TOPIC: sports
Issue 13
February 3, 2019
Super Bowl LIII

Tom Brady, the ageless quarterback for the New England Patriots will lead his team on to the field today to compete in Super Bowl LIII vs The Los Angeles Rams. Mr. Brady, already anointed the Greatest Of All Time. (G.O.A.T.) by many NFL analysts has earned numerous accolades. At 41 years old, he is also an outlier with respect to age and ongoing superior performance. His illustrious career has spanned almost two decades; to date, Brady currently ranks 3rd in touchdown passes (517), 4th in Passing Yards (70,514), Passes Completed (6,004) & Passer Rating (97.6) and 13th in Completion Percentage (64%). Today will be Brady's record breaking 9th Super Bowl appearance. He has emerged victorious in five previous championship games and enjoyed MVP honors in four of those contests. Let’s also not forget that Brady has been crowned the NFL's most valuable player 3 times and been selected to 14 Pro Bowls.

Remarkably for most his tenure with the Patriots, Brady hasn't had the benefit of throwing to top flight wide receivers. He is particularly skilled at transforming average players around him into stars. Unfortunately for his divisional rivals, he does not seem inclined to hang up his cleats any time soon; Brady stated that there is "zero chance he is retiring" after this year’s Super Bowl.

Some experts make the argument that it is unfair to compare Brady to former greats like John Elway, Joe Montana & Dan Marino. Those stars played in an era when teams relied more on running the football. Quarterbacks of that time did not benefit from as many opportunities to pad their statistics. Moreover, as a result of numerous rule changes football is a less violent sport. Players today, and particularly quarterbacks, are afforded more protection than ever before. This has enabled them to stay healthier and avoid absorbing the most debilitating hits, thereby extending their careers. This skews the equation when comparing Brady to other football greats. While the argument over who is the G.O.A.T won't be settled anytime soon, it is without debate that Mr. Brady is the most successful quarterback of all time both on and off the field.

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Issue 26
May 12, 2019
Horseracing

On Saturday May 4th Maximum Security, the clear (unofficial) winner of the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, was disqualified. After the race was over, two jockeys filed objections. They argued that Maximum Security committed a foul under the rules that govern horseracing in the state of Kentucky. After ~20 minutes of suspense, three judges or “Stewards” as they are known in the sport, upheld the competing jockey’s objections and made a unanimous decision to disqualify Maximum Security for violating Section 12 of rule 810. That rule stipulates that disqualification is warranted if "a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side to interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey." Maximum Security thus became the 1st horse in Derby history to be disqualified on race day (though in 1968, Derby winner Dancer’s image was eventually stripped of his title for receiving performance enhancing drugs).

Through their attorney Barry Stilz, Maximum Security’s owners, Gary & May West, immediately appealed the Steward’s decision. It was denied. The West’s could theoretically pursue legal options but the odds of any substantive changes are shall we say, a “long shot.” Thus, Country House, a 65 to 1 long shot in his own right was declared the winner while Maximum Security dropped to 17th place.

For the record, at The Quintessential Centrist, prior to this year’s Kentucky Derby, we did not know much about horseracing. For this piece, we thoroughly researched the sport and its rules. We also conducted interviews with several knowledgeable racing fans. And as always, we welcome our reader’s feedback. Your thoughtful comments, ideas and opinions are a material part of what helps us improve our process. We thank you in advance for your participation.

Taken what we have gathered over the past week via our own due diligence coupled with probing interviews, our view is as follows: from the untrained eye, it appeared that Maximum Security clearly veered out of his lane and impeded other participants. Under the state of Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) rules, this is a violation that warrants disqualification. That said, we wonder if there was room for the Stewards at the Kentucky Derby to be more holistic and qualitative in their approach.

At TQC, we are avid (American) football enthusiasts and as such, have the benefit of a deeper understanding of the nuances surrounding the sport. In the National Football League (NFL), one of the most common penalties in the game is “holding.” If officials wanted to, they could throw a flag for “holding” on essentially every single play. That said, referees typically only penalize a team for “holding” if the foul was either blatantly obvious no matter where on the field it took place, or it had a material impact on the play. We enjoy watching basketball too. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), players often take an extra half-step or “travel” when penetrating towards the basket. While “traveling” is not permitted under NBA rules – and when called results in a change of ball possession – officials rarely blow their whistle for this offense. “Traveling” occurs frequently. Unless the “travel” was egregious and or allowed for an easier pathway to produce a basket, it is often ignored.

