Play in the Polar Vortex? Are you High?

It looks like a there is a very good chance that the weather is going to be extremely bad in New Jersey for Super Bowl Sunday. Is there any chance of moving the game to Madison Square Garden? There is precedent.

At the end of the 1932 Season the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans  (now known as the Detroit Lions) ended the season tied. The Bears record was 6-1-6, and the Spartans were 6-1-4, both being counted as having .857 winning percentages. The normal tie-breaker rule for this situation at the time would be to give the title to the victor of any regular season match up between the teams. If the teams split a regular season series, the team to win the later game would get the championship. During the 1932 season the Bears and the Spartans played each other twice, but both games ended in ties, so the league decided to have a first ever play-off game to determine who would be awarded the championship. (Quick note- at the time, ties were not counted toward a teams win/loss percentage. If ties were counted as they are today, as half a win and half a loss, Green Bay with a 10-3 record and .769 winning percentage would have beaten out the Spartan's .727 and Bears .692  percentages and  would have been considered the champion.) 

The game was scheduled to be played at the Bears home, Wrigley Field, for Dec. 8, 1932, but because of blizzard conditions all that week and weather forecasts for the day of the game predicting temperatures of around 0 degrees and wind chills well below that, George Halas was able to convince NFL officials to move the game indoors, to be played at the Chicago Stadium. 

Because of the venue, the game was played on a field 60 yards long by 40 yards wide instead of the 100 x 53 1/3 regulation field. This lead to a few particular ground rules for the game. Kickoffs would be from the 10 yard line, there would be no field goals allowed, and the hash marks would be moved ten yards from the sidelines, with the ball placed on or inside the hash marks on all plays. The goalposts were  moved from the end line to the goal line, where they would stay until 1974.

The stadium had a good deal of dirt already in place, because the circus had been in town the week prior. Of course, the circus included horses and elephants, so there were definitely parts of the field you did not want to get tackled on.

The Bears ended up beating Portsmouth by a final score of 9-0. The Bears scored a touchdown on a controversial pass from Bronco Nagurski to Red Grange in the 4th quarter. The Spartans claimed that after receiving the hand-off from the quarterback, Grange did not drop back to 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball, as was required by the rules at the time. The Bears added a safety later in the fourth quarter to ice the victory. Since the game counted in the official regular season standings, the loss actually dropped the Spartans to third place.

Besides placing the ball at or inside the hashmarks for each play and the changed location for the goalposts, the NFL also changed the rule about the forward pass, making them acceptable from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. The biggest change, however, was that the league really liked the idea of a playoff to determine a champion. In the February league meetings, they split the league into Eastern and Western divisions, with the winner of each to play in a Championship game each year.


Another Sad Anniversary

Adolf Hitler was convinced that all his actions were morally justified.

 A large minority of his countrymen agreed. Hitler's belief in the superiority of the Aryan Race and the attempted genocide of Jews, Romany and other ethnic groups he felt were inferior is almost universally found to be revolting today, but at the time the terrible treatment of these groups was, if not actively pursued, at least passively accepted by the society.

Trying to convince people that actions they take or beliefs that they espouse are immoral is a very difficult undertaking. Unfortunately, it seems that convincing people that evil is actually moral seems a lot easier to do than to convince them that the evil they are doing is wrong. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that it seems evil is always the easier route to travel. To correct Martin Niemöller, the reason he did not speak out when they came for his neighbors was not just because he was not a member of their group, but because there was no stigma attached to keeping silent, while voicing support could be very uncomfortable.

What brings to mind the fact that morality can be so skewed is that it was 41 years ago that the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision. Since that time, an estimated 55 million human beings have been legally killed as a result. Not since the 13th Amendment was passed have a class of people in the United States been denied their rights in such a stark and brutal way.

It still saddens me that not only have we not been able to overturn this horror show of a decision, but also that the decision still seems so popular. Usually the population seems to be about evenly split between the pro-life and pro-abortion supporters. This afternoon I saw results from a CNN/ORC poll from May of 2013 that showed 25% believed in abortion in all cases, 11% for "most" cases, 42% for "some" cases and 20% believe it should never be permitted. These numbers seem to contradict a Quinnipiac University poll from July, 2013 that shows 20% favor abortion in all cases, 38% think it should be legal in most cases, 25% think is should be legal in some cases and 12% think it should be illegal, but do they really? Neither poll gives a definition of what they mean by "most" or "some" so there is wide berth for interpretation.

The issue of abortion is a very emotional one. It is very difficult to convince anybody to change their opinions on the issue when emotions are the basis of argument. Personal moral beliefs are very difficult to change by arguing facts, especially when the opposing sides in the argument don't eve agree to a common language. The pro-life advocates use the word "baby" while pro-abortion groups say "fetus." The pro-abortion groups speak about a woman's right to choose, while their opponents speak of a child's right to life.

