Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

On November 16th, Staff Sergeant Giunta became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.  The Medal of Honor was awarded for his heroics after his platoon was ambushed by Taliban fighters on October 25, 2007.  Among the actions that Giunta took during the fighting was to chase down Taliban fighters who were attempting to carry off a wounded American soldier.  Staff Sergeant Giunta killed one of the soliders ad caused the other to flee.  Although Giunta pulled his comrade to saftety, the soldier later died.

In any case, I would be proud of such a heroic soldier.  In this case, it hits home even more because Giunta is an Iowan.  Not only is he from my home state, but he grew up just a couple of miles from the office where I work (although news stories mention that he grew up in town of 6500, Hiawatha is part of the Cedar Rapids metro area – the second largest metro area in the state).

The local news media has been all over this story.  Not only did they cover the presentation live, but they advertised the event weeks in advance.  They also covered the parade when Giunta returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Elizabeth Smart

This month, Elizabeth Smart finally gave testimony in the criminal trial of Brian Mitchell.  Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, abducted Smart and held her until their arrest nine months later.  Although some people suggest that Smart could have escaped if she really wanted to, in actuality, factors such as Stockholm Syndrome actually make it mentally difficult for hostage to break away.

It has been more than seven years since Smart was reunited with her family.  She seems to have made a remarkable adjustment.  She has not become a recluse, but instead has made an effort to reach out and help others. – through TV interviews, a collaborative book with other victims (free download from the US Department of Justice), and most recently, as a Mormon missonary.  Far from using her abduction as reason to pull back from society, she has instead used it as motivation to do much good in the world.

Josh Hamilton

We go down a few rungs on the ladder to the world of sports.  Josh Hamilton was a heralded baseball prospect in high school – being picked with the #1 overall selection in the 1999 draft.  Hamilton eventually began to abuse drugs and alcohol, and by 2006, his star had faded so much that he was left unprotected in baseball’s Rule 5 draft.  He was selected by the Cubs, who immediately flipped him to the Cincinnatti Reds (yeah, Cubs fans, that has to hurt).

After being traded to the Texas Rangers, Hamilton blossomed into a bona fide star in 2008 – wowing crowds at the All-Star game home run derby and finishing seventh in MVP voting.

In early 2009, Hamilton was reported to be in a bar, asking questions about where he could get some drugs.  The 2o09 baseball season was also a disappointment for Hamilton, whose numbers slipped considerably.

In 2010, Hamilton once again appeared to have his act together – clean and sober.  He hit .359 for the year, with 32 homers.  Even though the Rangers shut him down in September to allow him to recover from injuries and be ready for the playoffs (a smart move), Hamilton’s season’s work was enough for him to reach the pinnacle  – being named the American League MVP in the same year that his Rangers advanced to the World Series.

I sincerely hope that Hamilton is able to continue to remain clean and sober – his achievements on the field are secondary to his battel with addiction.

Overrated stat of the month

I am annoyed at how often talking heads point to the number of rushing attempts a football team has in their wins versus their losses.  The suggestion is that teams that run the ball often win more often than those who don’t.

This is a classic example of confusing cause and effect.  Quite often (although not always), teams runs the ball a lot because they are winning – it’s not that they are winning because they have run the ball a lot.  Let’s say you’re up 30-3 at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  What sort of plays are you going to call?  Runs, of course – because the clock doesn’t stop after running plans (it does stop after an incomplete pass) and you’re able to eat more clock and make it more difficult for the other team to come back.  Likewise, the team that is down 30-3 is probablty going to throw a lot of passes in an effort to get points in a hurry.  At the end of the game, the winning team will have a lot of runs and the losing team will have a lot of passes – but simply because the score dictated the game play.

Idiot quote of the month

The Pac 10 conference has a round robin schedule in which every team plays every other team.  While many other teams play seven or eight conference games, Pac 10 teams play nine.  Washington coach Rick Neuheisel has pointed to his as a reason why the Pac 10 went into the weekend in danger of not being able to fill all of its six bowl slots, saying “… it hampers everbody, because it’s five more losses for the conference.”  That’s true, but the extra conference game also means that it’s five more win for the conference, too (with 10 teams playing an extra game, five teams must win and five teams must lose).  It’s only a net loss of five wins for the confernce if you assume that the teams would have gone 10-0 in games against non-conference foes instead of the 5-5 record in the conference games.  Note that the five teams that were struggling to reach six wins have a combined 8-7 record in non-conference games.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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