The Rise of Trump: Fascism 101


I regularly identify Donald Trump as a fascist, or a neo-fascist (by which I simply mean “modern day fascist”). Some may think that I am engaging in hyperbole, or political rhetoric, but I am in earnest. Donald Trump is undeniably, and demonstrably, a fascist.

I say that because Trump’s campaign for president bears all of the traditional hallmarks of fascism, so much so that Mussolini’s descendants probably should sue him for copyright infringement.

Here’s what I mean:

In my opinion, the single biggest common denominator among would-be fascist leaders is the narrative that only this one man can save the nation. That he alone, the strong man, uniquely has the qualities required to meet the crisis of the day. It is implied that without this one individual, national salvation is not possible, because the democratic (lowercase “d”) leaders are “weak,” “stupid,” or some other diminishing adjective. The fascist leader tells us that traditional political models are insufficient for the present national emergency, and that only he can restore the nation to its previous glory (or, “Make America Great Again”), while focusing his followers on what he defines as present national humiliation and an ongoing state of victimhood.

He tells his followers that to save the people, they must reject the weakness of the past and embrace a radical new future.

The fascist leader must quickly identify both internal and external enemies for his followers to fear and hate. The far more important of the two is the demonized internal enemy, as they become identified as the insidious “other” living among us, who must be driven out if the nation is to survive. For Adolf Hitler, obviously, this was German Jews. For Donald Trump it is illegal aliens, and more specifically, Mexicans. Trump has identified his scapegoat group thusly: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He has promised to hunt down and remove 12 million of the “other” and to turn America into a fortress to keep these frightening people from ever getting back in.

Of course, Trump has also identified Muslims as a target “other” group, and he seeks to build a legal wall around America to protect the nation from the threat they pose. Whether or not these people ever actually represent anything near the threat that is portrayed is beyond the point. The leader’s followers must have an evil enemy upon which to project their rage, which keeps them unified toward a common goal; the “other” supplies them with their enemy.

The fascist leader hates the free press, which he sees as a threat to his power. Hitler and Mussolini shut down opposition newspapers immediately upon assuming control, and soon their nations’ media was in lock step behind them. Trump has repeatedly expressed hatred and disdain for those in American media who challenge him, and he has said that he will change libel law to allow the free press to be dragged into court if they write unflattering articles about him. While we all assume that such court cases would fail, one only need to imagine a budget-strapped newspaper considering an anti-Trump piece, knowing that Trump’s army of lawyers could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense fees. It would soon be cost-prohibitive to report negatively on Trump. Trump could also easily deny press credentials and access to “unfriendly” media, which would make editors think twice before angering him unnecessarily, and just as Hitler and Mussolini did, the free press would be effectively muzzled.

It should be noted that Trump’s rallies are already shining examples of his attitude toward the free press. In every other political campaign ever run in America, reporters and photographers are allowed to move at will, speaking with, and often videotaping the event. But not at Trump’s events. The media is literally caged in a steel pen, guarded by Secret Service agents so that they cannot escape, while Trump mocks them from the stage. Recently, a photographer was choke-slammed to the ground at a Trump rally because he attempted to leave his metal pen. Trump has said that the editor of the National Review “should not be allowed on TV,” and I’m sure if Trump had his way, others would be faced with similar bans from speaking out against him. This is what the future of the free press looks like under Trumponian Fascism.

The fascist leader hates democratic (again, the lowercase “d”) processes, and strives to rule without them. For example, upon taking power, Hitler used the burning of the German national assembly as an excuse to declare a national emergency, and for the next twelve years ruled by decree. In the USA, we have a similar mechanism called an “executive order.” Donald Trump has already stated that, should Congress prove slow or indecisive with approving his legislation, he would consider ruling by executive order. His words: “I won’t refuse it. I’m going to do a lot of things.” Just last night Trump threatened that if Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan attempted to oppose him, Ryan would “pay a big price.”

The fascist leader sees violence as a useful tool in suppressing dissent. Trump’s rallies, where silent African-American protestors are forcibly removed, and where the media is intimidated and physically assaulted, may just be the beginning. So what does Trump think about political repression in general? Here are his thoughts about how the Chinese crushed democracy protests in 1989: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. They were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

But what about political expression here in America? Well, when anti-Trump tee shirts first appeared online, Trump had his lawyers send them an email: “Mr. Trump considers this to be a very serious matter and has authorized our legal team to take all necessary and appropriate actions to bring an immediate halt…”

And what about the internet, where freedom of expression runs amok, Mr. Trump? “I would certainly be open to closing areas of it.”

Fascism 101, folks.

Now, lastly, let’s look at how the fascist leader presents himself in public. The fascist leader must always project strength and power to his followers. He must also communicate that he is above and separated from them, because he alone is their savior. Mussolini did this by speaking to Italian fascists from balconies; while Hitler always spoke from behind a raised lectern. While other presidential candidates often speak at rallies without barriers between them and their audiences, so as to project a sense of oneness and community, Trump is definitely a lectern guy. Even though he never uses prepared notes, once he’s ready to speak, he is always behind a lectern, because the lectern projects power and separation.

