The Business of Baseball

As a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan, I have long admired the accomplishments of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer.  A career-long member of the Baltimore Orioles, he is the only hurler to have won World Series games in three different decades, and was but twenty years old when he pitched a complete-game shutout to beat Sandy Koufax in the 1966 World Series.

That year, Palmer’s season salary was $7,500.  And even with his World Series bonus of $11,000, providing support for his family meant taking an off-season job selling suits for $150 per week at Hamburgers Clothing in downtown Baltimore.

In that era, Palmer was not the only ballplayer struggling to make ends meet … New York area baseball stars who supplemented their income with side jobs included Yogi Berra (hardware sales at Sears and Roebuck), Carl Furillo (owner of a deli), and Jackie Robinson (who sold television sets for Sunset Appliances).  Elsewhere, Cardinals icon Stan Musial sold Christmas trees in St. Louis, while Willie Mays was a car salesman in San Francisco.

Fast forward to today’s baseball world, and the blizzard of dollars being thrown at players is almost incomprehensible.

One of the most recent (and most breathtaking) examples of baseball contract munificence has to be that of twenty-three year old Washington Nationals star Juan Soto who turned down the most lucrative salary offer in baseball history … $440 million over 15 years.  Had he accepted, his take-home pay would have eclipsed that of Mike Trout who, in 2019, signed a $426.5 million contract with the California Angels.

Seemingly limitless contracts like the ones just mentioned bring to mind the difficulties earlier players faced in negotiating with their teams.  Even Babe Ruth, considered by many to be one of the all-time greats in the sport, had to threaten to hold out in his quest for $80,000, after the 1932 season.  When a sports writer pointed out that with that salary he would be earning more than the President of the United States, Ruth said: “I had a better year!”

Keeping in mind Babe Ruth’s contract struggle, it is interesting to note that the minimum salary for a professional baseball player in the Major Leagues in 2022, is $700,000, with an average salary across the sport of $4,414,184.

When I think of the vast sums of money paid to professional baseball players, I tend to become a bit wistful … especially when I reflect upon how close I came to making it to the Major Leagues myself.  Looking back, if my fastball had been a mere 50 mph faster … and my high school batting average had been just 120 points higher … and my time from home to first was only 10 seconds faster … well, the rest would have been history.

I was that close to earning the big bucks myself!

From Muskets to Madness

My fifth great-grandfather, Valentine Ephraim Wheeler, was born February 14, 1725, in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.  On April 19, 1775, he fought the British at Lexington in the first battle of the Revolutionary War, going on to serve as a Captain in the New York Regiment of Militia.  Valentine Wheeler, an American patriot, died October 12, 1791, and is buried in the Valley View Cemetery, Dover Plains, New York.

On December 15, 1791, two months after Valentine died, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, along with nine other articles of the Bill of Rights.  And though we can’t know for certain, I have a feeling that given the time in which he lived and the part he played in the War of Independence, he would have looked kindly upon legislation ensuring a well-regulated militia and his right to keep and bear arms.

For the purpose of this discussion, though, an understanding of the times in which the 2nd Amendment was crafted is important, especially since “arms” from that era bear no resemblance whatsoever to the vast array of powerful weaponry available today.  Simply put, the guns known to those deliberating this important amendment consisted of the various muzzle loading rifles, muskets and flintlock pistols used in combat against the British and, needless to say, none among those early legislators could have envisioned the plethora of armament now available for both military and civilian use.

Assuming, for a moment, that Valentine Wheeler was skilled in the  use of a muzzle loading rifle, the multi-step process for firing required that he pour measured powder down the barrel, place a patch and ball on the muzzle, push the ball into the barrel and then using a ramrod, force the ball all the way down.  Following these steps in the heat of battle meant that, at best, he would be able to fire only three rounds per minute, each with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 feet per second and a maximum effective range of 50 meters.

In contrast, the typical modern-day AR-15 holds 30 bullets in a standard magazine, and can fire 45 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 3,260 feet per second and a maximum effective range of 550 meters.  As we know, arms of this sort have become today’s “weapon of choice” for mass murderers, especially since they can be equipped with extended magazines and further modified to fire in fully automatic mode. 

