September 29, 2010
The Rapids finally lives up to its name
|[Posted by kris]|
Here's an amazing short video of the river in my hometown this weekend. Because the Wisconsin River's power in this area has been harnessed to power paper mills, you never got a true sense of the rapids. Now you do. Wow!
September 27, 2010
What letter in the world?
|[Posted by kris]|
I have a serious addiction to Sporcle and in particular their geography games. Because of them, I've learned all of the countries of the world, alphabetically. Yeah, that's right, I'm cool. Anyway, this learning exercise made me think of an intriguing question. If you could pick a letter of the alphabet and visit all of its countries, what letter would you choose?
Now, the kicker here is that you have to visit each country. So, picking "A" gets you a ticket to Afghanistan as well as Australia. The letter "S" gives you the most travel, but some of that travel is to places like Sudan, Sierra Leone and Saudi Arabia.
Here's a cheatsheet of all of the countries and there's a poll below. I'm interested what your criteria is. Do you go for volume, do you limit your exposure to "bad" countries or do you just choose the countries you'd most want to go to and damn the rest?
For me, it comes down to N or T. N has Nicaragua, New Zealand, Nepal and Namibia, Norway and the Netherlands, but a big downer in North Korea. T, meanwhile has such intriguing countries as Tanzania, Thailand and Turkey, but you'd also completely miss out on Europe. It's a tough choice, but I think I'd go with the variety of N over the big destinations of T.
Now it's your turn!
September 25, 2010
Riding the wave of 90's nostalgia
|[Posted by kris]|
For years now, I've breathlessly anticipated 90's nostalgia. I've even kept some choice flannels and a pair of Dr. Martens in storage, just in case. If you've looked around any store this fall, you know that the 90's have arrived (again), right on schedule (I think it takes about 20 years for something to be cool again). Yesterday, I even saw a cut-off flannel vest. It was exactly like someone raided my college wardrobe and was trying to sell it back to me for three times the price.
To celebrate, I watched Pearl Jam's epic performance of "Black" on MTV's unplugged. Oh Eddie Vedder, you still get me when you sing:
I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a sun
In somebody else's sky
But why, why, WHY?????????? can't it be, can't it be mine?
Of course, 90's nostalgia isn't just about culture. It's also a yearning for a simpler time. A time when people actually had jobs, terrorism was defeated in Ireland and intervention in Kosovo worked pretty quickly and with minimal loss of American blood. It was the best of times. It was the best of times.
I watched the HBO movie "The Special Relationship" the other night. The film chronicles the relationship between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Michael Sheen reprises his role as Blair from "The Queen". Like in that film, Blair is portrayed as something of a wide-eyed, do-gooder and the focus turns to the more intriguing characters of Queen Elizabeth II and Bill Clinton respectively. (As an aside, I've always wanted to write about "The Queen" because it's the only time I've ever seen the themes of honor and duty applied to a woman. You can't watch the film and feel anything but a deep admiration for the Queen.) Dennis Quaid channels the spirit of the late, great Phil Hartman in his portrayal of Clinton. Clinton is basically a womanizing, fast food-eating rascal, but a good one.
What's intriguing about the film is that it shows the 90's through a 2010 lens. So, when Clinton states that rhetoric works in an election, but once in office you actually have to do something, you can almost hear the ",Barack" at the end of the sentence. Likewise, Clinton's strategists tell Blair that, basically, you have to give the people what they want and that it's easier to modify what a political party stands for than change what people want. Isn't that a message that both the Republicans and the Democrats are painfully learning to heed today?
Thinking about this 90's nostalgia and the popularity of Bill Clinton (seriously, would he win the biggest landslide in American history if he could run for President again in 2012?), I realized that Hillary Clinton's new hairdo actually is a big deal. She's growing her hair out to look more like the Hillary of the 90's. She must be planning on running against Obama in 2012 and smartly wants to evoke those good times when the Clintons were in charge.
