A Trump Victory – How did it Happen?

A majority of voters in a majority of US states are happy this morning, ignorant that the rest of the world is in shock and uncertainty. Financial markets around the world have bet that not only will America not be great again, but that the country will take the rest of the world with it. More than half of the people who voted in a majority of US states are clueless to the fact that Tony Abbott will not be ranked the worst modern politician of a major country, and no matter what Boris does as Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom, he will look sane compared to the elected US president.

The thing that Democratic insiders had been shitting themselves for months actually did happen – their overly qualified, competent candidate lost to a bully, racist, womanizer, liar, privileged adolescent, failed businessman, egoist, megalomaniac.

While Hillary Clinton had more total votes than the new president-elect, she lost the Electoral College, which is a winner-take-all state-by-state system. The reason for the Electoral College, like many things in America, is based on a once-rational but now irrational system, and the way it works is another issue entirely. However, the basics is that a candidate gets points for winning specific states, no matter the margin within a state.

Democrats didn’t vote, but Republicans did

In America, voting isn’t mandatory. Moreover, it’s on a workday – and not a casual workday, either – a Tuesday. Further, unlike in Australia where sausage sizzles welcome voters with food, American polling places are incedibly dull, dry and unappealing. You wait in line, you have to show multiple forms of ID, you go into a booth and see legalese descriptions of things that on television seemed so simplistic. Voting is made to be a civic duty – and instead of inducing pride and patriotism, it is more like a chore.

The Black Vote – Part 1

Barack Obama, and many local and national Democrats, swept to power in 2008 on a platform of hope and change, which felt especially relevant and significant for America’s blacks, who voted in America’s first non-white male president.

Many blacks are Democrats (Clinton). Many poor and rich whites are Republican (Trump). Middle-class whites lean Democrat.

Eight years later, despite having ‘one of their own’ at the highest seat of power, racial tension has become its worst since the 1960s. Americans feel less safe – and while blacks in 2008 went out in droves to vote, they didn’t vote so much this year.

Meanwhile, the whites who are afraid of non-whites were among Trump’s most loyal supporters.

The Poor and Black Vote – Part 2

Voting isn’t mandatory, and some states recently made it even more difficult to vote. Some states – including the populous Pennsylvania, which Trump won, and which has a large population of blacks – recently enacted laws to prevent voter fraud with what some described as Draconian measures to prove identity in the voting booth. Identity cards that few people carry with them or know where they are – such as birth certicifiates, social security cards, or even drivers’ license for workers who exclusively use public transportation – are required upon entry into a polling location.

These Voter ID laws negatively affected blacks.

The poor white vote

Voting isn’t mandatory, and it’s on a weekday, so people who work and have families can’t vote conveniently, while those who have flexibility can go vote.

Working poor (which are a majority of blacks who are elgible – e.g., those not in jail or those not convicted of a felony crime)

Old people used to dominate elections, but there was another group that swung this election.

One group of people with a lot of flexibility this election was poor white men who don’t have jobs.

Richer white votes – Part 1

There are four major time zones in the United States – Eastern, Central, Mountain and West Coast – each an hour behind the other, and each with a significant population. When polls close at 7 pm in the Eastern time zone, television stations announce results immediately based on exit polls and reported districts. When Republicans – who have flexibility to wait in line and vote – heard the news that Trump was doing well in the Eastern Time Zone, they had flexibility and motivation to vote throughout the rest of the country.

Richer white votes – Part 2

Politics is like sports in many ways. Elections are reported like a horse race – who’s ahead, by how many lengths, and commentators overly obsessed with ‘momentum’ even though it doesn’t exist. Politics is also like sports in provincial team loyalty.

Even though all children rebel as teenagers from their parents, and university students think that voting for independent candidates in elections is what they truly believe, soon enough they return to the party of their family.

Party loyalty and support is large – no matter what a candidate may say or do, as long as your party wins, that’s all that matters.

Even though some significant Republicans did vote for Hillary, many more chose not to vote for president, deciding that they couldn’t vote against their own party.

Moreover, many recent articles started to ponder a Trump presidency, and Republicans convinced themselves that the president doesn’t actually do anything, so the shit that the liar said would likely never happen, but a Republican president could approve everything that a Republican Congress would want.

Furthermore, Republicans have convinced themselves as well that Trump won’t actually last a full term as president, instead either being kicked out by Congress, or resigning like Sarah Palin to make more money in television (Trump’s own network).

Republicans were myopic in thinking that a Trump presidency wouldn’t actually hurt anything. With markets crashing around the world, the rest of the world thinks otherwise.

Thanksgiving: America’s Christmas, Boxing Day and Australia Day in one

In Australia, Christmas has slowly seeped into Australian life since at least mid-October and the early part of November. Shiny decorations such as candles, trees, canes and snowflakes have been placed on suburban high streets. Children’s Christmas events have closed local streets or invaded indoor shopping centres. Local radio stations intersperse wintry music as the weather heats up in preparation for summer. The aisle of supermarkets between the spices and dog food have become red and green with themed M & M’s, stuffed Santas and Spider-Man advent calendars. Other stores have stocked shelves with shlocky items advertised as “gifts” for Christmas.

In America, we only have this Christmas infiltration starting now, just about a month before Christmas. Whereas in Australia, June’s annual EOFYS (End of Financial Year Sales) is the only major holiday that takes consumer attention away from Christmas (before the small but recently created “Christmas in July” sales), America’s autumn holidays keep our attention away from Christmas until the last month of the year.

October is black and orange, with cobwebs everywhere, in preparation for Halloween. November has been all about Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month.

After Thanksgiving, Christmas season unofficially begins.

Where does Thanksgiving come from?

Thanksgiving was founded in the 1620s as a traditional post-harvest feast, organised by America’s first settlers. Unlike Australia Day, Thanksgiving isn’t an anniversary for the day that the settlers landed, but Thanksgiving is America’s celebration that harkens back to the first group of inhabitants.

Thanksgiving became an annual holiday in the 1660s, and it became an official national holiday with all states celebrating on the same day in 1863. Prior to 1863, each state chose its own day for Thanksgiving, similar to how Australians select Labor Day.