Of course, “holding,” violations in the NFL, “traveling” violations in the NBA, and disqualifications in horseracing are subjective judgment calls. It is extremely difficult to get it right all the time. Mistakes do happen. That said, we would think in a race with 19 live animals weighing upwards of 1,000 pounds each, it would be abnormal for bumping and crowding not to happen. In our view, technically the correct call was made, but the Stewards probably should not have made the call. Maximum Security clearly impeded other horses, but would it have made difference in the outcome of the race? At least pertaining to which horse ultimately won? We would say unequivocally no, it did not. Maximum Security won by over a length (a legitimate argument could be made that Maximum Security’s foul affected the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the race).

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Issue 32
June 23, 2019
Their Right, Wrong Venue

Last month, Megan Rapinoe, co-captain and star midfielder on the U.S. Women’s national soccer team, indicated that she would continue protesting the national anthem during the upcoming World Cup tournament. Rapinoe called it a “good ‘F you’” to the Trump administration. In fact, regardless of who eventually succeeds President Trump, Rapinoe stated, “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart. I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”

Ms. Rapinoe was inspired in part by Colin Kaepernick, a mixed-race former NFL quarterback who in 2016 began sitting and then kneeling (to show more respect to current and former military personal) during the national anthem before games. That season, Mr. Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before each regular season game arguing that he would not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” and vowed to continue his protest until “the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.” Other NFL players joined him.

Said Ms. Rapinoe of Kaepernick’s actions, “Colin Kaepernick very much inspired me, and inspired an entire nation, and still does, to actually think about these things.” Many people credit Colin Kaepernick with being a catalyst that reinvigorated a national movement to protest racial injustice, civil rights violations and other forms of mistreatment of African Americans and other minorities.

Many athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe are quick to assert that protesting the national anthem is by no means a sign of disrespect to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice, in order for Mr. Kaepernick, Ms. Rapinoe or any American to exercise their right to free speech. However, many servicemen and women, as well as Americans in general, view it as just that, and take strong exception. At TQC, we have no reason not to take Kaepernick and others at their word. Yet we also can understand and appreciate how our military and ordinary citizens alike could be offended by their actions. To note, President Trump didn’t help bridge the divide when he asserted that “NFL owners should ‘fire’ players who protest the national anthem.”

At TQC, we support the right of anybody to protest the national anthem or anything else they see fit; as long as it’s done in a peaceful way. We stand firmly behind all Americans and their cherished right to organize against and reject anything they deem unjust. That said, while we have no issue with Mr. Kaepernick and Ms. Rapinoe’s actions, and in fact commend them for fighting for a cause they wholeheartedly believe in, we think the venues used to lodge their protest are inappropriate.

Current reality is a 24-hour news cycle full of rage, vitriol, violence and controversy. Furthermore, “reality” television and various social media platforms serve as a tinderbox for spats, allowing them to escalate to the point where an entire nation is consumed by taking sides and lobbing insults - often at perfect strangers - back and forth.

Most people attend sporting events for leisurely entertainment. Watching our favorite sports teams allows us a window to get a reprieve from it all. Often, children accompany their parents to the ballfield to root for their favorite teams and see their heroes in action. Spectators, most of which are ordinary Americans making ordinary salaries, spend a large percentage of their disposable income to purchase tickets, in part to take a break from the stresses that encompass life, to be entertained, spend time quality with their children, and watch their favorite players compete. As such, a professional football game, soccer match, or any sporting event is the wrong forum for a political protest.

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Issue 36
July 28, 2019
4x3x2x1 Eat Right Live Well and Have Fun

Ever since high school, I have taken a keen interest in physical fitness, worked out consistently, read different books and periodicals and consulted with many fitness pros to broaden my knowledge base on the subject. I have logged thousands of hours in the gym testing out numerous weight lifting (anaerobic), aerobic, stretching and dieting routines, using myself as a human guinea pig. Since then, I have tailored many strength training and conditioning programs, stretching routines, and given copious amounts of nutritional advice to family, friends and fellow gym rats. When I was in my twenties and early thirties, a disproportionate amount of inquiries that came my way were about lifting weights and stretching. Once I turned 40, the majority of questions I received had more to do with diet and weight loss.

