Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where is Teddy Roosevelt When You Need Him?

Teddy Roosevelt may be the only man in American History that can rival the life and legends of George Washington. He was a war hero, cowboy, was almost assassinated, a politician, adventurer, and all-around bad ass. President Roosevelt's achievement list can go on and on, but there is something TR did that needs to be looked at again, especially now in an election year. Today's political climate is, well lets face it, a complete catastrophe. Nothing good has come out of Washington, in a while, but who is to blame? Can we blame the President? the Senate? the House? the Supreme Court? Who!? Everyone lets to blame someone but I am going to blame the system. The system I speak of is our two party system. Now before you think I've turned on the Founders, just wait and hear me out. It is time for those running for office, and Americans as well, to look back at TR's attempt to change the political landscape of America with his Bull Moose Party.

Don't let that happy face fool you! Teddy Roosevelt would punch you in the throat as easily as he flashes his pearly whites. Roosevelt left the highest office in the land in 1909. But instead of being a normal retiree and enjoying his well deserved time off he jumped right back into politics. After Roosevelt's Presidency the Republican Party began to take a sharp turn to the right. His recommendation for President, President Taft, also abandoned the hopes of Roosevelt and became quite the poster child for the conservative right. Finally, when 1912 came around, Roosevelt felt the U.S. needed another dose of awesomeness and decided to throw his name in the hat for President. In the earliest of polls Roosevelt seemed like a shoe in, but Taft controlled the party and the convention. Never to be discouraged, Roosevelt claimed he'd accept a nomination from a "honestly elected" convention. It would only be a matter of time before Roosevelt would be back in the political spotlight, but not without a few bumps in the road.

The party was formed in a way that would make even some people in the Occupy Wall Street movement cringe. Roosevelt met with Governor Hiram Johnson of California, publisher Frank A. Munsey, and George W. Perkins who was the director of U.S. & Chairman of the International Harvester Company Steel. Working together the group formed the new Party. However, many Republicans were hesitant to side with Roosevelt and his Progressive platform. Of the 15 Progressive Republicans, only five sided with TR. Hell, even Roosevelt's own son-in-law Nicolas Longworth sided with Taft, which must have caused some long quite dinners and lonely nights on the couch in the Longworth home. The silver lining is that many Independents liked the message and sided with the new Party. Aside from the problem of not being supported, the second problem came from the Democrats. They nominated Woodrow "The Schoolmaster" Wilson, perhaps the most progressive thinking man in America at the time. This in turn split that Independent base that Roosevelt was counting on. I mean even Republicans were siding with Wilson over Taft, thats how good he was. But this did not deter Roosevelt of his Party.

The convention took place in August of 1912 in Chicago. Well over 2,500 delegates showed up to support Roosevelt and the the Progressive Party. The one main difference between the Progressive Party and the Republican and Democratic Convention was the amount of women in attendance. The reason, the BMP endorsed the women's suffrage movement as a national movement. Roosevelt ignited the crowd in his typical fashion, animated, enthusiastic, empowering and many more adverbs that can describe how the great Teddy Roosevelt spoke. His speech was direct and thorough. Explaining the platform and direction he wished to take America in, in the early stages of the 20th century. The Party's idea was a concoction of ideas from both parties. It was bipartisanship come to life. The party touched on both social and political reform. The eight hour work day, workers compensation, social insurance for the elderly, unemployed & disabled and the inheritance tax are just a few things the Party pushed for in 1912 that we still have today. They pushed for a minimum wage for women, which was quite the scandalous idea then. They aimed at changing the political system as well, direct elections for Senators and direct democracy. The power was literally given to the people, recall elections, referendums, initiatives and Judicial recalls. Even though this was the base of their case the main goal was ending big businesses influence in politics. They wanted to do so by limiting and disclosing campaign contributions, registering lobbyists and recording & publicating Congressional proceedings. Now, this seems pretty liberal and one sided but wait! The Party also called for lowering tariffs, creating a "strong national regulation," a vigorous foreign policy, strengthening the military. However the main goal here was the idea of "New Nationalism," a strong central government aimed at protecting the working and middle class all the while industry would take on great projects to propel the U.S. into a future of success.

Even though the Roosevelt name was as big as Washington or Lincoln, he was still the dark horse candidate. But like the forming of the party the campaign was not easy. With no backing, money was tight. Backers who supported Roosevelt in the prior elections stayed away and finally many did not like that he was running for a third term. By the time the smoke cleared after the 1912 election, the BMP walked away just short of winning the election. Fortunately, 4.1 million Americans felt that Roosevelt and the BMP had the right idea to take America into the future. However, he had to admit defeat to Woodrow Wilson. This would be the best showing by any third party candidate in American Presidential History. After the failed attempt Roosevelt ended his illustrious political career to backpack through South America and then formed a volunteer unit for WWI. Even though Roosevelt was still active, the Progressive Party was about to sputter out of steam. Attempts were made in the '14 and '18 Presidential elections but they were blown out of the water. However, several Senators, Representatives and State Officials ran on the BMP platforms and won. There wasn't another big push until the 1924 and 1948 elections both which also as we know resulted in loses. But what is there to learn from Roosevelt's experiment in third party politics?

