Month: July 2008

D.C. Isn’t a Baseball Town

It’s often said that Washington, D.C., isn’t a “baseball town.” Why, then, does D.C. have yet another major-league team? Only because Members of Congress, who live in and around D.C. and treat it as a second constituency (or colonial territory), pressured Major League Baseball to move the failing Montreal Expos to D.C.

The long, sad history of big-league ball in D.C. goes back to 1901 and the original Washington Senators, who — upon their transformation to the Minnesota Twins after the 1960 season — were replaced immediately by the expansion Washington Senators, who lasted only eleven seasons before their transformation to the Texas Rangers.

Anyway, D.C. has lost two major-league teams because it isn’t a baseball town — and the numbers prove it. In the following graph I compare attendance for D.C.’s hapless teams with the American League teams of New York and Detroit (real baseball towns). (Relative attendance is the ratio of a team’s home attendance for a season to the average for all major-league teams in the same season.) Even allowing for the fact that attendance tends to rise and fall with a team’s success (or lack thereof), it’s clear that the D.C. area has been, and remains, relatively cool to baseball:


Sources:
Major-league attendance by year: http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/attendance.htm. Team attendance by year: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/stadium.shtml. Team won-lost records by year: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL.shtml.

Yes, the Washington Nationals (2005-07) seem to be doing better than the previous Washington teams. But that showing is unimpressive compared with the records of real baseball towns, and can be chalked up to the novelty of baseball’s return to D.C. The novelty, in fact, lasted only a season; attendance in the Nats’ second and third seasons slid back toward the norm for D.C..

The rate of attendance at Nationals’ games has risen in 2008 — as one might expect, given the team’s new, costly, tax-funded stadium — but it is below the pace of 2005. As the Nats inevitably rack up losing seasons, the stadium will become an empty cavern, and the taxpayers of D.C. (and perhaps the nation) will be left holding the bag for it.

That’s All Folks

UPDATED, 09/05/09

That’s the end of my stint at Blogspot, I should say. All of my new posts are at Politics & Prosperity. (Note to readers: This is a new location. Please change your bookmarks and feed links.)

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The home schooler threat?

Guest commentary by Postmodern Conservative.

Here’s a perceptive op-ed from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: Home-schoolers threaten our cultural comfort.” In all fairness, however, I think that the level of acceptance for home schooling has risen tremendously, at least in some parts of the country.

Here in Richmond, Va., sympathy for home schooling (or at least a lack of antipathy) is fairly high. I imagine that most of the rejection comes from leftists and/or adults who are into minimalist parenting. I suspect they are made to feel guilty by home schoolers, or more traditional parents in general.

Some of the article’s criticism is applicable to anyone who puts material goods ahead of the basic spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs of their children:

Young families must make the decision: Will junior go to day care and day school, or will mom stay home and raise him? The rationalizations begin. “A family just can’t make it on one income.” (Our parents did.) “It just costs so much to raise a child nowadays.” (Yeah, if you buy brand-name clothing, pre-prepared food, join every club and activity, and spend half the cost of a house on the daughter’s wedding, it does.) And so, the decision is made. We give up the bulk of our waking hours with our children, as well as the formation of their minds, philosophies, and attitudes, to strangers.

It’s the old “here are the keys to the car and leave me alone” syndrome; only now it’s “go play your video game, go on the internet, play with your iPhone, and leave me alone” syndrome. But when parents can no longer afford such distractions, as our economic downturn threatens levels of frugality unheard of in decades, the spoiled children will come home to roost. And then what?

The Budweiser Buy-Out

Guest commentary by Postmodern Conservative.

The coverage at The American Spectator is generally good. But everyone’s entitled to say something stupid at least once and awhile. In this case it’s G. Tracy Mehan, III (“This Bud’s Not for You“) waxing nostalgic about his hometown company, Anheuser-Busch, which has just been bought out by the Belgian mega-brewer, InBev. In his desperation Mr. Mehan says he’s willing to abandon his “free-market, free-trade principles” all because of “an American brand.” I’m just as nostalgic as anyone else at times, but when push comes to shove, A-B is an overrated producer of stale suds. So if InBev buys out a US brewery, what’s the upshot? I imagine that most of the jobs will stay and, heck…. maybe the beer will get better! After all, the Japanese gave America better cars. That’s what the market is all about.

Current Events in Catholicism

Guest commentary by Postmodern Conservative.

I know that not everyone reading this blog has a direct interest in religion or Catholicism. But theologically-minded or not there’s no denying that the Catholic Church figures heavily in the news, especially on political and ethical issues. Many conservatives—from Ronald Reagan through to the current president—have seen this as an important (and benevolent) role at the very least. One can cite the “tag-team effort” of Reagan and John Paul II in the collapse of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc. Then there is the enthusiastic alliance of George Bush and Benedict XVI in the ongoing culture wars.

At the same time, for many conservatives it is safe to say that the apparent “left turn” by the Church since the 1960s and Vatican II has been a source of consternation. This “modernization” (a.k.a. “modernism” in theological circles) or accommodation with contemporary culture is a point noted by people from every political viewpoint, by believers and non-believers alike. There is no disputing it. Yet whatever the superficial vicissitudes, it would seem that this change in policy has never affected Catholic fundamentals, which remain markedly unchanging. Still it has had an impact on day-to-day activities: the roles of the clergy and laity, the liturgy, pastoral policies, etc. And these things have been keenly felt, often with a sense of confusion and disappointment. Historically speaking, this is not without precedent. The Catholic Church has had plenty of ups and downs throughout the millennia—periods of apparent decline and corruption followed by reinvigoration and reform.