Ignoring Indians – just like Australia Day

In Australia, the White Man celebrates Australia Day for the First Fleet’s landing, whereas many Aboriginals protest this celebration as “Invasion Day”. Thanksgiving has a similar obliviousness to the indigenous population who had been tending the land prior to their landing.

In the Thanksgiving re-enactments that all U.S. elementary school children have had to perform in assemblies before the holiday, we portray the original Thanksgiving as a feast of harmony between the white Pilgrim settlers and their Native American neighbors. White Americans and the indigenous Americans had few friendly affiliations, which makes this narrative a likely apocryphal depiction of cultural sharing and understanding.

Some Native Americans have protested Thanksgiving as “Unthanksgiving Day” or “National Day of Mourning”.

However, whereas Aboriginals have the most hostility for the European onslaught on Australia Day, the more apt comparison for America’s indigenous hatred has been Columbus Day, the day that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New World” in 1492. When I was in elementary school, we celebrated with a day off from school and an assembly re-enactment performance for parents. Since I was a little kid, the Native American protests were effective in attenuating this holiday that few places still celebrate it, other than Italian-American groups who claim Columbus as a national hero, and the Post Office, which doesn’t deliver on Columbus Day because it is still an official government national holiday even though nobody else takes the day off.

Like Australian Christmas

Americans celebrate Christmas, but the way that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is the same way that Australians celebrate Christmas.

American Christmas is for the kids, who wake up to open presents from Santa Claus. Although Christmas ham, Christmas fruit cake, and Christmas eggnog are part of Christmas and Christmas Eve, they are not universally consumed around a single day or meal.

Thanksgiving is the main time that extended families get together, just for the day or weekend, which makes the day before Thanksgiving the busiest travel day of the year.

On Thanksgiving, families often play around outside, watch American football, and prepare for the big late afternoon Thanksgiving feast of traditional fare – which must include turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie.

Other things that happen on Thanksgiving are local and nationally televised parades, charity appeals especially at food shelters, at-home release of summer blockbusters in time for Christmas, and the U.S. president’s ceremonial pardoning of a lone turkey.

Anticipation of major sales like Boxing Day

Thanksgiving is also like Australian Christmas in that the biggest sales are the day after.

America’s unofficial holiday “Black Friday” and Australia’s official holiday “Boxing Day” share origin stories that few authoritatively know, as well as the mad rush of consumers storming shopping malls to get the best cheap deals on toys, electronics, clothing and mostly unnecessary junk.

It’s like Aldi would be on a Wednesday, if four weeks of deals were released in one day, and that day were a public holiday.

The haste to get cheap stuff is so great that there are usually at least a half dozen deaths by trampling per year as mobs seek to be the first people to get $20 DVD players, the latest “Tickle Me Elmo” stuffed animal, or Disney’s newest princess dresses.

Thanksgiving – one month until Christmas

Once the “Black Friday” sales launch, radio stations start playing Christmas songs, lighting decorations go up on houses and in streets, and supermarkets replace Thanksgiving-themed plush turkeys and plastic gourds with Christmas red-and-green stuffed animals such as polar bears warmed by scarves and reindeer wearing sweaters.

The period leading up to Christmas is an annoying intrusion, but at least in the United States Thanksgiving makes it only a month-long hassle.

Prom and High School Seniors

Why are all American year 12 high school students depicted as having nothing to do in school?

As Year 12 students in Australia are ending their studies and finishing state standardised tests in multiple subjects, year 12 American counterparts (who are known as “seniors”) at the same stage of schooling are often depicted in movies about high school coming-of-age (e.g. “Superbad”, “American Pie”) with little real concern or interest for their final months of classes.

American popular culture often gets exaggerated, and cliches and stereotypes turn out to be extreme examples, but often there is some universal truth in many depictions of American life.

With American high school seniors, the lack of school interest is accurate, even though the coming-of-age epiphanies are overblown.

Senior year of high school, especially the final term, is often the easiest academic period of schooling since kindergarten. Why? Their future academic options are already determined before they finish school.

Applying to university

The major difference between Australian and American students in their final year of secondary school is that American students know where they will go before they graduate, while Australian students don’t find out until after they graduate.

In America, students apply to individual universities they want to attend.

Many American students, like many Australians, attend the best public school that will accept them in the state where they live. Placements at these schools are often similar to Australia, with minimum limits of scores on standardised tests and grade point average.

Many other students will apply to private universities, universities that are in other states, or prestigious in-state universities. It is not uncommon for students to apply to 10-20 different universities. Some students apply early and learn about a future school by December, while most learn in late March or April.

The final semester of school more often than not has a minor effect on determining a future school because the applications were already sent, usually by January at the latest. This means that as second-semester seniors, we didn’t have to prioritise school so much, so we had idle time to worry over more important things, such as trying to get laid (or writing a self-published book about failing to do so).

Anxiously taking tests

Australian and American students are going through a similar process right now. They are studying for and taking tests that will be a major factor in determining university placement.

In Australia, these are the school leaving credentials, such as the VCE in Victoria or the HSC in New South Wales.

American students are taking the SAT and/or the ACT, national scored tests that universities use in helping standardise the quality of applying candidates.

There are a few key differences between America’s tests and Australia’s tests:

  • In Australia, the test results are essentially the sole basis for tertiary placement, whereas American universities use standardised test scores to set ranges or minimums for students, then select students based on a combination of multiple factors including participation in clubs or volunteer work
  • Each US test is a single test that covers general knowledge in a single three-hour sitting. The SAT assesses reading, writing and math comprehension; while the ACT also has a basic science component. The SAT is known for “SAT Vocab”, 5-syllable words that are placed on the test that are used in real life only obsequiously around university admission judges.
  • If you get a poor score on your SAT or ACT, you can take the test again.
  • Australian students finish school with the HSC or VCE. Americans often take standardised tests at least a half year before graduating.

Obsession with dances

Everybody is familiar with the end-of-year celebration and drama for American high school seniors – The Prom.