Clearly, the 2nd Amendment was created in and for a very different period of time, but it is not the only antiquated portion of the Bill of Rights.  The 3rd Amendment, for example, assures us that soldiers may not be quartered in private homes without the owner’s consent.  That is good to know, but while I celebrate the fact that an army platoon cannot bivouac in my living room, I find myself conducting a risk assessment every time I venture out to the mall, a musical presentation, or even a 4th of July parade.

It is important to pause here and emphasize that I am not among the absolutist anti-gun crowd … much to the contrary.  I am a retired police officer who qualified with a range of sidearms and long guns over the course of my career … my grandfather was a gunsmith, a prison armorer, and a Life Member of the NRA … and my mother was captain of her high school rifle team.  In other words, I grew up around firearms and am both comfortable and competent in their use.

My personal familiarity with guns aside, there is no rational reason for assault weapons to be in the hands of civilians.  Those sorts of arms, which are designed and intended for the battlefield, pose an extraordinary public safety risk which, as evidence has repeatedly shown, make it easier for shooters to kill more people more quickly.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like for one of our ancestors to return, briefly, to our present-day world for a visit. What, for example, would Valentine Wheeler – who fought for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” – have to say of our preposterous failure, as a people, to ban a device that has contributed to so much carnage and misery.

Amanda Gorman, the 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate, captures the essence of this argument perfectly:

It takes a monster to kill children, but to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity – it’s inhumanity.

One Ringy Dingy!

Want to have some fun?  Try handing a youngster a dial telephone, and then asking him to show you how it works.  What happens next will be a study in consternation, and the rough equivalent of a scholar struggling to decipher ancient writings on the Rosetta Stone.

This farcical image came to mind, recently, as I watched a news story detailing the removal of the last pay phones still in service in New York City.  Alas, I thought, individuals without a cell phone (if there are still such luddites out there) will no longer be able to enjoy the experience of lugging a pocketful of quarters, dimes and nickels to a telephone booth, or checking random pay phone coin return slots for forgotten change.

Though now obsolete, pay telephones along the highway offered motorists a sense of security in the event of a breakdown.  But those of a certain age will recall a time when it was necessary to insert a coin in the appropriate slot before one could even reach an operator or get a dial tone.  In other words, if you found yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere and you needed to call someone for assistance, you had better have some coins close at hand or you were out of luck.

Those familiar with the mountains and forests of upstate New York know that, while beautiful, parts of that region can be incredibly remote and inhospitable.  As a State Trooper patrolling in some of those desolate areas before cell phones or even portable radios (circa 1970),  I always kept two dimes taped to the inside of my Stetson.  The purpose of those coins was simple: if my vehicle ever became disabled in an area where I could not make radio contact with my station, I could trudge to a pay telephone.  Fortunately, I never had to take such an extraordinary measure.

Thinking about even more-ancient forms of telephone communication, I am reminded of the day my boss told me I had to call home … emphasizing that it was an emergency.  Unfortunately, my boss’ order was complicated in several ways … it was 1964 … I was in the military … stationed at a facility in the mountains of Taiwan … and there were no such things as cell phones or even phone lines back to the States.  To call my family I had to, first, arrange for a Transpacific line which could not be set up until the following day.  Then, after taking a bus to Taipei, I sat in an assigned booth at a commercial telephone facility until the line was connected.  Fortunately, I learned that everything was fine at home … the emergency call had been intended for a different fellow with the same last name.

In contrast to my archaic experience calling home in the 60’s, a recent event illustrates how far we have come in communicating with one another.  In this case, my cell phone rang during Thanksgiving dinner and, upon answering, I was thrilled to be talking with (and seeing) my grandson … who is in the United States Army … stationed in South Korea.  Unlike the byzantine system I had to navigate to call home in 1964, he was simply dialing us up on his personal cell phone to wish us a Happy Holiday.

I am willing to bet that many who read the title of this piece recognized, immediately, the signature line of Ernestine the telephone operator (played by Lily Tomlin) on Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh In” some fifty years ago.  For those who did not get the reference, I will be happy to explain.

Call me.

The World of Karen and Ken

Watching that video was like watching a train wreck.  I knew it was going to be ugly, but I just couldn’t look away.  

