Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category

A Plea to the Media: Leave the Family Members of those Lost on Malaysian Airways Flight 370 Alone

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For the past seventeen or eighteen days, depending on which side of the globe you’re on, it seems that every news person in the world has been covering the strange and sudden disappearance of Malaysian Airways flight 370, abbreviated as MH370 for short.

Every night, news organizations such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC America, and others have breathlessly reported on any available lead as to where this plane went. Various theories have been expounded, some having to do with Visual Flight Rules and how they might apply (if you’re flying low, you’re on VFR), some having to do with why the pilots might have simulators in their houses, various scenarios about how the cockpit might have had a catastrophic accident, and many, many more.

During all this time, the various families of the passengers who’d boarded MH370 expecting a safe and sedate flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing have been inundated with all of this. They’ve had to try to remain calm, even as the reputations of the pilots have been besmirched over and over again; they’ve been told all sorts of conflicting information, as no one can even seemingly figure out exactly where the flight may have gone down.

Worst of all, the Malaysian Prime Minister, a man by the name of Najib Razak, seemingly says something different every single day. He can’t confirm anything, because the information is constantly changing, and the satellite data coming in from other countries seems to directly contradict anything he says anyway.

So when Mr. Razak said earlier today (as reported by Wolf Blitzer on CNN) that there is now “conclusive evidence” that MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean and that all passengers and crew must be accounted dead, who can blame the families for not believing him?

See, the families are in between a rock and a hard place. They want information; they have to know that it would be an increasingly long shot for anyone to survive in the cold ocean in choppy seas without land, even with floatation devices and possibly some food and a bit of water, after seventeen-plus days. But the information must be impeccable, must be comprehensible, and must be logical.

More to the point, every available authority should agree on it.

Because after all this time, with all of the information that’s been thrown at them day after day after day, the families of the passengers and crew of lost MH370 have to be completely shellshocked.

That being said, the families have reacted with dismay, frustration, loss, and a whole lot of screaming to the recent revelations by Prime Minister Razak. All of this is completely understandable.

What isn’t understandable is why the media insists on showing these poor people being carried out on stretchers, screaming at the top of their lungs while gesticulating wildly, or other scenes of pain, loss, and outright suffering.

Where is the decency of the media? Why aren’t they treating these poor families the way they, themselves, would wish to be treated if for some reason their family members and loved ones had gone down on MH370 instead?

Granted, not every media outlet is showing the screaming. MSNBC seems to have restrained itself, for the most part, especially in recent days, for which I thank them. Fox News has not shown a lot of that, either, during the past four or five days. I don’t think BBC America has shown much in the past few days (though it showed a lot more earlier), and that’s a good thing as well.

But CNN definitely has.

Worse, it keeps doing it, and shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

My view is simple: The media needs to leave these poor families alone. (Yes, CNN, I’m looking squarely at you.) They have suffered enough as it is.

And unfortunately, they will continue to suffer for a very, very long time, even if the current information is absolutely accurate and even if the bodies of their loved ones are eventually found and recovered.

The only thing CNN and other media outlets like them are doing at this point is to prolong the agony of the suffering families.

And that, my friends, is just wrong.

Figure Skater Johnny Weir and Victor Voronov Separate, on the Road to Divorce

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Folks, a few years ago I was proud to congratulate figure skater Johnny Weir on the event of his marriage to Victor Voronov.

Now, I am saddened to hear of their impending divorce.

Media reports thus far have said that Victor Voronov feels blindsided by what’s happened (the link I cited above from US Weekly had a headline of “shocked by the abrupt ending of his marriage, dealing with trauma endured”), which saddens me even further.

Look. Divorce is no picnic. (I should know; before I finally found Michael, I was divorced.) It can come out of the blue, or a lot of little things can lead up to a dissolution that at the time seems abrupt . . . but after a healing distance seems inevitable.

I don’t know what happened in Johnny Weir and Victor Voronov’s marriage, mind you. But I can tell you that historically, in some marriages between two people who are otherwise well-suited — such as English mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers and Scottish journalist Atherton Fleming — when one person succeeds more than the other, as Sayers did in a resounding fashion with her successful series of mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his eventual wife, Harriet Vane, it can cause fissures that are nearly impossible to heal.

Granted, Ms. Sayers lived during a time where divorce for an observant Christian was not always the “done thing,” which is possibly why she did not divorce Mr. Fleming. (Divorce was possible, sure. But unless there were overpowering reasons for it, usually couples would suffer in silence.) But in most of the biographies I’ve read about Ms. Sayers, the reason for her marriage having enormous difficulty was given over and over again as one, simple thing: She was successful. And he wasn’t successful to the same degree.