Depending on the person, planning can be 4-12 years, with at least five solid months during senior year of nothing else to do at school but think about The Prom.

The Prom has been popularly portrayed as the melodramatic final time that everybody will be together – everybody else will move away for university, then somewhere else for law school or medical school, then another place for a job. In pop culture, The Prom leads to major confessions, sappy reflections and declarations of unrequited love; to tears, hugs and accusations; and to music-stopping monologues.

In reality, none of that happens.

Americans love getting dressed up, love competing in unofficial superficial beauty contests, love dreaming about becoming royalty, love large groups of girls, love Hummers and limos and any excuse to combine the two and ride in that monstrously large vehicle, love underage drinking, and love criticising others for something that they don’t know they suck at as well (in this case mocking others’ dancing skills then dancing like an idiot themselves).

All of these loves come together for The Prom, and the selection of a Prom court – a king and queen, and often a court of prince and princess, dukes and duchesses, etc.

American high school seniors do think and reflect about everybody going away, but it isn’t exclusive to The Prom, and when it does happen at The Prom, it’s short sentences between twerking and shotgunning beers.

The Prom is such a foreign concept to Australians.

Australian high school students don’t have the timing and planning for it. Australians aren’t so fancy, except on The Bachelor, and even that superficial contest was fiction. Most importantly, unlike Americans, Australians may travel but they never move far from where they grew up. For Australians, the same people will be their high school buddies, their university friends, and their Saturday night wingmen (or the female protective circle), so there’s no reason for them to get all sappy and stuff.

School’s out — literally in Australia, figuratively in America

As schoolies spend the next few weeks partying an celebrating the end of school work, their American counterparts will be spending the next half of a year doing the same, even though Australian year 12 students just completed studies whereas American high school seniors still have six months until the official end of school.

America’s biggest November horse race

U.S. Election and Melbourne Cup parallels

Who will win on the first Tuesday in November?

This Tuesday, the first Tuesday in November, a few million people will watch, breathlessly, in anticipation, the results of what is, essentially, only a horse race, a contest that everybody has been hearing about endlessly especially in the last few weeks but only a minority are actually involved in.

A few minutes after the race is over and the winner declared, after millions of dollars had been spent betting against this potential winner or that one, many people will be happy, many unhappy, and the rest will feel unaffected. The actual winner will give a general victory speech filled with idioms and cliches about hard work and teamwork from all of the support staff, even though victory was achieved only through luck, inheritance and a boatload of invested cash.

Still, a large part of the nation will be doing other things, ignore what is treated like a real and genuine sporting event but isn’t, and complain about how much of a waste of time the spectacle is, how irrelevant it is, and how annoying the media coverage is.

Meanwhile, Australians will have watched the Melbourne Cup, almost completely ignorant of the annual elections in the United States.

How does democracy work when it isn’t compulsory to vote?

Australia is one of 11 countries in the world with mandatory voting, and the United States isn’t one of those 11.

Most adult Americans have a choice to vote, and many choose not to vote. There are also many people who are already in power who will try to make it difficult for certain other people to vote.

Yet, no matter the system, compulsory or not, “the people” still make odd choices.U.S. Election and Melbourne Cup parallels

Why do so few Americans vote?

Only a small and shrinking proportion of the population is participating in voting – 60 percent in quadrennial presidential elections, 40 percent in Congressional mid-term elections (even-year elections between each presidential election, such as this year) and even less in other annual elections that determine various state offices and initiatives.

It’s not easy to vote either.

In Australia, everyone is automatically registered, but in the United States citizens have to choose to register to vote, which in some places can be done when citizens get a driver’s license, whereas in other places must be done as a separate pain-in-the-ass errand.

Then the registered voters have to decide to either go to a designated polling station that is open in limited hours or to fill in a form and mail it.

Whereas Australians take a public holiday for a horse race and vote on the weekend, Americans are required to vote on a Tuesday and aren’t given time off to vote. Workers still have to go to work – and to vote they must wake up even earlier, or stay in line after work. You can only vote in your home polling station, and most people don’t work from home. Early voting centers are limited in number.

In Australia, November is the middle of spring, but in the United States, it’s the middle of autumn. Many aren’t going going to wait in a line in frigid weather when it’s dark outside, especially if there are children waiting at home.

The United States also has a history of encouraging only limited groups to vote and discouraging other groups from voting.

Originally, only male land owners were allowed to vote. Women earned suffrage rights in the early 1900s.

In the late 1800s after the U.S. Civil War, even though the Constitution designated blacks as having equal rights to everybody else, Southern states passed various laws, in addition to using intimidation, that made it almost impossible for a large proportion of blacks to vote. By the 20th Century, though, the Federal government had made these types of restrictions illegal.

Recently, though, some of these difficulties were brought back.

Some states have restricted access times at polling stations, required certain identification and limited ability to register, which critics say disproportionately discriminate against the poor and urban, especially blacks, Latinos and single moms.

How do crazy people get elected president?

George W. Bush got rid of non-allied, initially believed-to-be easy-to-defeat, Middle East and Asian governments on the belief that Democracy is a legitimate form of government.

This happened even though his full legitimacy as the popular choice is pretty dodgy. He won in 2000 based on a Supreme Court decision and awkwardly designed ballots. (Each county prints and designs its own ballots, so they all work differently.) In 2004, Bush still lost the popular vote.

In the United States’ Electoral College, which determines the presidential election winner, the candidate with the most votes in a state gets all of that state’s Electoral College votes. You can win the whole country with a minimum on nine states. Bush won a selection of Electoral College votes and all-but-ignored winning in states that he didn’t need or would have had little chance to win.

Also in 2004, the Christian Conservatives voted for Bush in large numbers. They came out in droves to support anti-abortion bills in some states and prevent pro-abortion bills in others, and when they did so they also voted for Bush for president. Without those bills on ballots, those Conservatives may not have come out in so large of numbers, and Bush may not have comfortably won those states.

Do American candidates accurately represent American views?

Both parties pander to the elderly and the unemployed, because they are the two major groups that have free time to be able to vote on election days.

