Author Archives: wildbillyscircusstory

Germany vs Greece

Today Germany plays Greece in the European soccer tournament.  I’m sorry I’ll have to miss it (darn work).  I have really become a fan of European soccer and this game should be really interesting.  Mind you, I could not name a single player on either team.  I do not know who the favored team is in this match.  But given the economic/political tensions between these countries, I suspect the crowd and the players will be pretty rowdy.  The match adds nothing to the austerity v. spending debate surrounding the Euro, but from a nationalistic standpoint it should be very interesting.

It also reminded me of this classic Monty Python sketch about another Greece vs. Germany soccer match.

Bicentennial Fever!

Well, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of something very important to America this year: our first war!  That’s right, technically the War of 1812 was the country’s first war since we were not officially a country until we won the Revolution.  It is an overlooked war, but one filled with lots of fun little facts.  So let me serve as your tour guide through this overlooked time in American history.

Why It Happened

Long before Hollywood, the War of 1812 was America’s first sequel pitting the young country against its old foe England.  By this time, Napoleon was ravishing Europe and the young USA really did not care so long as Europeans kept buying American goods.  Well, the Brits were none too pleased that we were supplying the French so they just started boarding American ships forcing our sailors to serve in the Royal Navy and stealing the cargo.  We all know how much 19th century America abhorred the idea of people being forced to work against their will for no pay, so the country elected a hawkish congress in 1810 which subsequently declared war in 1812.  Now, here are some fun facts about our first war.

We Lost

You read that right: we lost.  Lost.  The war was basically a stalemate, but upon concluding the war with the Treaty of Ghent the Brits went right back to impressing American sailors and seizing our goods.  Kind of tough to claim victory in that scenario.  Somehow, EVERYBODY in America forgets this with occassionally disastrous consequences.  Richard M. Nixon sustained the Vietnam war and even escalated it in order to avoid being the first president to lose a war.  In fairness, there were also larger geopolitical concerns in formulating his policies, but the idea of being the first president to lose a war haunted Nixon.  "Wait...we've already lost a war? [expletive deleted] Oh.  Someone please tell me why I'm shaking Cookie Monster's hand.

Some States Just Sat it Out

Back then, the Tenth Amendment actually meant something.  There was no national army to speak of and in times of need the individual states simply sent their state militias to fight in the conflicts.  Well, two states – Connecticut and Massachusetts – simply refused to send theirs.  Now one might attribute this to a noble stand against war.  One would be wrong.  Even back then it all came down to the greenbacks.  See, these two states were raking in massive profits by trading with England and did not want the federal government messing up their deals.  So they simply refused to send their men and sat the war out.  This marked the first time in our history that southerners referred to New Englanders as “a bunch of pansies.”

Blame Canada

Without two of their sissy states behind them, the rest of the country thought it’d be swell to invade Canada and take it over.  I know you are shaking your head in disbelief right now, but it is true: we invaded Canada.  Boy oh boy did that decision backfire.  See, the Cannucks – along with their Indian allies — really had no desire to become Americans.

These people were almost Americans  They quickly repelled the American invaders, took control of the Great Lakes for a period of time and bascially captured all of Michigan after the battle of Detroit – leading to decades of jokes about how we should have let them keep it.

Speaking of Indians

One of the most badass military leaders in history basically kicked the ever-loving crap out America during this war: Tecumseh.  First off, just look at the guy:

"I drink your milkshake!"

This surly looking fella had been warring with America long before the War of 1812, so he naturally allied himself with England.  He kicked so much butt, Americans couldn’t help but admire the hell out of the guy.  He was a key leader in the aforementioned battle of Detroit and completely flummoxed our military leaders.  Hell, he was such a badass that a family in Ohio gave his name to their son who later became a pretty kickass general for the union in the Civil War: William Tecumseh Sherman.  How’s that? 

We don’t need no water let the (dum-did-de-dum-dum) burn 

When Tecumseh wasn’t kicking ass all over the midwest, the Brits were completely ravaging the east coast.  We lost almost every battle against them and when they arrived in Washington, they burned it to the ground.  This was 1812, mind you, so the Republican party was still forty years away from its invention and therefore there were no Americans around to applaud the English army.

"Those Brits might be onto something..."