The fascist leader is also always louder than other speakers, because, as the strong man, he cannot be seen to lose a war of words with those he has portrayed as weaklings. Thus, he is prone to shouting and fits of public rage, because rage is interpreted as power by his followers, and the words of the fascists’ opponents must be subjugated, just as are the individuals.

Finally, the fascist leader must always be seen as the head of a mass movement, which is why he speaks so often at large public assemblies. Small group appearances work against his use of the lectern and his voice amplification technique, they also reduce the fascist leader by making him appear to be more common, which undermines his strong man image.

So, now, I hope you can see why it can be clearly concluded that America is witnessing the rise of what I like to call Trumponian Fascism. I think that it is also instructive to note that while Germany’s fascist leader rose from the military, and Italy’s from the newspapers, America’s fascist has risen from big business, which is probably what we should have expected all along.

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Trump Youth Singing Propaganda Song At Rally

Actual lyrics, sung by Trump Youth dancers at Trump rally:

“Enemies of freedom face the music

C’mon boys, take them down 

President Donald Trump knows how to make America great 

Deal from strength or get crushed every time”

Cricket Must Embrace Its Nuclear Plant


When I was a senior in college, I wrote a research paper that explored the ways in which the coming of a nuclear power plant changed one very rural, very poor, Maryland county. I also examined the feelings of longtime residents who had seen the changes occur. In many ways, the truths I uncovered are echoed in the world of modern cricket, and are, I think, instructional.

In 1970, Calvert County was one of Maryland’s most rural counties, with a sparse population and a seasonal calendar that had revolved, for over three hundred years, around the tobacco harvest. Its population of nearly 15,000 people was protected by a single sheriff and his four deputies. The pace of life was slow and easy. Time had seemingly passed the county by.

All of that changed when the county became the site of the state’s first, and only, nuclear power plant. The economic impact was revolutionary, as revenue and unprecedented growth flooded the land. County spending per capita was able to increase from $168 in FY 1971 to $639 in FY 1981, while school spending increased fivefold. Soon, Calvert County would become a place where larger roads carried more demanding taxpayers to their jobs in Washington, while their children attended numerous well-funded public schools.

The demographics of the county changed as well. By 2006, only 9% of Calvert County residents were 65 years of age or older and nearly 55% of county residents were college educated. By 2004, the median household income was estimated to be almost $75,000. 61% of those employed could be classified as white-collar.

In short, nothing was the same, and many longtime residents hated it – and were happy to tell you so.

“I miss leaving home with my hunting dog and not seeing a lot of houses,” one said. “From 3:30-6:00 in the evening there’s a raft of cars and trucks; I miss the open roads.”  Another reflected on the loss of forestland in the county. “I miss the open spaces. My Dad had acreage up in Huntingtown and we’d go wandering through the woods. Now, there are no woods; it’s all subdivisions now.”

So, what does all this have to do with cricket? Nothing, and everything.

Cricket has been, for many years now, struggling with an identity crisis. Does Test cricket, which stands as the guardian of the ancient traditions, still have a future in the game? If so, how can it be maintained when cricket’s best players are increasingly lured away to more lucrative competitions? Or should cricket simply accede to the demands of modern, commercialized sport, and accept the inevitable?

One thing is certain, and that is the relationship between domestic T20 leagues and the vitality of that country’s cricket landscape. One only has to look at the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League to see the value of these competitions, not merely as income-generators, but more importantly as vehicles to connect with a broader, and largely younger audience, which is a key indicator of future health.

To demonize the preeminence of domestic T20 competitions (and frankly any cricket product which helps to increase the game’s fan base in a given country), is truly a pyrrhic pursuit that can only retard the sport. The phrase “proper cricket,” often utilized as a weapon to demean formats that do not reflect a preferred era, is as nonsensical today as it would have been in 1864, when overarm bowling was legalized.

So, can Test cricket survive? Of course it can, but, just as Calvert County’s 4H fairs do today, more as a pleasant reminder of an earlier time than as the centerpiece of the game. Test cricket came into being as a pastoral celebration, as a spirited exhibition of Victorian sportsmanship, and there its character remains. Its relaxing pace gives us time to observe, reflect, and debate without the crushing pressure of a time clock. This is something to be cherished in today’s frenetic world.

Until very recently, I was one of those who wondered how Test cricket might be redesigned for modern relevance. What I discovered is that the proposed changes would be unlikely to attract more fans – it would simply be stripping Test cricket of its charm. As in Aesop’s story about the dog seeing his reflection in the water, we would be sacrificing those who love Test cricket as it has always been, in hopes of attracting those who probably will never be long-term fans.

For Test cricket to have meaning, I now realize, we need to stop reimagining it as something it’s not. We have to accept that it is a time capsule, an anachronism, a memorial to an age gone by. But we also have to accept that, like the treasured keepsake it is, it may not be seen as frequently as it was in earlier times, but this will make its appearance all the more special, and more cherished.

Cricket is evolving, as all things evolve. Were it not to evolve, it would soon become extinct, so this is a good thing. That doesn’t mean we must completely dispose of our cherished past, but it does mean that, for the sake of the thing we love, we must embrace that which represents its future, and the benefits it indirectly brings us, whether that be a nuclear plant, or in cricket’s case, a glitzy, obnoxious, short-form spectacle.