Now, that doesn’t mean Atherton Fleming resented his wife or her success. But her overwhelming success still hurt the marriage, because he wanted to be equal to his wife, was a good writer in his own way, and just didn’t find the same success no matter what he did or how hard he tried.

Worse yet, it’s harder for a man sociologically in Western society when a male spouse in a partnership isn’t equal to his spouse. (Just because both spouses are male in the case of the Johnny Weir/Victor Voronov marriage doesn’t change that sociological fact.) It doesn’t seem to matter how much love there is, or how much empathy, or how much understanding if one spouse is more successful than the other — under those circumstances, unless both people are fully present in their marriage and are willing to see themselves as flawed people who need and love each other and see success as a relative thing as opposed to simply a status thing — and will throw one hundred percent of themselves into their marriage — their marriage ultimately has little chance of success.

Now, what do I mean by success being relative? Well, in this case, Victor Voronov is successful because he’s always fully supported his husband Johnny Weir. That isn’t always easy to do even for the most loving of spouses, especially when one person is in the public eye all the time and the other just isn’t.

Whereas Johnny Weir is successful for other reasons.

And both of them need to see each other as a success in his own way and on his own terms, or the marriage just hasn’t a prayer of working.

In this particular case, looking in from the outside, Johnny Weir has obviously been on an upswing in his professional life over the past year-plus. He’s just come off a well-received stint at the Sochi Olympics as a figure skating commentator, where he received largely favorable publicity. He and his figure skating commentator partner, Tara Lipinski, were both signed by Access Hollywood to provide coverage for all sorts of things, including the Oscars. And his own personal, rather flamboyant sense of style has been plastered across society pages from one end of the Internet to the other.

Whereas Victor Voronov has apparently been settling into a career as a lawyer. His job is full of stress and long hours for much lower pay than Weir has been receiving for Weir’s various duties. Voronov is trying to establish himself, which is incredibly stressful in its own right.

Having a globe-trotting husband who’s plastered across society pages is possibly not what Voronov had expected his marriage to look like, especially as he married an athlete, not a celebrity icon (though to be fair, Weir was already both things when he married Voronov in December of 2011).

This sets up a lot of inequality that would be tough for any couple to deal with. One member of the marriage — Weir — is often gone and away from the other. Even with all the love in the world and complete and utter fidelity to one another, that one thing has been the death of more marriages than almost anything else.

At any rate, Weir has announced his separation from Voronov on Twitter and apparently has filed for divorce. Weir will be talking with Access Hollywood (one of his employers) later today (Thursday, March 20, 2014) by most media accounts, so perhaps at that time more will come out about the dissolution of his marriage.

That being said, while I can see from the outside why there would be extra stress on the Weir-Voronov marriage, I still had hoped it would endure. Weir seemed to settle down quite a bit after his marriage, and had shown himself to be a more mature and sensible individual — perhaps he always was that way, granted, and the media just didn’t portray it overmuch because being colorful is always “good copy” — and by every account I’ve ever read, Voronov was deeply in love with Johnny and was an extremely supportive spouse.

That’s why I find this particular divorce between two men I have never met and don’t know to be incredibly sad.

* * * * *

Edited to add:

Since I first wrote about this, a number of particularly nasty things have come out regarding the split between Weir and Voronov, most particularly via the gossip magazines.

I feel badly for both of these men. Divorce is hard.

But divorcing in public in the age of Twitter and non-stop communication seems to be the height of insanity.

I don’t know what to make of some of the things that have come out, to be honest. But I still believe that people have the right to make their own choices, as well as their own mistakes; because of this, sometimes marriages don’t work no matter how much love there is between the two parties.

I wish both men well as they do their best to move forward from what all accounts have shown thus far to be an incredibly traumatic experience.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm

New Interview, Book Review Up at SBR Over the Weekend

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Over the weekend, I put up two new things over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). One is an interview with the incomparable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, while the other is a book review for Vera Nazarian’s COBWEB FOREST, the third book in Ms. Nazarian’s Cobweb Bride series.

Now, you might be wondering why it is that I did two such labor-intensive things on the weekend. (Well, you’re probably not wondering that, for all I know. But take my word for it: Reviews take effort, and interviews also take effort, plus a goodly amount of pre-planning on the part of both me, the interviewer, and whoever the interviewee is, in this case Ms. Kimbriel.) Why not do them earlier in the week?

