-workers, as well as the chance you might be developing the habit of settling rather than going out and finding a new job that is better suited to your interests. The risk is that the balance of supply and demand in the labor market shifts–giving the employer the option of upgrading the workforce, leaving the “quiet quitters” without a job and, perhaps, without a recommendation as they look for a new one.

A Football-Free Sunday?

Having watched a terrific college football game last night, my appetite is whetted for more. I’m ready to plop myself down on the couch, crack open a cold one, and watch some NFL football today. I’m ready to hear the pads cracking and revel in the extreme athleticism, speed, and power of oversized human beings racing around on the gridiron.

Except . . . there is no NFL football today. Even though we got a full slate of college ball last night, football fans hungry for another pigskin fix will be hearing crickets over the Labor Day weekend. The NFL regular season doesn’t kick off until Thursday. So what are football fans to do? Watch the U.S. Open, baseball, or golf? Catch up on HBO’s House of the Dragon? When you’ve got a hankering for clashes on the turf, nothing else really satisfies.

What’s up with this sad reality? Can’t the NFL schedulers and the college schedulers get together and declare that the football season is formally here, so fans can get into their normal Saturday college/Sunday pro routine? Getting only the Saturday half of the equation is like getting the yin without the yang.

Mr. Loudmouth Comes To The Horseshoe

We went to the Ohio State-Notre Dame game last night. It was a great, hard-fought game between two of the most storied programs in college football. The Fighting Irish lived up to their name and put up a tough battle, leaving the game in doubt until the Ohio State offense finally found its footing in the second half, the Buckeye offensive line asserted itself, and the running game helped the team grind out a clutch, 90-yard drive that finally put the game away, leading to a 21-10 win. I’m an old school football fan, and any game where good defense and the rushing attack make the difference is just fine with me.

But, speaking of old school, this fan who went to his first Ohio State home game more than 50 years ago was struck by the atmosphere and the hoopla surrounding the game itself. If you haven’t been to a game at the Old Horseshoe recently, you might be surprised by the in-game experience. Some might call it a feast for the senses; others would say it has become a cluttered confusion geared for people with short attention spans, where the new stuff is threatening to crowd out the traditional elements of a college football game.

Don’t get me wrong, some of it was cool. Last night’s game began with a pinpoint Navy parachuting exhibition, where the parachutists dropped into Ohio Stadium at high speeds and landed flawlessly on the field to the cheers of a huge crowd. I particularly liked the member of the parachute squad who swept into the stadium and onto the field trailing an Ohio State flag, as shown in the first two photos above. I also liked the concept of the drone formations that accompanied the band’s halftime show–although we couldn’t see most of the drone stuff, from our seat in B Deck, which made me wonder how many of the fans outside of the closed end had an unobstructed view–and also the mass cellphone flashlight waving, which made the ‘Shoe look like it had been invaded by a million lightning bugs. The South Stands, in particular, embraced the flashlight waving with gusto, as shown in the bottom photo of this post.

I was also happy to see that some of the traditional elements of a home Buckeye football game remain. The band’s ramp entrance, seen above, remains a central focus, and it never fails to get the fans amped. Script Ohio and a Sousaphone player high-stepping and dotting the i will never get old. The team’s rush onto the field has been jazzed up, with fire blasts, billowing smoke, and fireworks, but at least the band and cheerleaders are still part of it. I like that they continue to use at least some of the breaks during the game to trot people out onto the field for recognition; yesterday’s game honored a 100-year-old World War II vet, the OSU women’s hockey national championship team, and Coach Jim Tressel and the 2002 Buckeye national championship football team, among others. And singing Carmen Ohio with the team and the band at the end of the game is a sweet way to celebrate a win.

But there are other things that this old codger found annoying. Ohio State has hired some loudmouth guy with a microphone who presumed to instruct those of us in the crowd about what to do–like barking out commands for fans to “show their Buckeye spirit” or trying to start O-H-I-O chants as t-shirts are hurled into the stands–as if we really need to be told to cheer and get loud during an exciting football game. Couple Mr. Loudmouth with blasting rock and rap music during some breaks in the action and a few dumb on-field activities, like a relay race between teams encased in large inflatable balls, and you feel like some master planner believes that the fans will become hopelessly bored unless something really loud is happening at every second. And, if you haven’t been at Ohio Stadium since beer sales became part of the experience, be ready to stand up constantly for the beer drinkers in your row to pass by for repeated replenishment and depletion. Some of the guzzlers in our section went by so often we wanted to install a turnstile and charge a fee to let them pass.

I don’t think an Ohio State home game, in one of the most storied venues in college football, needs all of this sideshow stuff. It crowds out the opportunities for the band to play and for the cheerleaders to do some of their routines in front of the fans–which are two of the key things that distinguish a college sporting event from the pros. All of the noise also interferes with another nice part of the Ohio State football experience, which is to talk to surrounding fans, who are typically pretty knowledgeable about football, about the game itself. What a novel concept: football fans wanting to talk about football during the game without being prompted to do something by a loud guy with a microphone! I’d vote to give Mr. Loudmouth his walking papers, ditch the inflatable ball races, and let the band play.