A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Questions of the day

Two interesting discussions on old man, ie., talk, radio yesterday afternoon and this morning. At first blush, both seem to be no-brainers, but once you dig a little deeper, maybe not so much. Curious to see what you guys think on these:

1) Should the Green Bay Packers retire Reggie White's 92, as they planning to do Sept. 18?
2) Is W. Mark Felt a hero for his actions as deep throat during Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate investigations?

Question 1: At first glance this is a no brainer. The arrival of White in 1993 was and is THE biggest free-agent acquisition by the Packers, arguably by any team, and helped revitalize the entire franchise. White anchored the Packers' defense during their 1996 Super Bowl victory and their 1997 Super Bowl appearance. He was selected to 13 straight Pro Bowls, is a first-ballot lock to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was Defensive Player of the Year twice ('87 and '98) and at the time of his retirement in 2000, he was the all-time sacks leader in the NFL.

But, let's dig a little deeper. White only played for six years in Green Bay, compared to eight in Philadelphia and one (2000) in Carolina, and his highest season sack total as a Packer was 16, compared to seasons of 18, 21, and 18 in Philly. Still, White considered himself a Packer, and when he's inducted into the HoF, it will be as a Packer, so the fact that White spent less than half of his pro career in Green Bay is not enough to say the Packers shouldn't retire his number.

So, how about the fact that the Packers have the fewest number of retired jerseys in the entire NFL despite being one of its oldest members? Membership in the Packers' retired number club is an Ultra-exclusive gig. Only fullback Tony Canadeo (3), wide receiver Don Hutson (14), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and linebacker Ray Nitschke (66) are in. Paul Hornung is not in that group. Forrest Gregg is not in that group. Jim Taylor is not in that group. All of those gentlemen were, arguably, as good as White at their respective positions and as important to the franchise's success as Reggie.

Put the fact that White was only in GB for six years together with the fact that having your number retired by the Packers is an extremely unusual and significant event, and I think I have to come down on the side of not retiring Reggie's number. It's a close call, but if I were Bob Harlan, I wouldn't do it.

Okay, question 2. Felt was the number 2 guy at the FBI during the Watergate investigations, and his tips to Woodward and Bernstein were critical to their continued pursuit of the conspiracy that eventually lead to Nixon's resignation. He was one of the most significant, if not the most significant, person in uncovering the conspiracy and bringing Nixon's corrupt presidency down.

There's the ends, and they are good ones-- had Tricky Dick and the crew gotten away with their abuse of power, it would have been a travesty of justice, and though we can never know how exactly it would have affected the country, and the world, I doubt there are too many people who would argue we'd be better off not knowing. The FBI was being pressured by the CIA (under pressure itself from the President) to sweep the whole thing under the rug, and Felt could easily have done so-- L. Patrick Gray, his boss at the FBI, certainly was willing. Certainly he was endangering his own career by participating in the investigation as Deep Throat.

But what of the means Felt chose?

Felt was a federal agent, and had recourses to investigate his suspicions about the Nixon administration besides leaking those suspicions to the press. Do we really want to laud a federal employee for leaking privileged and confidential materials to the Washington Post? Particularly an employee who had something of an axe to grind with his boss, and his boss' boss? Bear in mind, as well, that Felt was later convicted of authorizing illegal break-ins of friends of the Weather Underground. And this was the start of the press' use of anonymous sources, something which worked just dandy in the case of Watergate, but which hasn't worked out so well in many other instances. As Howard Kurtz notes:
But it must also be said that while Watergate and "All the President's Men" briefly turned journalists into heroes, they may have contributed to the long-term credibility problems of the profession. Too many journalists became sloppy with anonymous sources, some of whom didn't have first-hand knowledge of what they were talking about, and some reporters tried to pump every two-bit scandal into a "-gate." Having been lied to by the Nixon White House, journalists became more confrontational, more prosecutorial and more willing to assume that politicians must be lying. And the news business is still paying the price for some of those excesses.
So, the record is not quite so clear cut. On balance, I would have to say it was a good thing that Felt did what he did. The stakes were high, and his recourse to the Dept. of Justice or his own bureau were possibly compromised. I don't think I would characterize him as a hero, though-- certainly not one of the top 25 of all time, or anything.
I'll skip the Reggie debate for no particular reason.
Regarding "Deep Throat," I don't think he is a hero. I think he was a man who chose the easiest way to stop someone who he thought should be stopped. If he had fought the entire FBI and Nixon administration and gotten justice, then I would say hero. At this point, he's a guy who chose the easy way, including waiting until just before his death to acknowledge his role.
Now, if you ask me if I'm glad he did it, I'll say yes. But in the end, I would say that Linda Lovelace is more of a hero than W. Mark Felt.
i agree with troy ..linda lovelace was a MUCH better "deep throat" than this guy...i also disagree with troy....if he had fought the FBI and the nixon admin..he would have been buried..he got the info out the only way he could...i also agree with nick ..this opened up a door that would have been better left closed...in other words im on the fence here..very unusual for me

on the reggie thing....nick is on crack...reggie white was the BEST RUSH END EVER...even if his very best years were elsewhere he played for us for 6 very good years and as nick noted helped (with the mighty number 4) to bring this franchise back to prominence...he deserves his number retired...as for horning, gregg and taylor they were never as dominent as reggie
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