The entire government fled the city and scattered around the country.  Kind of hard to run a war with your government curled into the fetal position in the woods around the Potomac.  Here’s another little tid-bit: the iconic painting of George Washington we are all so familiar with?  Well, First Lady Dolly Madison couldn’t bear the thought of it falling into British hands, so it was the lone item the first family took with them as they ran away like scared mice.  

Our National Anthem

 Did you know our National Anthem came from this war?  Now, a lot of folks think its unseemly to have a national anthem describing war and that is a worthy debate.  But the fact is the anthem doesn’t describe America kicking ass – quite the opposite.  See a lawyer (yay!) was on board an English ship to negotiate the release of one of his clients.  The Royal Navy had its sights set on Fort McHenry which protected Baltimore harbor.  If they could take it, they could cut the country in two.  The batteries on Fort McHenry were so pathetic they had no way of hitting the British fleet, so they just laid there and took it.  Yup, the British bombarded the fort for a day and a half and the Americans didn’t even return fire.  This is like Rocky standing in the ring having his face turned into hamburger in the hopes that he can last the entire twelve rounds.  The navy pounded Fort McHenry, but in the end the Americans held and raised an enormous U.S. flag as a big “Eff you” to the British.  Like Apollo Creed, the British just shook their head and moved on to other theaters abandoning the hope of capturing the fort.  Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment from the deck of the British ship and wrote his poem that we now recite before baseball games.

Francis Scott Key later optioned his poem into a movie with typical Hollywood revisions.

The Most Insane American Ever

Andrew Jackson.  The dude on all those twenty dollar bills you slap down on the bar for a cold one is the most insane American of all time and he became a national hero in this war. 

First, a little background.  Jackson joined the army during the American Revolution…at the age of thirteen.  He became a prisoner of war and when a British general ordered him to shine his boots he told the officer to take his order and stick it in his bunghole.  The enraged general slashed his face with a sword and ordered him on a death march of forty miles to another prisoner camp.  Did I mention Jackson contracted smallpox during this time?  Yeah, he fought that off during his captivity. 

Once a free man, Jackson’s choleric temperment inflamed at the smallest slight and the guy engaged in thirteen known duels during his lifetime.  Those are the known ones.  He once said his greatest political regret was that he didn’t shoot his own vice-president.  (President George H.W. Bush echoed the sentiment many times between 1988-1992).  Upon hearing of an adverse ruling from the Supreme Court, President Jackson said, “The Chief Justice has made his decision…now let’s see him enforce it.”  Wow.  This guy was a 19th Century Dirty Harry and the American public ate it up. 

So, where does he fit in the war of 1812?  Well, Jackson fought mainly in the South (‘natch) and built a fairly broad coalition with some Indian tribes sympathetic to America.  But he came to prominence after the Battle of New Orleans where he put a licking on the British that made him a national hero.  But here is the best part: the war was already over.  In those days before Twitter and text messaging, we backwater Americans had to wait for the news to travel across the Atlantic.  The parties signed the Treaty of Ghent two months before Jackson laid waste to the British army in a needless battle. 

His official presidential campaign song was Ice Cube's "It was a Good Day"

Jackson became a national hero after the battle, proving Americans would celebrate people who needlessly kick some ass.  So there you have it, some fun facts about the War of 1812.  Feel free to pass these along when you drink your face off at a Fourth of July bbq.

The Next President of the United States

Obama?  Meh, been there, done that.  Romney?  Yeah, right…like I’d actually vote for someone who looks like the dude in every picture frame I ever purchased.  No, the next President is Mr. Vermin Supreme.  Congress, you might as well get working on the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, because President Supreme will be serving more than two terms.

God Bless C-Span.  The greatest channel ever!

2011

I am pleased to see 2011 come to a merciful end.  It’s been a rough year here in Chicago, but I look forward to new beginings.  Going on twenty two years and still would not trade one friend for anything.  Meanwhile, here is some recently declassified video from Toronto circa April 2011.  Unfortunately, the great distance between videographer and subject prevents positive identification:

Be Clean For Gene

This cute rhyme has been rattling around my brain since I viewed the YouTube video of Peashoot’s former student.  The phrase has no current meaning and only can be found in the footnotes of history books analyzing the tumultuous year 1968.  But the quip played a significant, though not dominant, role in toppling the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1968, as the Vietnam war raged, anti-war sentiment finally gained national traction.  The surprise attack known as the Tet Offensive rebutted administration claims that the US had “turned the corner” in Southeast Asia and their optimistic promises of seeing “light at the end of the tunnel”.  That the Tet Offensive failed militarily for the communists mattered little; it was an enormous political victory that demonstrably altered public opinion about the war in the US.

