Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A guy I really admire

One of my favorite writers is a fellow named Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at National Review. He writes an always-interesting column on NR's web site -www.nationalreview.com - called "Impromptus." The column is a wonderful little treasure trove of things, made more interesting because he doesn't only write about politics. His interests and expertise span everything from classical music (about which I know nothing) to language to human rights in Cuba and China to golf.

We corresponded a couple of times over the years and then actually met at the Republican National Convention last fall in St. Paul. I'm proud to have a signed copy of his book, "Here, There and Everywhere" on my bookshelf. (And you can buy it here: He'll autograph your copy for free.)

So, all of that is by way of introduction. Now, I'm simply going to turn the rest of this entry over to Jay by reprinting a bit from today's Impromptus. He very nicely sums up some of the fears I have about the direction of this country by examining what is happening in Europe. Trust me, folks, we DON'T want to go down the European path. Here's Jay:

There has been a little debate in recent weeks — and, in coming years, it will probably become a bigger debate: Will Americans accept the Europeanization of their country? Will Americans fall into Europeanness — leftism, social democracy? Or will they insist on their peculiarity, their exceptionalism?

The debate has me thinking about the British, a little. About how quickly they became — not so British. Think of the “Metric Martyr.” This was a man, a greengrocer, who gave his customers a choice: Either they could buy their goods according to metric weights and measures — liters, grams, and so on — or they could buy them according to British weights and measures: gallons, ounces, and the like. The man (Steve Thoburn) was prosecuted and convicted. It was illegal to sell according to the British system.

I asked David Pryce-Jones, who was at home in London, “How could the British people let this happen? I mean, it’s their system!” And he said, in essence, “The question is whether the British people still live here.”

Think, too, of the Iranian hostage-taking two years ago. You may remember the behavior of those British sailors and marines. It was so — so very, very un-British.

And just this January, I was in London when they had a snowfall — ten inches, or something like that. No big deal. Certainly not a blizzard. And the buses stopped running. Even the Tube stopped running.

I was talking with a senior British intellectual, and he said, “Look, I’m not a nostalgist, and I don’t think the good old days were necessarily all that good, in many respects. But even during the Blitz the buses kept running.” What had happened to Britain, and to the British? He also talked about the new reign of the health-and-safety inspectors. These are Nanny State agents, poking their noses into every nook and cranny of life.

For example, they insisted on carpeting the dance floor of a recreational center. Someone might slip and fall. So — no more dancing.

And my friend told me the following joke: How many health-and-safety inspectors does it take to change a light bulb? None, it’s too dangerous.

Okay, enough with my anecdotes, or special instances. All God’s chillen got anecdotes and special instances. All I’m saying is: The character of a people is not fixed forever. And that includes, I am sure, the American people. And when the rot sets in: It can do its work with astounding speed.

I'm just wondering....

..Is it really a good idea to let the President of the United States decide who should be CEO of a company?

I don't care about the politics of this, or what party the president belongs to. But if the shareholders, board members and creditors of General Motors were unhappy with the CEO, they had it in their power to remove him. But now the President and his staff have decided the CEO had to go, and so he is gone.

Isn't this a little bit chilling? I'm not defending General Motors, which has been a terribly-run company for years. I'm no auto industry expert, though I spent a few years in the business, working for both Lincoln-Mercury and Chrysler. GM has been making poor products for years, their union contracts have been out of touch with reality and they deserve to be where they are today, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

But having said all that, do we really want to hand a politician the power to decide who runs a company? There's a free-enterprise system at work in this country that has functioned pretty well for a long time (our current situation notwithstanding), and I wonder if this kind of government involvement isn't setting a horrible precedent.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Laziest of days....

I grew up in a house and culture that very much believed Sunday to be the "day of rest," and today I absolutely lived up to that. I got home from church a little before noon, and never left the house!

First some lunch, then a short nap, then about five hours on the couch watching Tiger Woods win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He started the day five shots behind, made up the difference and then won it with a birdie on the 18th hole. Amazing.

I'm grateful to be around to see Tiger. I'm too young to have seen Babe Ruth play, and even Willie Mays - IMHO, the greatest of all time - was pretty much done by the time I was a teenager. I saw Gordie Howe, but only when he was older, and of course I lived through all of Wayne Gretzky's career. I'm not sure who the best football player of all-time is, or if I saw him play. (Jim Brown? Gale Sayers? Joe Montana?). But this I know: Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time, and I've been able to watch his entire career.

If you ask Tiger what the two or three best shots in his career are, he'll mention the famous chip-in at the Masters, a 6-iron on the 72nd hole of the Canadian Open and a 3-iron he hit in the 2001 PGA at Hazeltine, in Chaska, Minnesota. It was on the 18th hole, and Tiger was in a fairway bunker almost 200 yards from the green. He had to get the shot up quickly, to get it over the lip of the trap. But he had to keep it low, to get under a tree branch that was in front of him. He had to fight some wind, and make the shot move left-to-right to get it on the green. Somehow he did all of that, landed the ball about 20 feet from the flag, then rolled in the birdie putt.