The thing we have to learn from Roosevelt is that in America is a place of compromise. Today the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Republicans and Democrats are in a, and excuse my language, dick-measuring contest. And that is the real problem that can be solved in reviewing the BMP. Like I said in the beginning, who is to blame? In the end its all of them, its everyone involved and its all of us. Today the style which Roosevelt used is almost gone. The idea that all sides can be appeased is genius and Roosevelt had the plan. He wanted social reforms while at the same time building the military. He believed in protecting workers while allowing industries to grow. However, the one thing that can't be ignored then and now is the amounts of money dumped into the politic process. Roosevelt saw it then and prepared steps to limit it, yet for some reason today that it is not true. On November 6th we will all go to the polls, cast our vote and hold our breaths until the results are announced. We will either, in the words of Stan Marsh, we have a Douche or a Turd Sandwich for President. The cycle will then continue on...until we have another Teddy Roosevelt. The one great thing about America is that it is full of people who want to defend their rights. Unfortunately, American "rights" are different for all of us, some want to be taxed others don't want to pay a dime. This past week I was told the ideas that I hold true to me as an American are gone, that they are impossible to go back to, but it will take one voice, one movement, a true American movement that will bridge the gap between all of us and move us into a new American Century.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Are You Ready Some Football!?!? Well 19th Century Football That Is.

Football in America is like a religion in most parts of the country. From the Pop Warner Leagues to the NFL, the sport takes on a life of its own amongst fans. But if football is to be compared to a religion where should fans make a pilgrimage to in order to pay homage to the football gods? Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and etc. all have a central place they make pilgrimages to, but what about football? Where should people go? Canton, Ohio? Lambeau Field? Solider Field? Or perhaps just maybe can it be found in New Brunswick, New Jersey? I am not referring to the High Point Solutions Stadium but this piece of History does involve Rutgers University. The first ever organized football game ever played was played on November 6, 1869 between the Rutgers Queensmen and the New Jersey Tigers, giving birth  to the modern game of football as we know it today.

So on that crisp autumn November day, fifty student took the field to create history, and yes that is right I said fifty, twenty five players a team. The games rules were a rough combination of what we would see today if we combined rugby and soccer (or futbol for my international readers). The ball could be moved around the field by hitting it with the hands, head, sides and feet. To score the ball had to kicked into the opposing side's goal. The play book and strategy was pretty simple: two players stood close to the opposing goal in hopes of scoring quickly, eleven "fielders" basically played defense and twelve "bulldogs" were the offense. The uniforms were simple, the New Jersey Tigers wore white shirts, while the Rutger's Queensmen wore red handkerchiefs on their heads to distinguish the differences between the teams.The scoring system was also much different from today. A game was made up of ten "games." Those "games" ended when a team scored a goal, after which a new game would start. In simpler terms it was 10 game series, winning record wins the game. As for the game, well it could be considered the first grid iron classic.

The Rutger's Queensmen, later to be Rutger's Scarlet Knights, faced of against The College of New Jersey Tigers, who would go on to become the Princeton Tigers. Rutger's struck first when S.G. Gano connected with G.R. Dixon for the first score in football history. Rutger's also tried to use the "flying wedge" which for anyone who has seen the Mighty Ducks, this move is better known as the "flying V." Unfortunately for Rutgers the Tigers had J.E. "Big Mike" Michael, who was best described as a human wrecking ball. He was the Incredible Hulk double in the lower right hand corner of the above photo. The game would eventually tie after four games at 2-2. Defensively, Rutgers was at an advantage thanks the quickness of their "fielders" especially  Madison Ball who scored once and set up Dixon with his second score of the game, giving Rutgers a 4-2 lead. The Tigers then used Rutgers own strategy of the "Flying Wedge" to tie the game at 4. So with eight games played it was coming down to the fourth quarter...well not really but the contest was going into the nail biting stages of a game. Under the leadership of their captain, John W. Leggett, Rutgers would go on to score two goals in quick succession thus winning the game 6-4.