Well, like most people, I have all sorts of things going on during the week that tend to preclude me from doing things that take several hours apiece, no matter how much I might enjoy doing them. And as I tend to review romances on Saturday over at SBR for our Romance Saturday promotion, that’s why Ms. Nazarian’s book was reviewed then.

Note I’m not talking much about why my interview with Ms. Kimbriel went up on Sunday . . . that’s mostly because I ran out of time on Friday, and I also thought of a few last-minute questions late Thursday evening. Ms. Kimbriel answered them very quickly, bless her, but I was still in the process of figuring things out on Friday evening, so the interview did not get done until Sunday.

I don’t do a whole lot on Sunday at SBR, mostly because Jason Cordova tends to review on that day, Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday. But he and I can arrange for me to review — or in this case, interview — on other days, and that’s what we did here.

I hope you enjoy both my interview with Ms. Kimbriel, as she had a great deal of insight to offer about writing, editing, and the whole publication process as she’s part of Book View Cafe, an author’s consortium that does well by its writers and editors, and the review of Ms. Nazarian’s COBWEB FOREST.

Now, as for my plans for this week’s blog posts? Some of it depends on what happens in the world, but I can say I do plan to do a Milwaukee Brewers pre-season report — what I’ve seen from the various Spring Training games that have been televised, what I’ve noticed among a few high-profile (and not-so-high-profile) players — later this week. So do stay tuned for that.

As far as reviews over at SBR, I hope to review three things: Stephen R. Donaldson’s THE LAST DARK, the concluding book of the entire Thomas Covenant series, is the main book of the three, with the other two being Grant Hallman’s well-received debut novel IRON STAR (a work of military science fiction that’s perfect for readers of Michael Z. Williamson or Ric Locke) and his prequel to IRON STAR, the novella UPFALL. Figure THE LAST DARK for Saturday, while if all goes well I should be able to review UPFALL, at least, on Friday — and perhaps IRON STAR as well. (Have I mentioned that I’m a big fan of IRON STAR yet?)

Now, speaking of “Mad Mike” Williamson, I do have a special treat in store in a few, short weeks, as his debut novel FREEHOLD has been re-released by his publisher, Baen Books, in hard cover. Because of that auspicious event — something that was a long time in coming — I’ve decided to review FREEHOLD over at SBR. I read FREEHOLD years ago but never reviewed it anywhere, partly because it came out in 2005 — and because of my husband Michael’s passing the year before, I really didn’t pay much attention to anything that happened then. (I think I actually read FREEHOLD in 2007, but don’t quote me.)

So is the world ready for me to review FREEHOLD?

I don’t know, but we’re all about to find out . . . :insert evil chuckle here:

Time to Forgive Mel Gibson?

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Yesterday, journalist Allison Hope Weiner (writing for Deadline.com) asked an interesting question: Why won’t Hollywood forgive Mel Gibson?

Most of us remember Gibson’s rants during his split with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in 2010, as they were heavily publicized. He sounded demented, and there was no plea from Gibson for the media to back off that was ever publicized — something I found a bit odd at the time, but dismissed considering the state of the media, as  sometimes a Hollywood star’s denials are given but not publicized widely, depending on what other stories happen to be going on at the same time that might crowd out the denial(s).

And those weren’t the first of Gibson’s problems, as he made widely publicized anti-Semitic remarks once stopped by a Jewish policeman after driving while intoxicated back in 2006. Again, Gibson’s pleas for forgiveness were not widely covered, which in retrospect is very odd.

Consider, please, that Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears or any number of other Hollywood types have asked for forgiveness. This is something many celebrities do as a matter of course, often in as insincere of a manner as can be possibly imagined. And most of the time, the media is all over it.

Not necessarily the case back in 2006. But again, I dismissed the thought as irrelevant.

But to Ms. Weiner’s mind, that thought was and is very relevant. Which is why she’s made her plea to Hollywood that they should just forgive Mel Gibson and be done with it.

Ms. Weiner’s plea with regards to Mel Gibson is significant for more than one reason. She’d been harshly critical of him back in 2006 and again in 2010, and even now isn’t shy about saying so. His actions were reprehensible, she said so, and she hasn’t changed her mind about those actions.

What has changed, she says, is how she views Gibson’s actions now that she can put them into better context. Gibson is someone who’s helped many other actors, including Robert Downey, Jr., when they’ve been down and out, which is the sign of someone who cares. But he’s never wanted publicity for that, or most of his charitable pursuits, or most of the good things he’s done outside of the public eye, because as a moral person who believes in the Higher Power, you’re not supposed to do these things for any reason aside from wanting to glorify God/dess.