The Clintons aren't the only 90's throwbacks in today's political arena. If you think about, the Tea Party is about as 90's as you can get. Back then, the worst thing you could be was a corporate sellout. Minus the birthers and racists and Sarah Palin, isn't that exactly what's at the heart of the Tea Party movement? When the politicians on both sides of the aisle sold out to corporate interests in the form of bailouts, they became the political equivalent of the indie band who signed a big record company contract. They might have the office and the money, but they've lost their street cred.
well they made us do a video but that wasn't tough
'cuz we just filmed ourselves smashin' stuff
it was kinda weird 'cuz there was no music
but mtv said they'd love to use it
the kids went wild, the kids went nuts
rolling stone gave us a five-star review said we played with guts
we're scorin' chicks, takin' drugs
then we got asked to play mtv unplugged
you should have seen it
we went right out there and refused to do acoustical versions of the
electrical songs we had refused to record in the first place
then we smashed our shit
well we blew 'em away at the grammy's show
by refusing to play and refusing to go
and then just when we thought fame would last forever
along come this band that wasn't even together
now that's alternative
now that's alternative to alternative
i feel stupid
You're always going to be able to appeal to Gen X by invoking that magic word: "alternative". Clinton & Ross Perot both ran on that platform in 1992 and it shouldn't shock anyway that this wave of 90's nostalgia will probably sweep even more "alternative" candidates into office in 2010.
September 21, 2010
Wisconsin's View of the Midwest
|[Posted by kris]|
You catch more flies with honey
|[Posted by kris]|
I've always liked former Madison mayor Paul Soglin. I don't always agree with him politically, but I respect him for his pragmatism and his Midwestern "Git 'er Done" attitude. However, I do take issue with a recent post on his Waxing America website. It says:
Last Tuesday's successes by the Teabaggers in a number of Republican primaries give the Democratic Party an opportunity to regroup and salvage the November elections. The success in Delaware of Christine O'Donnell, who may give historians pause to reinterpret the Salem Witch Trials, increases the probability that the meandering Democrats can maintain control of Congress.
The key is how the Democrats maximize the potential of the Tea party movement. While it is inevitable that some Teabaggers cannot relate to the party of FDR, the Little Flower, and Will Rogers, it is important that the Democratic Party relate to them.
Very few Teabaggers are racist; their numbers are so small as to be inconsequential.
Some Teabaggers are strict libertarians, but they are a minority.
Quite a few Teabaggers want lower taxes, but most of them are victims of the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy.
A lot of Teabaggers want less government, but when it comes to government stepping on our backs, it was brought to us by so -called conservatives who rammed home the so-called Patriot Act - more an intrusion into the privacy of every American than a weapon against terrorism.
Most Teabaggers are angry, and rightfully so. No more or less than the rest of us they are fed lies and deception about how healthcare reform stole from seniors' medicare. Their tax burden and national debt is as great as the rest of us -- created by Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, a failed economy created by exportation of jobs by businesses that were given Bush tax credits, and a housing crisis fed by a de-regulated financial market. It was the repeal of the Depression Era Glass-Steagall Act (1933) that led to this economic disaster.
Democrats need to go out there and listen to the Teabaggers; the Republicans are not.
The post refers to "teabaggers" eight times. Despite what people would have you think, that's not a friendly term and it's not what Tea Party activists call themselves. It's an insult and it shows a complete lack of respect. Disagree with someone all you want, but if you're going to ask for their vote, you should at least show them some respect.
You don't win friends with salad and you don't win elections by being patronizing jerks either.
September 16, 2010
What's wrong with Minnesota?
|[Posted by kris]|
We've frequently discussed what's wrong with the Minnesota sports fan, but I think it's worth digging into a little bit more. To outsiders, I suspect that the upper Midwest looks like a homogeneous land of interchangeable white people. Of course, they couldn't be more wrong. Minnesota and Wisconsin, although neighbors, are almost complete cultural opposites.
Why is that? I suspect it has something to do with immigration patterns. I wanted to take a look at where modern day Minnesotans came from compared to the cultural heritage of Wisconsinites. I put together a couple of charts for a visual comparison:
At first glance, they're not that different. But on closer examination, what jumps out at you is just how much less Scandinavian and more Polish Wisconsin is. In fact, while Poles make up just over 5% of Minnesota's population, they're nearly 10% of Wisconsin. And, Polish pockets like Milwaukee and Central Wisconsin can be over 30% Polish. Could it be that somewhere between 5 and 9% is the Polish "tipping point" - the point where the mass of Poles is enough to greatly influence the rest of the culture towards polka, kielbasa, hard drinking and uncommon loyalty to sports teams?