In it, a self-entitled and obnoxious woman entering a restaurant yelled at a young, minimum-wage-earning high school kid who had simply asked her to put on a face mask.  Things deteriorated quickly to the “I want to talk to the manager” stage before, in tears, the young employee told her boss that she could not put up with such nonsense any longer, and that she was quitting. 

As the young worker fled out the door, the nasty but now somewhat-subdued woman said: “OK, I will put on a mask.”  Other customers, though, having seen and heard enough, began to “boo” her.  Deciding to leave, her departure was accompanied by a chorus of: “Goodbye, Karen!” 

But wait … Karen?  How did everyone in that place know her name was Karen?

In fact, it is unlikely “Karen” is her real name.  Instead, the nickname “Karen” has come to identify that group of “adult” women unable to control their emotions when even mildly inconvenienced by store clerks, other motorists or even random passersby.  And the male of the species has a moniker as well … “Ken.”  People of this ilk are easily identified in the wild by their propensity for screaming and gesticulating … loud and long … at random individuals who, they believe, have done them some wrong.

Sadly, YouTube is replete with videos of the crazed behaviors of “Karens” and “Kens” engaging in these sorts of unrestrained public outbursts of rage over things most rational people would consider minor inconveniences … soup too hot … french fries not hot enough … checkout line too slow.  After watching some of these antics, one is left to wonder: do these people go home, look in the mirror, and feel proud of their actions?  Do they experience any shame?   And, since many of these individuals are accompanied by children, do they ever consider the sort of examples they might be setting?

In the world of public education, it should come as no surprise that record numbers of school district superintendents are throwing in the towel and moving on.  Anyone interested in knowing why this might be so should attend the next school board meeting and listen to the bitter and abusive language rained upon those charged with educating our children.  One speaker recently concluded her vituperative remarks declaring: “I will be at school on Monday with guns fully loaded.”

The airline industry, of course, has experienced unprecedented numbers of violent and otherwise uncooperative passengers refusing to comply with health and safety guidelines.  In one recent case, an international flight from Miami to London had to return to Florida because a passenger in first class refused to wear a mask.  The flight was then cancelled and everyone had to rebook on another flight … all because a self-entitled woman decided that the rules do not apply to her.  In short, this is her world, and the rest of us just happen to be walking through it.

If you have had the misfortune to witness a “Karen” or “Ken” in a full-throated rage over their belief that some service worker has failed to genuflect before them, you know how bizarre and uncomfortable something like that can be.  But as long as there is no threat of physical violence involved, it is likely a waste of time trying to calm or reason with one of those unhinged individuals.  In fact, getting attention is their goal, and it doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad attention … just so long as someone is noticing.  Frankly, when a bystander cares enough to enter their convoluted world on their terms, it is something they enjoy.

Perhaps George Bernard Shaw said it best:

I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. 

You get dirty and, besides, the pig likes it.

What The …

Filled with the Holiday spirit, I decided to do some last minute shopping for my lovely bride.  Walking across the store parking lot, I couldn’t help but smile at the array of Christmas shirts that caught my eye, each festooned with images and phrases celebrating this special time of year.

And then I saw it coming toward me … a garish red, white and blue tee-shirt with the words “Let’s Go Brandon” and three large letters … “FJB” … emblazoned on the front.  My immediate thought (which I kept to myself) was another three letter acronym … WTF? 

For those unfamiliar with the message on this gentleman’s shirt, the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” is smokescreen for a vulgar insult directed at President Joe Biden (you can look it up).  And the letters “FJB” … well, you can use your imagination as to what they stand for.

By the way, I am not asserting a particular political stance here … there is, after all, ample evidence that fools, regardless of party affiliation, populate government in equal measure.  Instead, I am simply expressing wonderment and dismay at the thoughtlessness of someone who, clearly, has a bone to pick with our electoral process, while caring not a whit about others who might be offended by his sartorial messaging.  Thinking about this fellow’s audacious display I would guess that, if confronted, he would argue that he, himself, was offended by the outcome of the last election so, when it comes to his shirt, well, we can all just deal with it.

No doubt, my opinion on this matter puts me in jeopardy of being labelled a “snowflake.”  For those unfamiliar with the vocabulary of online trolls and purveyors of hate speech, that word no longer applies only to frozen precipitation that falls during the winter … today, a “snowflake” is someone thought to be overly sensitive and prone to taking offense.  If so accused, I know many will come to my defense pointing out my habit of uttering the occasional mild expletive or even conjuring up the random unspoken profanity (see “WTF” above).