And it makes Ms. Weiner wonder about other Hollywood celebrities who’ve been vilified by the media for comments that seem off the wall or even flat-out wrong, too, such as Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise: Could it be that we are not getting the full picture about these people?

As Ms. Weiner says:

It might sound naïve after 20 years writing about celebrities, but my friendship with Gibson made me reconsider other celebrities whose public images became tarnished by the media’s rush to judge and marginalize the rich and famous. Whether it’s Gibson, Tom Cruise or Alec Baldwin, the descent from media darling to pariah can happen quickly after they do something dumb. I was part of that pack of journalists paid to pounce, so I know. I consider myself intelligent, someone who makes up her own mind, but just like readers do, I have accepted some reports at face value. The press said that based on Gibson’s statements, he was a homophobe, a misogynist, a bully, an ant-Semite, so he must be. What he was, I discovered, was an alcoholic whose first outburst was captured after he fell off the wagon. What the later release of audiotapes showed was a man with a frightening temper, capable of saying whatever will most offend the target of his anger.

Later, Ms. Weiner discusses what Gibson has done quietly and outside of the public eye to try to redeem himself from such things:

In his second apology on the anti-Semitic statements, Gibson promised to reach out to Jewish leaders. Gibson followed up by meeting with a wide variety of them. He gave me their names when I asked, but Gibson asked me not to publish them because he didn’t want them dragged into public controversy or worse, think he was using them. The meetings were not some photo op to him, he told me, but rather his desire to understand Judaism and personally apologize for the unkind things he said. He has learned much about the Jewish religion, befriending a number of Rabbis and attending his share of Shabbat dinners, Passover Seders and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur dinners. I believe that effort, along with our conversations, helped him understand why Jewish people reacted as they did to The Passion Of The Christ and why there was Jewish support for the Second Vatican Council. Gibson has quietly donated millions to charitable Jewish causes, in keeping with one of the highest forms of Tzedakah in the Jewish faith, giving when the recipient doesn’t know your identity.

In other words, Ms. Weiner is saying that Gibson basically has hurt himself in Hollywood because he’s not been the typical self-serving actor/director Hollywood generally sees. And because Gibson’s sense of responsibility is strong, but very quiet, Hollywood continues to feel good about its collective self because it continues to ostracize Gibson — one of the highest-grossing actors the world has ever seen, and one of its best directors and producers, too.

Her essay is an intriguing portrait of a difficult, yet vivid man. A sinner among sinners, perhaps, if you use the terminology of Christianity as seems appropriate during this time of Lent. Far from an altar boy, but much less than an unrepentant anti-Semite, Mel Gibson is a human being, with all the quirks and talents of any other human being.

But because Hollywood insists you must be perfect all the time — “fake it ’til you make it” — and Gibson is demonstrably not perfect, it’s OK to vilify him?

After reading Ms. Weiner’s essay, I came away with three thoughts:

  • We are all human beings who make mistakes, sometimes bad ones.
  • Most of us would not want those mistakes to be broadcast to millions upon millions of people due to the basis of some sort of international celebrity status.
  • Why isn’t forgiveness viewed as essential any longer in contemporary American society?

Because make no mistake about it: if forgiveness was important in the United States, Mel Gibson would’ve been forgiven — or at least forgotten — long ago. And while Gibson didn’t publicly ask for forgiveness, he certainly did so privately.

And really, isn’t that more than enough?

Breaking News: Arizona Gov. Brewer Vetoes SB 1062

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Folks, it’s official — as of 6:50 PM CST, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has vetoed Arizona state Senate Bill 1062. MSNBC showed a press conference, where Gov. Brewer said many different things about how she listened to both sides, conferred with advisors, and came to the only decision that made sense.

Thus her veto.

This is a very good thing, both for Arizona and for the nation. As I said earlier, this was terrible legislation. It was impractical at best, too broadly worded (as Gov. Brewer herself said), and unConstitutional on its face.

Good for Gov. Brewer for vetoing this bill.

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 26, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Answering Questions — Milwaukee Brewers First Basemen, Figure Skating, and More

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Folks, sometimes people ask me questions . . . and when I’m hunting for a blog subject, as now, I decide to answer them. (Lucky you, huh?)

The first question goes something like this: “So, Barb. Why is it that you get so hyped up about figure skating, anyway? You’re not a figure skater, so why do you care?”

Hmph.