Selfishly, I'd like to think so, but in reality I think that's only part of the story. Just like outsiders assume Upper Midwesterners are all alike, we assume that Scandinavians are all alike. Of course, Swedes, Danes & Norwegians disagree:
As a matter of fact, jokes featuring "the Swede, the Dane and the Norwegian" are ubiquitous among children in the three countries: the Swede is always depicted as a rich and arrogant child of the Enlightenment, the Dane as a slightly decadent hedonist, and the Norwegian as an uneducated, often stupid country bumpkin. These jokes illustrate how mutual stereotypes not only contribute to the definition of the other, but also function recursively in the definition of the self. The following example is in many ways typical:
A Swede, a Dane and a Norwegian are shipwrecked on the proverbial desert island. A genie appears out of thin air, informing them that they can each have a wish granted. The Swede immediately says, "I want to go home to my large and comfortable bungalow with the Volvo, video and slick IKEA furniture." So he vanishes. The Dane then says, "I want to go back to my cozy little flat in Copenhagen, to sit in my soft sofa, feet on the table, next to my sexy girlfriend and with a sixpack of lagers." Off he flies. The Norwegian, after giving the problem a bit of thought, then tells the genie, "Cor, I suddenly feel so terribly lonely here, so I guess I wish for my two friends to come back."
Reading that was definitely an "A ha!" moment for me. Maybe it's not that Minnesota was settled by more Scandinavians and fewer Poles, maybe it's more specific than that. Sure enough, a quick look does reveal that Minnesota is the most Swedish of all the States while the Dakotas and Wisconsin are more Norwegian and Wisconsin, in particular, has more Danes (as if you couldn't guess that).
It all makes sense, doesn't it? Minnesota was settled by people who had, for generations, looked down their Nordic noses at their "dumb" or hard-partying neighbors. These people may have crossed the Atlantic, but they didn't really change their ways. This is exactly the kind of attitude Minnesota has towards Wisconsin. One of the local free papers even has a running item about "weird Wisconsin" that usually has something to do with drunks and/or cows.
Much like the Poles in Wisconsin, Minnesota's Swedes had the critical mass to make the State their own, for better or worse.
September 15, 2010
Empathy & Unemployment
|[Posted by kris]|
I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about how America is a "nation of entitlements". I think the article has some good points, but I do object to the general attitude towards unemployment benefits. There seems to be this widespread belief that people on unemployment are living high on the hog and enjoying fun, carefree day after day.
While there's certainly a large part of this country that doesn't actually pay taxes, I think there's also a large part of this country that has never had to deal with any serious financial setbacks. If they had, they'd know what people on unemployment feel like day after day.
People on unemployment don't really want extensions beyond 99 weeks of benefits. People on unemployment want a good job. The maximum you can get in unemployment benefits varies by state, but it's generally between $350 - $500/week. And remember, that's the maximum, so if you were making, for example, $60,000 your income might be knocked down to just over $18,000. If you've built a $60,000 lifestyle and obligations, you're not going to be living it up, you're going to be making serious sacrifices.
And that's just the money. When you're unemployed you feel depressed and worthless. Every job you never hear from is another way you feel like there's something seriously wrong with you. Then, you get these jackasses who think you should just get a job at McDonalds - as if McDonalds is in the habit of hiring 30-something marketing managers rather than pimply teenagers. As if McDonalds solves your problems or puts you in a better financial situation.
Unemployment sucks. What sucks even more is when people think that the government should teach you a lesson about responsibility rather than help you survive. Mind you, this is the same government that gave billions to banks and car companies to bail them out from their own poor decisions. But God forbid we give Joe Six Pack another few thousand dollars so he doesn't end up on the street.
The comments on the WSJ article are typically mean spirited:
"I don't like taking government money," says Mr. Hester, but "what else is there?"
The nagging question, is how much faster would Mr Hester (et al) have found an alternative source of income if there was NO government cash available?
Entitlement outlays simply must be cut until the programs are viable (assuming we are forever stuck w/SS/Medicare/Medicaid).
Can you imagine if there was no unemployment insurance at all? Imagine how powerless employees would be. If you were basically SOL if you got laid off what would you do to make sure that didn't happen? And if it did happen, what would you do?
I also think a lot of people don't understand that unemployment insurance is a true safety net. People want to be on it for as little as possible. However, when times are really tough like right now, as little as possible is going to be longer:
"A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted late last month found 61% of voters were 'enthusiastic' or 'comfortable' with congressional candidates who support cutting federal spending in general. But 56% expressed the same enthusiasm for candidates who voted to extend unemployment benefits."
The 17% of voters who answered yes to both questions are exactly why I have no faith whatsoever that we will avoid the entitlement apocalypse. The numbers are even worse for SS & Medicare. Most people who say they want spending cuts are lying. Most candidates that say they will cut spending are lying.