So what’s the big deal?  When it is all said and done, this was only a tee-shirt, after all, and we all have far more important issues to deal with … right?

Perhaps, but consider this.  Navigating the offensive and oft-profane world in which we reside requires that we call upon a range of coping strategies to get through the day.  For example, we avoid “doom scrolling” on the Internet … we know and respect the difference between rudeness and humor … we avoid exposure to fringe news sources … and we call out and reject ignorance and hate speech. But then, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves face-to-face with – and unable to ignore – the very thing we have been struggling to avoid.

In the parking lot that day, I simply shook my head, sighed, and walked on, secure  in the knowledge that if ignorance is bliss, “tee-shirt dude” must be the happiest person alive.  Or, as Albert Einstein once said:

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

What’s Next?

In the 15th Century, an Italian physician and lawyer by the name of Hippolytus de Marsillis wrote about a form of punishment known as “Chinese Water Torture.”    Characterized by slow but constant dripping of water on the forehead of a prisoner, the process caused fear and mental deterioration, especially when the droplets fell at random or unexpected times.  Often, the process would drive the victim insane.

Today, we are immersed in a world that de Marsillis would understand.  Daily, events find us navigating assorted threats to our health and well being while, at the same time, trying to understand and comply with often-contradictory guidance and mandates from those in authority.  This process seems relentless … new edicts issued hourly … different threats arising daily.  Somewhere, de Marsillis is watching and smiling.

For us, the modern-day equivalent of medieval torture can be seen in the fitful way we have been urged to deal with COVID … wear a mask … you don’t need a mask …it is safe to be out in public … but avoid large crowds.  And at long last, when it looked like we might be getting our hands around the whole pandemic thing … the “Delta Variant” made its presence known.  That, of course, was not sufficiently maddening … we soon learned that there is something called the “Lambda” permutation circulating out there as well.

Like many folks, we try our best to adapt and stay safe.  Preparing for a recent quick trip to the grocery store, for example, we went through our customary checklist … hand sanitizer … face masks … credit cards so we don’t have to touch actual cash.  Then, just before heading out the door we were stopped in our tracks … a news bulletin announced a new menace in our midst called “Monkeypox!”  Yes … MONKEYPOX!  In a year of medical angst, this virus – similar to smallpox – had somehow made its way from central Africa to Dallas, Texas.

Deciding, nonetheless, to chance a run for bread and milk, we ventured out.  Returning home unscathed, we breathed a sigh of relief, removed our protective gear, and settled down to watch the local news.  Any hopes for a relaxing evening were immediately dashed, though, when the broadcast led off with a report that the mosquito-borne disease known as West Nile Virus had not only shown up in our area, it had claimed its first life of the season. 

Set in a New York Police station, “Barney Miller” was a popular television show in the 1970’s and 80’s, with an outstanding cast.  One actor, Jack Soo, played the part of Detective Nick Yemana, a character known for sage and witty observations, including one that seems appropriate to the times in which we are living:

Many things look bleak at the moment of occurrence, but at least we ain’t got locusts.

We can hope that Yemana’s optimistic comment will hold true but, just in case, I am heading to Home Depot to see what they might have on hand for dealing with locusts.

Cache Us If You Can

By early 2021, we had reached the breaking point.  The seemingly endless pandemic-induced lockdown had long since lost its survivalist charm.  We had assembled (and reassembled) a plethora of jigsaw puzzles, fallen asleep while trying to find something new on Netflix, and engaged in the occasional squabble about what day of the week it was.

Clearly, we needed a breather and, since people were starting to venture out in public, we decided to “mask up” and take some cautious steps off the front porch as well.  We didn’t want to dive into the deep end right away, of course, so we looked around for something that would get us out of the house, involve some physical activity, and keep us away from crowded places.

For us, the solution was a simple one … we decided to join the multitude of others playing what amounts to the adult version of hide and seek.  Known as Geocaching, this rendition of that venerable childhood game is equal parts treasure hunt, problem solving, and outdoor exercise, and it has become our “go to” weekend pursuit.

