Monday, February 2, 2015


Normally I use this blog just to review history books that I have read.  Tonight however I am ecstatic about my favorite team’s victory and want to blog about it.  The last ten or eleven years have been hard on me. I have a lot of intense disappointments in my life both personally and professionally.  I think I am starting to turn it around but progress can be very slow.  Every week however Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the Patriots can give an exciting three hours for me to forget all my problems.  And to that I am grateful.  Over the last ten years the Pats kept getting close but kept finishing short of their main goal. I am happy beyond reason with their current win in the Super Bowl.

One of the most exciting Super Bowls to date

Tom Terrific

However I have two thoughts that keep dominating my mind. 


Pats D
In Super Bowl 46 the Patriots were up 17-14 and the Giants were driving in a scary repeat of what they had done in Super Bowl 42.  The Patriots decided to let the Giants score a touchdown on purpose so that Tom Brady and the offense would have enough time get a touchdown of there own.  Well the Patriots lost that one.  This time Belichick put faith in his defense and refused to call a time out as the clock wound down the final minute.  Now granted to the 2014 Patriots defense is a different animal than the 2011 version, yet the reason the Pats were in Super Bowl 46  at all had to do with a defensive stand against Baltimore in that year’s AFC Championship game.  One year they willing decided not to trust their guys on a team that they built, on another they chose to trust their guys.  One year they would lose a chance to claim a fourth Super Bowl and another year they would come home with the trophy.  There is a moral lesson in that I am sure.
Stood by his guys this time


When I saw Malcolm Butler make that legendary play as the Seahawks elected to throw it on 2nd and goal on the 1 yard line, there was something oddly familiar about what had just happened.  It was as if I had seen it before.  Then I remembered Carroll, as coach of the New England Patriots, had done something like that during a regular season game. I couldn’t remember against whom so I decided to look on-line, and I found an article for the Hartford Courant dated October 29, 1997 written by Terry Price.  On Monday Night Football the Patriots were playing the Packers and a strange set up similar to the latest Super Bowl occurred.   1997 was Curtis Martin’s last year with the Patriots. They were down 14-10 on the 1 yard-line 1st and goal and took one shot with Martin and then from 2nd down on they had Bledsoe throw it turning the ball over on downs. 

Price gives a more detailed description:

   The Patriots trailed 14-10 when they took the second-half kickoff and moved to the 1. Here's their play selection from there:
* First-and-goal: A run off right guard by Curtis Martin, who was stopped immediately by Santana Dotson and Leroy Butler.
* Second-and-goal: A pass intended for tight end Ben Coates, but it's thrown away by quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who couldn't find an open receiver.
* Third-and-goal: Bledsoe passes to Coates, who would have made the catch in the back of the end zone, except cornerback Tyrone Williams gets a hand in to knock the ball loose.
* Fourth-and-goal: Bledsoe fakes to Martin, then rears up and throws toward Byars, but Williams steps in and knocks the ball away.”

In the aftermath of this year’s Superbowl, Carroll had this to say:

  “We have everything in mind, how we’re going to do it. We’re going to leave them no time, and we had our plays to do it. We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal-line (package) — it’s not the right matchup for us to run the football — so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste a play.

“If we score, we do. If we don’t, then we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really, (we called it) with no second thoughts or no hesitation at all. And unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy (Butler) makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.” (Quote taken from an article by Nick Eaton on Seattle Pi)

Now a quote from Carroll taken from Price’s article on the 1997 game:

``We called what we thought was the best call we had on second down,'' Carroll said. ``We thought we had a very nice call on third down. Fourth down, we came up with a call that we think is really good.

``As you look back and tell me that we're not going to score, I'd like to have done it a little bit differently I thought we would score on every one of those plays.''

Do those two sound a little familiar? I thought they did.  Now in some ways it is not a fair comparison.  There are key differences besides the obvious Super Bowl vs. Regular season.  In that game against the Packers, the Patriots goal-line failure came at the start of the second half and they had the rest of the half to do something.  However this one Pats fan is glad that Carroll forgot about the lesson he learned that day and didn’t do things "a little bit differently."  I bet all Seahawks fans wish he had remembered.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


A review of Tony Horwitz’s Confederate’s in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (1998)

(Rating 5 of 5)

I should begin with a simple disclaimer.  I have absolutely no sympathy or respect for “the Lost Cause of the South.”  I do not see the entire event as “complicated.” It is actually very simple.  In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.  He was first president who would not pay lip service to the institution of slavery as all of his fifteen predecessors had done, regardless of whatever their personal feelings on the matter.  He even dared to suggest that slavery in the territories of the United States should no longer be permitted and all new states admitted needed to be Free states.  This was so offensive to the leaders of the South that they went forth and committed treason by breaking up the nation and attempting to form their own where slavery could be practiced without challenge.  If you do not believe that go and read all the secession documents of the Southern legislatures, the Confederate Constitution, and speeches by Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stevens. 

            Nevertheless, the book is fascinating as Horwitz explores the South in the 1990s amongst those who care about the Civil War.  He comes across a diverse group of people from armature to hardcore reenactors, modern-day secessionists, and a famous historian in the now late Shelby Foote.

