Thursday, January 31, 2008

Detoxing from Defeat-Worship

By Joseph Kellard

I’ve got a confession to make: I root for sports teams to lose. Sure, this is legitimate if it means one team’s loss benefits my favorite team. But when I actively root against perfection, that’s something else altogether.

I’ve been a Miami Dolphins fan since the team’s glory days in the 1970s. The ’72 Dolphins are the only NFL team ever to win all of its regular and post-season games. A few teams have since come close to joining the ranks of the undefeated, and when they each lost their first game, I was gleeful that my favorite team’s record would still stand.

And what Dolphins fan can forget that Monday Night Football game in 1985, when the then 12-0 Chicago Bears, who won the Super Bowl that year, marched into Miami and fell to Dan Marino and the Dolphins, as members of the ’72 team cheered from the sideline? Yet, while I rooted for Miami to win like I did every week, I was still also rooting for the Bears to lose.

Fast forward to Dec. 29, 2007, the day the New York Giants almost upset the still perfect New England Patriots in their regular season finale. Even as I rooted for the Pats to fall, and even as I anticipate I’ll do the same come Super Bowl Sunday when both teams meet again, I knew then that I can’t go on like this — I can’t keep rooting for perfect teams to lose. It contradicts what I enjoy most about watching sports.

People watch sports for different reasons. Some simply enjoy the competition, others love seeing the Davids slay the Goliaths, while still others like to bet. But I believe most sports fans, to some degree, share my primary motivation: to find the spectacle of human achievement. I eagerly root for athletes to jump higher, run faster, lift heavier weights, swim further, hit more home runs, score more points and, yes, win more games than their record-setting predecessors.

Let’s go back to the 1990s, when I never watched basketball but then caught a glimpse of Michael Jordan. I soon found I was cheering him and his Chicago Bulls on as they broke records and won successive championships. I rooted for them, not because I was a Bulls fan, but because I always hunger to find an extraordinary, inspiring athlete like Jordan, who was the best basketball player I’d ever seen.

Today, as I continue to watch basketball, I hear analysts describe each great, up-and-coming talent as “the next Jordan.” But I don’t watch Kobe Bryant and LeBron James because I want to see Jordan’s equal. I want to be witness to a player greater and more innovative than His Airness.

For a Dolphins fan nothing was better than watching Dan Marino play for my favorite team as he set quarterback records for most touchdown passes in a season and a career. And once he hung up his helmet, I wanted his records to stand forever. But why? Just because he’s my all-time favorite quarterback who played on my favorite team? Well, that would mean I’d ultimately be rooting for the status quo — for non-achievement. But if I primarily watch sports to see athletes and teams reach ever-greater heights, then I’d want to see others break the records held even by my favorite athletes and teams.

So now I’ll try to stop rooting for perfect teams to lose. But, so far, I’m finding that old premises die hard.

My early attempts to detox from my defeat-worship have lead me to realize that Miami’s 17-0 record is one that actually can’t be broken — it can only be improved upon. If the Patriots win Sunday’s Super Bowl, they will have achieved a higher mark, a 19-0 season. And that would further validate two ideas I hold dear: that perfection is possible, and that you can improve on perfection.

Besides, with each new football season, I’m still going to continue to root, first and foremost, for the Dolphins to win. I would do so even if, instead of the Giants, Miami were 10-6 and playing the perfect Pats in Sunday’s Super Bowl. I may root for perfection, but not at the expense of my Dolphins, who success comes above all else.

Since I actually always root for the Dolphins to win all of their games, that means I’m actually always rooting for each new Miami team to go 19-0 and thereby top the ’72 Dolphins’ record anyway.

What could be more perfect than that?

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big Blue Faces the Undefeated

Long Island Giants fans gear up for Super Bowl vs. Patriots

By Joseph Kellard

The Giants flag that John and Kathy Thilman raised outside their Harbor Isle home in September still waves in the late-January wind.

The last time Big Blue played this deep into the season, in 2001, the couple hosted some 30 friends at a tailgate Super Bowl party in their driveway, complete with barbecue and TVs, but their team was pummeled by the Baltimore Ravens.

While the Thilmans are planning a similar party for Super Bowl XLII on Sunday, when the Giants line up against the New England Patriots, they’re hoping for a different outcome.
The Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Giants a 12-point underdog, and most football analysts say they must play a virtually perfect game in order to upset the so-far perfect Patriots — but the Thilmans have other ideas.

Kathy said that New England’s undefeated season puts all the pressure on them to win, while the Giants have all the momentum to pull an upset, especially since they’ve won 10 consecutive road games, including playoff triumphs at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay.

“I love being the underdog and being the road warriors,” Kathy said about Sunday’s game in Arizona, “and the Super Bowl is on the road.”

John believes the game will center on the quarterbacks, the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Eli Manning of the Giants. “They’ll have to get pressure on Brady, and Manning is going to have to throw a lot of quick, short passes,” said Thilman, who predicts a 28-21 Giants victory.

Despite becoming a Giants fan during the Bill Parcells era, when the team won Super Bowls after 14-2 and 13-3 seasons in 1986 and 1990, respectively, Kathy regards New York’s dramatic overtime win in frigid Green Bay two Sundays ago as the team’s most exciting and best win.

“The Super Bowl wins under Bill were a little more expected,” she said, “because they had great seasons going into those games. They didn’t have the problems this year’s team had, and this year they just kept getting better and better. And I happen to like the Packers because I like Brett Favre, but what a game! Talk about a nail-bitter. It was awesome.”