Geocaching, as an outdoor activity, took shape in May, 2000, when  24 previously secure global positioning satellites were made available for civilian use.  With that change, folks could locate items anywhere in the world based solely on their GPS coordinates and, without a doubt, they have done so … there are now more than 3 million active geocaches hidden in 191 countries on all seven continents (even Antarctica)!

The “caches” we search for are generally small capsules or containers holding a piece of paper that, when signed, will register your find.  And though there are varying degrees of search difficulty one can select, we lean toward those that are relatively easy to locate without a great deal of extraordinary effort.  But be warned … people who hide these things can be very clever … we have found caches among the branches of trees, under rocks, and hanging from fence posts.  That, of course, is part of what makes this such an enjoyable activity.  

The process for tracking down a cache is simple: (1) check the geocaching.com web site for caches hidden in a particular area, (2) select the one you would like to look for and, (3) follow the directions on your phone or GPS device.  This will bring you very close to your goal and, usually, it is then only a very short walk (and search) before locating the cache.

In addition to the obvious benefits of being outdoors engaging in physical activity, geocaching has taken us to beautiful and unusual locations we had not previously visited, and immersed us in the fascinating history of the areas we have explored.  In short, we are smitten.

And if you are looking for us next weekend, you know where we will be.

Spam … Wonderful Spam!

Growing up, Spam was a regular part of our family cuisine.  Spam sandwiches … spam and eggs … and on special occasions, my mother would dress up a chunk of Spam with some cloves and slice of pineapple before tossing it in the oven.  When that delicacy showed up on the dinner table it was, for me, the culinary equivalent of a hickory-smoked spiral-sliced ham with all the trimmings.

Today, though, the word “Spam” has become shorthand for, among other things, the relentless barrage of unsolicited emails stretching the capacity of my inbox while offering everything from financial advice to Russian brides.  On the other hand, a recent proposal from a Nigerian prince looks promising … he promises to make me wealthy if I will just help him transfer a large sum of money out of his country.  I will let you know how that turns out.

Spam phone calls are, of course, a major problem as well but, for us, the remedy was simple … we cancelled our land-line phone.  Not only did that decision save us some money, we are also spared the deluge of political campaign calls that crop up every election cycle.  We now rely upon our cell phone caller ID which allows us to answer when we recognize a name or number, while ignoring those without an identifier.  That way, if someone wants to talk to us they leave a message and we call them back.

There is, by the way, an interesting back story about how annoying calls and emails came to be named after the famous canned meat product.  In a 1970 sketch from the Monty Python comedy series, a waitress reads aloud a menu in which every item but one includes Spam, while a chorus of patrons drown out all conversation by repeating “Spam, Spam, Spam … Lovely Spam!  Wonderful Spam!”  Thereafter, the term was adopted to describe abusive users in early chat-rooms who would flood the screen with the word “Spam” or other annoying text to drive away newcomers or prevent rival groups from chatting.  

Some clever “home remedies” for dealing with Spam calls have evolved, including one senior citizen with a talent for making his voice sound like Donald Duck.  The YouTube video of him using that famous cartoon character’s voice to talk with a Spam caller is hilarious, especially when it results in the telemarketer, in frustration, finally hanging up on him!

That priceless bit of video shows that we can have a bit of fun while deflecting nuisance callers.  To that end, I am perfecting my imitation of Woody Woodpecker in anticipation of the next person who interrupts my dinner to talk about my car’s extended warranty.

Shaking the Family Tree

If you are like us, navigating this past year has required imagination.  We have assembled a lot of jigsaw puzzles, watched hours of Netflix, caught up on our reading, and enjoyed day trips to lovely and interesting areas around North Texas.

One activity that has really captivated us, though, has been the exploration of our family trees.  An ancestry.com account has proven to be a worthwhile investment, for it has allowed us to unearth old and obscure pieces of family history, and bring renewed focus to many vaguely remembered people and events.

Fortunately, we possess a number of family genealogical documents, written records and even an oral recording of my beloved grandmother relating stories that would otherwise be unknown.   When we were able to add the trove of information from ancestry.com … photos … immigration records … grave registries … the results were fascinating.

As strong supporters of our military, we are pleased to report that men – and women – in our family have served honorably in every conflict since the Revolutionary War; sadly, some were lost in battle.  And sprinkled, liberally, among our forebears are postmasters, judges, educators, clergy and politicians.