Mythos

Does a “diet” exist that people with an average amount of willpower can actually stick to over the long term, does not deprive them of their favorite foods and is well-balanced? The short answer is “no.” Indeed, the number of get slim quick gimmicks, get lean fast fads, and other enticing offers that conveniently find their way into our inboxes (talk about “junk” mail), mailboxes, across our computer screens or in books and magazines is mind boggling, can be overwhelming and most importantly, are of little long term practical value. The notion of the term “diet” is temporary, which is why they often fail; it inherently implies a short-term solution to eating and lifestyle choices that will revert to the mean. Below is a sampling of three of the most famous diets:

The South Beach Diet: In this diet, the subject must eliminate “bad carbs” derived in part from sodas, candy and cookies and eat protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and “good carbs” derived in part from brown rice, corn and legumes.

The Paleo Diet: Commonly referred to as the “caveman diet.” Only foods that existed hundreds and thousands of years ago before the advent of modern food processing technology, are allowed to be consumed. Meat, fish, nuts and vegetables are permissible. All grains and processed foods are not.

The Atkins Diet: The most famous of all fads. The original Atkins Diet simply instructed its participants to avoid all carbohydrates; fried eggs and bacon where fine. The new Atkins Diet is “healthier.” It includes leaner protein and “good carbs.” However, whole grains are not allowed until later, once the dieter enters the “maintenance phase.”

All three of these diets are rigid, not particularly well balanced, and close to impossible to stick to over the long term. The primary reason is because they all deprive of us of some of our favorite foods. That is no fun and tends to put people in rotten moods.

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Issue 39
August 18, 2019
"Yes Hello, I'd Like To Cancel My Equinox Membership"

Last week, there was a social media tweet storm followed by a sprinkle of “protestors” who made a conscious decision to cancel their Equinox membership and / or stop paying for SoulCycle classes because Steve Ross – a passive investor in the aforementioned entities – hosted a fund raiser for Donald Trump at his home in Long Island.

At TQC, we respect the right of Equinox members to cancel their membership in order to keep their discretionary dollars from somebody they (apparently) disagree with politically, or for any reason for that matter. Unfortunately, for some of the protestors whose objective it was to financially impair Mr. Ross, quitting the gym won’t make a dent in his wallet. However, it could materially impact the bank balances of the employees – often young men and women of modest means - who work at Equinox.

Many Equinox employees are hardworking students working to subsidize their education or are young trainers trying to make contacts with the goal of building of a client roster to grow their book of business. It is a shame that if anybody is to bear the brunt of a cancelled gym membership, it’s going to be them.

Additionally, in our view, many of the protestors’ angst are misplaced. We have never met Steve Ross; everything we know about him we learned from indirect sources. That said, 99% of the people who canceled their gym membership have never met Steve Ross either, and know next to nothing about the man, other than that he supports Donald Trump. In this case, a better allocation of their discretionary dollars would probably go to supporting a politician that stood for what was important to them or perhaps donating the money or their time to a charitable cause of their choice.

If You Support Donald Trump, That Makes You a Morally Corrupt Person?

In our February 24th issue, we posted an article titled Where We Think Trump is Right. In it, we reminded our readers that:

“Our platform promotes civil discourse irrespective of political leanings. This, more often than not, involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies. And it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries.”

In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by ~3 million votes. That said, ~63 million people or ~47% of people who casted a ballot, voted for Mr. Trump. There are certainly a minority of Trump supporters who are unabashedly racist, and another sub-sector of Trumpists who might harbor racist views but don’t actively promote or act on them (we would be remiss not to point out that racist views do not just apply to Trump supporters and the far right. Some Clinton supporters and current radical Democrats are racist, too). That said, to lump 63 million adult Americans who support Donald Trump, toss them (and Steve Ross) into one bucket and label them uncaring, stupid or racist etc., is ignorant and simply wrong in its own right.

At TQC, we do not support Donald Trump, but we do stand behind a few of his policies when they make sound sense. We also believe that somebody can support Trump and be a perfectly law abiding, tax paying, charitable-giving, community-building, socially-accepting, job-creating, generally decent human being, as Steve Ross appears to be. Indeed, just because somebody is a Donald Trump supporter, doesn’t necessarily make that person evil or morally corrupt. However, an argument could be made that anybody who thinks it does, is closed minded and divisive themselves.

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Issue 50
November 10, 2019
Giants vs Jets

This Sunday November 10th, at 1PM EST, The New York Giants will host The New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, the venue in East Rutherford, NJ, where both teams typically play their home games. To say that both organizations are struggling would be an understatement. Sadly, struggling is nothing new for the “same old Jets,” the widely-used catchphrase fans use to describe the anticipation (finally) of success, only to be let down, time and again.