People don't support unemployment benefit extensions because they're inconsistent. They support them because they understand that people need help right now.
I did read one really good comment that I think provides a solution I could support:
We need BALANCE in our endeavors to provide assistance where there is legitimate need, while simultaneously inspiring individual responsibility & independence. In fairness to all, we need education regarding personal financial planning, circumstances enabling independence (such as reduced taxes), and suitable products, while simultaneously collecting ample taxes for the policies & programs necessary for federal service, ensuring that we charitably care for the vulnerable whose needs are unquestionable. We should assess and close all loopholes that enable cunning individuals to demonstrate deceptive illusions of need. Deception is clearly outside the intent of the law.
Regarding entitlements discussed in this article, we need immediate attention to:
1) THE EXTENSION OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS BEYOND 26 WEEKS: When INDIDIVUAL unemployment benefits expired at 26 weeks, Congress owed it to the American people to look at HOUSEHOLD income rather than individual job loss when deciding whether unemployed persons were eligible for extensions. When Congress extended individual benefits beyond 26 weeks to households having two heads and one enjoys continued employment capable of sustaining reasonable room and board, thereby enabling the second to stay at home, care for the home, and in some cases the children (thus reducing childcare and other costs associated with employment), our Congress acted irresponsibly. Extension without case assessment was irresponsible with respect to our federal deficit, and with respect to duty. It is an example of wasteful spending. Extensions at expiration should have incorporated a prudent look at each case relative to household need before authorizing further taxpayer expenditures on unemployment entitlements.
Can we elect this person? I think they've got the right mix of empathy and practicality - qualities that seem to be lacking in both the electorate and the government right now.
September 12, 2010
|[Posted by kris]|
I have no idea if this beer is any good, but that name. I definitely would have purchased it if they had actually spelled "sheepshead" correctly. :)
With fall just about here, I feel like in addition to football season, it's beer season. While Sheephead Ale is tempting, I'd also recommend:
- Lakefront Brewery's Pumpkin Lager for its smooth, creamy, but not cloying, flavor
- Capital Brewery's Supper Club for a good, solid everyday beer
- New Glarus Fat Squirrel for a hearty, but reasonable, nut brown ale
- Surly Bender for a hearty, but unreasonable nut brown beer
- Rush River IPA for a beer that's hoppy, but not just for the sake of being hoppy
- Sand Creek Cranberry Special Ale for a celebration of Wisconsin's native fruit
- Sprecher's Abbey Triple for an American take on the world's greatest beer (damn those monks!)
- Ace Pear Cider for a cider that's not sickeningly sweet
- Point Oktoberfest, for a nice, solid, easy-drinking beer
I limited this to pretty much Midwestern beers, so I'd love some good nationwide fall beer suggestions.
September 11, 2010
|[Posted by kris]|
I couldn't sleep this morning and so I was up early watching some of the 9/11 coverage. I watched MSNBC's replay of the original NBC coverage and was again struck by how awful it was (lots of reports of talking to "high ranking U.S. officials" and not nearly enough time talking to actual eyewitnesses). In any case though, it was interesting to see 9/11 presented again as simply something that happened. Before the replay began, on the other hand, I had to hear at least a couple of TV talking heads mention how religious tolerance, i.e. the current controversies over the Park51 mosque and the Florida Koran burning, was the important thing to take away from 9/11.
Huh? Of all of the potential reasons the United States was attacked on 9/11, religious tolerance or lack thereof was not on the list. If you want to use 9/11 to reaffirm our American values of free speech and freedom of religion, go for it. But if you think that those values are something we should learn from 9/11 then I don't know what the hell you're talking about.
September 10, 2010
Shouldn't satire be kinda funny?
|[Posted by kris]|
I hesitate to write this, because I love The Onion. It started at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I've even been in The Onion. I still fondly remember how much my Dad giggled at their fake WWI coverage. But, this article in a few weeks ago really bothered me, but I couldn't articulate why. I think it's because it crosses the line from satire to straight up opinion:
Gentries, 48, said he had absolutely no interest in exposing himself to further knowledge of Islamic civilization or putting his sweeping opinions into a broader context of any kind, and confirmed he was "perfectly happy" to make a handful of emotionally charged words the basis of his mistrust toward all members of the world's second-largest religion.