I would like to be able to report that our ancestors descended directly and unblemished from royalty, but, unfortunately, such is not the case.  Like many families, there are a few individuals whose names, understandably, do not come up at family reunions.  And for those rascals who thought their misdeeds would remain forever hidden, well, ancestry.com and the Internet have lifted the veil. 

For as someone once said: Every family tree produces some lemons, some nuts and a few bad apples.

Stop … Just STOP!

Well, we just finished watching the news and, as usual, my impulse is to unplug the television once and for all.  The stories this evening were virtually identical to the ones with which we were bombarded yesterday, and there is little doubt that tomorrow’s will be much the same:

Blah, blah, blah, Coronavirus, blah, blah, Protests, blah, blah, Unemployment, blah, blah, Trump, blah, blah, Biden, blah, blah, Quarantine, blah, blah, Fauci, blah, blah, Hoax, blah, blah, Stock Market, blah, blah, blah… and so on.

And if, for some reason, the punishment brought by the 4pm news is insufficient, we can tune in and inflict it upon ourselves again at 5pm, 6pm, and even 10pm.  And this, of course, is only the local network version of things … a variety of cable news channels are accessible round the clock, with choices sufficient for virtually any point on the political compass.

As if being virtually housebound these days is not stressful enough, the 24-hour news cycle with “this just in” and “breaking now” bulletins is wearing me out.  And, frankly, a “users guide” would come in handy in deciphering this new vocabulary permeating conversations all around us.  Yes, I get it when someone uses words like hoax, hate, conspiracy, leftist and far right.  But where did “QAnon” come from?  And “Antifa” … what is that?  What about “Cancel Culture”?  Near as I can determine, my lack of familiarity with those terms means I am not fully “woke” … whatever the hell that means.

Hunkered down in our little abode, we have adopted some strategies to keep ourselves safe and (relatively) sane in navigating the pandemic.  We wear masks … wash our hands frequently … use hand sanitizer liberally … maintain social distance … and avoid exposure in public spaces.  We have also found it important to limit the amount of news to which we subject ourselves.  For us, one half hour of local news is just about right, with the same amount of time allotted for national and international broadcasts.

In adopting this regimen, we have also limited our interactions on social media platforms such as Facebook.  As a reflection, perhaps, of the very contentious political divide in our world, some “friends” seem less reluctant than ever to express incendiary points of view and, as a result, an electronic meeting place that used to be, for the most part, enjoyable, is now a minefield that cannot be safely traversed.  As an aside, it may be time for a discussion of the very definition of “friend” in the context of Facebook, especially since that word, itself, has now become a verb rather than a noun.

In our defense, we are not Luddites … we read three newspapers each day, and follow several reputable news sources.  And, as it turns out, having to sort through the plethora of conspiracy-oriented and downright outlandish claims populating the airwaves has turned us into better consumers of the news.  Now, when a piece of information strikes us as questionable, a quick visit to a non-partisan fact-checking internet page helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

Neither are we strangers to the world of electronic communication.  Consider, for example, the networking platform Zoom which, during the pandemic, has given us the opportunity to interact with and enjoy family and friends simultaneously in multiple locations.  And despite my earlier criticism, we have come to know Facebook (when properly guided) as a superb place for folks to meet and share information.  We administer two Facebook groups and the key to their success and welcoming nature has, in part, been the express limitation on political discussion.

In the 1976, movie Network, Peter Finch played the part of Howard Beale, a disaffected and deeply troubled news reporter overwhelmed by what he saw as social ailments and depravity in the world.  As fans of that movie will recall, Beale’s signature lament was: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”

Unlike Beale, the relentless media circus surrounding us doesn’t make me “mad as hell” … it makes me tired.

Looking back to a college class taken almost fifty years ago, it occurs to me that the young, irreverent professor in that room had the perfect solution for dealing with a contentious and confusing debate.  A master at provoking active discussion on a topic, his skill often resulted in two (or three) sides to an argument holding firm to their positions.  Then, when the argument seemed to have reached its peak, he would look around the room and declare: “Ah, to hell with it … let’s go get a beer.”

That was excellent advice then, and it is excellent advice now.

 I’m going to go get a beer.