I wonder …

I experienced a quick but strange pondering over the weekend. I saw a Yankee Candle on a shelf and thought, I wonder how well Yankee Candle sells in the south?

According to yankeecandle.com, there is one Yankee Candle store in all of Louisiana, one in Arkansas, two in Mississippi and four in Alabama. There are 12 in Georgia, 11 in South Carolina and 15 in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, there are 41 stores in New York and 66 in New England, including 34 in its home state of Massachusetts.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s stats show that those seven southern states have a population of 37,444,624. That’s one Yankee Candle store for every 814,000 people or so. Meanwhile, those seven northeast states have a population of 34,480,814, or one store for every 322,000 people.

Yankee Candle’s latest publicly reported revenue was $844 million in 2013. While I may never know the exact financial number to what I wondered, I know more today and can likely conclude that Yankee Candle sells at least twice as well in the northeast than it does in the south. Not really a surprise, but I feel better having done some research.


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What Trump could learn by visiting a YMCA

Like the rest of the world, I was pondering the results of the presidential election last week. I was at the YMCA where I saw posters proclaiming their core values.

Caring: To demonstrate a sincere concern for others, for their needs and well-being.

Is Donald Trump a caring individual? Well, he did propose federal subsidies for child care that include tax deductions, rebates, savings accounts and paid maternity leave. However, a closer look shows that families earning $60,000 or less get $15 for every $100 they pay for childcare. Those making a half million or more would get $39.60 for every $100.

Honesty: To tell the truth, to demonstrate reliability and trustworthiness through actions that are in keeping with my stated positions and beliefs.

Just two months before the election, a CNN/ORC poll showed that 50% of registered voters considered Trump “more honest and trustworthy” compared to just 35% who said the same about Hillary Clinton. An ABC News/Washington Post poll had similar numbers at the end of October — 46% for Trump, 38% for Clinton.

These polls, perhaps, explain why Trump won. He sold the narrative better. His message — A Mexican-paid wall, blocking immigrants, bringing back all those overseas jobs and busting the corruption in Washington — was believed more than Clinton’s “better together” message.

Meanwhile, Politifact, the fact-checking group, rated 70% percent of Trump’s 331 statements they checked to be mostly false, false, or “pants on fire,” while 26% of Clinton’s 293 statements were in the same false range. Somehow telling half-truths or better 30% of the time convinced enough people to vote for him. I think we need to aim a higher next time, folks.

Respect: To treat others as I would want them to treat me, to value the worth of every person, including myself.

“Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.” That was Donald Trump during the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas in October. That comment prompted guffaws from the audience that Chris Wallace had to quiet.

Despite the Access Hollywood bus open mic fiasco that allowed us all to hear that Trump wants to grab women by the, um, p-word, and get away with it … despite dozens of sexual-assault allegations and claims of him groping beauty pageant contestants … despite his insinuating during a Republican primary debate that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating (she had “blood coming out of her wherever”) and complaining on stage about Carly Fiorina’s face … despite saying that he’d like to date his own daughterhe won the vote among white women in this country by a 53-45 percentage score.

Responsibility: To do what is right — what I ought to do, to be accountable for my choices of behavior and actions and my promises.

I can’t create something out of nothing here. I find no evidence on the positive this time.

Trump and his businesses face thousands of lawsuits, ranging from defamation to people who claim Trump didn’t pay them for services rendered. He used hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own charity to settle his many legal problems. His third wife, Melania Trump, broke immigration laws by modeling before she had obtained a work visa, and he reportedly had an affair while married to Melania.

Since the election, we’ve seen and heard a different Donald Trump. He appeared to be humbled during his visits to the White House and the Capitol. He was calm and thoughtful during a “60 Minutes” interview. He has to balance the boisterous, entertaining and bigoted candidate who won almost half of the country’s votes with a more gracious, humble and serious president-elect to calm the other 49% or so. It starts with his staff selection … and perhaps visiting his local YMCA to ponder the meaning of its core values.

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Presidential election proves we need to fix a broken system

What kind of country do I live in? It’s not the same one that I thought as recently as a year ago, but I’m forced to face — and accept — a new reality.

For more than a year, I thought Donald Trump was playing out a joke. Surely he couldn’t be taken seriously during the Republican primaries. After all, he referenced his own genitals, insinuated that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating during a debate (she had “blood coming out of her wherever”) and complained about Carly Fiorina’s face. All of this live on stage. On national television! He must be crazy, I thought. He won’t win any primary with language like that. He insulted John McCain, Rosie O’Donnell, Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, President Obama, handicapped people. All of this several months before the open mic on the Access Hollywood bus.

