Archive for October, 2021

The Big Game

The Big Game

I have casually mentioned to certain friends and family over the past few years that I think Michigan and Michigan State should drop their football programs. It’s a relatively easy thing for me to say — I’m a Michigan Tech grad, so I’m not invested in either program. I do like football, though. I loved playing it and enjoy watching it. I’ll definitely be watching the game this Saturday. But I just don’t see football, especially college football, as a good long-term investment.

My reasoning: (1) It’s a fundamentally unsafe sport. We have made it safer, but we’ll never make it safe. Less and less parents are willing to let their kids play. Less kids want to play. It will never be as popular as it once was. (2) Michigan and Michigan State will likely never win a national championship. They’ll never make the “total war” level of commitment that the entire society around a, say, Alabama is willing to make. So why not get out now?

Well, money, tradition, and money. Those are the big reasons. Not insignificant, those. (Yes, I know I mentioned money twice.) So instead, how about this: Let the Southeastern Conference, Ohio State,  Clemson, and presumably all colleges in Texas and Florida form their own super division just for football. We’ll call it the “NFL Feeder Division.” They’ll play a 20-game schedule to determine the seeding for a 32-team playoff. The season will start in July and the winner would be crowned the true national champion in February. School would be optional.

All the other Division 1 programs (including Michigan and Michigan State) would go back to traditional college football — student-athlete teams playing rival schools geographically nearby with conference champions squaring off in bowl games on New Year’s Day. What do you think?


It’s Not Personal — It’s Strictly Business

It's Not Personal — It's Strictly Business

The obvious cultural reference here is to “The Godfather” (or, if you prefer, “You’ve Got Mail” referencing “The Godfather” reference): It’s not personal — it’s strictly business.

The point is that it is personal. When something happens to a person (like losing a job…or a life), it’s always personal to them. Employers would do well to remember this when the balance of power inevitably swings back to them after The Great Resignation.

The less obvious cultural reference: The nameplate in the first frame says, “Shankly,” which is an allusion to a song (“Frankly, Mr. Shankly” by The Smiths) in which the singer is tendering his resignation. The lyrics definitely resonated more with me in my idealistic youth. To wit: 

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, this position I’ve held
It pays my way, and it corrodes my soul
I want to leave, you will not miss me
I want to go down in musical history

But I think the song still holds up in its argument for not suffering a job that is not good for you. Especially if you don’t have to suffer.


Excited to Be Angry

Excited to Be Angry

It seems counterintuitive, but it seems most of us like to be angry. This was kind of proved out by the whistleblower congressional testimony last week. Facebook has tweaked their algorithms to take advantage of this — the more angry users are, the more they engage, the greater the profits.

Conversely, it’s not counterintuitive at all that most of us very much enjoy being on the winning team. (You diehard Lions fans are very difficult to explain.)

So as our congressional redistricting maps here in Michigan are starting to be revealed, we find ourselves caring less about the process, the fairness, the idea that they will provide an accurate reflection of our best interests as a whole and more about the possibility that we can either get really ticked off or revel in sticking it to the other team. And we wonder why our young republic can seem so fragile.


Roughly 1 in 100

Roughly 1 in 100

So many great scenes in the film, Good Will Hunting. One of my favorites (often overlooked) is near the end when Sean (the psychiatrist played by Robin Williams) reconciles with his friend, Jerry (the mathematician played by Stellan Skarsgård). As they leave Sean’s office, they acknowledge their vast differences — Sean, a working class Southie, Jerry, a pretentious academic — and decide to go get a drink. Sean offers to pay, waving a lottery ticket.

Sean: C’mon, this one’s on me. I’ve got the winner right here, pal.

Jerry: Aw…

Sean: Yes sir, this is the one. This is my ticket to paradise.

Jerry: Sean, do you know what the odds are against winning the lottery?

Sean: What, 4 to 1?

Jerry: (laughs) About 70 million to 1.

Sean: Well, I still have a shot.

Of course Sean is well aware that the odds are not 4 to 1. But he throws out that number knowing Jerry knows exactly what the odds are (and to get a laugh). 

A headline in the Detroit Free Press this week read: “400 at Henry Ford Health quit over mandate.” About 400 workers have walked off the job at Henry Ford Health System rather than take a required COVID-19 vaccine. Which sounds like a lot and rather harsh. But another 1,900 received exemptions. And this out of a total of 33,000 employees in a system highly responsible for public health. So does leading with “400” tell the real story?

Point is, aside from highly trained mathematicians and self-taught geniuses, we humans are famously not very good with numbers. Well, large numbers. They can be too abstract to truly understand. To read that nearly 700,000 have died in the US from COVID-19 or that over 3 million have been hospitalized, it’s really difficult to, you know, picture it. So whenever possible, we chunk information into manageable sizes. And all the better if those manageable sizes support the narrative we want to believe.

What are the chances that all of you are going to agree with me on this? Oh, I’d say about 110 percent.


It’s Mostly Our Fault, But We’re not Gonna Help You

As part of the auto insurance reform legislation that went into effect last year, payments were reduced for home care agencies serving those severely injured in auto accidents. However, the payments were cut below the cost for those agencies to function, so they have been shutting down operations in Michigan. The remaining ones are expected to close in October and November. Which means, those severely injured and highly immobile individuals are having to face the prospect of losing in-home care and navigating our health care system for help.

As Michigan Radio reported this week, people injured in catastrophic auto accidents, their families, and their home care agency providers came to the state Capitol on Tuesday, hoping to convince Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to fix the crisis caused by the auto insurance law. But Shirkey said he is still waiting for “data” before he decides if the law needs to be ”tweaked.”

This from a guy who earlier this year tweeted this out to punctuate the GOP’s 2021 priorities for a healthier Michigan:

“The #MISenateGOP believe every Michigander deserves the opportunity to live and prosper in a safe, healthy community. We are committed to building on opportunities to give Michigan families and communities greater peace of mind about the future.”

Home care agencies will all be closed by November. Bills have been introduced to take action, but no hearings have been scheduled. People are obviously suffering. Some have already died. What kind of data is he waiting for? What does he mean by “tweak”?

The truth is, if we were a civilized country and had functional universal health care, we wouldn’t be dependent on our state Legislature and the likes of Mike Shirkey for patches on workarounds. Of course, the likes of Mike Shirkey is why we don’t have functional universal health care.