Mixing politics and sports (5×8 – 1/24/12)

Should athletes protest, the Senser investigators upon further review, one home at a time in Duluth, the tower climb, what’s on your cassettes, and Dr. Demento.



Visits to the White House by teams winning championships is a fairly standard — and boring — affair, except when an athlete protests the size of government by refusing to join his teammates at a White House ceremony. Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas refused to go to the White House yesterday because, he said, the size of government has grown, and personal freedoms are being eroded.

“I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties, and property of the people,” Tim Thomas said in a statement. The decision to stay away, Thomas said, “was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country.”

“I can require someone to attend a team event. If they don’t, I can suspend him,” Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told the Boston Globe. “I’m not suspending Tim. Whatever his position is, it isn’t reflective of the Boston Bruins nor my own. But I’m not suspending him.”

Thomas’ statement said it was his right to protest, and, of course, he’s right.

“This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

“Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

Some sports fans are uncomfortable when their sports heroes get into politics. Former Vikings coach Mike Tice, for example, showed up at a fundraiser for George Bush at Target Center in Saint Paul in 2004.

In 1997, Mark Chmura refused to meet with President Bill Clinton at the White House following the Packers Super Bowl XXXI win. Chmura said at the time that he had lost respect for President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal and could not bear to shake his hand.

Still, it’s unusual to mix sports and political statements.

In the somewhat-conservative Boston Herald, hundreds of commenters are split:

I can’t stand Obama but I hate it when these moron athletes act like they are taking a brave political stand………someone should tell these idiots that you go to celebrate and acknowledge “the system” that for the most part has worked out pretty good for you overpaid babys

Chances are the comments mirror real life in a sports team’s locker room.


Authorities and prosecutors came in for strong criticism after Amy Senser was accused of hitting and killing Anousone Phanthavong with her SUV on an I-94 ramp last summer. Some people were complaining that authorities were going easy on the Sensers because they were (a) white and (b) rich.

In the face of it, I wrote at the time:

We don’t know that Senser and his family are getting preferential treatment. We don’t have any evidence that investigators are cutting him a break because he’s rich and/or white. We don’t know who was driving. We don’t know why they didn’t stop. We don’t know what the advice of their attorney is, although it’s worth pointing out that the attorney contacted the State Patrol.

What we do know is that investigators in these parts have a good track record of figuring out why someone ends up dead. The rest is up to a jury that, hopefully, isn’t on Twitter today.

Which was met with allegations that because Joe Senser worked at a radio station, and I worked at a radio station, there was a conspiracy to cover up the tragedy.

Yesterday’s amended complaint against Mrs. Senser shows why an investigation needs time. Authorities pieced together cellphone records and tracked her movement with data from cellphone towers to show her movements. They also were able to find witnesses who say they saw her on I-94, weaving in traffic. They also pieced together enough evidence to show that she hadn’t picked up her daughters at a Katie Perry concert in Saint Paul. They also found a friend of the Senser daughters who went to the concert, and who offered damning testimony about partial conversations heard when former Viking Joe Senser picked them up and was talking to his wife on the cellphone. (Read the charges)

In the face of unjustified criticism of their professionalism and integrity last September, investigators did the only thing they could — their jobs. As a result, it would appear they have a much stronger case against Mrs. Senser for the one shot they’ll get at judging her than they did when the pitchforks were out.


The Occupy movement has disappeared from the news, but people are still losing their homes to foreclosure. In Duluth, however, Ann Lockwood won’t be one of them. The Duluth News Tribune’s account of how she got into financial trouble has a familiar theme to it: She got sick:

Lockwood, a 55-year-old mother of three, has lived in the house for 18 years. But she became sick, lost her job after losing her leg to an infection and spent nearly two years in and out of the hospital. While she was recovering, State Farm sent her a notice that a balloon payment was due on her mortgage. She had nowhere near enough money to pay it, and State Farm was about to foreclose.

“I don’t remember anything when I refinanced that mentioned a balloon payment. But they didn’t want to listen to me,” she said.

Lockwood credits Project Save Our Home, an offshoot of last year’s Occupy Duluth, for generating enough publicity to get State Farm Bank to rework Lockwood’s mortgage. There was also the work of a financial consulting group, where the program director noted there are plenty of people ready to get rich off people in bad straits…

“Anyone who is getting close to (foreclosure) is going to get calls from companies that want to make money off their situation,” Williams said. “We have law firms in Minnesota right now charging $600 to get a foreclosure postponement. That’s something our counselors can walk people through in 15 minutes and the only cost is the $55 fee to file it in the court.”

