Lessons from the football field (5×8 – 11/2/12)

‘D’ is for decency, why weatherpeople can’t say ‘I told you so,’ Mr. Burns’ endorsement, Minneapolis crushes a law’s spirit, and a message everyone can approve of.

Five interesting (to me) stories on the planet in no particular order…


Michael Ferns has everything going for him. He’s a star running back on his high school team in St. Clairsville, Ohio. He’ll play for the Michigan Wolverines next year. He may end up with riches from the NFL. But what he has, you can’t buy: decency.

Numerous sports sites carry the story this morning of Mr. Ferns’ run for a touchdown. But he stepped out of bounds a yard short of the end zone, BuzzFeed says.


It was at that point that St. Clairsville’s coach Brett McLean called for freshman Logan Thompson to enter the game.

Thompson’s father had died of a stroke two days earlier. The freshman hadn’t played much on varsity and had never lined up at running back before. So McClean told him the play as simply as possible: “Just follow Ferns.”

“After we got back onto the sidelines, I gave him a hug and told him I was proud of him,” the star running back said.

(h/t: Max Ginsberg)


Meteorologists are people too. And Todd Richards, a meteorologist for Discovery News has written a defense of the people we love to call out for hype and inaccurate forecasts. And he’s got a point: If you correctly predict a catastrophic storm, it’s no fun being right.

But, contrary to popular belief, the good meteorologists are not interested in hype. They are real people focused first and foremost on delivering accurate forecasts to protect their viewers. In this case, they knew that predicting an unprecedented event is ultimately a no-win situation. After all, if they are right, very bad things are going to happen to people all over their viewing area. If they are wrong, they risk losing the all-important trust of their viewers.

If you think about it, meteorologists are some of the most versatile performers on television. One day they’re called upon to make the monotony of a drought seem interesting and the next they are asked to calmly deliver life-saving information to millions of skeptical viewers. It’s a tough job, and the best of the best have found a way to convey just the right amount of emotion for each situation. It takes talent, and if you’ve never noticed, that means your TV meteorologist is probably really good at it!

In New York, the big controversy is now over the decision to go ahead and run the New York Marathon. The Guardian’s Heidi Moore calls it “inexcusable.”

As any runner will tell you, running a race without spectators – especially the New York Marathon – is one of the world’s most depressing tasks for a runner. That course is 26.2 miles, and no amount of audio playlists will get a person through; it’s the energy of the crowd that sustains them. But how big are the crowds likely to be, when many people can’t even plausibly leave their houses?

That does not even count the runners themselves. Last year, 20,000 of the 47,000 runners came to New York from overseas, according to CNBC. If they do the same this year – assuming that hotels and flights can bear the burden – it will increase the strain on the city.

Then there is the matter of police and emergency services that will be diverted to the marathon, when there is demonstrably more work and use for them in the city. Two of New York’s major hospitals – the NYU Medical Center and Bellevue – are in crisis, struggling without power, and there are rescues still going on all over the city.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the bicycle stands proud:

And the “government is moving too slow” angles are beginning to proliferate…

But there are some people who don’t deserve help. The people who refused to help this woman, for instance.

All power to Manhattan reportedly will be restored by tomorrow.


I don’t pay much attention to celebrity endorsements. I also make exceptions…

At Biola University (a private Christian college in California) this week, a math teacher hosted a presidential debate on math…


It’s a fairly familiar story. Someone goes to work for a city, spends only a few months on the job, and then walks away with a fat check while city officials tell taxpayers “it’s none of your business.” After it happened in Burnsville, the Legislature amended the law to force officials to reveal what the payoffs are all about. But Minneapolis found a loophole that makes some city officials not “public officials.” And some legal experts say they may be right.

Today, the Star Tribune issued a harshly worded editorial…

That’s ridiculous. Of course the person who runs all regulatory operations is a public official. And Minneapolis officials know it’s a twisted interpretation — not to mention a direct violation of the spirit of the law. But they say they are compelled to keep the terms secret because the former director could sue the city, arguing that his position did not fit the description of a public official under the new statute. In other words, the fear of a suit trumps the people’s right to know.

Because of the way the law was written, unfortunately, city attorneys may have a point. The way the statute defines “public official” includes a loophole that could give Stubbs or other top city employees a legal leg to stand on.

Bottom line? The Legislature needs to start writing laws by assuming cities — or at least one city — will try to twist its way around it.


I still think this is the best campaign commercial ever made, but this has moved up to second place…

(h/t: Campaign Outsider)

Bonus: On this date in 1975, the people of Medford, MN., saw a UFO. When they visited the site, they found evidence of it. (h/t: Dave Kenney)


MPR News is sponsoring a series of debates in St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater this week. The final debate is taking place this Sunday between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and opponent State Rep. Kurt Bills. Today’s Question: Who are you supporting in the Senate race, and why?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: This week on the Friday Roundtable, our panelists discuss Super Storm Sandy and its impact on the presidential race, and offer predictions on Minnesota’s ballot amendments.

Second hour: BBC documentary. What are the tell-tale marks we’re making on the planet that define the Anthropocene?”

Third hour: Maggie Koerth-Baker talks about the link between severe weather and climate change. Can we attribute Hurricane Sandy to climate change? Maggie will also talk about the future of storm predicting, and why Americans aren’t prepared for the next wave of big storms.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A rebroadcast of the marriage amendment debate, held last night at the Fitzgerald Theater.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Can we rebuild our infrastructure to survive the next big storm?.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – On election night 12 years ago, the unthinkable happened. There was no clear winner of the White House, and that triggered a recount in a swing state. Could it happen again next week? Election officials and lawyers for both candidates are gearing up for just that. NPR reports on how both sides are getting ready for a close vote.