Although most people think that candidates win by campaigning and convincing people that they are better than their opponents, the more realistic narrative – and one that is increasingly being used by campaigns – is that the winners are better at persuading people who are already inclined to vote a certain way to actually get off their bums and vote.

This is what happened with the Christian Conservatives and George W. Bush in 2004.

For the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama rode a wave of statistics-based strategies (volunteers knocked only on specific doors) and psychological poll questions to persuade existing Democrat-leaning voters to actually fill in ballots.

Why are so many other crazy people elected?

We don’t need proportional voting to elect clowns like Clive Palmer. In America, clowns like him get directly elected.

The United States uses primary elections or caucuses, wherein voters from each party decide which candidate should represent that party in the general election. Many primary candidates win by appealing to the primary voters – the most engaged party members, who are the often the most extreme members of the party.

Moreover, in many districts, any candidate from a specific party is almost guaranteed to win that district due to the natural and unnatural boundaries of the district. Districts of inner cities will be represented by a Democratic congresswoman and have about 90 percent Democrats living in it, while suburban districts will be represented by a white Republican congressman who will speak about a mandate because 60 percent of his district are Republicans.

Similar stuff happens in Australia, but Americans went even further in stacking districts with some infamous extremes, called gerrymandering – winding boundaries to fit certain demographics in one district or another that encourage 75-25 or larger split for one party in one district and a 60-40 split for the other party in an another district.

Where I lived, there was no gerrymandering, just the natural flock of rich white people to the suburbs and exurbs. I like to think that where I lived was filled with intelligent, rational, tolerant people – who happened to be rich and white (and 60 percent of whom were Republican). Because my area was a safe Republican district, a few extremely absurd election results happened.

In the late 1990s early 2000s, my district was home to the the Congressman who espoused extremely virulent bigotry about non-Americans.

When that Congressman retired, he was replaced by a Tea Party member and a “birther” (a group of Republican members of Congress who demanded Barack Obama’s “real” birth certificate because they were obsessed that Barack Obama is a Muslim not born in the United States).

In the local county election for coroner, the county coroner – who had 18 years of experience, who was respected across the country, and who was a coroner – nearly lost his job to a lawyer who ran on the Republican side. The coroner, which, yes, is a highly skilled position that is still elected in many areas, won by the smallest of margins over the lawyer, 0.2 percent.

What will happen if the Republicans win the election on Tuesday? What will happen if the Democrats win on Tuesday?

No matter which party holds a majority of power after the horse race concludes, Congress will likely vote themselves a raise, and they will fail to deliver any of their election promises to voters.

On Thursday, the media will resume prognostication for the 2016 Presidential Election even though there are still two years left in the current presidency.

Most Americans will be happy that they no longer have to watch endless attack ads against candidates and instead can watch ads that show unrealistic results from drinking beer, cars that drive on winding and empty country roads that nobody will ever drive on, and food that claims to be “natural” and full of “essential” ingredients for your health.

And Americans will continue to do other things that continue to baffle and confound Australians, a group of people who get a public holiday for a horse race.

Jarryd Hayne’s likeliest scenarios in America

Jarryd Hayne in the NFL

Australia’s rugby league star heads to the NFL

After Australia’s top rugby league star announced that he was pursuing a career in the NFL, the consensus among Australians is that Jarryd Hayne’s athletic future sounds surprisingly pessimistic, compared with what Americans would say if the reverse happened.

We think that America is the best and will dominate everything we touch.

Table of Contents

Most prognostication of Hayne’s prospective future is cautious, noting a sense of reality in a general sense.

Let’s dig deeper, look at specific realistic options for Hayne, and we’ll end up … still with cautious optimism about his future.

Part 1: Playing position

In becoming the NRL’s biggest star, Jarryd Hayne excelled in many aspects of the game.
In pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL, Hayne will have to find a niche where he can excel.

Jarryd Hayne in the NFLAmerican football is a more specialised sport, with specific positions and duties for each of the 11 players each team sends to the field at any time.

He is most likely to play on special teams, he might make his way onto offence in a few years, while defence is unlikely.

Summary of Challenges

  • The NFL is creatively slow, so a player from an untraditional background would get some interest but would be mostly ignored
  • Even though NFL players are cogs in machines that do specific tasks, the requirements for those cogs are actually complicated for somebody who is unfamiliar with the sport
  • Hayne is 26, at his peak athletic form, but by the time he learns the game he will be past his prime
  • Hayne (6-foot-2, 220 lbs) is too big to be a wide receiver or tailback (the primary running back), but he still needs to bulk up to be an average tight end

Top of page

As many others have noted, including former rugby union-to-NFL player Hayden Smith, Hayne’s inexperience with football’s set systems – the mental aspect – will likely be teams’ largest concern. Different positions, though, require different amounts of knowledge.

Defense

Being a regular defender is Hayne’s least likeliest outcome because reading and reacting to other teams requires more experience and skill than Hayne will be able to gather. A defensive player must know not only his team’s formations but also predict and react to the offensive team.

Yes, Hayne knows how to tackle, but he is too small to play on the front defensive line, and he doesn’t have the speed to play cornerback (the one-on-one defenders against wide receivers).
Linebackers roam the middle of the defensive field, so inexperienced players are taken advantage of, especially now when offences are using a great number of inside slants and picks with their receivers.

Offense

Many have suggested three potential roles for Hayne: wide receiver, tight end or primary running back. His likeliest position is secondary running back.

Although Hayne’s training will likely include catching hundreds of NFL-sized balls, wide receivers are usually the fastest players on the team and are becoming increasingly taller than Hayne is.

Becoming a tight end (hybrids between blocking linemen and wide receivers) would require more experience and knowledge of his team’s formations and ways to react to opponents. Starting on the line of scrimmage, tight ends need to react immediately.

Traditionally, teams have used a “two-back set” – a primary running back (a “tailback”) and secondary running back (“fullback”). Tailbacks, such as Hayne’s friend Reggie Bush, are workhorses who have 20 or more carries per game and lead the league in rushing.

An NFL fullback mostly blocks for the tailback, protects the quarterback, runs in short situations such as at the goal line, or can be a receiver for short passes.

