Tuesday, October 31, 2017

BACKWARDS HATS



I’ve been sitting on this Rant for about two and a half years, keeping it until I ran out of time to publish my monthly blog.

That time is now.

Once upon a time there were a handful of people who justifiably wore their hats backwards.  They included submarine commanders looking through the periscope (but why oh why would anybody wear a hat in a submarine?); baseball catchers; and some snipers who need to get close to their rifle scope.

But no more.  If you get out much, you’ll see a procession of slack-jawed mouth breathers slouching through the mall--and presumably through life--with their ball caps on backwards.  By actual count it ran 40 percent in an Arizona outlet.  (That’s an indicator of how desperate I can get for blog topics some months.)

The situation persists wherever you go, with the possible exception of military bases though I’m not so confident anymore.

A few examples:

I saw a film clip showing a good-looking thirty-one year-old guy just married to a gorgeous twenty-eight year-old gal.  She looked happy.

He wore his ball cap backwards.  He was thirty-one, ferpetesake!  I was glad for his happiness but it seemed she’d married a dimwit.

One of my wife’s medical shows depicted a young couple in a birthing center.  He wore a hat indoors--in a hospital--and backwards.

He looked abnormal.  And he had just reproduced.

I enjoy Dancing With the Stars, partly in fond remembrance of the long-ago era when my classmate Ellen and I made the finals in an Elk Club dance contest.  (She was taller than I but being a good sport, she still let me drive.)  Yet time after time the TV celebrity dancers, including some females, wear baseball caps to practice—usually backwards.

What’s that about?

An email has been circulating for years showing a college kid at a football game (or something) shading his eyes with one hand.  While wearing his visored hat backwards.

I suspect he required tutoring in order to graduate.  (See a couple of the links below.)

For awhile I wondered if I were obsessing about a pet peeve that mattered little, if at all, to others.  After surfing the net I found that I had company.  Actually quite a bit of company.

This comment from a message board seems typical of many: “Today it’s semi-cheesy and semi old-school but not quite laughable.”




Apparently the phenomenon has been going on since the mid 90s.  If it were a passing fad it would’ve died out by now.

Meanwhile, the trend exists around the globe, though some wag asked: with a fez how would you know?

A South American correspondent reports, “In Chile I've seen youths with baseball hats on backwards.  I've also seen them wearing hats, jerseys and baggy long short pants from three teams in different sports or the same sports but bitter rivals.” 

So we’re left to ponder the basic question:

Why would anybody over sixteen want to look like a fourteen y/o gangsta?

1. Herd mentality?  

2. Mindless imitation?

Apparently the answer is All The Above.

I’ve worked up the nerve to ask a few kids why they wear their hats backwards.  Without exception I got two answers:

“Looks cool.”  (Though they couldn’t say why.)

And more often: “Idunno.”  (At least that’s an honest answer.)

I grew up in the rodeo environment, and you will never see anybody wearing a cowboy hat backwards because:

Cowboys are individualists, not herd creatures.

It would look REALLY retarded.

Besides, cowboys might spit a plug of tobacco on any offender in range.  (One bull rider, certainly a manly man, opined that sissies wear hats backwards.  I didn’t ask him about the absurd notion of wearing a reversed golf hat…)

So there you have it.  A ridiculous fashion trend, without the intellect of a fashion statement, at least twenty-five years and counting. 

See you next month, with something more substantial!


Saturday, September 30, 2017

A STANDING QUESTION


Full disclosure:

I am not a sports fan.  I have never been a sports fan.  The last football game I attended was in college (more from curiosity than Oregon Ducks loyalty) and my last baseball game was circa 1986 with a huge Padres fan.

So: with the current flail about NFL players breaking league rules about decorum, behavior, and patriotism—and the so-called leadership ignoring those rules—what might a flat-footed asthmatic have to add to the discussion?

Well, read on.

It’s always seemed peculiar that we Americans attach so much significance to anything as trivial as a ball game.  I assumed that it’s a residual of WW II when President Franklin Roosevelt decreed that The Boys of Summer would continue playing, though many baseballers entered the service, voluntarily or otherwise. 

Not true.

According to ESPN, the national anthem was inserted into the national pastime on an impromptu basis, during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One during the 1918 Cubs-Red Sox World Series.  Typical of those days, and maybe due to the Great War, a band it struck of The Star-Spangled Banner, prompting fans to render traditional honors. The Sox took the series in six games, but the greater significance endures. 
        
Some intriguing facts have emerged from the shadows of the politically-induced protests among multi-millionaires who think that a sporting event has any relevance to national policy.  The results reveal feckless management, owners and coaches, to industrial-grade hypocrisy.

What does the national anthem have to do with the NFL's alleged motivation of protesting police brutality?

Nothing.

However, the NFL knows a lot about both the police and brutality.  On average one player is arrested a week, on charges including murder, assault and battery (women feature prominently), substance abuse, and weapons charges.

Where’s the outrage?

