Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Bye" Week Goes Malignant

Just spotted NY Times use of "bye week" to describe an off week for a college team. The madness is spreading beyond the NFL. What's next? Are the Rangers enjoying bye days as they await the Yankees/Tigers winner?

Nothing wrong with a new word, phrase or usage that adds new meaning, brevity or even a little pzazz to the language, provided it doesn't cause problems that outweigh its pluses. Sadly, "Bye Week", used as a synonym for the older term "off week", adds nothing but problems. It has exactly the same meaning as off week, it's no shorter and, in my opinion, sounds no better. All it does is muddy the once precise term "bye'.

Bye used to refer only to the situation where a team or player would advance a round in a tournament without playing. For example, the top 16 seeds in a 48 player tennis tournament would get a first round bye, advancing automatically to the second round (and not coincidentally producing a second round of 32 which plays down nicely to a 2 player final). As used by the NFL, and now malignantly creeping elsewhere, bye's meaning is diluted - suddenly it's just a scheduled week off that doesn't involve advancing in any way. A team can be mathematically eliminated from contention during a bye week, what kind of advance is that?

What happened? As the NFL kept expanding the number of teams in the playoffs, it worried that fans would lose interest in the regular season. The solution? Spin the regular season as a tournament in which teams compete to make the playoffs (which it is, sort of) and use bye week instead of off week to add to that tournament flavor. What about the fact that NFL teams don't really advance on a scheduled off week? Not important to the NFL spinmeisters or the media who have parroted the NFL press releases, and even expanded the usage to college ball, without even noticing that "bye" used to mean something precise.

Next up - "Program Record"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Finally! NY Times gets the Stateless Marriage

The New York Times is suddenly all over the As Good As News approach to marriage. The idea is get the state out of the marriage business. The civil union would become the only form of committed couple, gay or straight, recognized by the state. Marriage would be left solely to the realm of religion, or, more broadly, the spiritual, with no state involvement or recognition for marriage of straight or gay. This approach was outlined in detail here on November 10, 2007 , revisited several times in shorter posts and posted as comment to other periodicals, including the Times. After years of non-recognition, it's popping up regularly, including pieces by Bill Keller and Ross Douthat on Sunday, July 3, 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Yoga report - The New Year's resolution crowd was late arriving, but arrive they did. Who knew a few side twisting variations on the sun salutation could change my day - thanks Clarissa.

And, in other news - The NFL playoff picture has been painted. Here are links to three older posts that include my only previous, public, pigskin prognostications: Perfection, Strange Odors, and Diagnosis Steelers. Shockingly, all were correct, so bet against As Good As News at your own risk.

New England is a deserving favorite, but I like the Steeler's chances. Steeler's 4 losses were all to playoff teams playing well in situations where the Steelers did not need a win. A week of rest to get Troy Polamalu healthy will help. Mike Wallace is emerging as a star. Best case for Steelers sounds almost realistic: Ravens beat Chiefs, Colts edge Jets (who speak loudly on cable but are not ready for network prime time) then Ravens engage Pats in a slugfest while Steelers handle a Colts squad that has become the Peyton show. Even if the Pats beat the Ravens, and they should, Pats must come back from one battering to face another from Pittsburgh. Nobody really wants to play the Ravens and Steelers - the most physical teams in football - on consecutive weeks, and the Pats, the best team in football this year, will fall just short of reaching the Super Bowl.

In the NFC, Atlanta hasn't sold me yet, but I haven't had many opportunities to see them play. I do know the Steelers beat them using a third string quarterback. Green Bay looks better than Philadelphia or Chicago right now, but that's not saying all that much. The Saints started slow and had a few letdowns even after they got rolling, but they looked very good in must win games against the Steelers and Falcons. Last year's Super Bowl win was no fluke and I'm picking the Saints to repeat in the NFC. I know someone from the NFC West will also be in the playoffs, but, seriously... Pats, Steelers and Ravens are all playing better than anyone in the NFC right now, and I would pick any of them to win the Super Bowl if they can get there. If I'm right and it comes down to a battle of the black and gold, I'm looking for the Steelers to beat the Saints in a very close game - a defensive struggle for three quarters that opens up in the last fifteen minutes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Stretch" Under Review

Stretch - The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude by Neal Pollack is uncomfortably close to a book I wanted to write. If that's not enough of a bias disclosure for you, then reader beware: this entire entry is written under the coercive pressure of a New Year's resolution. Stretch is, mostly, Mr. Pollack's memoir of his own journey through the world of yoga, and it comes close to being a great read.

There is humor, even a few laugh out loud moments, as Pollack takes advantage of the chasm between the yoga ideal (or in some cases, stereotype) and his cynical, dissolute self. The funny stuff is funny enough so I wanted more. Yoga produces a surprising amount of humor, and Stretch could have mined some additional veins. Watch this space for a chart comparing some well known schools/disciplines/styles of Yoga, you will see what I mean.

Stretch also sideswipes a fair amount of information on yoga's history, current schools of yoga practice and some of the "stars" of yoga. Pollack is stretching the memoir format at times, but he finds a nice balance. A few sections stop just short of "author uses elementary level research to pad book" but on the whole I learned a lot of interesting stuff with more laughs than pain. If Mr. Pollack issues his own version of the Vedas, I'll be eager to read them.

The glaring failure here is lack of depth and honesty. Mr. Pollack does reveal some trying moments, but mostly he's writing as a lovable curmudgeon. One who doesn't want to look very hard at why he's still smoking weed on a very regular basis after years of yoga practice. One who seems to give almost no thought to his young son as he ponders extended trips for yoga teacher training programs or workshops. The result is a curmudgeon not quite so lovable as Mr. Pollack would like us to believe. Nonetheless, Stretch held my interest. Even pretty good humor is hard to find in the yoga library and painless learning is not easy to come by.