But getting out of trouble shouldn’t be so hard, argues Atty. Peter Greenlee, a member of the Project Save Our Homes group:

Maybe you have a new job, cashed out your retirement to stay afloat, or, like Ann, are working two half-paying jobs and need a second chance. In the absence of a national and uniform policy, a patchwork of hit-or-miss arbitrary lines in the sand might entitle you to a mortgage modification. Or might not. But that is the system we now have. When government and the markets cannot or will not provide a coordinated, uniform and fair solution for our most important social and economic problem, then individuals and their community must step up and make a difference.


In West Fargo, employees of a radio-tower construction crew learned something about Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs, the Discovery Channel show which will feature Great Plains Towers in an episode in a few weeks. The higher Rowe climbed on the tower under construction, the less funny he was, the Fargo Forum reports today.

Can you get scared of heights from the comfort of a cubicle? Let’s find out.


Somewhere around the house, there’s a loitering cassette tape with audio of our wedding almost 30 years ago, and one with the sound of my then-infant-son’s voice, an answering machine tape when he was three and the usual assortment of party music tapes. Of course, there’s no place to hear any of this. The cassette player died years ago, shortly before the medium did.

Now, if you believe a filmmaker who’s trying to raise $25,000 to produce a documentary, the cassette is “coming back.”

What’s on your cassettes?

(h/t: The Nerdery)

Bonus: An evening with Dr. Demento. Oh, kids, you don’t know what you missed.

The good doctor returns to his Alma mater in Portland every year — and has since the ’70s …


President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation tonight. Today’s Question: How would you describe the shape the country’s in?


The 2012 session of the Minnesota Legislature begins. The Big Story Blog will preview the session.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: How we view wealth in America.

Second hour: Eternal youth has been the subject of myth and legend since the beginning of time. People undergo painful surgery and spend incredible amounts of money on creams and masks and medicine to slow the aging process. But now, it seems that scientists are closer than ever to discovering a drug that can slow aging and prolong life.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: A preview of the Minnesota Legislature session.

Second hour: Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency. She spoke at the Humphrey Institute last week.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What’s changed 10 years after the Boston Globe broke the story of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Second hour: TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The MPR Capitol crew will be covering the first day of the Minnesota Legislature’s session.

NPR profiles Slab City. Deep in the California desert lies an abandoned military base. Hundreds of civilians have migrated there in their RVs and call that area “home,” a refuge from the recession.

  • Mark

    It’d bother me a lot less if I had any inkling that celebrities had bothered to burn the calories to have a foundation for their political beliefs. In my experience when someone cites “the founding fathers” as a rationale for anything, they are no more than 3 why’s? away being unable to defend their “righteous” position…. which is really not even their position, but belongs to some curmudgeon on the radio, who’s laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Bonnie

    Damn you Bob, for mentioning cassettes. Somewhere in my house is one of my Grandmother reading the “When I am old I shall wear purple” poem and I can’t find it! She died about 12 yrs ago just shy of her 92nd birthday. It’s nice to spend some time thinking about her though. And I still have a machine to play them.

  • David

    I have one commercial cassette and it’s in my car, a mix of Louis Armstrong hits that I’ll put in a few times a year.

    I also have a ton of horrible practice studio recordings from the many bands I’ve played in. I suspect my kids will find them one day and say “Wow, dad’s bands really sucked.”

  • Chris

    Those of you who voted no- would/did you feel the same way about people refusing to meet former President Bush? Refusing honors has been a standard of political dissent for ages and even if you don’t agree or think his position is not well reasoned, it is still his right to have it.

  • Kat


    As a “no” voter, I would have felt the same of an athelete who refused to meet Pres. Bush. By “the same,” I mean I think the refusal in this case is kind of silly and a confusion of the ceremonial role of President with the political role of President. I would never deny the athlete’s right to refuse the meeting. Of course he has one, but Bob didn’t ask “does he have a right to refuse?” or my answer would have been different.

    My answer also would have been different if this were, for instance, a medal of honor winner refusing a medal because he or she felt the current President was being a poor Commander in Chief.

    The much greater moral weight accorded the honor makes the moral weight of the refusal stronger, and the link between the reasons for refusal and reasons for the honor is also greater. It’s still a bit of a conflation between the ceremonial and political roles, and still a breach of etiquette but the point to be made is strong enough to make it worthwhile.

    In this case, the whole refusal comes off to me as “I don’t like this guy’s politics and I don’t want my fans to like him, so I refuse to let him congratulate me on winning a game.” Your milage may vary– to me that’s just petulant. I’d never say someone doesn’t have a right to sulk in public, but I’m not going to say he should do it.

  • Bob Collins

    Yes, essentially the question could be does an athlete for a team represent and reflect on his city or his team, or is he merely an individual reflecting only on himself?

  • http://connermccall.com Conner

    I voted I don’t know. At first I was going to vote no, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that respecting our highest office is something we seem to have lost as a country.