The players and coaches who “take a knee” blather out of both sides of their mouths, insisting that their disrespectful (and prohibited) behavior represents some sort of social-justice statement while claiming to Support The Troops.

Batguano.

If in fact the NFL ath-a-letes (as a high school coache pronounced it) need to get their own house in order before presuming to instruct the rest of us on anything.

Here’s info from the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics:

The leading cause of death among young black males is…young black males, around 90 percent.  Two years ago blacks killed about 6,000 other blacks.  Police killed 258, and it’s certain that not all of those were racially motivated.

Drug use and sales, addiction, casual violence (remember The Knockout Game?), criminal career paths, all are part of the African-American environment.  And guess what: neither the police nor The Man are instigators.  Black America has self-selected for endemic crime and cultural disintegration.  As black economist Thomas Sowell noted, before the 1960s most black children grew up in two-parent families.  In this decade, nearly three-fourths of black babies are born to single mothers, versus about 15 percent for whites.  Absent male parents and guidance, young blacks are set adrift in the urban jungle.

However, looking for white guilt produces at least one significant hit: Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.”  Whether due to na├»ve optimism or calculated cynicism (LBJ feared that Republicans would get “the nigger vote”), white liberals created the welfare state that plagues millions of black citizens trying to create a life amid chaos.

Where from here?

It turns out that the National Basketball Association also has requirements for decent behavior during pregame ceremonies.  More than that, the NBA (which has even more black players than the NFL) enforces its rules.  Evidently there’s little if any tendency among basketball players or coaches to “take a knee.”

That’s because the NBA, unlike the NFL, has mature, principled leadership.

NFL’s hypocrisy is eye-watering.  Players are prohibited from professing their religiosity; from showing support for slain police officers; and even from dancing-prancing in the end zone.  But Colin Kaepernick was famously photographed in a scrimmage wearing cops-are-pigs socks.  Nothing happened.

Kapernick was born to an unmarried nineteen-year-old, never knew his biological father, and grew up amid White Privilege as an adoptive third son.

Radio host Dennis Praeger has a description for such people:

Ingrates.

How the flail may affect game attendance remains to be seen.  But for now, many fans are fed up.  Facebook pages contain ads for cut-rate prices on remaining season tickets, and others show fans burning team banners and jerseys.

According to a Rasmussen poll this month, one-third of American adults are less likely to watch professional football.  Meanwhile, 12 percent say they’re more likely, leaving half unaffected.

Final analysis: the NFL’s 1,500 or so players are blessed with physical gifts that few of us will ever know.
But professional football is among the worst organizations to tell the rest of us how to think or behave.  Aside from decades of accepting routine criminality, many of its members lack the emotional equivalency of their on-field prowess, and I’ll go so far as to say that the ath-a-letes in my college dorm seemed to wear their IQs on their jerseys.  Some of them had no business in college—they were in essence professional players supported by the alumni, since the football program paid off big time.  Want womens’ sports?  Want new band uniforms?  Want a new chemistry lab?

Football, baby, football.

Meanwhile, consider the all-time college and NFL poster child:

Orenthal James Simpson.

Meanwhile, this month by far the best-selling NFL jersey is Steelers lineman Alejandro Villaneuva’s.  He stood alone during last week’s national anthem because, unlike the huge majority of footballers, he’s not only an Army veteran but he survived three tours in Afghanistan.

Which reminds me:

Here in Arizona I’m still asked if I’m related to Cardinals player Pat Tillman, who left a lucrative career to become an Army Ranger.  He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 under still-mysterious circumstances.  I don’t know that I’m related to Pat (we both had Ohio connections) but I certainly relate to his choice of nation over self, though he came to question the war. 
Another connection to football is much closer.  My late-great friend Joe Foss, a WW II Medal of Honor aviator, became governor of South Dakota and launched into other public arenas.  In 1959 he founded the American Football League, and remained until the dawn of the Super Bowl era in 1966.
Joe’s memoir was titled A Proud American, and as a combat veteran he would be appalled at what became of professional football.    

Despite what Joe brought to the NFL, the organization never returned the sentiment.  When Joe died in 2003 there was talk of dedicating the next Super Bowl halftime to his memory.

It never happened.


Which, considering the counter-culture emphasis of The Big Show, may be just as well.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

ENDANGERED SPECIES


In the century since World War I, nearly 1,450 American pilots have been accorded the status of fighter ace— credited with downing at least five enemy aircraft in aerial combat.  Most flew American planes in American uniform.  Some did not, serving with France or Britain in the world wars, although some of those transferred to U.S. service.  But all who had American citizenship were eligible for inclusion in the vaunted roster of aces.

The first U.S. ace was Raoul Lufbery, leading light of the famed Lafayette Escadrille in 1916-17, composed of idealists and adventurers who took war into the third dimension over the Great War’s western front.  After 16 victories he died in action as a major leading the equally famed 94th “Hat in the Ring” Squadron in 1918.