Hayne is slower and heavier than many elite tailbacks, but his size puts him already in range to be an NFL fullback. Bulking up will only help for this position.

The multiple skills required for being an NFL fullback – blocking, running and receiving short passes – actually lend themselves to Hayne’s strength as an all-around player.

Further, many NFL teams are actually moving away from the “two-back set”, employing multiple running backs, who each have different strengths for different situations.

Special teams

Hayne’s experience as an NRL fullback is the most direct and the most easy to transfer skill-set to be a kick returner.

This may encourage a team to sign him, have him contribute immediately, and give him time to learn another positions.

Summary of Advantages

  • Hayne is already within height and weight range of NFL fullbacks. This is the position that also most fits what Hayne could do because it is less specialised than other positions: NFL fullbacks are expected to run, block and catch
  • Hayne’s strength as a rugby fullback is a transferable skill to special teams kick returning, which could allow him to join and contribute immediately to a team and spend 1-2 years learning to play a regular position
  • There are some coaches who are innovative and might try Hayne in different situations rather than trying to fit Hayne into traditional settings

Top of page

Other than kickers, special teams players are usually second- or third-string players, so even though he can tackle in the open field (play special teams defence), this skill would be marginal

in getting him onto a team. However, if a team picks him up to be a kick returner, it may be a bonus that they could use him for defending kicks.

Top of page

Part 2: Interested Teams

Many NFL head coaches are risk averse. Whereas other American sports have embraced statistics-based decision-making made popular by “Moneyball”, the NFL is known for accentuating traditional narratives.

One of these narratives is in regard to player selection in the draft, which place higher emphasis on metrics such as height, speed, size and quickness than on quality of experience.
NFL head coaches are, more than any other sport, taskmasters who will exert a system on their players. They treat players like widgets, unthinking cogs that fit exactly into specific expectations.

Because Hayne is an untraditional NFL player, most coaches will feign interest but couldn’t be bothered to find a way for him to contribute.

However, there are a few coaches and general managers who are more innovative than others. Coincidentally, teams with these types of coaches and general managers are the most successful. Losing teams, instead of experimenting, are the most prone to staid thinking and traditional narratives.

Some of those teams:

Detroit Lions

Lions logoHayne was reportedly offered a chance to join the Detroit Lions for a trial training.
Why would Hayne go to a bankrupt city that Americans are fleeing from? To a football team that has been one of the most mismanaged, unluckiest, weakest, incompetent teams in the league for decades?

Because there’s still a professional football team there. Hayne’s recently made friend Bush vouched for Hayne to Detroit’s management. Detroit signing Hayne at this period is low-risk for Detroit (it’s not a roster spot, it’s chump change they have to spend), with a few short-term benefits – they will get some exposure in a small international market for a couple of months, and they appease their star running back so that when they negotiate his next contract it will be easier to convince him to take less money.

Hayne may stay on with Detroit in case few other players wants to play there, and he’s the only one left.

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks logoLast season’s Super Bowl champions have been the NFL team that has been most associated with Hayne because the Eels visited Seahawks facilities during training earlier this year.

Shortly after Hayne announced he was going to the United States, Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll was asked about Hayne, and Carroll gave general American platitudes.

Hayne going to Seattle is actually a realistic option because Carroll is one of the league’s innovative thinkers.

Denver Broncos

Broncos logoJohn Fox has led the Broncos to the playoffs for three straight seasons, including to last year’s Super Bowl, rewriting the playbook three times in his first two seasons to best accommodate his quarterbacks.

If Haynesigned with the Broncos, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that Fox would use Hayne’s ability to “throw a lateral” (a regular pass in rugby) to split a defense. The NFL rarely uses laterals, and when they are used they are short flicks at the beginning of the play, or desperate passes at the end of the game.

Most NFL players aren’t skilled at throwing laterals, which leads to them being thrown short distances at set times and to players alone in the backfield. Hayne could be a revolutionary player, similar to quarterbacks who can run for first downs.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles logoChip Kelly is doing multiple things that nobody else has tried – he has a team of scientists evaluating fitness, he wants to speed up the pace of play, and he has sent out avant-garde player formations such as overly stacked sides or split offensive lines.

Hayne would be an atypical NFL player, and an atypical NFL coach like Kelly would be able to find a use for him. Kelly’s Eagles won the division title in his first season and are tied for the league lead in wins this year.

New England Patriots

Patriots logoBill Belichick, whose teams won three Super Bowls and lost two others, was once known for drafting players based on good character, and for placing a higher emphasis on quality of experience than on physical attributes.

His offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, has a history of selecting untraditional players, drafting weak-armed and inaccurate quarterback Tim Tebow when he was the head coach of the Broncos.

Green Bay Packers

Packers logoGreen Bay, which won the 2010 Super Bowl, uses interchangeable parts, rather than specific cogs – “an army of clones” that can play multiple positions.
Hayne is the right height (6-foot-2), and although he is currently underweight for the Packers (he is listed at 220 lbs; the Packers like players at 245 lbs), Hayne will likely be bulking up anyway.

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Part 3: Scenarios

(This was also published on The Roar)

Cut by the Lions – 75 per cent
The Lions, who have reportedly signed him for a trial training run, will drop him after this season. He will sign with at least one other team during the 2015 season for a practice squad (equivalent in Australia to the reserves of the reserves).

Joins a full roster – 50 per cent
Within three seasons (in 2017), he joins a playoff team, getting spot duty on special teams. Many NFL head coaches are risk averse. NFL head coaches are, more than any other sport, taskmasters who will exert a system on their players. Because Hayne is an untraditional NFL player, most coaches will feign interest but couldn’t be bothered to find a way for him to contribute.

However, there are a few coaches and general managers who are more innovative than others and would be willing to take a risk on Hayne. Coincidentally, teams with these types of coaches and general managers are the most successful.

Hayne plays anywhere – 20 per cent
Hayne finds game time, but gets at least one concussion and suffers another major injury before returning to Australia.

