"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: … A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up … A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
– Book 21 Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3
FORT GRATIOT, Mich. – Mister Rogers is dead. So is Peter Arnett's career. If Saddam Hussein isn't dead, he soon will be. Carmen Policy lives at least for another five years in BrownsTown.
And the Browns? The picture is bleak. My cursory glance at the team's off-season moves thus far instill a dark foreboding that we're in for a rebuilding year on defense, thanks to draft blunders and free agency miscalculations.
But that's all so unimportant right now.
The nation is at war. It's been hard to think at all about football for some time. Since late January I've been practically chained to the City Desk, dealing with War News ‘round the clock.
It's been a strain. In fact, I had to ask Art Bietz the other day when the draft is. I had no idea. Sleep comes in spurts, not more than a few hours at a time.
Draft picks, contracts, free agents, salary caps and a disturbing lack of linebackers have been quite low on the priority scale. Instead, it's been a steady dose of news flashes, bombing runs, artillery barrages and armored thrusts.
American and British troops are dying half a world away in a campaign to rid the world of an immoral regime bent on conquest and subjugation. The machinations of the National Football League seem inconsequential now. Whether Tim Couch is under center in 2003 or an understudy for Kelly Holcomb takes a backseat to whether my friends will come home alive.
This is a real war, not the rote textbook military exercise of 1991. The United States has not embarked on combat of this magnitude since Vietnam, and hasn't seen such bold maneuvers since World War II.
Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein's corrupt government feeds a compliant Arab news media lies and images of supposedly dead and wounded Iraqi civilians, and the American press wets its pants. Apparently, despite repeated warnings from the Bush administration, no one told our press that people die or get injured in war.
I'm embarrassed and ashamed to be a journalist today. The free press is supposed to be the unarmed guardian of the nation's freedoms, a private check in our system of checks and balances. These days, it seems more concerned with its own image than giving us an accurate snapshot of what's happening to our sons and daughters in the war zone.
The posturing is sickening.
The America-loathing and openly hostile attitude shown by the press drives a useless wedge between it and the public it's supposed to serve.
Tune into a Pentagon, State Department or military briefing and you'll discover for yourself the schism. A steady stream of antagonistic questions from reporters not bothering to write down the answers proves that a segment of the press isn't interested in providing an accurate portrayal of the war, but is looking for Pentagon lies with which to bolster careers.
The Pentagon needs tough questions. But ignorant crap like, "So, Secretary Rumsfeld, why are you deliberately undercounting the number of American casualties?" clearly illustrates the needless antagonism. What public good does that serve?
You can sense a barely hidden sense of delight from some reporters and newspapers that the U.S. advance on Baghdad slowed in recent days. There was an air of "Gotcha!" and "I told you so!" Why? Because the war isn't going according to whatever schedule was agreed to by the flabby armchair generals at the New York Times, Boston Globe and Islamic Jihad.
There's also a disturbing lack of moral judgment from some networks in their coverage of Iraqi tactics. Executing American and British prisoners, using human shields, impressing children into the ranks and the use of suicide bombers are ghastly, immoral actions deserving of outrage and scorn. You get that from Fox and some newspapers, but the other networks legitimize those actions by their lack of indignation. The ends do not justify the means, and the Iraqi regime is not the moral equivalent of the allied forces. The press can be fair, but there's no such thing as objective. And they shouldn't be in the face of such atrocities. News judgment has to be tempered with moral reason.
NBC correspondent Peter Arnett's treasonous interview with Iraqi state television Sunday sealed the deal. The peacock network initially came out with a clumsy, ham-fisted justification for Arnett's treachery Sunday night, but by Monday morning he was fired.
Good riddance, but the damage was done.
Arnett's disloyalty further damaged the American public's relationship with the press. The media is not representative of the nation as a whole. Instead, it tends to lean towards the Left. The press' true colors are exceedingly evident by its continual bewilderment over opinion polls that show the public overwhelmingly behind the war.
Forgive me if I prefer a healthy dose of American realpolitik and pragmatism instead of naïve idealism that's perceived in less moral societies as weak and earns us nothing more than scorn and terrorism. That makes me a singular minority in the press ranks. Hell, I almost long to be a clueless sports writer again.