He slung his scariest insults at the media. RightWingWatch.org reported in April that he said, “I think the press really, really misrepresents and it’s extremely dishonest. I think that’s the biggest problem with the campaign, is the dishonesty of the press, honestly.”

He and I disagree on policies about climate change, immigration and energy, but I confess that I agree with our new president-elect about one thing — the system is broken. Our two-party system is broken. A dysfunctional Republican Party featured veteran leaders who wouldn’t endorse Trump but put him on the ballot for the rest of us to consider as a finalist. A disillusioned and probably corrupt Democratic Party weaseled its way around Bernie Sanders to make sure Hillary Clinton landed on the ballot. We’re a country of more than 300 million people, and we were left to decide between two people who each had higher than 50% dissatisfaction ratings. We faced a lose-lose situation on this historic election day.

Thanks to a two-party system that’s fueled by a human growth hormone known as Citizens United, we may never again see two final candidates that can be respected by the majority of our country.

Trump doesn’t much believe in the two-party system either. According to The Washington Times, he changed political party affiliations at least five times. He started as a Republican in 1987, switched to the Independence Party in 1999, became a Democrat in 2001, went back to the GOP in 2009, then marked the “I do not wish to enroll in a party.” box in 2011. He ultimately flipped to Republican for a third time in April 2012. Of course, in New York state, that was too late to vote in the 2012 primary but not too late to complain on Twitter.

Trump and his supporters are spot-on about one thing — we need to change our system.

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Here’s to you, Harvey Haddix

When the final out was anticlimatically recorded Wednesday night, Armando Galarraga was not alone in posting an imperfect perfect game. Sure, he had his legendary and compassionate manager, Jim Leyland. His Detroit Tigers teammates shared in his disbelief and disappointment. Somewhere in Ohio, where Harvey Haddix was born in 1925 and died in 1994, the Haddix family understands.

Far too much focus has been on the umpire, Jim Joyce, who incorrectly called safe the Cleveland Indians runner, Jason Donald. SportsCenter focused on highlights of the 1985 World Series, when a similar close play at first base with a pitcher covering was missed by the umpire in the ninth inning. The Kansas City Royals rallied for a Game 6 victory, then won the championship the next day.

Far too little focus was shown to the young pitcher and to any comparison the Haddix gem, which was even more impressive and more unjust. Galarraga is a 28-year-old right-hander from Venezuela. Wednesday’s start was his third this season and 57th of his journeyman career. His previous start was 11 days prior. He threw a 28-out perfect game, as we all know by now, but the official record books show that he crafted a complete-game, one-hit masterpiece.

Haddix was a 33-year-old left-hander with the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 26, 1959, when he faced the Braves in Atlanta. This was a Braves team that had gone to the previous two World Series and boasted a lineup that included future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. They went a combined 0-for-8 in that game.

Haddix retired 27 consecutive batters over the first nine innings. Ordinarily, that would be a perfect game. But the Braves Lew Burdette matched Haddix with zeros on the scoreboard.  They continued to shut down the batters in innings 10, 11 and 12. When Haddix went to the mound in the bottom of the 13th, he had set down 36 straight Braves, but it was still 0-0. First, the perfect game went when Felix Mantilla, a substitute second baseman, reached safely on an error. After a sacrifice bunt, Haddix intentionally walked Aaron. Haddix still had a no-hitter going when Joe Adcock smashed a home run. Adcock never scored because he passed Aaron on the base paths. He was credited with a double, and the Braves won 1-0. (See the box score.)

Haddix had other highlights in his 14-year career, which was spent with five teams. He had a 136-113 record with 1,575 strikeouts, a 3.63 ERA, 99 complete games and 21 shutouts. He started and won Game 5 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, then helped the Pirates upset the Bronx Bombers in Game 7 as a reliever.

So when you’re feeling sorry for Galarraga and Joyce, think not of blown calls but remember and honor Harvey Haddix. He and Galarraga share imperfect perfection.

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Stop it with two thousand and ten already

I heard it on the radio again the other day. Two thousand and ten. As in the year, 2010. When will we all convert to twenty-ten? And twenty-eleven next year? Trying to make Americans change gears is next to impossible. Look how quickly we respond to natural disasters in the Gulf and how we could never adopt fully the metric system.

It’s time we transition to twenty-ten. It’s only been a full decade now. OK, “the year two thousand” was cute and dramatic at the same time. But the year before that was nineteen ninety-nine. I suppose that in 89 years we’ll be saying “two thousand and ninety-nine”. Come on. It’ll be twenty-ninety-nine. If we’re lucky.