"I learned all that really matters about the Muslim faith on 9/11," Gentries said in reference to the terrorist attacks on the United States undertaken by 19 of Islam's approximately 1.6 billion practitioners. "What more do I need to know to stigmatize Muslims everywhere as inherently violent radicals?"
"And now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero," continued Gentries, eliminating any distinction between the 9/11 hijackers and Muslims in general. "No, I won't examine the accuracy of that statement, but yes, I will allow myself to be outraged by it and use it as evidence of these people's universal callousness toward Americans who lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell."
"Even though I am not one of those people," he added.
When told that the proposed "Ground Zero mosque" is actually a community center two blocks north of the site that would include, in addition to a public prayer space, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, and athletic facilities, Gentries shook his head and said, "I know all I'm going to let myself know."
Not only is that not at all funny, it's not really satire, is it? I'd expect more from The Onion than to parrot the opinions of mainstream news. I expect an original take on the issue.
I went back to The Onion's acclaimed post 9/11 issue and again admired how they were able to cover 9/11 with an almost perfect blend of humor, anger & even seriousness.
The article about the woman who didn't know what else to do other than bake an American flag-cake really did capture that feeling of helplessness so many of us felt:
My friends Cassie and Patrick [Overstreet] invited me over to have dinner and just talk about, you know, everything," said Pearson, a Topeka legal secretary who has never visited and knows no one in either New York or Washington, D.C. "I thought I'd make something special or do something out of respect for all of the people who died. All those innocent people. All those rescue workers who lost their lives."
Mixing the cake and placing it in the oven shortly after 3 p.m., Pearson sat at the kitchen table and stared at the oven door until the timer rang 50 minutes later.
As the cake cooled, Pearson gathered materials to decorate it. She searched the spice cupboard for a half-used tube of blue food coloring, but could not find it. After frantically pulling all the cans and jars from the cupboard, she finally found the tube in the very back. Emitting a deep sigh of relief, she spread the coloring over the cake's upper-left-hand corner to create the flag's blue field.
"I baked a cake," said Pearson, shrugging her shoulders and forcing a smile as she unveiled the dessert in the Overstreet household later that evening. "I made it into a flag."
Pearson and the Overstreets stared at the cake in silence for nearly a minute, until Cassie hugged Pearson.
"It's beautiful," Cassie said. "The cake is beautiful."
There's truth in that ridiculousness. And really, I'm not just annoyed by the political opinions in the more recent Onion piece. They used to, I think, do a good bipartisan job of pointing out the ridiculous. From another post 9/11 article:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.
"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said. "Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."
"America is up to that challenge," Rumsfeld added.
On Monday, the House of Representatives voted 428-2 to form an intelligence-gathering task force dedicated to "rooting out every scrap of information that can possibly be gleaned" concerning the attackers.
"When this task force's investigation is complete, America will know this guy's mother's favorite flavor of ice cream," U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) said. "We will also know who he is."
Gramm said that the U.S. has already learned a great deal about the details of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and that a rough psychological profile of its mastermind has been constructed.
"For example, we know that the mastermind has the approximate personality of a terrorist," Gramm said. "Also, he is senseless. New data is emerging all the time."
Standing in opposition to Bush and Congress is a small but growing anti-war movement. During the president's speech Tuesday, two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the White House, chanting and waving placards bearing such slogans as "U.S. Out Of Somewhere" and "No Blood For Whatever These Murderous Animals Hope To Acquire."
It's funny because it's true. Still true. Hmmm, okay, maybe it's really not that funny anymore. Whatever it is, at least it's not lazy, which is what The Onion is now. I mean, how much original thought does it take to make fun of people you think are ignorant for being ignorant? Isn't that the lowest form of comedy, just ahead of "Man Fall Down". And really, at least "Man Fall Down" is hilarious. If you're going to be stupid & lazy, at least make me laugh.
September 08, 2010
Weekly Football Pool Deadline is Tomorrow
|[Posted by kris]|
Our Pro Football Pick 'Em pool closes on Thursday. Don't miss out! Access the league here. Our info is:
Group ID#: 37474
September 06, 2010
What Wisconsin Football Is
|[Posted by kris]|
In the reaction to the new Big Ten divisions my sister said:
Football is more than winning a conference championship. If it wasn't, the Wisconsin program would have died off long ago.
I love that. I know it's hard to believe, but college football is not just about conference championships, the BCS and money. Really! College football is about fun and tradition and the game day experience. It's the most obvious way that, as an alum, you reconnect with your university each fall.
