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What Jackie Wallace Said, And Less Important Super Bowl 52 Trash Talk

Here we all are, at the end of yet another NFL, and other, football season. Like parting,the Super Bowl is always such sweet sorrow. It is the ultimate American football game, and yet it is also the end. Sure, there is the pretentious and ever petulant star driven NBA, and, sure, pitchers and catchers are reporting within days for those who think the boys of summer really belong in the pre-spring.

But, this weekend, is the Super Bowl. Even in an insanely Arctic like location as the 6º stupidity of Minneapolis, it is the biggest event there is. Sure, Goodell and the @NFL needs to encourage every franchise city to rape their taxpayers for a publicly funded stadium, but placing the biggest event in American sports in insanely inhospitable locations is a craven price to pay and play.

Enough of that though. It is now Super Bowl weekend. Eagles and Patriots. There are a ton of compelling stories athletically.

Yet none of them stack up. None even hold a candle, to the story that NOLA photojournalist Ted Jackson published today about Jackie Wallace:

One foot in front of the other, the hulking old man trudged up the ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway. A cold wind stiffened his face, so he bundled tighter and kept walking. His decision was made. A life full of accolades and praise meant nothing to him now. A man who was once the pride of his New Orleans hometown, his St. Augustine alma mater and his 7th Ward family and friends was undone. He was on his way to die.

The man was tired. In his 63 years, he had run with the gods and slept with the devil. Living low and getting high had become as routine as taking a breath. A hideous disease was eating his insides. He was an alcoholic, and he also craved crack cocaine. He was tired of fighting. He was tired of playing the game.
He crossed the last exit ramp and continued walking the pavement toward the top of the bridge. He dodged cars as they took the ramp. No one seemed to notice the ragged man walking to his suicide. If they did notice, they didn’t stop to help.

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

How did it come to this? This was long after Jackie had turned his life around, or so we both thought.

Jackie Wallace played in three Super Bowls. He was not just a good player, but a great one. Yet Ted Jackson found him in a fetal position underneath a bridge in New Orleans. Yes, there was a heartwarming redemption story:

But the best was yet to come. Three years later, I sat working at my desk writing photo captions for some run-of-the-mill story. Above my desk, a large glass wall separated the photo lab from the newsroom. As I worked, I was startled by a sharp rap on the glass. I looked up to see Jackie Wallace’s 6-foot, 3-inch frame towering over me, dressed in a three-piece suit with his arms stretched as wide as he was tall.
Beaming with his gap-tooth grin, he exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?”

But, no, it did not end there. It went very dark. These are the NFL stories none of us want to hear. But their presence and message are all to clear. Let them whisper in your ear. Please, I implore you, read Ted Jackson’s account on Jackie Wallace. It will rip your guts out, and you will be better for that.

For Act II, I want to point out a seriously awesome contribution from my friend Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, and legitimately so, “I nearly quit watching the NFL. The humanity of Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long brought me back”:

For Chris Long’s former high school football coach John Blake, there is one moment — and one image — that really showed the world what the Eagles defensive end is all about. And it wasn’t Long’s headline-grabbing announcement that he’d donate all his 2017 game paychecks to worthwhile causes, including two scholarships to send underprivileged kids to his Charlottesville, Va., alma mater, the St. Anne’s-Belfield School.

It was the preseason game back in August when the 10-year NFL veteran stood up for the national anthem and — in a gesture of solidarity and support — put his arm around his teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who was raising his fist to protest racial injustice in America. It was no little thing, as Long became the most visible white supporter of the protests that have roiled pro football for the last two seasons.

“What Chris was trying to do, basically, was to say that we need to listen — he’s got a point, all of these guys who are doing this are doing this for a reason,” said Blake, still head coach at the Virginia prep school. It was a brave political statement around the time when no less than the president of the United States was berating any athlete who protested during the anthem as a “son of a bitch,” but that arm-wrap also set the stage for all the giving-back good deeds that Jenkins, Long, and, increasingly. their Eagles teammates did in the Philadelphia community in the days that followed.

It does not end there. Will Bunch’s discussion of what Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles has done, and how he has conducted himself, is even better.