Well, I care because I like to see justice done. I got upset back in 2010 during the Vancouver Olympics when Johnny Weir didn’t get the score he deserved as he should’ve won the bronze medal.  So I signed petitions, formed groups, wrote to the United States Figure Skating Association (to no avail) . . . all because I felt injustice should not be a part of sport.

Why?

Obviously, I realize that nothing in life is fair. But we should strive to make our pursuits as fair as we possibly can.

And sports, in particular, should be much fairer than most other things. People spend years of their lives in the pursuit of perfection, so when inaccurate or shoddy judging — or worse, potentially corrupt judging as in the case of the 2002 Olympics — ruins the skater’s Olympic experience, that can’t help but make me take notice.

Another question: “But Barb. Seriously, Yuna Kim is a millionaire with a gold medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She doesn’t need your help, so why is it you’re so upset regarding Adelina Sotnikova’s free skate in Sochi? Will anyone really care in four years anyway?”

I don’t know if anyone will care in four years or not. But the system needs to be overhauled. Ashley Wagner was right when she said the judges should stop being allowed to hide behind their supposed anonymity . . . if the skaters must identify themselves (as they do), the judges also must identify themselves so if they get something wrong, they can be retrained — or at the very least questioned as to what happened that led to whatever wrongness that occurred.

And again, I go back to Johnny Weir’s skate in 2010. I still care about it in 2014, because justice was not served.

So it’s quite likely that in 2018, I will still care about this if justice is again not served.

Onto another topic: “Barb, who do you think the Milwaukee Brewers are going to trot out at first base this year? They didn’t sign Manny Ramirez, so who do they have as possibilities?”

Heh. The Manny Ramirez thing was something I threw in there just to see if people were paying attention, though I honestly think the man can still hit and could learn to play first base if he wanted . . . but as the Brewers didn’t sign him, here are the potential first basemen in camp at this time:

  1. Hunter Morris (spent last year at AAA, hit .247 with 24 HR and 73 RBI). He is a bit raw, but has power to burn and a good, solid work ethic. He’ll probably start the year again at AAA but might come up later.
  2. Lyle Overbay (hit .240 with the New York Yankees with 14 HR and 59 RBI in 2013). Overbay still fields well at first, and continues to have some pop. He’s been with the Brewers before, so he knows Milwaukee well. My guess would be that he starts the year with the Brewers, as Overbay also can pinch hit and is a left-handed bat.
  3. Mark Reynolds (hit .220 with two teams with 21 HR and 67 RBI in 2013). Reynolds strikes out a ton. He is not a good defensive first baseman, to put it mildly. But he does have some power and it’s very likely the Brewers will keep him around to see what he’ll do as some of his HRs are moon shots of the Russell Branyan variety.
  4. Juan Francisco (His 2013 campaign was split into two parts — he hit .221 with 13 HR and 32 RBI in Milwaukee; before that, he hit .241 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in Atlanta). He is not a good first baseman, though some of that is because he’d never played the position prior to last year. He has astonishing power potential, but strikes out a good deal — nearly as often as Mark Reynolds. It’s likely that the Brewers will keep him around, but they also could trade him if they can find a buyer.
  5. And finally, there’s always Jonathan Lucroy. Yes, Lucroy’s a catcher, but he played first base several times last year and was competent if not comfortable. Lucroy is a consistent hitter who’s only weakness is grounding into double-plays . . . then again, Carlos Lee used to ground into double-plays all the time and no one complained, so it’s unlikely anyone’s going to say much about Lucroy either.

One final question, this yet again on a different topic entirely: “So, Barb. Why didn’t you review any books last week at Shiny Book Review?”

This one’s easy, folks . . . as I was doing my best to get a major edit out the door for a client, I simply ran out of time.

But I’ll be reviewing at least two books this week, so do stay tuned.

NBC’s Christin Cooper Pushes Bode Miller to Tears After Bronze Medal Win

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Every time I think I’ve seen it all when it comes to the Sochi Olympic Games, something happens to make me change my mind.

In Sunday’s Super-G Olympic ski race, American Bode Miller won the bronze medal (actually tying with Canadian Jan Hudec) behind fellow American Andrew Weibrecht and gold-medal winning Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. In doing so, the thirty-six-year-old Miller became the oldest Olympic medalist in skiing history, and has now won six Olympic medals — one gold, three silvers, and two bronzes.

