Undeserved Victories

November 23, 2016

Two stories in the news over the last 48 hours, which have a common theme. The Undeserved Victory.

First is Jared Kushner, First Son-in-Law-Elect and speculation that he might not have deserved his admission to Harvard. As you’ll read here, and here, it seems that Mr. Kushner’s grades and test scores were below the usual threshold for admission to that small school in Boston. This news leaves me just shocked, because I’m certain that each and every freshman before him met those standards and a school like Harvard would never, ever admit someone who didn’t meet their standards. Ahem. Right. This story should have fallen into the category of “dog bites man” and never made the “news,” but the public, never tires of a story of privilege and how they’ve been wronged by the rich and influential, even if that person is a Trump (by marriage). Since it reinforces the existing narrative, it gets airplay and column inches. An undeserved victory was achieved by Mr. Kushner. No doubt, the one of many.

Then we have the story of the Illinois state high school playoff game between Fenwick and Plainfield North. As you’ll read here, had the rules been correctly applied, Fenwick would have won the semifinal game and advanced to the final to play East St. Louis High. But it didn’t happen that way. PNHS was the beneficiary of the referee’s mistaken idea that the circumstances at the end of the period should result in an untimed down. There’s no such rule, but they gave PNHS such a play, and with it, they kicked the game-tying field goal, sending the game into overtime, which they eventually won. An undeserved victory.

In the week since this happened, there’s been much discussion here locally and later across sports-talk radio about how to resolve the situation. Fenwick has gone to court after the State’s high school sports ruling body, the IHSA said that there’s no provision for protest or reversal. It’s been suggested that Plainfield North simply admit that they unduly benefited and let Fenwick play in the championship game.

Without getting into the ethics of sports and whether a player in a game with outside officials has an obligation to correct an officials mistake (e.g., no Mr. Umpire, I was tagged before I got to the base and you missed it; No Ms. Referee, I last touched the basketball before it went out-of-bounds so it’s not our ball as you say), I have trouble with what’s been said and done. That Fenwick elected to take the case to a court of law suggests that a judicial remedy is the appropriate venue for a sports dispute. It’s high school football, for goodness sake, not a case involving the life or property of a citizen, which is what the court system is already overloaded handling. The law has long-ago established that clubs and organizations can establish their own rules and act accordingly and that the courts have no interest in injecting themselves into those disputes (see PGA Tour vs. Casey Martin, for example). Nevertheless, off goes the Fenwick high school administration, to get what glory there is to be had and right a most egregious wrong.

To suggest that PNHS relinquish its good fortune is to expect Jared Kushner to tell Harvard, “thanks, but no thanks.” Are we to assume that no child at Fenwick has ever received admission to a college based on a family connection or a sizable donation? Would Fenwick have suggested that such a child demur and reject the admission? Of course not. That’s not the way the world works.

Rightly or wrongly, our society is not a perfect meritocracy. LinkedIn exists for a reason; to help connect people to give them an advantage when seeking a job. This is how it is. It’s too bad that the officials screwed this up. They should lose their jobs over this–or be forced into some remedial rules education classes. It likely won’t be the last time these kids will be jobbed by The Man. The Plainfield North kids know they got away with something. As Luke said, “to whom much is given, much is required.” Let’s hope they take their good fortune and learn an appropriate lesson from it (especially when they inevitably end up on the receiving end).

One thing of which we are certain: Jared Kushner’s undeserved winning streak is just starting.

What I read

March 28, 2010

Probably Enough to Keep Me Busy

My name is Mark and I am an addict.  My drug of choice is information, particularly on current events.

I started really reading in junior high, but it got out of hand in high school.  At first it was two newspapers a day (Chicago Tribune and the Arlington Herald).  Sports first, then the other stuff.  My reading an article about a rape trial got me “the talk” from my dad. I was in Student Congress in high school and there wasn’t a current topic that was off-limits, so preparing meant covering a wide landscape.  The guy behind the periodical desk at the library came to dislike me.  That experience introduced me to the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, as well as a broader range of general and not so general interest magazines.  Foreign Policy, anyone?  It was a gateway drug.

