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.