While Jenkins drew flak from some for raising his fist during the anthem, he was also forging close ties with the Philadelphia Police Department, not just meeting with top brass but riding around with rank-and-file officers to learn how cops and the communities they serve can develop better trust — a real-world strategy for reducing shootings by police. While some angry fans, with Donald Trump’s hateful “son of a bitch” rant burning in their ears, chortled that protesting black athletes didn’t even know what they were protesting for, Jenkins made a mockery of that ignorant claim. He was busy writing a searing series on criminal justice in the Philadelphia Citizen, traveling to Harrisburg to lobby lawmakers on “Clean Slate” legislation to wipe clean the records of low-level nonviolent offenders, urging sweeping reform of the broken bail system, and calling on Pennsylvania to release inmates given life-without-parole sentences as juveniles. One such ex-offender who did win his freedom recently, Kempis Songster, will be in the stands at the Super Bowl — because Jenkins paid his way to get there.

Seriously, go read it.

Okay, enough for the emotional moralizing. Though I think it is a more than decent time and platform to do so on and from. Let’s get down to the Wild Night:

Lot of people yak about the high holy commercials. Save for a couple (Hi early Apple!) I think they are WAY overrated. So, let us talk for a moment about the halftime shows. As Vulture does with many bands and things, they have drilled down to an all time ranking of Super Bowl halftime shows.

Honestly, I take issue with a LOT of their rankings. There are two I do not, however. The first is their top rank for Prince in 2007. In the driving rain, Prince was beyond awesome. That was indeed the best.

The second best, however, to me was Diana Ross at Super Bowl XXX which Vulture has at only number 6. I will have to admit, I am far from impartial as that was at Sun Devil Stadium and I was there about fifteen rows up from the floor. Diana was unreal, and the helicopter thing was simply insane. Were the acoustics etc. perfect? Nope. But Diana Ross owned the place. I wish I could describe it, but I can’t do better than that. It was more memorable than the game, and remains so to this day (Aikman and Cowboys beat Neil O’Donnell and the Steelers in a fair, but not that close game).

So, the Pats are taking on the Eagles. Who wins? For all those saying it is a slam dunk, remember, the Pats never win by much or clearly in Super Bowls. They may be the dynasty they are, but the margin in the Super Bowls, whether they win or lose (Hi Eli!) is always small, at best. This looks to be another one of those. Nick Foles is better than people give him credit for, and, AGAIN, if Doug Peterson turns Foles lose and lets him rip, this may be a far different game than most people and oddsmakers think. I see it as a pick em 24 hours ahead of time. Enjoy!

Okay, in the musical selections for this week, I may have substituted Jackie Wilson for Jackie Wallace. The joy with which Van Morrison plays on Jackie Wilson and Wild Night seem right for the joy Jackie Wallace played with in his prime. Let’s remember that, and think of Jackie and all the aging stars of our youth. They brought great joy then, time to give back that appreciation. Enjoy the Super Bowl one and all.

The Stein Recount Needle and the Damage Done

vote-recountI stated earlier my issues with the Jill Stein fueled “recount” effort. Since that time, there seems to be a hue and cry to the effect of “irrespective of Stein, these will be helpful and are especially needed after Trump’s lie!”.

There are many instances of that thought, but this from Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News, a friend whom I admire and like greatly, is indicative:

The stakes are too high to calculate. But there is one other thing about Trump’s big lie about the 2016 election. Ironically, before today, the case for a recount in the three states was a tad shaky. While the threat of Russian (or other) hacking has been a valid concern, little in the way of actual evidence of a stolen election has emerged since November 8. But now that Trump has alleged massive fraud, the integrity of the American system demands that the result be audited and properly certified. So let the re-counting begin.

I disagree rather strongly.

As said, I already stated my objection to Stein’s effort, as initially targeted to Wisconsin. Let’s take a look at the situation in Pennsylvania, where Stein has putatively filed today, the last possible day legally. A quote from Pennsylvania election lawyer Gregory Harvey in local Pennsylvania press is instructive:

The biggest obstacle to this getting anywhere may be deadlines. The recount petitions come on the very last day, and if they’re designed to generate enough evidence to contest the election, that’s going to be a stretch.

Harvey, the election lawyer says the deadline for an election contest, which must spell out the specific conduct that merits overturning the result, is also Monday, Nov. 28. With a compelling case you can always ask the court to make an exception, but they tend to be pretty strict about election law — that thing about not changing the rules after the game is played.

Harvey said Steins’ prospects for success are so remote that “raising money to do something in Pennsylvania must be intended only to publicize the Green Party.”