However, NBC reporter Christin Cooper, herself a past Olympic medal winner in skiing (silver in 1984 in the Giant Slalom), pushed Miller way too far in an interview aired in prime-time television an hour or so ago. The interview has been transcribed by Yahoo’s Fourth-Place Medal column; here’s Cooper’s first question and Miller’s first answer:

Cooper: Bode, such an extraordinary accomplishment, at your age, after a turbulent year, coming back from knee surgery, to get this medal today, put it in perspective. How much does this mean to you?

Miller: I mean it’s incredible. I always feel like I’m capable of winning medals but as we’ve seen this Olympics it’s not that easy. To be on the podium, this was a really big day for me. Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it. Even though I really didn’t ski my best, I’m just super super happy.

This is a perfectly reasonable question, and a good answer by Miller. No problems here.

Next was Cooper’s second question:

Cooper: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.

Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.

This, again, is a reasonable question and a good answer by Miller. He was starting to tear up at this point, though, and most interviewers would’ve backed off and thanked him for his time.

For whatever reason, Cooper did not do this.

Here’s Cooper’s third question and Miller’s third answer:

Cooper: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?

Miller: Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. It’s just a tough year.

This wasn’t a terrible question, but it wasn’t good because Miller was already in distress. Miller again gave a credible answer, but he teared up and was having a lot of distress in the process.

Again, most interviewers would’ve backed off. But again, Cooper did not do this.

Instead, here was Cooper’s fourth question and Miller’s abortive fourth answer:

Cooper: I know you wanted to be here with Chelly, really experiencing these games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and, I dunno, make myself proud, but … (trails off)

Here is when Cooper made a big mistake. She mentioned Chelone Miller, Bode’s brother, by name — Chelone was only 29 when he passed away in 2013 of a seizure, and was considered a possibility to make the Sochi Olympics in snowboarding until the end of his life.

Then Cooper made an even bigger mistake — she asked a fifth and final question:

Cooper: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Miller: (breaks down and cries, Cooper puts an arm on him)

Now, this was just way out of line. Miller had answered the question already, as best he could, at least twice, and was obviously emotional. (Cooper even said this, earlier, so she was aware of it.) His brother has been dead for less than a year, for pity’s sake (see this story about Chelone Miller’s passing if you don’t believe me). The wound is still fresh, and Miller was showing the strain after Cooper’s second question.

But she didn’t back off.

As a journalist — no matter how unemployed I may be at the moment — I can tell you right now that Cooper’s behavior was completely wrong. She should’ve backed off after the second question and not asked the third, but once she did ask the third and saw that Miller was so emotional, she should definitely have backed off then.

That she instead chose to ask the fourth and fifth questions after he was already extremely upset for a completely understandable reason made absolutely no sense.

Fortunately, I’m not the only person out there who feels this way, either, as Yahoo’s Fourth-Place Medal column written by Mike Oz (about Olympic events) has also taken Cooper to task. Here’s a bit of that:

Reporters have to ask tough questions. It’s part of being a journalist. One of the hardest parts of the job — and one of the toughest nuances to learn — is knowing when enough is enough in an emotional situation. Cooper, it’s worth nothing, was a skier before getting a TV gig with NBC, not a lifelong journalist

Maybe when she looks back at the tape on this, she’ll realize that one question about Miller’s brother was enough — perhaps two would have been OK. But the third one, the one that broke Miller down into a ball of emotion, came off as, at best, insensitive and, at worst, cheap.

All I can say is, I sincerely hope so.

Because what Christin Cooper did wasn’t just poor journalism and wasn’t just insensitive.

It was plain, flat wrong on every level. Period.

U.S. Figure Skater Jeremy Abbott Falls Hard, Wins Big (at Life)

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Today, I witnessed something I’ve never before seen in my many years of watching figure skating. Reigning United States men’s champion Jeremy Abbott, who’s had his share of troubles in the Olympics already, took a very hard fall in the Olympic men’s short program at Sochi, lay on the ice for nearly twenty seconds . . . then got up and skated the rest of his program cleanly and with energy.

This was a big win for Abbott, even though it wasn’t reflected in the score column overmuch.

You see, Abbott, over the years, has had many problems with his nerves. They are well-documented, they are pervasive, and while they are also completely understandable (I doubt many of us would do well under so much scrutiny), they’ve kept him from attaining his immense potential — at least at the international level.

Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports quoted Abbott afterward as saying:

“First thing, I was in a lot of pain and I was laying there kind of shocked and I didn’t know what to think,” Abbott said. “I was waiting for the music to stop. The audience was screaming, and I was, like, ‘Forget it all, I am going to finish this program.’