With Robert Kennedy refusing to mount a primary challenge to LBJ fearing charges of splitting the party, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy stepped into the race with peace in Vietnam as his foremost issue.  College students flocked to him, but recognized a significant problem: image.  Although public opinion trended against the war, the anti-war coalition polled equally poorly with the American public.

To assuage the public’s apprehension and persuade voters, young McCarthy volunteers came up with the “Be Clean for Gene” strategy.  In order to defeat Johnson, McCarthy needed to win the primaries which required a strong ground game in the voting states.  His volunteers cut their hair, shaved and generally behaved as though they were auditioning for the church choir.  The notion was average Americans would be more receptive to hearing them out as they went door to door if they were “presentable” and “respectful”.  It worked.

McCarthy stunned LBJ in the New Hampshire primary garnering forty percent of the vote.  Like the Tet Offensive for North Vietnam, it technically was a loss, but an equally enormous political triumph.  The president’s vulnerability exposed, RFK jumped into the race and days later LBJ formally withdrew altogether.  Hubert Humphrey, also from Minnesota, outlasted McCarthy and the assasinated RFK to win the nomination.

So what does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street and the aforementioned video?  Well, I think the young lady in the video personifies the “be clean for Gene” principle nicely.  She’s polite, articulate and respectful.  People might disagree with her, but she certainly gives no offense and, more importantly, offers the undecided no easy reason to dismiss her.  While demonstrative displays of chanting, swearing, taunting might arguably have its place, ultimately it does not persuade the independent voter and most often turns them away. 

Americans are tired of bailouts.  In the past few days I’ve read many an editorial or blog post noting – ironically – that the Tea Party and OWS share some common ground.  I’ve also seen many Ron Paul supporters referenced as attendees at OWS.  But I’ve also read descriptions of boorish behavior that should be unacceptable.  I guess it comes down to a choice: do you wish to persuade and perhaps change, or do you wish to disrupt and topple?  President Obama, VP Biden and Rep. Pelosi have all offered their support of OWS believing the movement seeks to persuade.  The influential liberal publication The New Republic repudiated it, suspicious of its motives (http://www.tnr.com/article/96334/how-occupy-wall-street-will-hurt-liberals).  If OWS wants to influence the outcome of the 2012 elections, I would suggest they take a page from another divisive and unsure time in American history and “be clean for Gene”.

The Boys of Fall

What better way to savor a spectacular Indian Summer than flavor it with outstanding baseball?  The regular season ended in absolutely stunning fashion with four games on the final day of the season having playoff implications and those games themselves going down to the wire.  The playoffs have not disappointed either with all but one series going the full five games, concluding with yesterday’s walk-off win in the 10th in Milwaukee and a pitching duel for the ages in Philadelphia.

I Think It’s Safe to Say Macey Is Not a Cardinals Fan

The story in St. Louis remains the infamous rally-squirrel.  While Ryan Theriot batted in Game 3 a squirrel ran through the Busch Stadium outfield causing a delay.  In Game 4, a squirrel ran across home plate as Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt delivered a pitch to the Cards’ Skip Schumacher.  The pitch was a ball, prompting both Oswalt and manager Charlie Manuel to argue with the plate umpire for a “do-over” claiming the rodent created a distraction interfering with Oswalt’s delivery.  The plea failed and the Cardinals came back to win forcing a Game 5 in Philly.  During the Phillies warm-ups yet another squirrel ran around the outfield before the grounds crew trapped it.  St. Louisians dubbed it the “Rally-Squirrel” and it is now the cause celebre among Cardinal fans; it even has a Twitter account!

Don't believe in rally squirrels? I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Fear the Beer

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers stayed true to their modus operandi of the season by dominating at home and choking on the road.  All three of the Brew Crew’s victories came at Miller Park with outfielder Nyjer Morgan getting the game winning hit yesterday in the tenth inning.

Morgan has been a favorite of mine since a well-publicized episode last summer.  Morgan played for the Nationals last year.  In a late-August, meaningless game between two hopeless teams he scored from second to break a scoreless game.  The violent collision at the plate ended the Marlins catcher’s season.  The hit was hard, but that’s what you get when you block the plate.