An Open Letter To Shane And Sachin

Shane and Sachin,

Please forgive my insolence in daring to speak to you directly, but in light of what’s about to happen, I feel as if you are owed the truth.

First, let me assert my credentials: I belong to a very rare demographic – the adult, American-born-and-raised cricket fan. There may be a few dozen of us in existence, to the best of my knowledge. But being in this demographic group gives me a unique insight that I think allows me to speak on the subject of your All-Stars tour next month.

From the figures I’ve seen, it looks like ticket sales to the three matches have been, let’s say, underwhelming. Considering the prices you are asking for them, this is not entirely surprising. But another factor in our lukewarm response is also the terrible job that’s been done marketing this event to America. I’m sorry, but this has been a classic case of “too little, too late.”

To start with, waiting until just one month before the first match to make the official announcement was a terrible idea. No one, not even you two, could have hoped to have thrown together a decent advertising campaign for such a revolutionary concept and made significant traction in a little over four weeks. Frankly, you needed to have rolled this out over the summer, and to have been selling it nonstop, and hard, since then.

And how have you been selling it? Almost not at all. If I weren’t active on Twitter and Facebook, I might not know anything about the three matches. Oh, Shane, that reminds me. I was online and saw your interview with the national morning program. Just one problem: It was in the wrong country. You should be doing those with every local U.S. television station that’ll have you, not just Channel Nine. But where are you on TV over here, Shane? Not at all. (And don’t say you’re waiting until you’re over here in November. That’s far too late. In fact, it’s probably too late now.)

And how about you, Sachin? I know that in India, you necessarily have to remain aloof, for your own safety, but here in the States, almost no one knows who you are. We need to see you, and hear from you. We need you to tell us why we should pay attention to your tour. Instead all we get is a canned interview and a photo of you in the nets. Why even bother, then? You said you hoped this tour would get Americans to exchange baseball bats for cricket bats, but what are you doing to make that happen?

Honestly, you two, and some of the other players, should have been over here, doing promotional work, months ago. If the travel costs are limiting, then how about something inexpensive, like live videoconferencing with American youth squads? How exciting that would’ve been for them (and their parents), and each event could’ve been locally hyped as free publicity for the tour. But instead, all we get are retweets and Facebook posts.

Also, it should be noted that, if you really wanted to reach American non-fans, you had to know that pricing your tickets the way you did made that a joke. Once the prices were set, you had already narrowed the tour’s market to fanatical expats. That’s fine, but at that point you should’ve stopped pretending that there was a developmental aspect to the tour, especially if you had also decided to do nothing to widely promote the game.

And, by the way: Stop saying that you’re “bringing cricket to America.” We’ve been playing cricket here for three hundred years, thank you very much, and have more recreational players than nearly all of the ICC Test nations do. The USA is Cricinfo’s second-largest consumer of cricket, so yeah, we’ve got cricket.

You know what really gets American cricket fans jacked up? Seeing cricket on free American media, and out in American society in general. If a cricket highlight gets on SportsCenter, we go crazy, because we are desperate for national legitimacy. When Million-Dollar Arm came out, we were buzzing. You know what would’ve been nice along that line? Billboards. Simple billboards. We would’ve been so excited to see a cricket event advertised on a major metropolitan highway. But no, not even that.

Please understand: I’m not a hater. When the whispers started about your plans, I had very high hopes. And I really can’t face the prospect of another North American cricket failure. I just can’t. Maybe that’s why I’m so let down, guys. Your tour had so much potential, especially if you had spent serious time directly engaging with us Americans, and given yourselves a full week between matches to interact with the local communities. Instead, you’ve stayed far away, content to shout at us through social media. Honestly, it’s all just so disappointing.

You know, I was offered the chance to go to New York for your match, all expenses paid, along with an opportunity to meet you, but my heart just wasn’t in it, and I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to accept it. So, I’ll be home in Maryland instead.

Now, with the tour dates almost here, I can only hope that American cricket will not be judged too harshly, and that there might be a next time when, with better planning and execution, a more successful tour might come off. Yep. That’s my dream now.

Good luck and best wishes for your visit to America.

Your American friend,


Battle Flag Represents Heritage – Of Hate

CSA flag

I’m going to take a few minutes to put the Confederate battle flag debate into a historical context that I think has been largely overlooked by the media, mainly because they have no idea how we got here.

During the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag’s use on the battlefield was confined generally to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and in its rectangular version, the Army of the Tennessee. (It was also used as a naval jack, but honestly, there just wasn’t much of a Confederate navy out there.) In 1863, the battle flag was incorporated as the canton in a new national flag, where it remained throughout the remainder of the war, through two versions of that flag.

When the war ended, and through twelve years of Reconstruction, the federal government extended their ban of Confederate symbology throughout the conquered South. The battle flag would have been rarely seen in public during this time. It was during Reconstruction that the federal government worked hard to elevate the status of the freed slaves, and to prevent the defeated whites from returning them to something akin to their previous state. It was a relentless task, as southern whites were determined to restore the status quo, regardless of federal occupation troops.

By 1877, the North had grown weary of its expensive military occupation duties, the former states of Confederacy had all been readmitted to the Union, and both sides were eager to let the legacy of the Civil War fade. “Reconciliation” became the new watchword, and chief in accomplishing this was a gracious attitude from the victors. (Key in this “graciousness” was allowing the southern states to impose what came to be known as “Jim Crow” laws on its black population, which for the whites, came as close to restoring the status quo ante bellum as they were likely to get.)