The last U.S. ace was then-Captain Steve Ritchie who, with two back-seaters in his F-4 Phantoms, downed five North Vietnamese MiGs in 1972.  He continued flying high-performance jets after retiring as a brigadier general.

As of this writing, the American Fighter Aces Association (AFAA) counts only 46 survivors.  The current top gun is Air Force Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson, our last living triple ace well known for his Mustangs named Old Crow.  His book, To Fly and Fight, still is one of the best aviation memoirs yet written.  Next in line is another P-51 pilot, James L. Brooks with 13 victories in the Mediterranean Theater.

Two other Mustang jockeys round out the remaining double aces.

About twenty Navy aces survive from 373 since World War I.  The most senior is Rear Admiral E.L. “Whitey” Feightner, now 95 years young.  A Wildcat-Hellcat ace of 1942-44 vintage with nine victories, he also flew solo demonstrations with the Blue Angels in the 1950s.

The remaining Marine from 120 of all time is Dean Caswell who was rare among flying leathernecks in scoring his seven kills as a carrier aviator.

Of 41 U.S. aces in the Korean War, three survive including Lieutenant General Charles “Chick” Cleveland, current AFAA president.

While AFAA only recognizes those with their hands on the stick and throttle, three F-4 Phantom back-seaters logged five kills over Vietnam in 1972.  The first was Navy Lieutenant (JG) Willy Driscoll, Lieutenant Randy Cunningham’s radar operator flying from USS Constellation. 

Two Air Force “GIBs” (Guy In Back) were Captains Chuck DeBellevue, who shared four of Ritchie’s kills plus two others; and Jeff Feinstein who participated in five victories.  After the war DeBellevue and Feinstein became Air Force pilots.

Since America ended its Vietnam combat in early 1973, air combat has been extremely rare.  Only 56 shootdowns have been credited to U.S. airmen in those 44 years, including 37 in Operation Desert Storm during 1991.  The highest individual score in that period is three, credited to an F-16 pilot over Yugoslavia in 1999.

Despite the dearth of aerial combat, America continues buying new aircraft dedicated to the air superiority mission, at appalling prices for questionable return.  All three services worship at the stealth altar, purchasing trouble-plagued “low observable” fifth-generation jets that suck the economic oxygen out of the room for more useful types.

The Air Force’s F-22 Raptor overcame many and varied problems after years of post-delivery trouble shooting, but acquisition was limited by mounting costs.  That has not been a concern with the tri-service F-35 joint strike fighter, the most expensive military acquisition ever.  Now in its 21st year, the Lightning II program still is incapable of matching “the brochure” in any of the variants for the Air Force, Navy, or Marines.

It would make vastly better sense to slash or even cancel the ghastly expensive stealth programs and spend some of the savings on upgraded versions of existing “fourth generation” fighters: Air Force F-15s and F-16s with naval FA-18s.  The stealth mission generally can be handled by far less costly electronic countermeasures which, unlike stealth, can be added on to existing airframes.  But with corporate welfare a continuing mandate in the D.C. political swamp, any such policy change appears nearly impossible.

One of the selling points for stealth fighters was the technical advantage that presumably would offset “the enemy’s” superior numbers.  Which enemy remains unknown with collapse of the Soviet Union 27 years ago.  Since Vietnam the one-day record for U.S. aerial victories remains 11 scored by the Navy and the Air Force in three separate engagements on May 10, 1972.

The last time American jets downed 15 hostiles in one day was in June 1953.  The last time American fighters claimed more than 20 was on August 15, 1945—the last day of World War II.

Thus, at this late date we have seen the era of the American fighter ace come and go in barely half a century.  The breed’s 56-year epoch from 1916 to 1972 was only extended by a decade with crowning the last Israeli aces in 1982. 

So where does that leave the American fighter ace today?

It’s a near certainty that there will be no more U.S. aces.  Even now the next-generation air superiority fighters are being touted as remotely-controlled drones capable of inhumanly high-G maneuvers, cyberly linked to god’s-eye observers.  It’s a nifty concept that requires perfect coordination and uninterrupted data-link connectivity.

Incidentally, the Iranians have already demonstrated the ability to hijack our drones in flight.

Meanwhile, America’s dwindling inventory of air-combat warriors provides dual benefits to their services and to the nation.  They represent an irreplaceable link to our airpower heritage, harking back to the dawn of military aviation when anemic engines lifted fabric-covered wings into hostile skies.

The aces also afford a precious perspective that saw technology expanded almost beyond reckoning.  Much hype has been touted about “the greatest generation” of WW II veterans, an indefensible assertion when compared to the Republic’s founders.  But the WW II generation surely provided the greatest airmen, who learned to fly in 80-knot biplanes and finished their careers in Mach 2 jets.  No comparable advance is possible.

So here’s all honor to the American fighter ace, the storied “knight of the air” whose gift of air superiority typically began as a starry-eyed kid inspired to follow his mentors into the contrail country.


We shall not see his like again.