Hayne’s different positions – 1 to 15 per cent
He will either be a team’s primary of secondary kick returner (15%), a team’s second or third option running back (5%), a coach creates special plays for his unique skills (2%) or Hayne plays in defence (1%).

NFL convinces a team to sign Hayne – 0.5 per cent
Somebody in the NFL head office doesn’t know geography and believes that Australia is in Europe. With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s obsession with expanding the NFL in London (which he has attempted to do by sending over two of the worst teams in the league to play a game there each year), the head office coerces a team to sign Hayne.

He’s promoted as the team’s star player and he plays in every position on the field, from offense to defence. When somebody reveals that Australia isn’t part of the United Kingdom anymore and has never been in Europe, Goodell will deny any knowledge of a memo sent to him about Hayne’s European birth, and he will immediately fine Hayne $10,000 for deceiving the league.

Unlikely scenarios – 0.000005 to 0.05 per cent
Hayne plays wide receiver or tight end (0.05%), or he is used as a punter on fourth and short situations near midfield. He will be a dual threat, able to kick it or fake the punt and run for a first down (0.005%).

No matter whether Hayne succeeds or fails, one or two teams change their scouting and talent evaluation departments to fin more international players (0.0005%), and an American football player decides to travel to Australia to give NRL a crack (0.00005%).

Lastly, with a 0.000005 chance, an American watches a full rugby league game and doesn’t complain how boring it is.

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Why do Americans love Starbucks? Part 2 – Taste

Starbucks

Why is Starbucks coffee so bad?

In explaining last time why Starbucks is everywhere in the United States, I failed to mention the quality of the product it sells. In Australia, there is a one-word association with Starbucks – a popular four-letter epithet that rhymes with “this is the worst coffee I have ever tasted – it is like somebody has spewed in a cup, filtered it through dirt and mixed it with spit”.

I forgot about the coffee

I don’t drink coffee (I got the extra-sugary iced teas when I was on dates, probably another reason for my romantic failures in the United States) so I almost overlooked the underlying reason that so many people liked Starbucks – their main product, coffee.

Americans drink a lot of coffee. Even though we started a revolution because the British wanted to charge us a little extra for tea, once we got our independence from the Poms we distanced ourselves from English customs, including spelling words with superfluous u’s, walking, and drinking tea.

In Australia, kettles are obligatory wherever there is a kitchen sink. In America, coffee makers – the filtered ones – are ubiquitous.

Filtered coffee – especially with sugar – tastes slightly better than cigarettes, the other legal addictive drug that calms people for a short time then makes them jittery later. Really hot coffee (the preferred temperature for Americans) burns the mouth so much that it distracts Americans from the taste.

However, when Americans were introduced to these creamy-looking, super-sugary drinks, which were made with these expensive-looking machines and had foreign-sounding names to them (“espresso”, “latte”, “frappuccino”), and served in swanky-sounding sizes (“grande”, “tall” and “venti”), yuppy Americans couldn’t resist.

Starbucks grew so quickly and so widely because there was no massive alternative other than filtered coffee. There was no similar competition.

Starbucks the chain

No matter where you are, you can get a predictable experience at Starbucks, and that is comforting for a mobile population such as Americans.

Starbucks ensures that its coffee all tastes alike, which may be one reason that it has no flavour. (Starbucks, being wanky, uses superfluous u’s in its spelling in the United States.)

With an assembly-line production of massive amounts of food, the original beans (and tea leafs for its Tazo tea, which Americans would talk about as T2 equivalent quality) immediately dried, frozen and exported from the field to a central plant – where it is processed for distribution and storage.

When a Tazo tea representative explained this process for the tea, he talked with such pride, believing that doing so ensured not only that everything was uniform but also that the best flavour would be maintained.

Because I’m American, I believed him, too. When I came to Australia, my now-wife corrected me, showing me good food and tea.

Americans love Starbucks

To Americans, Starbucks coffee, which tastes the same no matter which Starbucks you buy from, is fantastic.

To Australians, who have a history of drinking good coffee, Starbucks is much different – fantastically horrendous.

Why do Americans love Starbucks so much?

Starbucks

Why do Americans love Starbucks so much?

 A few months ago, 7-Eleven announced that they were taking over all Starbucks shops in Australia. Although a few people mentioned this to me at the time, it didn’t dawn on me then because the only thing I was paying attention to was basketball, and I almost forgot that Starbucks was in Australia.

Whereas Starbucks is on nearly every street – sometimes twice or more, as stand-alone stops as well as inside Barnes & Nobles and supermarkets – in my 3 years in Australia I’ve seen Starbucks once.

There are only 24 Starbucks in the whole of Australia, which was about the number of Starbucks I might see each day when I drove to work in Denver.

It failed miserably in Australia because of the taste of its coffee. However, it is still so popular in the United States, and, as Americans are wont to do, anything that is popular in the U.S. is forced upon the rest of the world.

Starbucks – a bastion of calm in a world of chaos

Whereas Australians gag at the thought of the taste of Starbucks coffee, Americans salivate when they walk through the glass doors of the chain, step on the cold grey tiles, slippery from dirt and mud of hundreds of patrons.

Americans are in a comfort zone when they look around at the darkened room of black merchandise display shelves with days-old and frozen pre-packaged sandwiches, which are next to CDs of trendy alternative bands that lovers of indie music think are too untalented.

Americans think it is a peaceful harmony listening to the constant dinging of the bell that acknowledges the front door has been opening and closing, which is louder than the 1950s revving car engine sounds humming from the six-foot wide and four-foot tall coffee machines stationed next to the two chiming cash registers.

Finally, familiarity, nostalgia and calmness overcome Americans when they take a whiff of the dirty rain wafting from the overcoat of the person standing in front of them in line.

Americans love their Starbucks because the atmosphere of a Starbucks coffee shop smells, looks, sounds, feels and tastes much better than McDonald’s, the other major competitor for the caffeine-craving on-the-go American, or the “free”-WiFi-seeking student unfamiliar with the concept that the nearby library provides the same service without requiring a $5 donation to corporate pockets.