The reason I'm so upset by the Big Ten divisional alignment is that it was a slap in the face to Wisconsin's rivalries and traditions. It starkly highlights what really matters to the powers that be. And, what really matters to them is far removed from what I think Wisconsin football is about.
Wisconsin football isn't really about winning. That may sound absurd and self defeating, but stay with me here for a moment. Wisconsin football, like the Wisconsin Idea, is a way to connect the people of the State to the university. We use the Wisconsin football experience to express our culture to the world.
So sure, part of that culture involves the occasional three-story beer bong, but it's not just about being drunk (no really!). Wisconsin fans, unlike, it seems, the Big Ten, aren't too serious about college football. In the midst of their story about the 1993 crush vs. Michigan, Sports Illustrated related the following story which perfectly describes what Wisconsin football is about:
Add to that the Wisconsin school's long-established reputation for partying and irreverence. Consider that in 1979 the Badger band and fans stormed the field at an away game against Michigan State, a 55-2 loss; tore down the goalpost; and paraded around while chanting, "We scored first!"
And even as the teams got better, that spirit of irreverence has remained. Witness the "Matt Unertl Game"
For the uninitiated, when Ron Dayne played for the Badgers the PA would exaggerate his name: "Ron Daaaaaaaayne". The crowd got in the habit of chanting it back. Post-Dayne, the crowd somehow decided to do the same when senior plodder Matt Unertl got a few carries. Why? Because it was hilarious and that's how we roll.
And we have the band and, unlike some schools (I'm looking at you Michigan) we have a wide variety of signature songs beyond "Jump Around". We've got beer gardens that play only the cheesiest of songs. Yep - you know it's football season when you're packed in with hundreds of your new best friends all singing "YOU LIVE FOR THE FIGHT WHEN THAT'S ALL THAT YOU GOT!!!" at the top of your lungs.
That's what Wisconsin football is. An early season game in a typical 9-3 season is more fun than your Rose Bowl. Our Rose Bowl is way more fun than your BCS National Championship. And, if we ever won a national title, well, I guess our friends in Minnesota, Iowa and northern Illinois (you know, those border states that aren't in our geographically determined division) would have to hold down the fort for a few days while we all recovered.
In truth, other than destroying a rivalry with Iowa that's been played 73 out of the last 75 years, the Big Ten divisional alignment doesn't yet kill the spirit of Wisconsin football, it just makes it very clear that the Big Ten doesn't care what Wisconsin is about - to them, we are just another interchangeable team not named The Ohio State University or Michigan.
Personally, I think Wisconsin football is what's right in college sports and the Big Ten is now just another part of what's wrong.
September 02, 2010
Going the distance in the new Big Ten
|[Posted by kris]|
So, did you hear that the Big Ten established two football divisions? We have some opinions about that.
Basically, I hate it. HATE. I hate that my Wisconsin Badgers were placed in a division without our two closest rivals and most popular road trips. Sure, we get a crack at Ohio State and Penn State every year, but we won't play Iowa or Nebraska annually either. In fact, after this year, Badger fans won't see the Hawkeyes again until 2013 (or never if the 2012 doomsday predictions come true).
The Big Ten claimed that geography was the number one factor in creating the divisions. I call shenanigans on this statement. The number one factor in creating these divisions was to give Ohio State and Michigan the opportunity to play each other in the conference championship. That's it.
Because I'm a huge nerd, I created this spreadsheet that shows the distances between Big Ten schools. Some interesting geographical facts:
- Wisconsin is not in a division with either of the two teams located within 200 miles of Madison.
- Nor is Wisconsin guaranteed a yearly game with either of these two teams
- The "Wolverine" division teams are an average of 426 miles away from their opponents, while the "Buckeye" division is 351. If Wisconsin and Illinois were logically substituted for Michigan & Michigan State the divisions would be a far more manageable 303 and 330.
- For Wisconsin, the change is more dramatic. In the current set up, Wisconsin is, on average, 426 miles from its division opponents. That's a flight. In an East/West setup, it's only 262 miles away - that's a four-hour car ride.
- And it's not just about Wisconsin. In that east/west setup, the only teams on average more than 400 miles away from their division opponents are, logically, the two teams on the east/west extremes: Nebraska & Penn State. In the actual setup, 6 teams have to deal with distances at least that far.
To me, the Big Ten thought a lot about Ohio State and Michigan and a lot of current competitive football balance. They didn't think about geography. They didn't think about the fans. And I don't think they thought at all about Wisconsin.