I went into remission in college, then resumed consuming thereafter.  It’s now really out of hand with both internet’s accessibility and my not having a job.  But even when I worked, I still always had about 40 pages of articles I’d reformatted into two-column, 10-point font to carry with me.  Walking to a meeting, waiting for a lunch partner, lunching by myself, on the train, and in other places appropriate or not, my appetite for news could be described as insatiable.  In the last couple years, I’ve fallen in love with podcasting, so now I’ve got news in through my ears and eyes, often at the same time.  If you see me with my headphones, chances are good that I’m tuned into Fresh Air or something similar, rather than Green Day.

I don’t watch much TV; mostly sports and a few entertainment shows (Modern Family tops the list, Wednesdays at 9/8CT).  I only occasionally watch cable news, and that’s only because I like the way certain people write their material, not because it adds much to my knowledge or understanding of a topic.  Cable TV does all of us a disservice by conflating the ideas of “governing” and “politics” and treating both in the same way CNBC treats the stock market or ESPN treats the baseball season.  It’s not a game.  Policy-making, like history, happens over a long arc of time and does not change eight times within 24 hours. I couldn’t help but notice how the so-called conventional wisdom on President Obama turned 180 degrees in the moments following signing the health care bill (and publication of David Frum’s “Waterloo” analysis). One moment, he’s a political blunderer, the next a genius.  It was never either one and there wasn’t a switch magically flipped on Sunday.  While there are addition points made in this this NY Review of Books piece, it encapsulates my feelings on the topic pretty well.

I used to have a business relationship with CNN and conversations with their executives taught me much about how they think and their need to “feed the monster”.  Essentially, their argument was:  We’re on for 24 hours and have to have something to talk about, so we take small things, small differences, highlight them and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a run of a couple days out of a story.  If that happens, it’s that many fewer other little stories that we’ll have to report. It was akin to taking crap and throwing it against the wall to see what would stick, then talking about it until it fell off the wall.  It works great at first (e.g., the first Gulf War), but with the proliferation of channels, the hosts of these shows have to continually come up with unique things to be outraged about, lest they lose their gigs (think Beck and Olbermann; Hannity and Ed).  If there’s nothing to be outraged about, what’s the point of having them on the air?  So outraged they are.  And we lose the concept of rational discourse in the process.

But I digress.

So, I read.  Don’t tell my business colleagues, but reading about business bores me.

I occasionally get asked what I read.  Unlike someone who came to national prominence in the last couple years and was unprepared for that question, I have an answer.  It’s a long one.  I’m exhausted looking at it.  You’ll note that it doesn’t include Time, Newsweek or any of the other “general interest” magazines.  My sense has been that if they’re only going to publish weekly, their analysis had better be excellent because it comes so late; I find their websites generally uninteresting, too (too much celebrity coverage).  The last time I checked, I didn’t think it warranted the effort.

It’s a habit I can’t kick.  I read the occasional book, but while doing that, I’m thinking of the other current things I could be reading about, so it sort of sucks the pleasure out of it.  The only exception is when I get my hands on a good history book, since I can put myself in the historical context and read it as if it was a current event.  It’s more confusing to explain than to do.

So here’s the list.

Physical media:

Online – consistently (I pay for access to the WSJ.  I would pay for content at other providers, too.  The notion that this stuff all has to be free is flawed as far as I’m concerned):

Online – occasional


  • PTI
  • C-SPAN After Words (from Book TV)
  • Fresh Air
  • NPR’s It’s All Politics
  • NPR’s Planet Money
  • PBS NewsHour
  • Slate’s Culture Gabfest
  • Slate’s Hang Up and Listen
  • Slate’s Political Gabfest
  • Countdown
  • This American Life
  • On The Media
  • Today in the Past

No Politico, Talking Points Memo or Daily Beast.

If I’m missing something, let me know.  There’s always room on the browser and in the stack of papers for another view.

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