New York Jets

Many die-hard Jet fans – including this one - point to a divisional playoff game vs the Cleveland Browns in 1986 when the football gods decided to put the Jets in the penalty box. The men in green were leading by 10 points late in the 4th quarter. The Browns had the ball and were facing a second down and 24 yards to go. Star defensive end Mark Gastineau sacked Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar; it appeared the Browns would be in a desperate 3rd and 24. But a flag was thrown; Gastineau was penalized for roughing the passer, a foul that is (too) common today but relatively rare back then. The Jets protested to no avail. The Browns subsequently drove down the field and scored a touchdown. After stopping the Jets and getting the ball back, the Browns tied the game with seconds remaining on the game clock. In the first overtime neither team scored. The game was settled with ~2 minutes remaining in the second overtime when Browns kicker Mark Mosely booted a 27-yard field goal to seal the victory. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Jets have not won their division (the AFC East) since 2002, and only once before then in 1998. They have not made the playoffs in almost 10 years when a then over-hyped quarterback named Marc Sanchez “lead” the team to back-to-back AFC Championship games in ’09 & ’10. In reality, it was a stout defense and power running game that enabled the Jets to advance that far. A microcosm of the Jets folly was Sanchez’s famous “butt fumble” that occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, on national television, the seminal moment in a 49-19 lashing courtesy of the New England Patriots. Another embarrassing spectacle in Jets history was the “fake spike” engineered by Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in 1994. That play propelled the Dolphins to victory and took the air out of the Jets season.

Over the past three decades, Jet supporters have been teased on numerous occasions as it appeared that “greener” pastures lay ahead. There have even been brief windows of success within the multi-decade malaise of New York Jets football. In addition to the back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, the Monday Night Miracle will forever be a bright spot in Jets history. Unfortunately, one of the few things the Jets have done consistently during this span, even during times of reprieve, is come up short. In 1998 after winning the AFC East, the Jets were one game away from reaching the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos ended that possibility by scoring 23 unanswered points in the second half of the AFC Championship game, which resulted in a 23-10 Broncos victory. In 2004, (historically) reliable kicker Doug Brien missed two 4th quarter field goals that would have sent the Jets to the AFC title game.

In a 2013 pre-season game, Marc Sanchez was inexplicably playing behind the 2nd team offensive line. They proved porous. Near the end of the game, Sanchez absorbed a hard hit and injured his shoulder. Rookie Geno Smith was summoned and started all 16 games of the season. The team finished 8-8. Smith improved in 2014 but had a weak supporting-cast. The Jets struggled and finished with just 4 wins against 12 losses. Nevertheless, the future appeared bright with the young talented Smith under center. Expectations were lofty leading up to the 2015 season. However, in a stunning example of intra-squad dysfunction, during training camp of that year, Smith was involved in an altercation with teammate. Reserve linebacker IK Enemkpali was enraged that Smith failed to repay him $600 for a plane ticket to a football camp. Unable to settle their differences through dialogue, a fight ensued. Enemkpali punched Smith in the face. Smith suffered a broken jaw. His season was over before it started, his fate as a Jet all but sealed. He is currently a backup for the Seattle Seahawks.

Selecting 1st round draft busts is one area where the Jets have excelled. This has been a specialty of Jets management since quarterback Richard Todd was selected in the first round of the 1976 draft. Other notable 1st round busts include WR Lam Jones (’80), RB Roger Vick (’87), RB Blair Thomas (’90), QB Browning Nagle (’91), DT Dewayne Robertson (’03), LB Vernon Gholson (’08), DB Kyle Wilson (’10), DE Quinton Coples (’12) and DB Dee Milliner (’13). While QB Christian Hackenberg was not selected in the first round - he was a second-round pick - he deserves special mention. The Jets selected Hackenberg with the 51st pick of the 2016 draft. He was signed to a four-year contract worth $4.66 million, with $1.6 million guaranteed. The Jets cut him after two seasons. He never stepped on the field in a regular season game. He is currently out of football. Jets management accomplished an even more stunning feat of ineptitude by selected Jachai Polite in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. Polite was given a $1.12 million dollar signing bonus. After paying $100,000 in fines for being late to team meetings, the Jets released Polite before this season even began! He is currently on the Los Angeles Raiders’ practice squad.

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