“As much of a disappointment as this is, I am not in the least bit ashamed. I stood up and finished this program, and I am proud of what I did in the circumstances.”

Abbott scored a 72.58, good for fifteenth place out of thirty, but what he achieved goes far beyond any scorecard.

No.

What Abbott achieved was the ultimate triumph of dedication, focus, and persistence. He refused to let a terrible fall — one that could still, potentially, knock him out of the competition — stop him from completing his short program. And in so doing, he won the respect of his competitors and the Russian crowd’s vociferous support, which wasn’t altogether easy as their lone entrant into the men’s program, Evgeny Plushenko, had abruptly retired directly before he was supposed to skate in the short.

I don’t doubt that Plushenko was injured — he clutched his back and looked like he could barely stand upright when he skated over to the judges in order to withdraw — and I also don’t doubt that Plushenko did the right thing in withdrawing, no matter how abrupt it turned out to be.

But what Abbott did in getting up from one of the worst falls I’ve ever seen and skating the rest of his program with vigor, energy, and even brilliance was as inspirational an effort as I’ve ever seen.

As Rogers put it in his headline, “Jeremy Abbott Loses Marks for Ugly Fall, Wins Hearts for Finishing Short Program.”

As I’ve been critical over the years of Abbott — much though I adore his skating — I felt it imperative to point this out: Jeremy Abbott has the heart of a true champion.

Whether he can skate the long program after a night of stiffening up and soreness, and possibly some bone breaks as well (as a hairline fracture can be hard to spot, especially right after an injury due to the inflammation incurred) is immaterial.

What Abbott did today in refusing to give up on himself is far, far more important than any marks could ever be. In or out of the Olympics.

You see, Jeremy Abbott proved today why he’s as big a winner at life as anyone I’ve ever seen.

And that, my friends, is extremely impressive.

NFL Draft Hopeful Michael Sam Comes Out As Gay

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Someday soon, folks, I’m not going to have to write about a story like this one. At that time — whether it’s 2016, 2020, whatever — being an openly gay athlete is not going to be big-time news.

But as it’s 2014 and the NFL still doesn’t have an openly gay player (nor does MLB, the NBA, or the NHL), what a young man from Missouri, Michael Sam, has done by announcing that he is openly gay is big news.

On Sunday evening, Missouri’s All-American defensive end Michael Sam came out, officially, as gay during ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program. Sam is a legitimate NFL prospect, expected to be drafted anywhere from the third to fifth rounds, and is the reigning co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC — a very tough football conference where many of its best players often go on to illustrious NFL careers.

So you might be wondering, as I did, why Sam would choose to say this now, before any team gets a chance to draft him. The NFL seems to be homophobic (see my blog about Chris Kluwe’s experiences, and remember that Kluwe is not, himself, gay — he’s just an advocate for LGBT rights), and this may well affect Sam’s chances of getting drafted and/or signed by an NFL team.

Of course, it shouldn’t be this way.

As L.Z. Granderson points out in his article for ESPN.com, there have been gay players in the NFL at least since 1969 — Granderson quoted legendary coach Vince Lombardi as saying this: “”If I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you’ll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.” (Note this was referencing a story written in 2013 by Ian O’Connor about Vince Lombardi and being pro-gay rights at a time few were.) There are numerous retired NFL players, including former Packers NT Esera Tuaolo, who was quoted in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press as saying that while he supports Sam fully, he couldn’t have done what Sam’s doing now back in the 1990s.

Sam’s openness about his sexuality has been acclaimed by former NBA player Jason Collins (who came out last year; see this blog for further details), well-known LGBT advocates and former NFL players Kluwe and Brandon Ayanbadejo, the latter writing this column for Fox Sports with a few words about Sam’s historic importance, and “You Can Play” advocate Wade Davis, himself a retired NFL player who happens to be gay.

But there’s something missing in most of the coverage about Michael Sam.

Simply put — Sam is a football player, plain and simple. More to the point, he’s a very good football player who should be drafted and can help any number of NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, as a defensive end — Sam’s on the small side as a DE considering he’s listed at only 255 pounds, but he’s agile, light on his feet, and a hard tackler. He’s twenty-four years of age, meaning he’s mature. He’s lived through a lot of adversity in his life (the OTL piece is a must-see, if you haven’t taken it in already). And he’d be an asset in every possible way.

Yet instead of hearing about how mature Sam is, or about how much he can help a football team, we’re hearing about how historic this achievement is with regards to gay rights. And while I agree with that — it’s obvious — I just wish we were further along in this country.