Fellow Giants fan Rich Giannetta, 28, an Oceanside native who watched the NFC championship game before heading to work for the Long Island Rail Road that night, also believes the win in Green Bay gives the Giants a big boost as they march into Phoenix.

“To go on the road in Green Bay in negative temperatures, to go beat them on their own field for a chance to go to the Super Bowl,” Giannetta said, “was something special.”

The game that sparked the Giants’ successful playoff run — and a potential Super Bowl upset — was the regular-season finale against the Pats, Giannetta said. Even though they lost, Big Blue kept the game close, 38-35. And although he initially questioned coach Tom Coughlin’s playing his starters when the Giants had a playoff game the following week, Giannetta believes the intensity they showed in that game was pivotal.

“I really think it made a difference in how they approached the playoffs,” he said. “It gave them a lot of confidence to go into Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay.“It’s gonna be a tough one,” Giannetta said of the Super Bowl, “but the Giants have been playing well, and if they get lucky they can get a win out of it.”

Joe Rugolo, whose father, Frank, turned him into a Giants fan when he grew up in Oceanside, sees New York’s relative health and young stars as big pluses against New England. Rookies such as cornerback Aaron Ross and running back Ahmad Bradshaw gave the Giants a shot in the arm during their roller coaster regular season, and, Rugolo believes, a legitimate shot to stage an upset this weekend.

“I think they could have beaten New England in the last game of the regular season,” Rugolo said. “It’s gonna sound like sour grapes, but I think the officiating was horrendous in that game, and a lot of calls were questionable.”

Perhaps the biggest question for Giants fans is how Manning, their fourth-year starting quarterback, will play. Fans and media alike have criticized him for his inconsistent play since the Giants made him their first overall pick in the 2004 draft. A low point for the Giants this season was their 41-7 drubbing at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings in November, when Manning threw four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. “When you throw four interceptions, it’s never a good day,” Manning said afterward.

Yet in the team’s last four games, starting with their loss to the Pats four days after Christmas, Manning has tossed eight touchdowns and just one interception. The question remains, however: Will his inconsistency rear its head in the biggest game of his life?

John Portalatin, a New York City police sergeant and an Oceanside native, said the game will come down to Manning “playing smart” and not turning the ball over. “That’s what he did the last four games,” Portalatin said. “He took what the defense gave him.”

Another key for the Giants will be ball control, he continued. “Tom Brady and his offense will score on anybody,” Portalatin said. “They proved it all season. But if the Giants have ball control, they’ll have a big chance to pull an upset.”

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lobbying Before Re-subscribing

The following is an email I sent to Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard.

Hello Craig Biddle,

I received your renewal notice for The Objective Standard, and I plan to re-subscribe next month. But before I send my check, I want to lobby for the essays I would most like to read in this year’s issues, based on the list of “essays in progress” in the Fall 2007 edition.

First, I’d like to read B. John Bayer’s “New Atheists’ critique of religion.” I’ve read about the “new atheists” in mainstream publications and in Objectivist circles, including the Harry Binswanger List, and I’m eager to read a more thorough analysis of their ideas. With the rise of religion as a cultural and political force and our battle against it, Americans need to understand the fundamental distinctions between the new atheists (i.e., Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris) and other non-believers such as Ayn Rand and Objectivists. I expect Mr. Bayer’s essay would explore these important distinctions, as well as the new atheists’ recognition, or lack thereof, of Miss Rand and Objectivism.

I’d also like to see Alan Germani’s review of Bradley Thompson’s book “Anti-Slavery Political Writings” printed in TOS sometime soon. I was motivated to pick up this book because I have learned little about the American abolitionists, and I’m interested in discovering who they were and what fundamentally inspired their pro-freedom cause. (While reading Thompson’s introduction, I was surprise by the depth of statism exhibited by the pro-slavery side prior to the Civil War.) I particularly enjoy book reviews, and especially those on books I’m reading at the time, so Mr. Germani’s review is of particular interest to me.

Next, I’d like to read Lisa VanDamme’s essay on literature. I learned a lot from her previous contributions on education in TOS, and I’ve read some of the children’s novels she had referenced. In recent years, I’ve returned to reading more fiction, particularly classic novels, so I’m anticipating her essay devoted exclusively to literature—and hope to come away with another list of novels to read, along with a better knowledge of how to get the most out of them.

Lastly, I’m intrigued by Gena Gorlin’s look at the psychology of a genius such as Isaac Newton. As a fan of a philosophical genius, Ayn Rand, I’ve been fascinated reading about how a highly intelligent individual functions, both morally and psychologically, in the particular times they inhabit. I already know Miss Rand’s story, so I’d like to read more about how another genius, Newton, functioned in his field during an earlier era.

I hope you will consider my preferences for essays when you decide on the submissions you will publish in TOS in 2008.

Thank you,
Joseph Kellard
TOS Subscriber

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

Please post comments about this article. For inquiries about Joseph Kellard’s writing services, email him at:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hillary Has Faith in Her Candidacy

By Joseph Kellard

If you haven't yet seen Hillary Clinton proclaim the inevitability of her candidacy for the Democratic Party in her interview with Katie Couric, you must watch it. It's classic Hillary, and, given that the interview came before her defeat in yesterday's election, it’s all the more enjoyable to watch.


Scroll ahead to about 55 seconds, when the interview begins.