Contrasting Pairs

The Far Middle episode 161 lands amidst a string of holidays—released on Juneteenth, and just following Flag Day, Father’s Day, and just ahead of summer’s official arrival.

June is indeed a special time of year, and it’s also the month this episode’s sports dedication would be selected by the New York Yankees in the 1982 MLB draft, however, that multi-talented athlete would instead choose to head to Auburn.

In this Far Middle, the theme is examining binary opposites, specifically contrasting pairs where on one side is an issue of distraction while on the other is reality. Before jumping into those pairings Nick honors Bo Jackson who for a time dominated a pair of pro sports while also becoming a cultural icon through the “Bo knows” Nike ad campaign.

The connections begin by using Jackson’s alma mater, Auburn University, as an example of the financial issues facing higher education due to the collegiate spending arms race. Nick juxtaposes the Auburn example with community colleges, which focus on affordability, job readiness, and “breeding a culture of doers.”

For the next pair, Nick tackles urban government distractions, using San Francisco’s pickleball court controversy as an example, and contrasts it with the significant issue of increased student absenteeism in K-12 education post-COVID, emphasizing the need for city leaders to prioritize real problems.

“Stop worrying about zoning for public pickleball courts and start focusing time and attention toward making sure that students attend school so they can at least be in a position to begin learning basic stuff when it comes to comparing these twin issues our city governments are focusing on and ignoring respectively,” says Nick.

And in the final pairing, Nick highlights the West’s intense focus on climate change, versus the stances and actions of countries like China and Russia. Nick quotes former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s astute observation, “A country which thinks that the greatest economic, political and moral challenge of our times is climate change is, at the very least, going to be extremely distracted if it comes to fighting a war, or even running a cold war. The Ukrainians aren’t worrying too much about climate change right now. I don’t think the Israelis are obsessing about emissions at the moment.”

In closing, Nick notes a pair of birthdays coinciding with the episode’s release date, Moe Howard from The Three Stooges and the cartoon character Taz, aka the Tasmanian Devil.

Power Shift

The Far Middle episode 160 begins with a sports dedication to Sonny Vaccaro, a game-changing figure at the intersection of sports, business, marketing, and fashion.

Nick discusses Vaccaro’s journey from a schoolteacher to a pivotal player in Nike’s entry into the basketball market, including Vaccaro’s strategy of paying college coaches to have their teams wear Nike shoes, leading to a significant increase in Nike’s presence in basketball. Vaccaro’s most notable achievement was convincing Nike to sign Michael Jordan, leading to the creation of the highly successful Air Jordan line (the subject of the 2023 film, Air).

Vaccaro helped Nike become a behemoth global business, which Nick pivots off for the episode’s central topic: today’s behemoth administrative state and the conflict between it and executive power. It’s a topic familiar to Far Middle listeners, one “I’m always running out of Far Middle time to fully cover,” says Nick.

Nick explains the impetus for the episode was an early 2024 Wall Street Journal column, ‘Trump Allies See Path to Pad His Power.’

“Power in our Federal Government has been shifting from the legislative branch in Congress to the presidential or executive branch in the White House,” says Nick. “Most of us have been asleep as this shift in power from legislative to executive branch has occurred, partly because it happened slowly and methodically over a century.”

Nick argues shrinking the “bureaucratic deep state” would be a win for individual rights, for the private sector, and for capitalism. And if Donald Trump is elected again as president in November, Nick questions why the elite and expert class view a second Trump administration’s potential reduction in the bureaucratic state as a power grab of presidential authority. It’s nonsensical to describe ceding power as also grabbing power.

Nick critiques the Biden administration for its unconstitutional actions, such as selectively enforcing laws and delaying aid to Israel and compares this to the hypothetical concerns about a future Trump administration. He also stresses the need for a consistent application of constitutional principles and warns against the dangers of an unchecked bureaucratic state.

In closing, episode 160’s release date of June 12 provides a connection to the massive anti-nuclear demonstration that took place in New York City on June 12, 1982. Nick reflects on that protest, as well as global nuclear threats today.

“It’s a dangerous world, constant listeners, and we best stick to the proven formula of America. Individual rights, strong defense, small government, and a market based private sector,” Nick concludes. “It’s worked in the past and it’s going to work in the future. And it’s captured in the Constitution. Trust those things, not the bureaucrat.”

Moore’s Impact and Eisenhower’s Vision

The Far Middle episode 159 kicks off with a dedication to legendary football coach Joe Moore. Nick describes Moore, a western Pennsylvania native, as, “the greatest name in the region’s football history that you’ve probably never heard of.”

Moore made lasting impacts at both the high school and collegiate levels, particularly during his tenure at Pitt and Notre Dame, where he developed numerous NFL-bound offensive linemen. Nick highlights Moore’s straightforward, intimidating – but in a good way – coaching style.

While Coach Moore sadly passed away in 2003, his legacy continues today through the Joe Moore Award and the Joe Moore O Line Camp. “He wasn’t an offensive line football coach, he was a leadership guru,” says Nick.

Nick then connects to “another leader, not just of young adults or men and women, but of a nation, and frankly, the world or the free world at the time.” That leader, President Eisenhower, is the focus of this installment as Nick examines Ike’s 1961 farewell address, also known as his ‘military industrial complex’ speech.