An important part of this atmosphere of reconciliation was allowing a Confederate mythology to emerge, a mythology that essentially washed the war clean of its most distasteful elements, and allowed the southern people to be proud of the part they played in the war. It was seen as a positive development for the defeated South to have its own pantheon of heroes and cherished legends. At the very least, it was assumed to be harmless.

The major elements of the new Confederate mythology, the “Lost Cause,” were:

– The “War Between The States” was fought over states’ rights and self-determination, not slavery

– Southern military leaders were superior to Northerners, both in character and in skill

– The Southern soldiers had an élan and dash that was lacking in the soldiers of the industrial North

– The Northern armies succeeded mainly because they were blessed with an abundance of men and materiel, which allowed them to simply grind the noble, long-suffering Confederates into the ground

– The South knew it probably couldn’t win the war, but fought on anyway, because they believed their cause to be just

– Confederate victories were combined examples of military genius and southern courage, while Union victories were the result of overwhelming natural advantages

– Many slaves were loyal to their masters, and saw the rightness of the Confederate cause

– Slavery was generally a benign institution, and while some masters were cruel, most treated their “servants” as extended family

– The ante-bellum South was an agrarian Camelot, destroyed by the barbarity of war

This new mythology was aggressively promoted by former wartime leaders anxious to justify treason, and a society full of unreconstructed Confederates. Northerners of the same era, despite the fact that they knew better, allowed it because, after all, they had won the war, hadn’t they? They had taken away the power of the slave states forever, reducing them to rural backwaters. Why punish the South even more by robbing them of their dignity? (Southern pride was much discussed at this time.)

Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis became noble icons of a beautiful past. Statues to them and to the soldiers who fought for them were erected across the country. Wreaths, bouquets, and yes, flags, were placed at their cold, stoney feet. A new religion was being born.

By 1900, much of the Confederate mythology of the “Lost Cause” had become accepted as fact, and was incorporated into textbooks and the narratives at a growing number of federal military parks that had come to occupy the sites of former Civil War battles. In the interest of sectional harmony, the South’s version of the war became the official version of the war. Coincidentally, in the deep South lynchings had become regular occurrences by 1900, with over 100 blacks victimized in 1900 alone.

During this time, Confederate symbology began to feature prominently in public places in the South, as angry whites yearned for their lost Camelot, and lost power. As the 20th century progressed, the Confederate battle flag became the banner not of specific armies in a previous century’s war, but as the symbol of resistance to change – and African-American civil rights. The Ku Klux Klan adopted the flag as its own, as did the Dixiecrats in mid-century. The Unreconstructed Confederate of the 19th century had become the segregationist of the 20th, and the battle flag was his emblem.

The pain felt by African-Americans at the sight of this symbol of repression was, however, still not believed to be of consequence to the majority of whites. Sectional harmony, especially critical to candidates with national aspirations, was of more immediate concern. The flag, while certainly representing a backwards-looking ugliness, was really a harmless thing, it was believed. Educated whites may have mocked it, but at the same time they underestimated the statement it made, and the influence it had.

In the 21st century, segregation is legally dead (through practically alive), but a new generation of white supremacists have adopted the flag, not as a way to honor selected regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia, but because of what they believe the flag represents. And none of those values are good.

The white population in the United States, had, until June 17, been able to delude itself that the Confederate battle flag was simply a harmless symbol of “Southern pride,” as if “Southern pride” revolved around certain types of food, or a pleasing manner of hospitality. Sadly, on that day, Dylann Roof delivered what our consciousness had always been lacking: a clear, direct connection between Confederate symbology and racist violence. We had been able to easily dismiss the wounded feelings of African-Americans, but we could not dismiss their bloodied corpses.

Now, one hundred and fifty years after the perpetrators of the Fort Pillow massacre lost the Civil War, the victorious United States of America finally seems willing to correctly play the role of the victors.

And finally, after decades in denial, we may finally appreciate the role that symbols have had in perpetuating the racial hatred and violence we have, for too long, struggled to explain, much less conquer.

CSA Flag 2

O’s Home Clinching Scenario Stirs Youthful Memories

The last time the Orioles clinched the A.L. East title at home was way back on September 22, 1979. I remember because I was there.

The “magic number” countdown, so rarely seen in these parts of late, had been on for most of September, with the Milwaukee Brewers being the elimination target that year. As a weekend series at home against the Cleveland Indians started, hopes were high that the Orioles would be able to wrap up their first division championship in five years. As Friday began, the magic number was two, meaning that if the Orioles won and the Brewers lost, the O’s would have clinched. I had tickets for Saturday’s game, so this possibility was not as exciting for me. I wanted to see it live, not on the 11 0’clock news.

Dreams of a tumultuous on-field celebration that Friday were washed away, however, as the Orioles were rained out and the game was rescheduled as part of a Sunday doubleheader. As it turns out, the Brewers lost at home to the Twins, and the magic number was thus reduced to one. Now, for the “rushing onto the field” fantasy to play out, the Orioles would not only have to beat the Indians, but do it before the game in Milwaukee was finished, in case the Brewers lost again. But at least now I had a shot to see it.