Then name 2001 and Sept. 11. 9-11-01. Two thousand and one. Have to leave that one alone.

So by 2002, we should have removed ourselves from two thousand and two, but no. Eight years later, we’re still at it.

Look at history. Do we say that WWI started in nineteen hundred and fourteen or one thousand nine hundred and fourteen? No, we say nineteen-fourteen. So in three years, should we say two thousand fourteen or twenty-fourteen. I think you know the answer.

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NCAA proposes hypocritical plan

The NCAA appears to have made up its mind. The current 65-team field of the men’s basketball tournament will expand to 96 teams. It expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and added the extra play-in game in 2001.

According to the Associated Press, NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen “said the NCAA looked at keeping the current 65-team field and expanding to 68 or 80 teams, but decided the bigger bracket was best fit logistically and financially.”

The key word is “financially”.

Adding 32 teams is an additional 16 games. That’s more ticket revenue, parking, concessions, etc. But the big money comes from TV. The NCAA signed an 11-year contract with CBS in 1999, and they have a mutual opt-out option until July 31. The NCAA is talking with other networks, such as a combination of ESPN and ABC, about expansion. With more teams and more games, the TV contract would have to grow.

There are two big problems with this plan.

First, good-bye NIT. The National Invitation Tournament, won by Dayton last night, would fade away. Once the official men’s basketball championship tourney, the NIT invites 32 teams, probably the same 32 that would make a future NCAA field. One of the arguments made by the NCAA is that by taking those 32 teams and putting them into the NCAA field, travel is reduced because the sites of the first- and second-round games would now host three rounds. Tell that to the college sites and Madison Square Garden, which host the NIT games.

Second, the NCAA is being hypocritical when you compare this plan to the college football system. For years now there has been a cry for a Division I playoff system, but the NCAA doesn’t want to abandon its sponsor-rich bowl system. They say a playoff system would keep students out of the classroom too much. They say the lesser bowl games would lose significance. Au contraire.

A college football playoff would be played in December and early January, when most colleges are on break. Adding more college basketball games during March is primetime for spring semester. Lesser bowl games are played now while we all wait for one game, the BCS championship game that is usually a controversial matchup. With a 16-team playoff, for example, every weekend matters, and TV can use the lesser bowls as warmups to the playoff games every weekend. Heck, play some of these games on weeknights to avoid clashing with the NFL.

I understand the desire to expand the basketball tournament. There is potential of ruining a good thing, of course. If it does expand, please consider a couple of ideas:

1) Play the first two rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week. Start earlier. Keep the current Thursday through Sunday schedule that we have now for rounds one through four. Make the lower 64 play first-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday, then the normal craziness of Thursday and Friday kicks in as usual.

2) Give automatic bids to regular season league champions. This gives meaning to the regular season, which can be a grind, in addition to the exciting sprint of the postseason league tournaments.

Finally, the NCAA should admit their hypocrisy when they suggest such plans. Please be honest with us. You owe us that much.

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Ryan who? Sports landscape has a new face

The landscape of sports has officially changed. The world as we knew it is gone. The future, as seen through the eyes of teens and tweens, is not baseball, basketball, football, hockey, boxing and horse racing. It’s not even tennis or golf. Or lacrosse and soccer, as some would proclaim.

The TLAs (three-letter acronyms) of MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL are being replaced by MMA, UFC, WWE and the OLA of X, as in X Games.

Last night I watched part of a replay of the “Kids’ Choice Awards”, aka the KCA. It was on Nickelodeon last weekend, but my sons didn’t watch it live. They DVR’d it. One of the categories was “Favorite Male Athlete”. Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard and Joe Mauer were nowhere on the nominee list. There was no Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson. No Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. These Nick kids probably would have said Sidney who? Joe schmoe? The nominees were two NBA stars — Kobe Bryant and LeBron James — and two X Games superheroes. One of them I knew because Shaun White crosses over into the Olympic Winter Games as a superhuman snowboarding god. The winner, however, was Ryan Sheckler.

I said, Ryan Who?

Sheckler is a skateboarding phenom who’s just 20 years old. He won his first Summer X Games gold at age 13. He has crossed over into acting, too, appearing on MTV and in movies. According to his official website, he’s also a “teenage heartthrob, business owner, charity founder and TV star”. I guess I’ve been missing out.

Now I know. Fantasy baseball and the Super Bowl are so yesterday. The sports world as we know it has changed.

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