Sunday, December 30, 2007

Random Musings at Year's End

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto comes as no surprise. Indeed her murder serves as a reminder of the seething socio-political-sectarian struggles within the Islamic world as a whole. Even if the United States or Israel did not exist, the tensions we behold now on our TV screens would still be taking place.

How her death affects our involvement in the internecine struggles for power in Pakistan, people forget that America has long had an involved relationship with Pakistan. Ever since its creation in 1948, America has been a sponsor of Pakistan’s successive dictatorships. This came about when India maintained a policy on non-alignment during the Cold War with the former Soviet Union and Communist China under Mao Zedong. Presidents from Truman to Nixon viewed India’s neutrality with suspicion and courted Pakistan as an ally in the ideological struggle. Indeed, when India and Pakistan fought one another in 1971 over the independence of Bangladesh, America supplied arms and military advisers to Pakistan.

The problem is: the fact that America is so heavily involved in Pakistani affairs merely serves as fodder for the rise in Islamic extremism. Just as America’s support for the late Shah of Iran fueled the rise of the Iran’s fundamentalist revolution in 1979, so too does our involvement in Pakistan adds seasoning to the boiling pot of revolution. In many ways, we are trapped. Increasing our presence in Pakistan merely fans the flames. Total withdrawal from Pakistan would hasten the takeover of Pakistan by the same Talibanic elements that launched 9/11 on America.

* * *

I watched the New England Patriots finish the 2007 regular season undefeated at 16-0. Seeing the Patriots come back from a 28-16 margin to defeat the Giants 38-35 brings back memories of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The 1972 NFL season was the first season where I became aware of NFL football. I was nine years old then and remember falling in love with the Miami Dolphins team. I remember fondly, Bob Griese, Earl Morrall, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Garo Yepremian (the first soccer-style kicker in NFL history). But having seen the Patriots become the first NFL team to go undefeated in a sixteen game season, I have to believe that they are the greatest NFL team of all time. I may be premature with my forecast but if the Patriots win the Super Bowl then they will go a long way in cementing that claim of being the greatest team that ever lived.

You cannot compare NFL eras. The game has changed so much since 1972. (Indeed it was the last season where the goalposts were located on the goal-line and kickers kicked off from the forty-yard line). In terms of overall size and speed you cannot compare the 1972 Dolphins with the 2007 Patriots. But the 2007 Patriots possess talents, styles, and tactics that not even the 1972 Dolphins could have counter-acted even if their players were the same size as today’s Patriots are.

The 1972 Dolphins beat their opponents through attrition, combining a devastating running game with a phalanx-like defense. (The 1972 Dolphins were the first NFL team ever to have two 1,000 yard rushers in their backfield: Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, with Jim Kiick gaining over 500 yards rushing as well). The Dolphins were so ball-control minded that there were several games where quarterback Bob Griese would make less than ten pass attempts. (Unheard of in today’s game).

I don’t see how such an offensive style could work against the 2007 Patriots.

Bob Griese was a splendid quarterback and a magnificent leader but he lacked the same superstar quality that a Tom Brady has. Griese never generated the numbers that a Joe Namath or Sonny Jurgensen or even Johnny Unitas generated during that era. Brady has proven since 2001 that he can generate the same numbers and even more.

Also the 1972 Dolphins No-Name defense didn’t possess the aggressive turnover abilities that the 2007 Patriots possess. In terms of ball-hawking, the Patriots get the nod in my opinion.

Simply put, the 2007 Patriots have too much offense and too much defense. They are the total package and should be revered as such by true football purists.

Fans may complain that the Patriots are boring but guess what the 1972 Dolphins were just as boring in their style of winning as the 2007 Patriots are. Actually watching both teams in action reminds me of what the late President Kennedy once said on the subject of success, “The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along lines of excellence”.

The 2007 Patriots are the living embodiment of what President Kennedy was alluding to that day in 1963.

* * *

I’ve always hated New Year’s Eve. I can only recall one, maybe two New Year’s Eves where I have truly enjoyed myself. Mostly what New Year’s Eve reminds me of is how lonely and isolated my life has truly been. Recently, I’ve taken to going to the movies on New Year’s Eve but this year no movie tickles my fancy.

And so……

I will usher in 2008 in a more banal fashion.

I will work a normal work day and do absolutely nothing.

Hubba, Hubba, Hubba.

* * *

Oh yes: my predictions for 2008.

1) The insurgents in Iraq will launch a major offensive on or near the same day President Bush will give his State of the Union address where he will say that the surge worked and that real progress is being made in Iraq and that we cannot pull out now. Not only will it embarrass President Bush it may also throw a monkey wrench in Republican candidate John McCain’s Presidential campaign since he is basing his candidacy on a more vigorous application of America’s military strength in Iraq. McCain has made political capital on the success of the surge. A major (and successful) insurgent offensive could damage McCain’s credibility.

2) The Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary will not decide the nominations for either party. The contests in South Carolina, Florida, and Super Tuesday will be the real deciding contests in the 2008 Presidential races for both parties.

3) Do not discount the G.O.P. in the 2008 Presidential race. Despite the setbacks in Iraq and the rises in energy and food prices, and the collapse in the housing market, 2008 will not be a banner year for the Democrats. There is ample room for failure on their parts as well.

4) Like the actor Val Kilmer once said in the movie The Doors, “hatred is a very underestimated emotion” you will see more hatred than you will ever see in 2008—in all aspects of life—and we as a people living on this planet Earth will suffer enormously for it.

Let us pray.

Happy New Year.

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