Saturday’s weather turned out to be not much better than Friday’s had been, with spotty showers throughout the day. I arrived at Memorial Stadium hopeful of an on-time start, but upon entering the seating bowl, all there was to behold was the brilliant shine of the stadium lights reflecting off the wet tarp. My seat was under cover in lower reserved, behind the Orioles’ third-base dugout. I sat down to wait it out. Milwaukee, being in Central Time, was an hour behind Baltimore, so perhaps the fantasy clinching celebration still could be delivered. Milwaukee might even win.

And the rain delay dragged on.

In 1979, there was no real-time scoreboard for fans to follow, no “live look ins” to watch. The scoreboard, which in 1979 was just a rectangular array of light bulbs that, when lit in certain combinations, made letters, words and sentences, simply read: “THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES AND CLEVELAND INDIANS WELCOME YOU TO MEMORIAL STADIUM.” As we sat there, chilly, damp and miserable, no attempt was made to keep us informed of the doings in Milwaukee. Were the Brewers winning? Losing? No one seemed to know.

And so we all sat there, listening to the distorted echoes of pop music through the stadium sound system, watching the rain drip down from the upper deck above us. I’m not sure how long we waited, but I know that gradually the light of daytime disappeared in the overcast, and it seemed dark for what was actually early evening.

And then, suddenly, the scoreboard went black.

Was the game being called? Was it just a power failure of some sort? But then, after a few minutes, this appeared:


And then:



It was a moment of joy, of victory, of my team returning to its rightful place among baseball’s best, but also, I have to admit, I still felt a bit cheated by the Brewers’ loss, and the uncooperative weather.

Many of the Orioles players emerged from the dugout and briefly waved, to the rapturous cheers of the dampened crowd. Then they returned to their place of refuge and the rain delay went on.

Ultimately, the game would be played and the Orioles would lose to Cleveland 7-3. As an adult, it later occurred to me that the team was probably following the reports from Milwaukee all along, and had likely engaged in a bit of private celebrating before having to play that evening. As a fifteen year-old fan, it just seemed like a bad game, especially after such a long wait.

But it was fine, even then, because I was there when the Orioles clinched a division, anticlimactic though it may have been. This time, however, with the Orioles playing their elimination target, there’s a better chance for the on-field celebration I was cheated out of in 1979. And unlike 1979, home games are televised, so there’s always that.


Impressed, Unimpressed: Why The Ravens Will Win Super Bowl XLVII

When I attempt to size up the teams playing in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday, I first look at the path each took to get here. This gives me an idea of how well the team is playing against better opposition, in its most recent games. Let’s start with the 49ers.

After its first-round bye, San Francisco comfortably won a home game against the Green Bay Packers. For a few fleeting days before this, many “experts” had been saying that the Packers were a team that “no one wants to see.” This baffled me.

The Packers blew a chance to clinch the second seed and a first round bye against a mediocre Vikings team in week 17, and then beat the same team at home, after the Vikings were forced to play the forgettable Joe Webb for an injured Christian Ponder. This is the team the 49ers defeated after a week’s rest at home. Sorry, but McKayla and I were not impressed.

Then, the 49ers played an Atlanta Falcons team that I never really bought into. The Falcons played too many bad games in 2012 that they somehow managed to win, and I never expected them to get to the Super Bowl. When the Falcons gagged against the Seahawks, and came within seconds of blowing an easy win, my doubts were reinforced.

Against the 49ers, Atlanta again jumped out to a big lead, and again tanked in the second half, allowing the game to slip away. Even so, they still might have beaten San Francisco had Matt Ryan seen a wide open Tony Gonzales at the end of the game. But he didn’t, and predictably, the 49ers survived. Once again, we were not impressed.
The Ravens on the other hand, playing without a bye week, took care of business at home against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, and then traveled to Denver as 10 point underdogs to take on Peyton Manning and the #1 seed Broncos. Despite giving up 14 special teams points, the Ravens refused to give in and rallied for one of the most exciting wins in franchise history. McKayla and I were very impressed.

Not content with that, the Ravens then went out and beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough. Joe Flacco lit up what was supposed to be a formidable Patriots defense and just to make the point, the Ravens shut out Tom Terrific in the second half – in his own house. We were again very impressed.


So now, having beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road, in freezing conditions on successive weeks, I’m supposed to be afraid of Colin Kaepernick? OK, right.

I’m sure that Kaepernick is a great weapon, and may be the reason the 49ers are in the Super Bowl, but it seems to me that his success is almost entirely dependent on the opposing defense’s mistakes. Given two weeks to prepare, I just don’t see the veteran Ravens defense breaking assignments often enough to allow Kaepernick to be a game-changer. (He’s not Superman. It’s not like no one’s ever won against Kaepernick; he lost twice in the last two months of the regular season.)

What I expect the Ravens to do is to allow Kaepernick small successes, and force him into 12-14 play drives, with many third-downs. In short, they’ll play smart, assignment football, deny him the big play, and force him to work hard for every score. Even if the 49ers convert 7 out of 14 third down opportunities, that’s seven times they have to punt or kick a field goal, ending the drive.