Again, remember, there is a difference between rote “recounts” and comprehensive “audits”. This is especially germane to WI as noted previously, but also to Pennsylvania, and Michigan, should it come too. Even if the recount found something, and there is no basis to believe it will, the legal timeframe is blown. And, no, courts are not likely to remedy such laches. (So, where has Stein been for weeks since the election and before she so conveniently glommed on to, and misrepresented, Halderman et al’s report?) Ah, late breaking, indeed Wisconsin has already denied the last second recount by hand from Stein and Stein is now suing to try to overcome the administrative ruling:

Unless Stein wins her lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, officials in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties would decide on their own whether to do their recounts by hand. That could mean some counties perform recounts by machine and some by hand.

Yes, shocking! And good luck with that. Again, as I have relentlessly stated, once you approach administrative boards and, even more so, courts, you need actual demonstrable bases for your argument of fraud, mistake etc. Which is something Jill Stein and her effort simply have never had. That does not cut it. Ooops!

Stein has until Wednesday to file in Michigan, but there is no reason to think the effort will be any more focused, intelligently drafted, nor timely, than has been displayed to date in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

But there are bigger issues here than Jill Stein’s folly, right? Right! Indeed there are, and Stein’s cynical effort only hurts those larger picture items. But, irrespective of all of the above, it is a wonderful thing that the votes are being recounted, right? Maybe, and quite arguably, maybe not.

If this effort involved intelligent and targeted meaningful “audits” of voting in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, that would truly yield the data we need to answer a variety of questions, I would agree wholeheartedly. But that is not what is afoot here via Stein. These are rote last second “recounts”, likely through the same tabulation mechanisms originally used, and are almost guaranteed to produce the same results, give or take minuscule deviation.

In fact, as close as I can discern from reportage, even in Stein’s first state, Wisconsin, to perform a truly different full hand count analysis requires leave of a court. And it is hard to see leave of court being given without a substantive evidentiary basis being proffered, of which there is, of course, none to date. In Pennslyvania, the outlook is no better, and arguably even more lame and adverse. That is before we ever get to Michigan, which the last second for Stein is Wednesday.

There are a lot of truly intelligent and proper purposes for all Americans, and currently Democrats, to want to test and audit the vote in this country. It is that important, and that germane to our democracy.

By the same token, it is also too important to be driven by a crass vanity project at the last second by a bit player glomming on for self promotion. This is the lifeblood of American plebiscite and democracy, and we deserve better.

But the current action is not just a curiosity that “can’t hurt” or that is suddenly necessary to react to some idiotic tweet by Trump. The stakes are higher than that. Stein’s effort is ill advised, ill counseled legally, ill targeted, ill executed and ill timed by every metric I can see.

And, yes, there can be real harm therefrom. An effort like this that does nothing but confirm the general overall propriety of the 2016 vote does nothing but confirm Trump’s election. But, more importantly, it lends a larger argument that our voting system is fair and accurate, and thus not in need of further reform and updating.

Sure, it may, for the next few weeks, counter the blindered fascination of many as to rebutting Trump’s idiotic tweet on “millions of illegal voters”, but that is transient and short sighted. In the long run, it will just feed the larger GOP effort, and they now hold both houses of Congress and the Presidency, to not reform and improve American voting mechanisms, but indeed to accept that it is all fine technologically and then go about further voter suppression and restriction measures generally.

Greg Sargent discussed this at the Washington Post Plumline this morning:

Trump has now made national news with this tweet, a response to reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign will join a recount effort in Wisconsin and possibly Michigan and Pennsylvania as well
….
As Glenn Kessler explains, there is zero evidence that this happened. Trump will continue to reach deep into the fever swamps to shape reality for himself and his supporters — only now he’ll do so in the position as most powerful person in the world. Trump also tweeted that there was “serious voter fraud” in three states that the media refuses to report upon.

But all this may also telegraph something concrete that we might see under a Trump presidency: A far more ambitious effort to restrict access to voting than we might have expected.

“My concern is that this might be a signal that we will see an assault on voting rights,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told me today. “Claims of nonexistent voter fraud and noncitizen voting are precisely the kinds of baseless justifications that we’ve seen for the wave of laws in the past couple of years restricting voting access.”

Yes, indeed. I think this is exactly what I am, and have been, saying. Well put by Sargent.

Democrats, and yes Greens to the extent they really care, should stop playing the game that is already lost, and 2016 is already lost, and start playing smartly as to the future. You want comprehensive and meaningful actual voting audits, as opposed to rote recounts, of the vote? Excellent! Let’s work on that for the future. Let’s do that for all states, and not just the three that Jill Stein glommed onto to self promote.

There is a fight out there to be won, but the instant “recount” effort is ill advised and not going to do squat to win it.