StarbucksStarbucks – the place to go

In most of Australia, if you want to meet people for a chat, you can go to the beach. If you live in Melbourne, where I do, where the locals think that anything under 20 degrees is “freezing” and a day without rain or the possibility of rain is less likely than giant robots fighting each other – oh, and where there is no worthwhile beach on which to do beach things and to avoid annoying backpackers – Melbournians meet each other at cafes.

Cafes in Melbourne try to be unique by serving the latest in trendy sandwiches and eggs, grab the dingiest metal chairs from the closest garage sale, do the least amount of sanding on a tree and use that for a table, and scour antique shops for the most rustic looking light fixtures. This careful planning makes each cafe dissimilar enough, especially compared with the cookie-cutter chains popular in the United States, that meeting a friend for a chat, a drink and often a meal is a slightly interesting experience.

In the United States, there is no cafe culture. There were diners in 1970s television shows about the 1950s, and there were supposedly dirty alleys in the 1980s, but the clean era of the 1990s were ripe for places with over-padded chairs and mini-tables – and that’s where Starbucks came in.

Starbucks – better than the pub

Because Starbucks were open during the day, and there was no age requirement, high school students on open campuses would flood the chain stores conveniently located across the street before school, during open periods and after school.

With the onset of the Internet in the 2000s, a population of shy, quiet, unambitious and unimaginative daters arose and had an inexpensive place to meet people that made their boring lives look less boring in comparison to the setting. (Author’s note: Before I came to Australia, Starbucks was my go-to Internet dating locale; when I came to Australia, and I stopped going on coffee dates, I impressed my now-wife.)

Starbucks – where everything is “grande”

Americans love everything in large sizes, and Starbucks manipulated this inherent American desire. Instead of “small”, “medium” and “large” sizes, Starbucks called everything large, except its largest size at the time (“venti”), as Paul Rudd noted and the whole country agreed. Only recently did Starbucks employees unofficially let people order a “small” or “medium” rather than “grande” or “tall”.

Coincidentally, McDonald’s around the same time removed its “medium” sizes and only served small, large and “supersize” – however, unlike Starbucks, McDonald’s just removed the medium items and added the larger size rather than just renaming things.

Everything in Starbucks is grande – from the overbearing green witch that hangs over the store entrance, who also hangs from a pole 35 feet high so that it can be seen from the next neighborhood, to the coffee machines with large decorative tubes at the top that were taken from a few tubas that were merged, to the chairs that are deep enough for three-quarters of my legs and whose arms are wider than my bottom.

Starbucks – winning over Americans since the 1990s

Starbucks made coffee machines look too fiddly, expensive and large, which meant that people wouldn’t buy them and have them at home. They made coffee interesting, different and trendy. They made the experience of going to Starbucks eventful. They appealed to Americans’ sweet tooth and need for quantity over quality. They filled the need for a drive-thru or fast food experience without the guilt of going to McDonald’s.

In short, they made bad coffee incredibly popular, even though it tasted terrible.

Why do American sports seasons go on so long?

I’m sorry that I haven’t been writing recently. I was obsessing over the end of the American basketball season – then the World Cup started!

I should have been prepared better knowing that American sports seasons last so long.

Professional basketball and ice hockey have 82 regular season games each, with more than two months of playoffs, which pales in comparison to baseball’s regular season of 162 games.

Many Australians, who proudly proclaim that loving sports is an identifying quality for citizenship, still find the length of these seasons ridiculous, especially compared with their own – 22 games in the AFL, 24 games in the NRL, and 5 international test series in the Australian summer.

Whereas North American sports’ arbitrary season lengths were founded 50-100 years ago, when there were only a few teams, modern situations actually make the length seem somewhat logical.

Every team visits every city, every year (basketball and ice hockey)

With more than 30 teams in more than 25 cities each, a long season enables local fans from each city to see every other team and every other superstar in the league. Plus, people who move away from their hometown get to see their favorite squad in person.

This means that when I was growing up I saw Michael Jordan play in Denver.

It also means that I saw Denver-based teams when I moved away for university, and there are times at Denver games when the crowd cheers louder for the visitors than for the home team.

Fair assessment of the regular season

In a short season, with such a small sample size, circumstances such as travel, injuries, rest, and quality of prior opponents all play a factor. This is the prominent case in cricket, where a batter who messes up once is done for the day.

American sports celebrate multiple opportunities, giving teams multiple times to play each other, reducing single instances of circumstance or luck.

Always entertained

With so many teams and games in North American sports, I don’t need to wait until the weekend to watch a game – there are multiple every night, and my local team plays multiple times per week.Sports Seasons Length

I’ve been hearing AFL fans this season whinging about attending games on Thursday, Sunday or Monday nights. If Australians can’t support so much footy, no wonder the AFL hasn’t expanded beyond its suburban roots.

Media coverage

I must credit Australians, though, for sports writers who are more imaginative than Americans.

With so frequent games, most American sports writers only write previews, game recaps and whatever Kobe Bryant or LeBron James said on Twitter.

Australians have the creativity and insight to fill six days of non-game coverage, with stories such as

  • a player’s ex-girlfriend’s dog’s brush with death 3 years ago that inspired the player to perform better this season
  • a coach’s accusation against his upcoming opponent’s alternate jerseys being too similar to his own team’s regular uniform
  • a footy coach’s opinion about the latest rumoured Socceroos player list
  • an ex-player calling out a current player for doing something the ex-player is known for but the ex-player now says would never have happened when he played
  • an ex-player ranking top current players in a specific category
  • another ex-player responding to that other ex-player’s ranking, wherein he ranks somebody No. 12 whom the other ex-player ranked No. 1, and he ranks another guy No. 9 and vehemently defends this ranking because the first ex-player didn’t rank him.

We care only when it matters

In America, even though the basketball season is 82 games, most fans only generally find out the season began once it is one-third complete, and most people pay attention after three-quarters of the season is complete.

Even though Australian football codes have fewer games, most people participate in footy tipping contests, which last for at least 24 weeks, without any weeks off. Deciding – before I head off on holidays – which team at the bottom of the ladder is trying to tank more in Week 13 is worth just as many points in the competition as two teams at the top of the ladder in Week 18 fighting for a finals home game.