Freedom and security are bought at the end of a bayonet, not from prayer, chants and slogans. Let us never forget our rights in this land were paid for in blood by the Continental Army at places like Saratoga, Trenton, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown.
The right to protest war was earned because of a war. The Left is too humorless to appreciate the irony.
In the 21st Century, our safety is being bought again through sacrifice. This time, it's at places like Umm Qasr, Basra and Baghdad. Better there we fight than suffer on the streets of our cities. Again.
It takes no effort or sacrifice to say you're against the war. But what are you for? Peace? That's meaningless. Everyone prefers peace to war. The hawks offer explanations for their views and legitimate, concrete solutions.
The pacifists chant empty slogans and long for Bill Clinton and his grotesque and limp foreign policy. Where are the solutions? More diplomacy? More inspections?
Twelve years is enough.
The peace position in this case is morally bankrupt because it legitimizes an oppressive dictatorship. Past errors in judgment by previous American administrations do not justify the continued appeasement of the Iraqi regime.
Now, it's all moot. The war will soon be won. The best we can do on the home front is pray everyone gets home safe and that a new Iraq emerges as an ally of peace and understanding.
To those who would continue to demonstrate against the war, history will remember. So will we.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns have no linebackers. At least not any of the proven type. This is worrisome.
As I said above, I've had precious little time to devote to the Browns. They've become a home front casualty for me. And after checking through recent stories on the Insiders, I think I was better off in ignorance.
Fans, I'm worried about 2003. Cleveland can obviously throw the ball and has a running back that can run it. It doesn't, however, have an offensive line that will allow either of those skills to mature.
How long have we been pining for that dominant offensive lineman in the draft? It's approaching 20 years. Such short-sightedness cost Bernie Kosar his career in Cleveland because the team couldn't block for him. It's hindered the reborn team from developing properly because the running game only emerged when a rookie took it upon himself to do it all. The playoff game at Pittsburgh should have left no doubt in anyone's mind the weaknesses of this team.
The line isn't horrid, but it's not Super Bowl caliber. The skill players are about to enter the prime of their careers. Cleveland must have a proper line to take advantage of those players.
On defense, things are a mess. The critics are almost right to say Courtney Brown is a bust. Gerard Warren is on the bubble. Had those two performed as billed when drafted, Cleveland would have the most dominant D-line in the league.
Instead, opposing quarterbacks can pick apart a secondary and linebacker corps whose strength isn't pass defense.
I have no suggestions beyond the obvious to fix things. Draft a massive, talented piece of man-flesh on either side of the line, some behemoth that will block out the sun. Then find a defensive lineman that can take over a game by himself – akin to what Courtney Brown did at Chicago two years ago. Instant quarterback pressure alleviates pressure on the rest of the defense and masks deficiencies.
Until the team can address those needs, we'll have to remain content watching former doormats like Tampa Bay and gruesome fiends like Art Modell win the Super Bowl.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT …
Seventies rock icon Lou Reed released a new album recently.
An artsy project called The Raven, it has something to do with the 19th century gothic poem written by the Famous American Literary Drunk Edgar Allan Poe, a truly frightening monster in his own right.
Of course, the poem's name was procured by That Owner of That Team out East a few years back. Hence, I've been hesitant to listen to the album. Loyalty runs deep in my house.
I did, however, peer inside the 2-disc package. Stuffed in between the covers is a pull-out poster with commentary on one side.
The other side is a black-and-white image of the 60-year old Reed.
I swear to God I thought it was Al Davis. Very disconcerting.
Call it "Portrait of the Artist As A Creepy Old Man."
The Reed I recalled was the mascara-ed master of urban decay and leathered champion of forlorn musical characters.
Now he looks like the uber-fuehrer of the Oakland Raiders (known scientifically as tagliabue bane).
In the ‘60s, Reed broke on the scene with his Andy Warhol-produced group The Velvet Underground. By the early ‘70s, Reed had gone solo. His 1972 album Transformer exploded into America's very weird and very conservative consciousness with the single A Walk On the Wild Side.
