The Nub

The Power Shift in Culture, Politics and Sports

(Posted 11/18/17)

It is rare during the sporting period this far beyond the World Series that Baseball holds popular sway over its seasonal big brother, pro football. But while most fans are focusing on the likes of AL Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve and AL’ s top vote-getting pitcher Corey Kluber, the NFL is mired in a petty owners’ quarrel, and worse: TV viewership is down just under 20 percent from what it was this time two years ago. And no wonder: half the league’s 32 teams have losing records.

Three MLB teams, on the other hand – the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Twins – broke into the playoffs, with regulars the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians and Yankees. Baseball still has too many “nowhere” teams – the Padres, A’s, Braves, Marlins, Reds, and even the White Sox, Mariners, and, as of now, the Royals. But progress is much more evident on the ballfields than the gridiron.

In politics, the Dem team had taken MLB-like control of the electoral field in Alabama, owing to the off-field excesses staining the record of Team GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. But a similarly embarrassing incident involving a key Dem player, Senator Al Franken, may nullify that control the way shoddy play eroded the NFL’s dominance.

NY Times columnist Michele Goldberg gave this sober argument for how Franken should be treated:

Republicans, never particularly eager to hold their own to account, will use Franken to deflect from more egregious abuse on their own side, like what Trump and Roy Moore are accused of. Women with stories about other members of Congress might hesitate to come forward. That horrifying photo of Franken (appearing to grope the sleeping woman’s breast) will confront feminists every time they decry Trump’s boasts of grabbing women by the genitals. Democrats will have to worry about whether more damaging information will come out, and given the way scandals like this tend to unfold, it probably will.

It’s not worth it. The question isn’t about what’s fair to Franken, but what’s fair to the rest of us. I would mourn Franken’s departure from the Senate, but I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat. The message to men in power about sexual degradation has to be clear: We will replace you.

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(The Nub is a team effort produced by Dick Starkey. More are available at

“Eyeballing” New and Upcoming Changes on Both Fields


(Posted 11/11/17)

About halfway through the World Series, play-by-play announcer man Joe Buck had had enough: “What’s with this spin-rate stuff”? he said to color man John Smoltz, who had been describing a new sabermetric pitching measurement. Although Buck’s tone was half-joking, he had tapped into the frustration of many long-time fans; those who wanted baseball to remain an “eyeball” sport rather than one taken over by technology.

Yet the takeover, already embedded, has provided new ways to gauge the value of players – measuring the range of outfielders is one example, focusing on on-base potential (OBP) over batting average another, wins above replacement (WAR) yet another, offering an effective tool to track pitching spin skills. These measurements are useful for many of us at the end of the season, but almost annoying day to day.

And what would be useful changes on the political field, in the crucial warm-up to tax reform? Team GOP is pushing for cuts in what corporations now pay, less concerned with how working people are hit. The best the Dem team can offer is a fight for an “equal playing field” combined with rejection of Trump, a Clinton playbook re-run. On the hopeful-if-perhaps-over-hyped scoreboard: the gubernatorial win in Virginia, and the possibility the favored (GOP) Senatorial candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore, has disgraced away his chances. Then there is the Dem team’s not-so-secret weapon as 2018 approaches: health care.

History Lesson: From the political press box, a look back at “intellectual conservatism”, whose heyday coincided with Baseball’s pre-World War 2 emergence: (circa 1938): “War is caused by the conditions that bring about poverty…no war is justified…no war benefits the people.” (Frank Chodorov) An outgrowth of that early game plan (as quoted in last Sunday’s NY Times magazine): “Efforts to combat international Communism would be more dangerous than Communism itself.”

Bi-partisan support today for any such pacific policies, we know, is unthinkable. But shouldn’t the Dem team consider examining the possible military-spending reasons why that is so?.

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(The Nub is a team effort produced by Dick Starkey; it is also available on website

A Season Where Cheer Is in Short Suopply


If you don’t think life imitates sports, you’re not reading The Nub”

– Bill Moyers

“Politics and baseball. Interesting blog…called ‘The Nub’ on”

– Boston Globe

(Posted 11/4/17)

Baseball season is over, Trump’s time goes on and on. Is it any wonder November brings with it – especially to many of us on the East Coast – a deepening discontent.

Baseball ended with (excepting Game 7) what many observers considered the most exciting World Series ever. Here’s what New York Post-man Joel Sherman had to say about it after the two peultimate games.

Game 5 was epic and episodic. It was exhilarating for the Astros to win, excruciating for the Dodgers to lose and exhausting for all who watched a game that took 4 hours, 52 minutes to complete nine innings — then went to extras…The 38th game of this postseason will decide a champion, will finally separate these teams after what has been a back-and-forth series full of draining drama, titillating tension and players draining the last of their talents against fatigue and pressure.”

Neither Sherman nor any other on-site sports writers/commentators noted what games slotted to be played in earlier time zones do to East Coast fans: deny most of them – and nearly all the younger fans – the chance to watch the action to the end. MLB’s willingness to sacrifice a major chunk of its playoff following for TV money matches the sport’s acceptance of the advantage big-money teams like the Dodgers have over most of the rest of the field. (N.B. Note, too, the absence of any mention on theMLB-TV/.com network of how badly so many fans are being treated by their prime Baseball source.) There is little doubt that LA will be back in the playoffs next year, and on and on.

Meanwhile, it’s by no means clear that Bob Mueller and his team will prove President Trump conspired with the Russians to win the 2016 election. More likely, we will hear the frustratingly familiar disclosure: what the Trump team did was “illegal, but not a crime.” A sure-fire bet says the Trumpites, and economically blessed teams like the Dodgers, will be with us again a year from now.

Extra Inning:

Whaddaya-Know, Joe Dept. Re: A big reason Hillary lost the 2016 election campaign. “The fix WAS in. The former interim head of the Democratic National Committee (Donna Brazile) says this in a newly published book: she discovered after she took the reins that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had ‘rigged’ the nomination process — and had essentially been running the organization for a year.”

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