    I’m thinking the adult way to handle this would have been to ask for five minutes alone with the President to talk to him about the direction this country is going. Not going to the White House just put the spotlight on Tim Thomas.

    Now if Mr. Thomas would have asked for the chance to speak with the President and been denied, then I think I would be more supportive of his decision to not go to the White House. We have the right to protest however we want, but protesting is rarely the best way to accomplish your goals.

  • Bob Collins

    One thing I didn’t research and didn’t get into: A lot of times, winning sports teams won’t just zip over to the White HOuse and then zip home. Quite often, they’ll stop at Walter Reed.

  • Curtis

    I think for those in the hockey world (and possibly in the Bruins’ locker room) the protest will be viewed less in a political light and more as an individual putting himself before the team, which is a big no-no. The expectation would be to put the team first, enjoy the honor despite personal reservations, and support those teammates to which this event might mean a great deal.

  • Aaron

    I heard several other athletetes had chose to skip the white house honoring in the past. My favorite was Larry Bird and he chose to skip out on Reagan. He said that if the president wants to see him – he knows where to find me. That sounds like a classic Larry Bird perspective. Having your team honored by the president doesn’t have to turn into a a protest against the government. What does any athlete gain when they skip out on an event like that? What did the goalie intend to achieve by not going?

  • kassie

    I have old college radio shows on tape. And a Bob Marley tape.

  • Bob Collins

    The interesting thing about the Bird story is that was when teams would go to the White House, almost immediately after they won championships. Now, these things happen seven or 8 months later.

    Back then, I think, losing a player or two in the White House ceremony was more due to being hungover than having political misgivings.

  • Disco

    A documentary about cassettes is preposterous and idiotic. Then to ask for money — wow. That takes guts.

    I’ve got news for these people: the cassette tape is dead and isn’t coming back. With the exception of the 8-track, the cassette tape is the most inferior widely-used format ever invented. It was born out of necessity for a portable, recordable device. But it was a stopgap measure (albeit a long one). There is simply no reason at all to return to its use. Having to FFWD and RWD, with no reliable way to change tracks, was infuriating. Sound quality matured late in the game, but still was never as good as any digital format.

    I had Duran Duran’s “Notorious” on tape. It wound up in my aunt’s purse because I forgot it somewhere. When she gave it back to me, the magnetic tape had become twisted upon itself one time, rendering the tape completely useless. I’m guessing what must have happened is that the tape got pulled out of the shell and then wound back inside improperly. Either way, it was shot.

    I made many mix tapes of my records using a cheap old tape recorder. I finally got a decent tape deck for Christmas in 1992. That saw a ton of use for the next several years until I bought a CD-R drive in 1998. I may have some nostalgia for playing those old tapes. But I would certainly never make any new tapes and wouldn’t buy any pre-recorded tapes. There’s no reason for it.

    Vinyl, on the other hand, is awesome. There is a real market for it, and sales continue to climb.

  • ce

    Ah, yes, Mark Chmura, the same “gentleman” who was on trial (acquitted) for sexually assaulting his babysitter. He admitted after the trial that he had behaved in a manner unfitting of a married man. Why do these “men of principle” always end up eating their feet?

  • andy

    I find it hilarious (sad actually) that former Packer Mark Chmura was so disgusted with President Clinton’s antics, as Mr. Chruma himself was charged with sexually assaulting a 17 year old girl who babysat his children. What a jerk, and I’m a Packer fan! Not that particular Packer however.

  • Jamie

    I have lots of cassettes and miss listening to two in particular: One was made for me by a friend when I asked for Mozart’s late symphonies for Christmas in about 1987. He recorded numbers 38 and 39 from a CD (I hadn’t graduated to CDs yet), and I listened to it almost every day until I traded in my 18-year-old Toyota which had my only remaining cassette player. They were the absolute best recordings of those symphonies that I’ve ever heard, so well enunciated and lively compared to most. I’ve lost touch with that friend now, and can’t find out who the orchestra and conductor were (he wrote only “Symph No 38 & 39” on the tape). I’ve bought about half a dozen other recordings of those symphonies and will probably keep buying more until I find the right CD.

    The other cassette wore out after much listening. It was The King’s Singers’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” on which they SING several Strauss waltzes. It was both humorous and lovely. And great fun to sing along with. Now it’s out of print. :o(

  • Kim E

    Thanks for posting the charges against Mrs. Amy Senser. It was an interesting read. I hope they throw the book at her, because it seems to me that she is guilty and she knew it.

  • kennedy

    No, an athlete shouldn’t refuse a White House invitation. It’s disrespectful to the team, the sport, and the President.

    Neither should an athlete be compelled to attend.

    Does anyone know if the Canadian government offers this type of recognition and if anyone has boycotted?