Confederate Reenactors
            Despite my disdain for the Lost Cause, I came to like many of the Southern characters that I came to know reading the book.  People like Rob Hodge one of the hardcore reenactors who distinguish themselves from those lesser reenactors they call “farbs.”  I do not have anything against the average Confederate soldier who took up arms for what he saw was an invader.  These reenactors also seem quite harmless.  They just excessive history buffs who want to know more about their ancestors and how they use to live, fight, and die.  I even felt very close to one of them, Mike Hawkins, who seemed the real world just disappointed him and he felt down about his life.  Hawkins finds his escapism following his own ancestor’s trials in the Civil War.  I can imprecated that.  As someone who has often felt let down by life, I often find an escape into the past but I do not take it to the same extremes that he does. 

            I also find some of the old Southern generals interesting, such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  I think if I was from the South, I might view those men the same way a German might view Erwin Rommel, I would appreciate genius while still despising the cause that they served.  One of the scenes that I thought was interesting was the comparison to Jackson’s early death to that of famous musicians.
            “The analogy wasn’t airtight.  Morrison and Hendrix were sex-crazed hippies who OD’d on drugs; Stonewall was a Bible-thumping teetotaler who sucked on lemons and sipped warm water because he thought the human body should avoid extremes.  But Rob was onto something.  If Jackson had survived and failed to change the course of the War, his luster might have dulled by the South’s eventual defeat.  ‘Better to burn out than to fade away,’ Rob wailed, echoing Neil Young.” (p.229)
            One of things I appreciated about this book is that it does not shy away from controversy.  It could have just as easily focused on small groups of hardcore reenactors but instead Horwitz chose to take on some of the more difficult questions, such as “Is there any real way to remember the Confederacy when the driving cause behind it was slavery?”  Should schools be named after men such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, who in my mind was nothing but a war criminal and hatemonger who founded the Ku Klux Klan.

            In the end I must say that this a great book that I would highly recommend to people who are interested in people who are interested in the U.S. Civil War.

{Video was created by DontcallmeMikey72 on YouTube}

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


A review of Collin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down (2007)

(Rating 5 of 5)

A small disclaimer: I actually had the opportunity to meet Mr. Woodard at the Maine Festival of the Book a few years back.  While there, I ran into him as he was on the way out.  I would have missed him entirely if he hadn’t noticed the fact that one of the two books I was carrying was one of his.  Woodard then stopped me and asked me if I was looking to get those signed.  When I told I was, he then told me that ‘Tony’ (author of a book I will be reviewing next) had left but he would gladly sign the other one.  It was an interesting forty seconds to say the least.  So if you think this is a biased review it might be.  However if you read it for yourself I think you will agree that it is an interesting book.

            What this book covers is the Golden Age of Pirates that took place in the first half of the eighteenth century.  During this time a group of pirates gained enough power in the Caribbean after the colonial governments there practically collapsed and pirate ships roamed almost unopposed.  They had been inspired by the example of Henry Avery, the first modern pirate who helped establish the principals that the pirates would come to live by.  What Avery started was the idea of ‘sailor reform’ where the shares of profit was more evenly distributed, decisions made more democratically, and leaders could be held accountable to their crews.
Blackbeard's Flag

            Pirates have been glorified in our culture.  Reading this book it is easy to see why.  The pirates did some nasty things but the people who fighting them were hardly any better.  The European navies and merchants sold slaves, had crew that were literally kidnap victims who were treated as slaves, and acted in ways that were not honorable.  The situation with the British Navy of this time period kind of reminds me of problems with prohibition agents in the 20s and drug enforcement officers in present time.

            Avery disappeared from historical record and is believed to have lived a reasonable long—for late seventeenth-early eighteenth century standards—and comfortable retirement.  Most of his imitators who followed in his footsteps would not be so fortunate.  They would die young by hanging or going out in battle. 

            The book covers many of the post-Avery pirates, such as the ruthless Charles Vane, Sam Bellamy an early pirate commodore, and of course Edward Thatch more popularly known as ‘Blackbeard.’ Blackbeard is by far the most famous of all the pirates of anytime period.  The funny thing was prior to reading this book the only exposure I had to Blackbeard was in that silly Disney movie about his ghost and Ian McShane’s portrayal of him in the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  The later film shows Blackbeard still alive in 1750 sailing in the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which was decades after his ship was wrecked and Blackbeard himself had died.  The real one was more impressive despite the lack of superpowers that he displayed in the movies.  

           What I found the most surprising while reading this book was the politics of the pirates themselves.  These pirates not only tried to change how ships were run, but they had very strong opinions on who the King of England was supposed to be.  Almost every single pirate was an outright Jacobite, who regarded the present king, George I, as impostor who needed to be over thrown.

            Speaking on Jacobitism, there was one little passage in this book that I took a point with:

“Queen Anne had died, childless, in August of 1714.  Under normal circumstances, the crown would have passed to her half-brother, James Stuart, the next in the line of dynastic succession, a situation that, to thinking of many at the time, was ordained by God himself.” (pg. 101)

            Okay ‘under normal circumstances’ King James III would have received notice of the death of his sister, the Princess Anne, and would have been very sad that in twelfth year of his reign he was now devoid of siblings.  To Jacobites, Queen Anne may have been a Stuart but she and her sister Mary were just as much usurpers as William III and the Hanoverians who followed Anne.  I am sure Woodard was trying to simplify a complicated topic and did not have the space to go into things like the Glorious Revolution, but still false is false. 

            This is great a tale the sea of the sea.  I am so glad that I had finished it in time for the new Starz series Black Sails.  Reading this book before hand made the series more enjoyable.  This is a book I would highly recommend to anyone who wanted to know about the real pirates of the Caribbean.

{Video is from a Smithsonian Documentary}