The mass market media seems to have taken the pro-abortion position, evidenced by their seeming attempt to bury the ghoulish refusal that Barack Obama gave to changing the law in Illinois that would force doctors to give care to babies that lived through attempted abortions, (off on a tangent here, but when you find out that there are abortion procedures that can result in live births, and you do not re-think at least some of your abortion advocacy, there has to be something wrong with you.) The media did its best to ignore the trial of Kermit Gosnell last year, so that a month later when they held out Wendy Davis of Texas to be a hero for trying to block a bill that would prevent the types of abuse that Gosnell committed, she was able to claim that she had never heard of the man. (If I may indulge you on another tangential journey, does anybody else get sickened by the opposition to laws imposing actual medical standards on abortion mills. Pro-abortion advocates used to argue that we needed to make/keep abortion legal to move it out of the back alleys, but when we try to pass laws to ensure that there are no abortions performed in back-alley conditions, they scream like howler monkeys in opposition.) Wendy Davis is now all but a shoe-in to become the Democrat nominee for governor based on nothing but the media attention garnered by her publicity stunt.

Still, we must learn the lesson from Martin Niemöller, and speak up now. Yes, it could get uncomfortable. We might be told by some governors that we are not welcome in their state. We might feel we are fighting a losing battle when places like California are considering allowing people without licenses to practice medicine to perform abortions. It might seem pointless when a group that has no other purpose than to help women avoid and survive breast cancer is told that they have no regard for women's health because they want to stop supporting a group that does not provide breast exams simply because that group is the largest abortion provider in the country. But we need to show that we still support the rights of the unborn.

In just a few moments on the National Mall in Washington, DC, thousands of people will be braving Algore conditions to march in a show of support for defenseless human beings who were created at conception to enjoy their rights that the Creator endowed them, among these being the right to life. I am not able to join them physically today, but I am sending my prayers. So far there have been 55 million human lives snuffed out before they could so much as draw a breath. How many more will there be before we end the slaughter?


Open Thread!

I think that I have discovered the key to a successful blog.

The Open Thread.

Yes, in today's cutthroat and competitive world of blogging, (yes, cutthroat and competitive, things get really nasty in the blogosphere) today's blog readers are looking for more than just insightful commentary, humorous anecdotes, pictures of scantily clad babes, lolcats, and people who will mercilessly rend the philosophy of their political enemies limb from limb like a pack of hyenas on a baby impala. The want an opportunity to display their own insight, their cunning wit, and their own derision of the dimwits who don't vote like they do.

So, here it is, as a public service to the loyal readers of Sulphur and Cordite, an open thread. Do with it what you will. We have minor imps to clean up any blood and viscera that is left behind.

(Yes, I realize Sulphur and Cordite creating an open thread makes about as much sense as Robert Neville planning a holiday party, but I'm doing it anyway. Have fun with it.)


A Story About a Putter?

People generally think a journalist's job is to report information. The word reporter is often used to describe journalist, but in many cases, journalists are obliged to keep secrets. Usually they trade this secrecy for more important information, protecting sources of information from retaliation by people who do not want the information to get out. The classic case being Woodward and Bernstein protecting the identity of FBI Associate Director Mark Felt by referring to him in their Watergate reporting as Deep Throat. It is not unusual for journalists to go to jail rather than reveal sources for their stories.

But what happens when your source is not being honest with you? All journalists must deal with the fact that confidential informants are not always coming forward for purely altruistic reasons. How much can you rely on information coming from a disgruntled former employee about what is going on inside a company?

Then there is the quandary about what to do when you find out that your source is lying to you. Obviously if you catch somebody in one lie, it puts in question all the information you have gotten from them. Do you reveal all the lies of your source, or do you only report the deceptions that are relevant to the subject at hand? What is your responsibility to your readers, and how much of a responsibility do you still have to your source?

All of these questions were brought to the fore Friday when Grantland published an article by Caleb Hannan entitled Dr.V's Magical Putter, which is a tragic story that starts as an enthusiastic product review of the latest revolutionary new product designed to take a few strokes off your golf game, but ends up an article delving into the complicated life of the product's inventor. The article is very controversial right now, especially among those in the business of writing. What ethical principles apply to a writer who is asked to make the story "about the science, not the scientist," when every step of the way, the scientist has been lying to the writer?

While gathering information about the putter, Hannan discovered that the Dr. V's stated credentials might not be legitimate, which led him to other discoveries about Dr. V. Most of it was pertinent to the story, some not so much, except to show a pattern of deception throughout Dr. V's life. So, what information did Hannan owe his readers, and how much privacy did he owe Dr V? I think that it was possible to have run the story pointing out the credibility problems in regards to Dr. V's claimed background as a scientist without exposing some of the facts of his personal life, though I can understand the argument that the lies about his personal life were important, because the lies about his professional bona fides were merely a few tiles in the mosaic of deception that his entire life had become.