Also bear in mind that it took the Ravens two series to figure out RGIII, who they later broke. (Yes, they lost in Washington, but not because of Griffin.)

The beginning of the end for RGIII

The beginning of the end for RGIII






On the flip side, I expect Flacco to throw well against the 49ers secondary. After two games in arctic-like conditions, passing in a dome will be like a dream come true for Joe, and the Niners secondary is no match for the Ravens receivers. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones will stretch the field, while Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta work underneath.

And then there’s Ray Rice, who is incredibly dangerous either rushing or catching passes. For the 49ers defense, it’ll be pick-your-poison.

In the end, I expect Kaepernick and the 49ers to score between 21-24 points on Sunday, while I look for Flacco and the Ravens to hang 28-35 on the scoreboard.

In this game, the intangibles also favor the Ravens, such as the “underdog-no respect” card, Ray’s Last Ride, the “team of destiny” thing, and the depth of veteran, playoff-experienced players. This is why Baltimore bends, but never breaks.

Of course, special teams and turnovers are always a wild card, and if Flacco goes cold for some reason, all bets are off.

Ultimately, I see the final score as something like 31-24 Baltimore, and if Joe Flacco throws for 250-300 yards with one interception or less, I don’t think anything San Francisco does on offense will matter.

At The National Apple Harvest Festival

For many years, one of our family traditions has been the National Apple Harvest Festival, held every year on the first two full weekends in October in Arendtsville, Pennsylvania. It’s a great time to celebrate the arrival of autumn in a beautiful setting, surrounded by low mountains and rolling apple orchards.

Driving up from Glen Burnie, Maryland, the trip takes about two hours, which is made better by the fact that we pass through Gettysburg, which is always a thrill for me, even when viewed through a car window at forty miles per hour. Knowing that I’m driving where armies tread, and imagining what the exhausted troops saw on their way to battle never gets old.

Just north of Gettysburg, a landmark that tells us we’re getting close is the National Apple Museum. This is where, on a family camping excursion in 1999, we first became of aware of the Festival. The museum is interesting, if you’re a fan of old grist or cider mills (which I am) because there are demonstrations of how apple sauce was made for centuries, plus lots of old, rustic tools. There was also a very old movie about the modern process, and free apple juice (of course). There’s a little gift shop as well.

Close to the festival site, there are plenty of signs and people directing traffic to the parking area, which is actually just two large fields adapted for vehicles. Wolf Field is closer, for the early arrivals, and McDannell Field is a bit farther away. On Saturday, the threatening weather held down the crowds, so we ended up at Wolf Field.

There are portable toilets near the staging area for the school buses that carry visitors to the Festival, which is good, because after a two hour drive this is a valuable resource. Once the bus is full, it sets off on a winding, sometime bumpy road to the festival.

Upon arrival, there is an admission fee: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (60+) and children under 12 free. Once inside, everyone gets a program and a hand stamp, and then you’re free to wander wherever your heart leads. Here are some of the sights and sounds of the festival, as seen by me on Saturday.

There’s an area where real apples are turned into real applesauce which is then sold to passersby. It’s fascinating to watch the process, which somehow involves a hundred year-old steam engine.

Something else that involves a steam engine is shingle making, which is also fun to watch. Every year we get souvenir shingle, which has the year burned in, and sometimes that year’s edition number. This is the 47th year of the NAHF.

There’s plenty of live music at the NAHF. This video is of a band called Mason Vixon:

These guys carve statues from trees:

There are plenty of attractions for youngsters, such as this magician:

A petting zoo:

Hay rides through apple orchards are conducted, and there’s a play area where little ones can burn off the sugar high they just got from that candy apple:

They can also join in with the accordion man and his kiddie band:

And there’s also a Christian-themed puppet show, called Barb & Friends, which always reminded me of “Manger Babies” from King of the Hill. Here, Barb & Friends have some cats singing “Silent Night”:

If there’s any defining characteristic of the NAHF, though, it’s crafters and food vendors. A lot of the items are really nice, and it would be easy to drop a few hundred dollars in an afternoon. This is just a tiny sample:

These paintings on slate (I think it’s slate) are really awesome, and there were at least a dozen I would have loved to have, but they’re priced way outside my budget:

These hats were everywhere Saturday, and with the weather suddenly cold, they were flying out of the tents. Sarah pried a Smurf hat out of her father.

To escape the cold breeze, we spent a lot of time in the numerous shed barns, which were also filled with vendors.

I saw this in one shed, and almost bought it, because I love How The Grinch Stole Christmas:

No trip to the Apple Harvest Festival is complete for us with a major stocking-up of apple bread and apple cookies. Don’t wait until the last day, though, or you’ll miss out.

If the smell of apple bread makes you hungry, there’s lots to eat at the NAHF. Some of the lines, though can be quite long, such as for pit beef, or even kettle korn:

There was no line on this frigid day, however, at the ice cream stand:

To save time and money, and to get a chance to sit down inside, we always eat the chicken dinner, which is reasonably priced and quickly served in a place that usually has plenty of available seating:

For those more cultured than we, you could attend the wine tasting, and follow that up with a visit to the Apple Auditorium, where a performance by Hanover Children’s Ballet Theatre & Company was underway. I’m not sure, but I think they were singing about their love for the Greek god, Zeus. Very confusing.