Think about it, please. Why should it matter in 2014 that Michael Sam is gay if he can play football at a high level?

And why should these various NFL general managers, who are refusing to be quoted by name (such as in this piece by the Christian Science Monitor), be afraid that Michael Sam will somehow contaminate the locker room? Especially considering, as Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC program pointed out last night, that there are guys playing the NFL right now who are wife-beaters, girlfriend-beaters, who don’t pay child support for their children, who have problems with substance abuse . . . why are those players consistently finding work with these very same NFL GMs hardly batting an eye, when Michael Sam being an articulate and open gay man may cost Sam the chance to play in the NFL?

All that being said, of course I applaud Michael Sam for coming out. His stance is principled, honest, and above-board — and I respect it highly.

I just hope that by doing so, Sam hasn’t cost himself any chance at a job due to the intransigence and obduracy of the various, uncredited NFL GMs, who refuse to be quoted directly but have already cast a pall over Sam’s historic announcement.

One final thought: Is it bad of me to admit that I long for the day where a player can say, “I’m gay” and the pro sports league in question says, “So what?” (May that day come soon.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Pre-Olympics, Many Stray Dogs Killed In Sochi

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On Keith Olbermann’s ESPN nightly sportscast Tuesday evening, Olbermann discussed Russia’s current national disgrace: They’re killing stray dogs in Sochi.

Many of them. For no reason, excepting the dogs exist and it’s legal to do whatever you like to dogs in Russia.

That was bad enough news to give me nightmares. And I wondered at the time, “Where are all the Russian animal activists? Don’t they care?”

Fortunately, there are a few who do.

As Olbermann pointed out on his sportscast Wednesday evening, this article from the Boston Globe discusses the efforts of Russian animal activist Vlada Provotorova, who’s so far managed to save about one hundred dogs from the slaughter. These are friendly animals (Olbermann had a video clip, a brief one), and act like they were once members of someone’s family.

Note that Ms. Provotorova is not the only activist who’s tried to make a difference; there are a number of them. (Bless them all.)

You might be forgiven for wondering why it’s legal to kill dogs in Russia. As this article from CNN points out, in Russia, there’s no legislation — none whatsoever — that dictates anything about how to treat a pet.

This is why a pest control service has been contracted by Sochi itself to “take care” of all this by killing the dogs, leaving the city itself to say its hands are clean, because what they’re doing is legal.

What’s frustrating about all this, aside from the fact it’s happening at all, is that a year ago, the Humane Society International wanted to go in there and help sterilize the pet population . . . but Olympic officials turned them down flat according to this article from Time.

From the article:

Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International, was “very surprised” when she heard that Sochi officials planned to kill stray dogs roaming around the Olympic host region throughout the Games. Just last April, organizers scrapped that idea, and said they would build a shelter for the animals. Now, city officials have hired a private company to do the dirty work — its owner told ABC News that the dogs posed a public-safety and health risk and that they were “biological trash.”

“They’ve very publicly gone back on their word,” O’Meara says.

The more I hear about this story, folks, the more I just want to cry.

You see, dogs, as a group, are much more friendly and loyal than the people they’re often entrusted to — and they don’t deserve to be treated as if they’re “biological trash.”

Worst of all, the friendliest animals — the ones that could easily be taken to a shelter, neutered or spayed, and adopted out — are the “easiest to catch” according to O’Meara. So they’re the ones that are most likely getting killed the quickest.

This all could’ve easily been avoided. It should’ve been avoided.

Even now, if the IOC would just get their heads out of their rear ends and admit it’s actually happening, this shameful act could be halted in its tracks. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of dogs’ lives could be saved.

But it seems as if the IOC would rather die than admit to any sort of error whatsoever. Which is why the only story, according to them, is that the dogs are being treated “humanely,” and that all this talk of dogs getting killed is just that — talk.

While I’d like to believe the IOC, if only because they talk a good game, I cannot ignore report after report, both on Olbermann’s show and in at least seventeen different newspaper accounts (written by different people, no less), that talk about the same thing.

Look. I’m a dog lover. So if I were in Russia right now, I’d be one of the many people trying to get the dogs out of there — or at minimum, I’d be one of the reporters discussing the problem and letting the world know it exists.

I hope that in this case that sunlight really is the best disinfectant, so a few more innocent dogs will be saved.

But as I cannot hope for that — most particularly because dogs, at least in that one guy’s eyes, are merely “biological trash” — all I can do is pray that somehow, some way, the word will keep getting out about what’s happening to these poor dogs.

Because it is unconscionable.

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