Now with the pontificate of Bendict XVI it is clear that the “Vatican II generation” is coming to an end, and in more ways than one. Benedict (Josef Ratzinger) was a key participant in the Council’s proceedings and will likely be the last cleric from that era to be made pope. He also signals the end of a generation because he has become one of the most outstanding critics of the post-conciliar Church. A good example of this is a recent discussion in Homiletic & Pastoral Review of Benedict’s encyclical Spe Salvi (“On Christian Hope”). As the Brian Graebe notes:

[I]t is what the encyclical does not say that has engendered no small amount of controversy. As numerous commentators quickly recognized, Spe Salvi contains not a single reference to any of the documents from the Second Vatican Council….. Throughout his writings, interviews and memoirs, Joseph Ratzinger clearly sees the legacy of Vatican II as having been hijacked, and needing to be restored to its proper place in the heritage of the Church.

Benedict is even more outspoken on the Catholic Mass (e.g., the liturgy) and his moves to restore the traditional forms of worship to the Latin (Western) Rite and to the Church as a whole. The recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which has garnered so much attention, is just one example. And the Mass, being the public worship of the Church, is undoubtedly the most visible point of dispute in recent years. To put it in a nutshell, both conservatives and liberals have seen the liturgy as not only an outward manifestation of Catholic culture and piety but also as a crucial indicator of theological direction. They are both right. The question is, how did people respond to the undeniable confusion that erupted in the wake of Vatican II?

Many people (including priests, monks and nuns) simply left. It was one of the worst mass exoduses from the Church in its 2000 year history. Others stayed on, as they always do, with varying degrees of commitment. Then there were the theological minorities on the “left” and “right.” Some liked what had happened and wanted to push things even further: changing Catholic teaching on contraception and divorce, admitting women to the priesthood, etc. Others dissented in the opposite direction, criticizing the New Mass that came out of Vatican II as well as many of the pastoral decisions. This “dissent on the right” spanned the spectrum from cautious conservatism to outright schism (e.g., those who denied that the pope was really the pope). In particular, those who insisted on maintaining the old Latin liturgy and criticizing some or all of the post-conciliar Vatican policies were known as Traditionalists. Even these latter represented many different shades of opinion. However it is interesting that a large of number of traditionalists over the years, including some fairly strong critics of the Vatican’s past policies have reconciled themselves, no doubt encouraged by the new course in Rome. The most recent example is the traditional Redemptorists based in Scotland.

It is clear that this pope is on a mission. His efforts at the restoration of “pre-Vatican II” Catholicism, as some have put it, were understandably cautious in the first months of his pontificate. But he now seems to have the bark of Peter under full sail. In addition to promoting the old Mass, which has seen an explosion of interest since it was freed up last year, Benedict is planning a commission to restore the New Mass to its original, more reverent rubrics. Meanwhile, as the Church of England, which broke from Rome in 1534, continues to fall apart in its own eager concessions to theological and moral progressivism, Bish. Andrew Burnham has announced his desire for a mass return to Rome on the part of conservative Anglicans.

Populist myths to the contrary, direction comes from the top—whether it’s in a family, a government, or a church. And after decades of papal inaction and/or neglect, which reached a low point in the much publicized clerical sex scandals a few years ago, Benedict XVI is taking a hands-on approach which is filtering down to all levels. The new generation of clerics is generally more orthodox than their predecessors and it is these men who are being promoted to influential positions. For example, Raymond Burke, previously Archbishop of St. Louis and an outspoken conservative, is now the first non-European head of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial tribunal in the Church. Meanwhile, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, a champion of traditional liturgy, is due to be appointed head of the Congregation of Divine Worship.

Summary: Apart from these purely religious developments it will be interesting to see on a secular level what impact a reinvigorated leadership of the Church has on the worldwide culture wars, on such topics as abortion, “alternative lifestyles,” and so forth. Just a few generations ago Catholicism had a tremendous moral influence on popular culture in the United States. It seems likely that the left-liberal status quo, now at the zenith of power and hubris, will once again be challenged…. from the highest levels!

The "Sixties Campus": Good Riddance at Last?

Guest commentary by Postmodern Conservative.

Here’s an interesting commentary from The New York Times (July 3, 2008):

Baby boomers, hired in large numbers during a huge expansion in higher education that continued into the ’70s, are being replaced by younger professors who many of the nearly 50 academics interviewed by The New York Times believe are different from their predecessors — less ideologically polarized and more politically moderate.

Whether this will reveal itself to be a positive trend remains to be seen. I never trust liberal analysis of what’s “good” or “moderate,” etc. But it is true that philosophical attitudes follow definite cycles. For example, after the French Revolution and Napoleon there was a conservative reaction in Europe. This happened again in the wake of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, though it was cut short by the “success” of F.D.R.’s New Deal (in fact, it was the progressives riding on the coattails of American victory in World War II). In that sense, the leftist dominance of American campuses pre-dates the hippies.

Certainly a conservative resurgance—which we see elsewhere, in politics and religion—is welcome, though it’s no cause for complacency. So much damage has been done it will take a lot of work just to clear up the debris left by the old regime.