There are two reasons I remember the shot so well. 1) About a year later, in a Golf Digest interview, he said he thought it was the best shot he ever hit. 2) My son William and I were sitting in the bleachers on the 18th hole watching the whole thing. It was a chilly Saturday morning (they were finishing suspended rounds from Friday afternoon), and there couldn't have been more than a couple hundred of us in the bleachers. Imagine being there in person for the greatest-ever shot by the world's greatest-ever golfer! William and I will remember that forever. It's like having been there when Babe Ruth called his shot, or Wilt Chamberlian scored the 100 points.

So, to continue my lazy day: Tiger drained the winning putt just about 10 minutes before the Wild started their game up in Edmonton. That gave me enough time to fire up the grill for the first time this year, cook some burgers and be back on the couch early in the first period of the Wild game. They won 3-2, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive, and now I'm wrapping up a total couch-potato day by updating the blog.

Day of rest, indeed!


...to my blog. I already spend dozens of hours a week writing - since it's my job - I may as well spend a few more writing things that are more of a personal nature.

I'm Tim Droogsma, which you probably knew if you made it this far. I'm not exactly in the demographic "sweet spot" anymore, a 52-year-old guy, father of four grown kids, small business owner, golfer, grandpa and a few other things, none of which make me particularly remarkable. So there's our introduction.

Couple of things I'll remember about today, one personal, one business-related, so I'll start with the business.

I attended my first professional indoor lacrosse game tonight, watching the Minnesota Swarm lose to the Calgary Roughnecks. I've played a lot of sports in my life - baseball, hockey, golf, football, broomball, tennis, volleyball, just to name a few - and except for ultimate cagefighting, or whatever they call it, I've never seen a sport where you could just freely smack the bejeeburs out of an opponent like you can in lacrosse. If a guy has the ball, it's open season: Slash him with your stick, hit him in the chest with your forearm, smack him in the head...whatever it takes. Just a vicious sport, which I enjoyed, though I'm not sure I'll ever become a big fan.

I went there because one of my clients - a great company called Velocity Sports Performance - recently signed a sponsorship agreement with the Swarm. Velocity is now the "Official Training Center" of the Swarm, and I wanted to see a game just to see how the Swarm publicize their sponsors...PA announcements, scoreboard presence, etc. I want to make sure my client is getting value for its marketing dollar. It's a well-run operation, and I was very impressed with their co-owner and vice-president, Andy Arlotta, when I met him a few weeks ago. Fun night, and proof that even an old goat can learn to appreciate a new sport. If you're interested, you can learn more about them at http://www.mnswarm.com/.

Now the personal part. Before the game, I went in to get fitted for a tuxedo. It's for my youngest daughter's wedding, which is coming up May 30. And even though she wasn't there (she's off at North Park University in Chicago, from which she will graduate in a few weeks), I still found myself getting a little emotional just trying on the tux and thinking about the day. She's the youngest of two daughters, #3 in the line of four kids, and since her older sister is already married, this is the last time I'll walk one of them down the aisle. And it seems like it was just the other day that she was three years old and I could pick her up, fold her up in my arms and call her "Smooshie." And so, standing in a fitting room, trying on a pair of rented pants, I had a little lump in my throat. The time goes by quickly.

My emotions were on edge a bit anyway, because Friday night I attended the visitation for a terrific fellow named Roger Angstman, father of my close friend Dr. Greg Angstman, who passed away this week at 76. Roger was one of the smartest men I ever knew, and he fought an amazing seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer. In 2002 he was told he had only three or four months to live, and he lasted until this past Sunday. Tough guy.

In high school, there were several of us that were out at the Angstman farm all the time. Baseball games in the summer, football games in the fall, and lots of hours sitting across the chessboard from Roger. He loved to play, and he taught us all. He'd "handicap" the match with beginners by playing without his queen, or without a rook, until we could improve. It was a real badge of honor when Roger would finally decide he could play you straight up.

There were four of us who learned enough chess to put together a team, and in 1973 we played in the Minnesota State High School team championships. After the tournament, Roger took all of our notations, and would sit at the board and recreate our games. He couldn't wait to show us where we had gone wrong, or when we made a good move. He was a great man, and a tremendous example of a life well-lived.

So from that on Friday night, to the tuxedo fitting today, I was reminded again of the great big circle of life, and how brief our moment on the stage is (to mix metaphors.) Not a hugely keen insight, I realize, but for someone as shallow as I am, it's getting pretty deep in the pool.