Australian sport takes too much concentrated and dedicated effort.

Show teams the money

Even though the fan experience does benefit from more games for the reasons listed above, shortening the number of games in a season would keep many of the benefits (every city, fair assessment) and create better play (more rest, more training and more meaningful games for players) while reducing much of the negatives of a long season.

However, each team earns money from a local television contract and home ticket sales, so fewer games would cost at least $1-2 million each game.

In fact, American sports seasons keep getting longer and longer, with longer pre-seasons, plus extra playoff games added every few years.

Only ice hockey has reduced its regular season length, from 84 games to 82 – but that happened when the league was still mostly based in Canadian cities. Those Commie bastards already screwed up health care, and we’re not letting them mess with anything else, so Australians should expect more long-lasting seasons from American sports league.

Guns in America, Part 1

Gun

Token American: Guns in America

Guns in America is one of the most baffling things to Australians. There is no short answer to why there are so many in America, and why nothing has been done to curb or reduce them. I will try to explain a bit of the situation over time.

This week’s post focuses on recent government inaction.

Please comment below with your observations and questions, and I will find some ways to answer or explain them.

Inept reactions to mass killings

This week in Australia, there were a few gun shootings in Melbourne, a rarity for a country successfully made a declaration “No more guns” a reality after the Port Arthur Massacre. It is such a rarity that one of the shootings – in which a guy was allegedly shot in the bum by his brother – the police went door-to-door, one of the television helicopters scanned the area, and it was national news.

In cities across America, another day, another death by gun violence, and another sad day goes by in which hardly anything is done to prevent something similar from happening again. The everyday killings are minor and local, and only mass shootings get national attention. However, unlike in Australia, little is done to prevent future tragedies following major events.

Instead of eliminating the weapons in mass shootings – or at least making them more difficult to legally purchase – Americans have instead over the last 15 years responded to mass shootings by responding to tangential issues rather than guns, by weakening attempts to pass gun control legislation, and by becoming a more armed nation.

In America: Major events and their minor changes

Following major shootings, local governments or other groups lobby or talk about restricting access to guns, which immediately prompts gun advocates and gun owners to stockpile more and more guns. When Democrats win elections, the same fear that the government will take their guns away induces the same rush to the gun store.

Following major American mass shootings, rhetoric and policy have focused on scapegoats other than guns. For example

  • After Columbine, in 1999, trench coats were banned from school

  • Also immediately after Columbine, arcades removed all games with guns – until a few months later, after business had been mortally wounded

  • In my experience in Colorado, after a school shooting in 2006 many districts requested that visitors access buildings through only one of the dozen or so open entrances in the school, and school workers were strict that everybody at the school wore a lanyard ID

  • After the Virginia Tech massacre, teachers were encouraged to read student papers more carefully and to report any weird and anti-social writing

  • The 2011 shooting of Arizona politician Gabrielle Giffords ended violent metaphors in political rhetoric on partisan cable networks

Finally, a mixed bag regarding guns

Following the 2012 December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was surprised at how quickly guns were the focus of the media and politicians or all levels. There was no immediate scapegoat – guns were the problem, and something was going to be done about them.

Soon, predictably, reducing the number of guns and restricting access became an entrenched fight with the same non-results. Autism awareness and mental health concerns gained a following as the non-gun reason for the massacre.

And gun advocates doubled-down on their need for their guns.

Although 16 states passed strengthened gun-control laws, just as many passed more lenient gun restrictions.

There have not been any national restrictions, and there likely won’t be.

In Colorado, rural areas threatened to secede from the state due to Colorado’s passed (yet still weakened) gun control bill.

The secessionists failed, which means they are still there in Colorado, along with their guns. And even though they can’t buy any new weapons with 16 or more bullets in a magazine, they can still carry any gun they own nearly anywhere in the state, including on university campuses.

Winter is coming … or is it already here?

Winter is Coming

“Winter is coming.” “Winter is coming.” “Winter is coming.”

It’s May in Australia. The temperature in Melbourne will likely never get above 20 degrees Celsius for the next six months. Rain has been falling faster than online commentators can write “of Castamere”.

The trees are a mixture of reds, oranges, greens and brown, with the sky fluctuating most often between light grey, dark grey, and the black of night – the latter of which starts from the time you end work until about an hour or more after you rise from bed.

Winter is ComingIn America, with the days slowly getting longer, the snows receding, the flowers blooming, the grass growing, the bicycles rolling down streets – it is spring.

Back in the opposite side of the world, the official name for this period of the year is “Autumn” – but nobody in Melbourne uses that term. Melbournians are not like the Starks (before they were all killed, kidnapped or lost). The end of summer isn’t a warning for the cold season coming.

The citizens of Melbourne don’t claim that “Winter is Coming.”

Their term: “Winter is officially here.”

**

Just as grammarians have disliked the figurative raping of “literal” to mean the opposite, they would be just as annoyed at the butchering of weather-related jargon spouted by Australians. It is not “officially” winter, just as it is not actually “freezing” – an Australian’s term for when the temperature dips below 20 degrees Celsius (about 70 degrees American, or “shorts weather” on my Colorado temperature scale).

As an immigrant, I am baffled by this mistake of diction and the metric system. On the metric scale, which is used in Australia, 0 degrees is officially freezing. On the American temperature scale, “freezing” requires memorizing numbers and simple math: water becomes a solid at 32 degrees.

Yet Australians use “freezing” more frequently than Americans – even though the temperature in most major Australian cities never gets below freezing.

“Freezing” is also the only word that Australians use to describe cold temperatures.

Meanwhile, because there is such a large discrepancy of coldness in America, “freezing” is used mostly to describe the state of solid foods just taken out of the freezer. The weather outside has a greater number of descriptions: chilly, nippy, brisk, cool, icy, windy, snowy, cold, a bit cold, really cold, really f*#!ing cold, and “holy s#!t this is so f*#!ing cold that I’m going to die”.

**

Autumn is officially here.

Winter is coming.

Suck it up, Princess – it’s not actually freezing.