There was also the point that, despite the fact Dr. V's credibility was questionable, it appeared that the product itself was sound, garnering praise from several golf professionals. On this point, it might have been helpful if Hannan had actually discussed the issue with another engineer to see if the science behind the product truly was sound, or if it was just a matter that, when it comes right down to it, no matter the design of the putter, once you are on the green it is almost as much a matter of psychology as physics. Hannan does mention this in the article, telling a story of a science experiment at the University of Virginia that demonstrates the principle of positive contagion. Loosely stated, the idea is that if you believe your equipment is superior, you will perform better, whether the equipment truly is better or not.

It seemed that Hannan wanted to write what was for all intents and purposes, an advertisement for Dr. Vs Oracle GX1 putter, but to tie the whole story together, needed only to show due diligence and verify Dr. V's credentials. This is where the problems started. It appeared that there was a problem with Dr. V's stated educational background. Initially assuming that there could be an innocent explanation for that, Hannan tried to get Dr. V to give more information. That, according to Hannan, is when Dr. V's went from a business executive trying to promote a product while keeping himself in the background to a an uncooperative subject hostile to the entire project. Hannan continued dig for information, still wanting to write a story about a golf outsider who creates a product that revolutionizes the game, but Hannan's research turned up more than he expected.

It would have been impossible to make the entire story about the science and not the scientist after finding out some of what Hannnan did during his research for the article, because the science is only as good as the scientist. There were no peer reviewed papers to support Dr. V's claim of the Oracle GX1's superiority on the greens, and Hannan himself was not able to fully comprehend the technical background information that Dr. V. had provided, so only the doctor's own credibility in making those claims supported them. Yes, there were the endorsements of some professionals who used the product, but the reason the product was supposedly revolutionary was the science that went into its design. If Dr. V. was found to have no credibility as a trained scientist, it would really cast doubt upon his claims. The article could have stopped at the point of debunking Dr. V's credentials, but it is understandable that demonstrating deceitfulness about his personal life added to the overall narrative and enhanced the reader's understanding of the situation.

From my reading of the story, I think a lot of Hannan's problem is not that he got too curious as he got further along into the research, but that he was so enamored of the product and its inventor that he was not skeptical enough in his initial contacts. He missed some indications that things might not be as they were presented. When it was pointed out that the putter, which was supposedly scientifically designed to give you the best performance on the green, was made to retrieve a player's ball out of the cup without him bending down to reach for it, Hannan (who at that time in the process of researching his article was still enamored of the shiny new toy he was playing with) did not even think to ask how much putting performance was sacrificed for that little bit of multi-functionality. As pointed out above, it does not seem like Hannan spoke with any engineers or other golf club designers to see if Dr. V's claims were scientifically sound.

There was also Dr. V's immediate determination to protect his identity, from the first phone call warning that he had the same freedom of information act exemptions as a federal judge, and later claiming her work with the government was so secret that there weren't any records of it. That would have been a red flag for me. As I pointed out in the comments of Rod Dreher's article on the subject at American Conservative, we know Oppenheimer was working with the government, and there was nothing more secret than the Manhattan Project. I am not saying it is totally impossible, but hearing that would have gotten me to raise my antenna.

My biggest questions, however, are about another person in the story. Hannan first found out about the new putter from seeing an infomercial about it featuring Gary McCord, a former PGA Pro who still plays tournaments on the Senior Tour and is well known for announcing golf tournaments on television. McCord loved the putter and even arranged a meeting between Dr. V. and the Taylor Made company to showcase the club and perhaps interest Taylor Made in purchasing Yar, Dr V's company. What makes me wonder about McCord is that he claimed to have known a few generals in the U. S. military, and asked them to verify her claims of working on the Stealth fighter. He claims that one general states  that Dr. V. was "with us." McCord also stated that he facilitated a call between Dr. V and former Vice President Quayle, and he claimed that they talked about some of the projects she worked on.

The super hush-hush so secret she can't even be named as a participant projects. All while one of them was standing within earshot of a man without any type of security clearance. This really does not give me any great confidence McCord's credibility, but I will say that even the most highly guarded government projects would have aspects abut them that are not classified, so maybe it is possible that the McCord facilitated discussion happened.

In the end, the entire story is tragic. In the end, despite all the deceptions and lies, Dr. V. created a product that he believed in, even if he misrepresented it. The product itself was, if not as revolutionary as claimed, at least a solid performer that won the approval of professionals in the field. The story Hannan ended up telling was not the one he expected to tell. The consequences for some involved were far higher than anyone could have foreseen when the story started. If you have not yet read Hannan's article on Grantland, you need to go over and get the full story.