By this time, you may need a restroom break, and you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of first-class outdoor facilities:

If you’re into classic vehicles, there are plenty of those, too, along with vintage tractors.

We spent about three hours at the Festival Saturday, and then the threatened rain started in earnest, so we made a bee-line to the bus-line.

At the parking fields, there are tables set up to sell apples, pumpkins and cider to take home. We always load up, because Laurie enjoys baking apple dishes, and this, too, has become an autumn family tradition.

Just outside the parking field, we stopped at a roadside stand and got a couple of apple pies, apple wine and hard cider. That should hold us for a few days, anyway.

And then, it was into the car for the long ride home. Tired, cold and a little wet, but satisfied with another successful trip to the Apple Harvest Festival behind us, I soon dozed off in the passenger seat, leaving the more alert Laurie to get us home safely.

Lessons From “The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America”

I’m finally reading Tom Melville’s classic, The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America. My primary motivation is my natural curiosity, plus a need to be educated about cricket history. As I read, however, I’m finding important lessons in cricket’s 19th century demise that are instructive for those of us promoting the game in the 21st.

In the 1800s, as today, cricket had competition from other American sports, primarily baseball. Cricket entered this “Battle of the Pastimes” with a number of advantages, not the least of which was the fact that it had a hundred year history in America, whereas its challengers had only really emerged in the early decades of the century. Cricket also had formalized rules, established organizations and traditional rivalries. It even had the benefit of providing the United States’ first international competitions.

So, if cricket enjoyed such advantages, why, within just a few decades, was it so emphatically displaced by baseball as the national pastime? In the parlance of our game, cricket “put down a sitter” by seeking too hard to maintain the sport’s exclusivity and prestige, at a time when Americans were starting to look for a game that could be played by “everyman.”

A pitcher playing by baseball's 1864 rules.

Whereas cricket’s insistence on rigid adherence to its laws and recent competitive developments (such as overhand bowling) made it a difficult game for novices to enjoy, baseball’s flexible rules at the time (underhand pitching to promote balls being put in play, outs being given for catches on one bounce) encouraged new players to “give it a go.” Lesson: If you want universal adoption of your sport, make it easy for newbies to play and enjoy.

2011 Application: If we want novice Americans to adopt cricket, we must create forms of the game that allow them to play it (for fun and recreation) at little cost and with no training whatsoever.

How can we do this? Easy. Organizing adult cricket leagues with simplified rules, and modifications that encourage the newcomer, such as inexpensive equipment, soft balls and (gasp) underhand tossing, rather than bowling. Existing cricket fans will no doubt have to seed these early leagues, so that the “uncricketed” can see how much fun our game is to play. (By the way, this is the version of the game that USYCA delivers to American schools.)

Another element that hurt cricket in the 19th century was its almost total dependence on expatriate Englishmen and some of their insistence on the maintaining of class distinctions. These issues tended to put off most Americans, some of whom came to regard cricket as antithetical to American identity. Baseball, by comparison, looked far more democratic and class-blind. Lesson: To the extent that cricket organizations appear to be open and welcoming to the community at large, these organizations will attract the interest and support of that community.

2011 Application: If our sport is to grow in America, cricket clubs, leagues, associations and governing bodies have an obligation to create an open and welcoming environment. Public relations, effective communications and a community-friendly image are all necessary if cricket is to succeed in America.

So really, the question that faces us is the same one that faced the cricket establishment in 1848: “Do we want cricket to be “everyman’s” game, or the exclusive province of a select fraternity?” The way in which we choose to answer this question will ultimately determine which path we choose.

Cricket For Kids: A Safe, Fun Sport That Prizes Sportsmanship

Everyone agrees that adults must take responsibility for themselves. What is concerning, however, is that the examples of intense, dangerous play that many pro athletes provide gradually become the accepted norm in the sports our children play. My son was a victim of just this sort of reckless environment when, as a 12 year-old football player, he had his arm broken in two places by an opposing player who targeted him from across the field for a blindside hit.

A recent LA Times editorial dealt with the increasing frequency of pediatric concussions, and drew a direct correlation to the types of sports played and the hyper-competitive sports environment in which we now raise our children.

Here’s an excerpt:

“According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in August that examined U.S. emergency room visits from 1997 to 2007, the number of concussions related to the five most popular competitive youth sports more than doubled among this age group, even though participation in those sports declined slightly. Among 14- to 19-year-olds, the number of concussions tripled. Altogether, there were about 250,000 concussions among young competitive athletes.

The numbers might reflect parents and coaches seeking immediate medical attention for children’s head injuries. But researchers believe other factors are involved as well, such as longer, more intense playing seasons and practices…

More research is needed on the causes and long-term effects of concussion on children and teenagers. But youth athletic leagues, state health officials and schools should be taking action now. Lisa Bakhos, the lead researcher on the Pediatrics study, suggests a return to more varied sports activities for children, played more for fun and less as structured competition. Youth league rules should be modified to reduce blows to the head, and parents should be informed about concussion risks from the start. Parents of a child who sustains two concussions should be counseled to consider whether it might be time for a switch to a sport such as running, with less potential for head injury.”