A tale of … well … umm … it's been out for more than 30 years. Lemme put it like this: They ain't chicks he's singing about.
The song is a classic. True Reed and Velvets fans know, however, the wink-wink take in Wild Side is a Cinemax version of the rest of Reed's hardcore canon, which reads like a modern tale written by the Marquis de Sade from a New York gutter.
Ah, the joy.
That all said, I still haven't listened to The Raven. For the moment, I'm getting ‘50s Vegas smooth with Norah Jones … who's the daughter of music scene oddity Ravi Shankar.
Christ, does the weirdness ever end?
It's evident by now, after gibberish about madmen like Lou Reed that we've reached the dreaded Winter Doldrums.
The Super Bowl was a terrible downer and Marty Mornhinweg proved to have less post-Sept. 11 shelf life than Saddam Hussein. What more is there to say? The Indians will be awful and the Cavs couldn't win with two LeBron James.
When, oh Lord, will it end?
THIS JUST IN FROM THE STUPIDITY DESK …
Here's some levity: The First Official Doc Gonzo Mock Draft, V. 1.0.
Everyone else does mock drafts these days, I figured I should jump on the bandwagon … just as I did with that Enron, Quest and Worldcom stock in late 2000. That Internet boom is just never gonna end, is it? …
Anyway, as I was saying, here's my mock draft. Remember, the key here is that I'm mocking.
- Cincinnati: Carson Palmer. Or Carson Daly. It really doesn't make a difference.
- Detroit: Charles Rogers. Or Ginger Rogers. Or Mr. Rogers. Again, doesn't make a difference.
- Houston: Bum Phillips.
- Chicago: Any quarterback not named "Cade" or "Kordell."
- Dallas: Bill Parcells' ego.
- Arizona: Sen. John McCain. Hell, he can't do any worse than Jake Plummer … or Timm Rosenbach … or Tom Tupa … or Neil Lomax …
- Minnesota: Randy Moss' probation officer.
- Jacksonville: A priest to exorcise Tom Coughlan's evil spirit.
- Carolina: A quarterback under age 40.
- Baltimore: The cheapest, dirtiest crack whore available.
- Seattle: A cabana boy to carry double lattes and doughnuts for Mike Holmgren.
- St. Louis: Sylvester Stallone's thumb from "Over The Top." To be attached to Kurt Warner.
- Washington: Whomever Dan Snyder wants.
- New England: Whoever is quarterback at Michigan.
- San Diego: Chairman of the Los Angeles Tourism Bureau.
- Kansas City: Priest Holmes' DNA.
- New Orleans: Ricky Williams. Oh, wait …
- New Orleans: Ricky Schroeder.
- New England: Some mindless drone for Bill Belichick to control.
- Denver: Any of John Elway's offspring.
- Cleveland: Any linebacker not named "Mike Junkin" or "Clifford Charleton" or "Craig Powell."
- NY Jets: George Sauer. Or Wesley Walker.
- Buffalo: It doesn't matter. The Bills will never win a Super Bowl.
- Indianapolis: Wiggy, post-Beatnik Colts owner Jim Irsay opts instead to draft the ashes of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburgh and William Burroughs.
- NY Giants: A babysitter for man-child tight end Jeremy Shockey.
- San Francisco: A voice trainer for Jeff Garcia. Just because you play in San Fran doesn't mean your have to lisp like a Castro Street pimp.
- Pittsburgh: Some other XFL castoff, the building block of any successful franchise.
- Tennessee: One of the Dixie Chicks. Probably the squat, fat one.
- Green Bay: An embalmer to preserve Brett Favre's career.
- Philadelphia: I couldn't think of anything funny to say here.
- Oakland: Someone who wasn't even born when Jerry Rice started playing.
- Oakland: See above.
Former Ohio newspaper editor and reporter Bill Shea writes the Doc Gonzo column for Bernie's Insiders. He now spends his hermit-like days tending his miniature dachshunds deep within the misty forests along the storm-swept Lake Huron shores of Michigan's untamed Thumb. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.