The next night, with the Marlins up 14-3 in the sixth, Morgan came to bat and got plunked for his baserunning the previous evening.  Morgan took his base without so much as glaring at the pitcher.  He then stole second and third before scoring on a sacrifice fly.  Now, keep in mind his team was down by eleven runs when this took place.  The Marlins took offense to his base-running and his next at bat he got plunked again.  This time, a melee ensued.

Nyjer Morgan a/k/a "Tony Plush"

The media (notably ESPN) exploded on Morgan saying his swiping the two bases with his team down eleven violated the “code” of baseball.  Now, I get it that if your team is up by eleven you do not do that….but down?  I lost a lot of respect for certain baseball people when they chastised Morgan for the play.  Hell, I was hoping my old Loyola classmate who now owns the Cubs would trade for him.  I thought the name of the game was to win, no? Here’s Morgan – his team going nowhere in a meaningless game – taking his “punishment” for the previous evening’s play at the plate and using it to his team’s advantage and they editorialize against him?  Anyway, the guy’s been a favorite of mine ever since and I was glad when he got traded to a winner in the off-season.  Oh, and here’s the delicious denouement:  the Nationals came back and won that game.  In no small part due to Morgan’s aggressiveness.

1982 Rematch

The NLCS is a rematch of the 1982 World Series (the Brewers were in the AL at the time).  What a great series that was – seven games, former Cardinal great Ted Simmons facing his old team along with Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers facing off against Ozzie Smith, Keith Hernandez, Willie McGee and Bruce Sutter.  The Cards won it in seven and Darrell Porter was the Series MVP.  Honestly, this guy was the MVP of the 1982 World Series:

Seriously, Darrell...my mom really wants her glasses back.

Here’s hoping we get as good of series this time.  Predicition: Brewers in seven.

I Feel Badly For A-Rod

Just kidding.  What sweet joy it was to watch the Yankees go down in the playoffs – at home, no less.  Please pardon this aside, but I’m about to put out there what will likely go down as the least controversial statement in EMP history: I’m probably the furthest to the right of any of our contributors.  That statement is relevant to this discussion because what I’m about to say does not sound like it comes from someone right-leaning: Hey, Yankees – enough with the “God Bless America” during the Seventh Inning Stretch! Never forgetting does not mean bludgeoning us with 9/11 reminders every time you play baseball.  And why does every network feel compelled to broadcast it? ESPN, TBS, FOX – they all show it!  Remember when every elected official told nervous Americans to “get back to their daily routine” after the attacks? It’s been ten years.  It’s time to start singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” again.

Now that you're done choking yet again, you can go back to dating the Joker. Watch out for Batman though.

As for the baseball, the Yankees Curtis Granderson (a former Tiger) had a great series highlighted by spectacular defense.  He’s the only Yankee I truly enjoy.  Justin Verlander pitched a masterful Game 3 to lead his team past the Bombers and if you have not been watching him up to now enjoy him against the Rangers.  Because I like Detroit’s uniforms – the olde-English “D” is a classic – I’ll be rooting for them in the next round.

Don’t Mess With Texas

I hate the phrase noted above.  What does that mean, really?  And who or what would mess with them?  Well, George W. Bush’s old team is back in the ALCS for the second year in a row and they look pretty tough to beat.  They dismantled the Rays in four games even though Tampa came in on the heels of a scortching September.  Remember when they were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays?  Well, I do.  And earlier this year I learned they dropped “Devil” in deference to protests by local Evangelicals.  It’s time to return Florda to Spain.  Now.

This Rays-Rangers series was kind of boring.  I don’t have much to say about it other than I’m glad its over.  And while I love Tampa’s team, that stadium has to go.  You know what? That team just needs to move.  They have no fan base and didn’t even sell out its home playoff games!  What a travesty.  I repeat: it’s time to return Florda to Spain.  Now.

Okay, that trade sounds good. What does Cheney think?

The Rangers simply out-slugged everyone in the American League this year and I expect more of the same against the Tigers.  Unless Detroit figures out a way to pitch Verlander every game, I suspect Jim Leyland will be smoking a lot of Marlboro Reds in the dugout.  A return trip to the series likely means we’ll see W throwing out the first pitch again.  Say what you will about the man, but history at least will recognize him as the “Greatest-First-Pitch-Thrower-Outer” in Presidential history.  Prediction: Rangers in five.

World Series:  Rangers over Brewers in seven.

Enjoy the games!