Drawing parallels between Eisenhower’s warnings about the military industrial complex and today’s concerns that result from the overarching agenda of the Left, Nick expands upon his recent essay, “Echoes from 1961: Ike’s Fear of Red Scare Consequences and Today’s Crisis of Code Red.” Nick highlights President Eisenhower’s call for an alert and knowledgeable citizenry and stresses the desperate need for such a citizenry today “if we wish to preserve this wonderful human experiment known as the United States of America.”

Nick closes by delving further into 1961, highlighting the release that year of “The Guns of Navarone,” one of Nick’s favorite films. And on the airwaves, the Billboard music charts were dynamic, illustrating the cultural shift between easy listening and rock and roll.

For more from The Far Middle, 1961 also marked Roger Maris hitting 61 home runs in a season, a milestone honored in the opening dedication for Far Middle episode 61.

The Progressive Prosecutor Movement

The Far Middle episode 158 tips off with a sports dedication that bookends episode 121’s dedication to the great John Wooden. The episode’s dedication centers around UCLA booster Sam Gilbert, a behind-the-scenes figure essential to UCLA basketball’s success during John Wooden’s coaching era.

Gilbert, though controversial and often breaking NCAA rules, provided significant support and resources to the players, contributing to the Bruins’ dominance in the 1960s and 1970s. This duality between Wooden’s public integrity and Gilbert’s covert rule-bending serves as a lesson in the complexities of ethics and legacy. “What you associate with, they set your legacy sometimes as much as you do, whether it’s going to be for the better or for the worse,” says Nick.

The discussion around ignoring and breaking the rules then transitions to the progressive prosecutor movement that’s been methodically executed by the Left in America for the last several years. Nick references analyses by The Heritage Foundation’s Charles “Cully” Stimson as he examines the implications of rogue district attorneys and prosecutors refusing to prosecute certain crimes.

“The progressive prosecutor movement believes that the criminal justice system is broken,” says Nick. “And the only way to fix it is to replace law and order district attorneys with soft-on-crime and anti-police district attorneys. And when you do that, a community is going to suffer an epidemic of crime and decreased quality of life. And it will hit the working poor and hit minorities harder, which are the very groups the progressives claim to be advocating for.”

Highlighting examples from cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Nick illustrates the negative impact (increased crime and declining quality of life) of prosecutors undermining the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches, essentially rewriting laws without authority.

Nick connects the progressive prosecutor movement to the broader issues of ballooning administrative power, warning once again of the dangers of unchecked bureaucratic authority. “The other branches of government, they’re not pushing back and doing their jobs,” says Nick. “It’s not a small problem, it’s a massive problem…it’s a theme that The Far Middle has been discussing for years, and it’s one growing worse by the episode.”

In closing, Nick wraps with a nostalgic dive into rock history, highlighting songs from several bands including AC/DC, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, and other greats centered on crime and punishment.

Zeppelin fans: For more on the London rockers, check out Nick’s closing tribute segment in episode 142 celebrating Led Zeppelin II, and his reflections in episode 96 on Led Zeppelin IV and in episode 47 on Physical Graffiti.

Journalism Bias

The Far Middle episode 157 begins with a tribute to America’s servicemen and women following Armed Forces Day, celebrated the preceding Saturday, May 18.

Leading off with the episode’s sports dedication, Nick goes back 40 years to the infamous “bean-brawl game” from August 12, 1984, between the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.

Nick walks through the “train wreck” of a game that included three separate brawls, 17 players and coaches ejected, and several fans arrested. After hearing Nick’s review of the game that umpire John McSherry described as setting “baseball back 50 years,” relive the madness via YouTube.

After revisiting the Padres-Braves drama, Nick asks, “What if my summary was delivered exclusively from the perspective of a devout Braves fan, or how would it differ and contrast if I delivered a summary from a purely partisan Padres fan perspective?”

Those hypothetical competing takes on the game leads to the episode’s primary discussion: examining the evolution of journalism from its objective, balanced coverage of societal issues, to its biased state today.

Nick focuses on two of the most established names in journalism—The New York Times and National Public Radio (NPR)—delving into their Leftist-bias progression. For the Times, Nick explains how that progression has been occurring for almost a century, while NPR’s biased shift is a relatively more recent change of course.

While discussing NPR, the Far Middle’s “Fauci Focus” returns for a special reprise as Nick discusses NPR’s dismissal that COVID could’ve originated from a Chinese lab, “basically backing up 100 percent the positions that Anthony Fauci and NIH took.”

In closing, Nick stresses the importance of balanced and objective journalism, expressing hope for the future of news organizations like NPR. Nick concludes by connecting back to 1984, noting the year’s top TV shows, one of which was a news show that’s still airing today.

Far Middle Connections: Today’s episode release date coincides with the anniversary of the Pirates’ Willie Stargell hitting three home runs, a double, and a single in a May 22, 1968, win against the Cubs. Stargell would help the Pirates win the 1971 World Series, their fourth in franchise history, alongside teammate Al Oliver. Oliver is included on Nick’s list of baseball greats deserving a plaque in Cooperstown.