On paper, this game was to end much differently. The Tigers were the bigger and stronger team but as they say, on any given Sunday. As it turns out Rutgers used their speed and quickness to outplay the Tigers. A hundred people witnessed History that day as Rutgers won that game and began to lay the road for what we know as the most popular sport in America. In fact you can take those 100 people and say it was the first sell-out crowd at a football game.
The game ended but the celebration didn't stop as Rutgers scored that sixth goal. As the Tigers left New Brunswick, Rutger's students ran the Tigers out of town harassing and heckling them the entire 20 mile ride back to Princeton. However, on November 13, the Tigers had their revenge. The first rematch in football history was played at the College of New Jersey and it was an absolute massacre. The Tigers crushed Rutgers 8-0. A third and final game was scheduled for the following week, the first grudge match. It seemed that the game had taken on a life of its own and college officials felt it was becoming a distraction to the student body, if they could only see the game today. So there was no official champion for the 1869 season, just a tie. But it started the first rivalry in the sport and laid the ground work for the players of today. It was 4 years until football was organized played on the collegiate level and nearly 50 years until the first professional football league was formed. Many argue that the "Boston Game" was the first form of football but when reviewing the game we see it was the combination of running and kicking a ball on school yards not the organized and strategic game that was played on College Field. Today that 1869 game is less than just a memory to most fans but can be considered the Holy Grail of football, the Mecca of the game, the Graceland of the grid iron the life spark of what we know the game as today. The players of today, Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis, Larry Fitzgerald, Clay Matthews and so many more owe their living all to those fifty students that played the first football game that November day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Senator From South Carolina Objects

Politics in America has been and always will be breeding ground for heated debates. Since it was founded the House of Representatives has hosted an unknown amount of debates and personal feuds but none as memorable than that between Senators Charles Sumner & Preston Brooks. The event that happened on the floor of the House took place during a 1856 session. It would go on to become the one and only time a U.S. Senator attacked another Senator over a debated issue.

When thinking of our governments past I like to think of it as nothing but sophisticated and educated men arguing the issues of the day in a gentlemanly and honorable way. However, I am reasonable and know that is not usually the case. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was a young, good looking, hot shot, anti slavery layer from Boston. It started during a speech on May 20 called "The Crime Against Kansas." In the speech Senator Sumner blasted southern leaders who defended the institution of slavery. Sumner targeted leading slavery advocates like Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler. The speech caused quite the uproar in the House as, Sumner, who was a well known orator used the imagery of a forced sexual relation to slavery. His three hour speech not only implied that slavery was used to control black women and humiliate black men, but he also poked fun at southern mannerisms especially those of Senator Andrew Butler. Now it wouldn't be for a few days before all hell broke loose on the floor, and surprisingly Senator Butler, the focus of the argument, wouldn't even be involved.

So before I explain this picture let me explains what happens. After Sumner's speech, fellow Senator Preston Brooks was still a little steamed to say the least. Brooks who was actually the nephew of Senator Andrew Butler, wanted revenge for the tongue lashing dealt by Sumner. At first he thought of handling it in the gentlemanly fashion of the day, by challenging Sumner to a duel. But after seeking advice from fellow South Carolinian, Senator Laurence M. Keitt, Brooks decided it was much more fitting to "punish" him in a public forum, the House floor. Two days later Brooks and Keitt walked into the Senate chamber and approached Sumner. He then brought forth his grievances with Sumner,

 "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine..."

 Brooks never finished his sentence because as Senator Sumner rose from his desk to add his two cents, it was then that Brooks started beating him with his cane. Sumner then fell to the floor and hide under his desk, yet Brooks kept the assault up. Sumner then attempted to make an escape but could only stumble a few feet before collapsing. Covered in blood several other Senators ran to his aid. However, Keitt was standing in there way brandishing a pistol saying, "Let them be!." Brooks then continued beating Sumner until his cane was broken into two pieces. After his weapon was no longer of use to him, Keitt and himself strolled right out of the Senate.

 As you can imagine the action of Brooks spread across the nation and received mixed reactions. In the North he was as evil as the issue of slavery, but in the South he was treated as a hero on the scale of George Washington. He was actually sent hundreds of new canes to replace the one he left in pieces in Washington D.C.  As for the Senate, their was an attempt to expel Brooks, which failed. Yet in true Rebel style Brooks retired his seat only to be re-elected to it in the following election. Other Senators and Representatives started to take precautions when heading to D.C. Most now carried concealed weapons: knives, revolvers and small pistols. Brooks would ultimately was fined $300 and would die in 1857. Sumner returned to the Senate the three years after the attack, but would suffer the rest of his life from what we call today PTSD. Since that fateful day in May of 1856, not other elected representative in American History has attacked another, physically that is. The memory of the attack by Brooks is a key example of the lead up to the Civil War. It exposes the sentiment of the both North and South, pro and anti slavery. It is an interesting piece not only in American History but in the History of American Government. Today, there is no reminder of the events of May 22, not in a History textbook or even at the capital itself. Yet is another great micro example of the major issues of the day.