Saturday, January 07, 2012

Parenting Athletes

Today, after his intense, two-hour futsol practice, my son and I visited a local gym, where I purchased him a membership. As I signed his parental permission form, the woman who signed him up told me very few 17-year-olds work out, compared to people of other ages.

Of course, according to national studies, very few people work out at all.

Something like 70 percent of Americans do not even meet the minimum recommended level of exercise per week. Many are obese.

When you go down the demographic segments to teens, I suspect the percentage is microscopic. Certainly, when touring the gym today, among the hundreds of patrons I saw exercising there was not a single other teenager.

Finances are, of course, an issue, but they are also an issue for us. On the other hand, my son's commitment to stay in the best possible shape as he continues to develop as an elite soccer player is more than enough for me to lay down whatever cash I can for him to reach his goals.

Besides, this was one of his Christmas presents.

Less than an hour (and a Jamba Juice) after I got him his membership, he was back there, working out on the machines on his upper-body strength.

The football coach from his high school recognized him. "Working out on a Saturday, very impressive!"

I tried to do some research about how many teens work out in gyms, but this is a new field for me, and I couldn't locate any reliable statistics.

When I picked him up afterwards, he said it had been "fun."

Exercise releases endorphins. It is fun.

Too bad more people don't realize that.

Tomorrow will be his first futsol game of the season. I'm looking forward to that...


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Election 2012: Post Two

If you like to follow Presidential politics in the U.S., this promises to be an exciting year. You know, it happens only every fourth year.

Today's news (according to CNN) include some statements by Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich that border on racial stereotyping of the sort that often seems to pop up in advance of the South Carolina primary (which is scheduled for January 21st this year.)

It's weird how election cycles tend to repeat themselves like endless versions of the film Groundhog Day, trying to get it right.

Iowa, especially the Republican Party in Iowa, is made up mainly of white people, Christians, farmers, hard-working, decent, parochial folks with little interaction with the diverse, immigration-rich societies that dominate our coasts.

So what these nice people think reflects little beyond what that -- what they think. It is not reflective of the nation at large.

The winner in Iowa, Mitt Romney, stands to claim New Hampshire next. I'm not sure who is going to win South Carolina -- probably not Romney. Whoever does win becomes the automatic alternative to Romney, and perhaps the candidate that could mobilize the conservative base for the GOP.

Thus, today's attention on Santorum and Gingrich is relevant in that either of them could be that candidate.

Gingrich, the intellectual with tremendous baggage, is an investigative reporter's dream candidate. Let me assure you that even an inexperienced journalist who digs hard enough can expose things about Gingrich that would alienate a large swath of voters.

Yet Gingrich also has always been a man of ideas, and some of his ideas have wide appeal to American voters who like to think about political issues, not just vote from an emotional place.

As a political analyst, I understand both the emotional and the intellectual aspects of campaign-year dynamics. People want to both feel good about the candidate they support and also believe to be in league with his or her ideas and positions.

But to get elected, candidates have to espouse centrist ideas, because there are not enough leftists or rightists to carry an election. Enough voters are capable of swinging between the parties that no one can get elected from an extreme, except in rare circumstances, such as occurred in 1980 when Ronald Reagan swept to power.

Republicans like to demonize Barack Obama as a leftist but that only shows they don't know what a true leftist is. This guy, our President, is a centrist -- that's why he won in 2008.

The GOP's best chance to unseat him is Romney, another centrist. But if the radicals of the party undermine Romney enough to destroy his chances to win the centrist vote, he will go down to a definitive defeat.

I haven't mentioned the ideological purist yet, Ron Paul. The libertarian in me loves him. But the problem with Paul is he connects with only one small slice of our common Americanism. Let's call it one-fifth of who we are.

That will never lead to him winning an election.

Obama's dream scenario? Paul leaves the GOP and runs as an independent. Then the final numbers will look like this: Obama 45%, Romney 35%, Paul 20%.

You read that here first.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Election 2012: Post One

Well, it's fairly clear that, barring some major surprise, that Mitt Romney of Massachusetts will be the Republican Party's nominee for President this year against incumbent President Barack Obama, a Democrat. He's more or less won the Iowa caucuses tonight and will no doubt win the New Hampshire primary soon. After that, his momentum will be hard to slow, unless someone more conservative emerges in South Carolina.

Rick Santorum is not going to be the nominee. Can you imagine a candidate campaigning on something as obscure and meaningless a political issue as abortion? And there is no other credible Republican candidate for President. Newt Gingrich, probably the GOP's best chance, crashed and burned too quickly under fire, so he faces an uphill battle to get back.

Despite the horrible economy, and the substantial anger in many quarters of our society about the state of things, from the Tea Party on the right to the Occupy movement on the left, the Republicans can only offer Romney as their alternative?

IMHO, if Obama was going to be defeated this year, some sort of populist candidate would have had to emerge. To tell you the truth, until recently, I expected that to happen. Someone connected to the Tea Party would have seemed to be the GOP's best choice.

But that has not happened, at least not yet.

So, instead, it appears a milktoast Republican, Romney, is the best the opposing party can muster.

Obama, a master campaigner and debater, will eat him for lunch.

As it stands now, our President will be re-elected, despite his deserved unenthusiastic support from his own base. Let's hope, if that happens, for the good of our country, that he can at least sweep in some Democrats to the Senate and House as well, because this country does not need four more years of the pathetic kind of gridlock a split government has delivered us these past two years.

It's a long time from here to November. As of now, the Republicans stand to win the Senate, and re-claim the House, but lose the White House.

That, too, may change, especially with the lack of enthusiasm for Romney by the party's conservative faction.

I suppose, as a journalist, I hope some of this will change, so there is something to write about. But for now, it will be Obama defeating Romney easily in November. The situation in Congress remains too unsettled to call.