At the United States Youth Cricket Association, we are committed to bringing a fun and safe sport that prizes sportsmanship above all else to American children.  Prince George’s County PE teacher Charles Silberman agrees. In the September 15 issue of Md AHPERD eNEWS, he said this:

“As physical education teachers, we have a wonderful opportunity to use sport as a way to teach character and build students’ esteem. I would make your next unit specifically character-based using sports as the venue or start to implement a character-based behavior system into your teaching. Three examples of these suggestions are described below.

The first is the game of Cricket. Yes, cricket! In cricket, disrespect is not allowed. If a player looks at the umpire the wrong way, he can be suspended for multiple games without pay. Because around 80% of our communication is non-verbal, and a majority of students display disrespect with body posturing, I love using Cricket to highlight the importance of non-verbal communication and express that there are consequences for all disrespectful actions. In addition, teaching a new and foreign sport allows students to learn about another culture and how others may view our students character traits such as disrespect. This, then, becomes a launching board for discussing character more in detail and also acts as a mirror where students can see how their value system looks to others. Once they see this, they begin to internalize the notion that others receive poor principles negatively and that they might need to change their value system if they want to operate in the outside world.”

Clearly, cricket is demonstrating its value for schools and for children, and as the number of boys and girls playing our game grows it will certainly take its place among America’s most popular sports.

“PAUL McCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD – The Last Testament of George Harrison”: A Total Farce

This weekend I’ve been attending Abbey Road on the River, a mega-Beatle fest at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort. My wife and I have had a great time; I got to meet Pete Best, the Beatles original drummer, and Ron Campbell, who did the animation for both the Beatles animated series and Yellow Submarine. The tribute bands have been a mix of the good, the bad and the hysterical, but that’s OK, I’m used to bad Beatles imitators (and honestly, my standards are probably unrealistic).

A truly surreal experience, however, was being exposed to the “East Coast Premier” of the DVD PAUL McCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD – The Last Testament of George Harrison, a 90 minute crock of horse manure, posing as a documentary. We saw it in a room with about 50 people; a steady stream left throughout, and to the credit of those who remained, there was audible laughter at times.

The premise of the film is that George Harrison, after having survived a knife attack in 1999, recorded an audiotape that reveals, in a very detailed narrative, that Paul McCartney really was killed and replaced by a double in 1966, and that this historic audiotape was then mailed to an obscure company named Highway 61 Entertainment, to which Harrison had no previous connection whatsoever. The film offers the voice as George Harrison without any collaborating evidence, and the audio quality, despite it supposedly being from an 11 year-old audiotape, is as clear as if it had been recorded in a studio yesterday. Also, instead of having the amateur, stream of consciousness form that you might expect from a sickbed confession, what we get is a polished, chronological account of a very convoluted, and not very believable, conspiracy to simultaneously cover up (while at the same time revealing), the truth of McCartney’s death.

Since Harrison is supposedly the person relating the series of events (which include the English Secret Service, over a 35 year period, repeatedly threatening to kill the surviving Beatles if they did not maintain the fraud), you would expect that “common knowledge” facts from the history of the band would be accurate – and you would be mistaken.

This George Harrison does not know that: both Rubber Soul and Revolver were released prior to November of 1966; that the Beatles never actually recorded the Capitol release Yesterday and Today, and that the “Butcher Block Cover” for the album was actually released into circulation, and that in any event, it too was released prior to November of 1966. This George doesn’t know that John had divorced Cynthia and married Yoko, and that Paul had married Linda Eastman, months before Abbey Road was released. This George also believes that the Let It Be sessions occurred after the Abbey Road sessions.

There are other logic-defying assertions from this Harrison, such as that a witness to the fatal crash in 1966, after threatening to reveal the truth in 1993, is maimed and reconstructed as – get ready for it – Heather Mills! No matter that Mills was born after November of 1966 (and remember she successfully carried a child to term in 2003, 38 years after supposedly witnessing the crash). The film is full of “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments, which is where the Beatles experts in the audience found the most humor.

One thing I found disturbing was the venom that this George directed at John, the “new” Paul and poor Ringo. The George Harrison narrating this movie is not a very pleasant person, and he makes the other Beatles out to be either deranged or stupid. He also doesn’t sound much like the real George Harrison, and he sometimes lays on the Scouse so thick that it sounds more like parody than mimicry.

What is clear after having sat through this cinematic fiasco is that the director, Joel Gilbert, clearly only has a superficial knowledge of his subject matter, which is curious, since he went to such lengths (and expense, I imagine) to create a movie that claims “insider” access to the individuals and events depicted. It seems to me that if he had allowed even a cursory proofreading of the script by a real Beatles fan, many of the silly errors could have been corrected, which which have made the film, if not plausible, at least not so easily exposed as the fraud it is. His failure to do so reveals Gilbert to be a sloppy movie-maker, who has apparently wasted a lot of someone’s money, and quite possible destroyed whatever standing he may have had in his industry.

In short, PAUL McCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD – The Last Testament of George Harrison, is a poorly conceived and executed attempt to exploit Beatles fans that will fail because the director couldn’t be bothered to do his homework. As a result, few true fans of the Fab Four will find his work credible, and I suspect that it will soon be relegated to the ash heap of hysterically bad movies. I suppose for this I should actually be grateful.