des moines, mental health, Music, News, People, Pop Culture, sports

HOT SHEET: Hawkeyes, Cyclones win, pierce the gloom of the coming winter of COVID-19

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Most Iowans interested in football found happiness Saturday. The Iowa State Cyclones bludgeoned Kansas State. The Iowa Hawkeyes mauled Penn State. All was right with the world for a few hours on a late autumn afternoon.

ITEM TWO: Sunday promises to be another excellent day for this pro football fan. His favorite team, the Chicago Bears, will not play, but he fears the Bears are so bad they may find a way to lose without taking the field.

ITEM THREE: The Age of COVID-19 feels like a woolen sweater too tight in all the wrong places. It itches and stifles and never seems to let us breathe no matter how hard we tug and pull. The naturally shortened days of autumn get even shorter when the restaurants lock their doors at 10 p.m. Efforts to curb the virus’ potentially deadly spread curb our abilities to gather in fellowship whether it be to root for a favorite football team, celebrate a holiday or worship our gods. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker called one of his best friends Saturday. She was overwhelmed by the emptiness of it all and despite his silly jokes and empathy, he could not shake even a giggle loose. The miles between us seemed doubled or tripled despite the intimacy of a phone call. He felt the depression from his end of the phone. He had no choice but to let go and hoped her planned passivity would bring what Pink Floyd called comfortable numbness. The typist fared no better on his Saturday. He could have done laundry, but a psychological immobility paralyzed him whenever he gave leaving the house a serious thought. He attempted to watch football games, but the he fell into fitful sleep early in the games. Most of his friends hunkered with their family and the weight of a lifetime of bad choices and failures to grow left the Paragraph Stacker alone in a little apartment surrounded by nothing but entertainment but overwhelmed by the urge to have a beer with a buddy in public. So, he slept, for this is the season of hibernation. And he slept some more because he knew more of this malaise was to come. As the poet songwriter Bob Dylan once sang, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”

ITEM FOUR: This blog will become private in a few weeks, which means you’ll have to request access to read the posts. It’ll still be free, but there will be an extra step to reading posts. The easiest way to avoid all that is go to https://paragraphstacker.com/ now and look for the follow button on the left side of the page. Enter your email address and confirm it. You’ll get every post delivered to your inbox.

ITEM LAST: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker makes no secret of his love for classic “Doctor Who.” He relaxes to the infinite stream of 200 episodes on the free streaming service Pluto TV. Saturday evening found him watching the very first “Doctor Who” story he ever watched many moons ago on Iowa PBS: “The Armageddon Factor.” He found a gem of an exchange between the Doctor, as played by Tom Baker, and his companions, Romana, played by Mary Tamm, and his robot dog, K-9, as voiced by John Leeson. It’s as true today as it was in 1979.
THE DOCTOR: Where’s your joy in life? Where’s your optimism?
ROMANA: It opted out.
K-9: Optimism: belief that everything will work out well. Irrational, bordering on insane.
Perhaps that’s a little too dark to end a Hot Sheet. So if it’s insane to be optimistic, perhaps the typist shall lean on a quote from another favorite childhood classic, the 1989 “Batman” film.
BRUCE WAYNE: You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!

Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Daniel P. Finney stepped into the quantum accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Daniel can see and hear. And so Daniel finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.
des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, Podcasts, politics, sports

HOT SHEET: Nobody cares what I have to say about the #election2020, but I’m saying it anyway

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Nobody cares what the typist thinks about the presidential election, but he’s going to talk about it anyway. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker is happy that Joe Biden won the presidency. Donald Trump is a horrible human being who embodied the worst traits of this country and forever lowered the standard of person it takes to occupy the Oval Office. The typist struggles to understand how his fellow Iowans voted so heavily in favor of this person who in every way refutes the image of kindly neighbors Iowans have always sought to project. He will struggle with this as he continues to move forward with life.

ITEM SECOND: Iowa political historians should study the campaign of Theresa Greenfield for the Senate because it was hysterically poor from its media standpoint. If you watched Greenfield’s ads — and if you watched a sporting event live since September, you couldn’t have missed them — her entire campaign centered around how her husband died in a work accident, he once owned a Chevy Nova, she played high school basketball and, most embarrassing of all, she has a twin who thinks her sister would be a good senator. These saccharine confections are the kinds of things that win middle school class presidencies, but not U.S. Senate campaigns. Whoever managed her media campaign should go into hiding for a while.

Even the dark money groups trying to help Greenfield fumbled. They took shots at Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa’s Dollar Store Sarah Palin, because she — GASP! — lives in a $400,000 condo in Washington, D.C. The typist is not one to defend Ernst, but she does work in D.C. and a $400k condo in D.C. is a cheap hole-in-the-wall, not a swank luxury pad. Trying to go after someone for daring to have a residence in D.C. when they’re a senator is almost as dumb as filming an ad with your twin sister and expecting voters to give a flip about it.

ITEM THREE: If anyone is fool enough to think Joe Biden’s presumptive election to the presidency settles anything consider the following: This election was so close it took almost five days to figure out and there are still court cases to go through.

And then consider the cool, calm and even-handed response from the College Republicans at Iowa State, which tweeted “Everybody needs to arm up, expect these people to attempt to destroy your life, the elites want revenge on us.”

The typist won’t bother to try to figure out how Donald Trump, a billionaire by inheritance, con man, philanderer and failure at everything but being a reality TV host, somehow became an avatar for the downtrodden and disrespected.

It does remind the ol’ Paragraph Stacker of how foolish the notion that dangerous and horrible ideologies will not die out generationally.

ITEM FOUR: Withheld to give everybody a chance to count to 10 and settle down.

ITEM FIVE: The Hawkeyes and Cyclones were both winners Saturday. Iowa stomped Michigan State. It’s always fun to see Sparty lose. The Cyclones almost laid an egg against Baylor, but scored 28 unanswered points to earn their fifth win of the season. Iowa State is now 5-1 in the Big 12, the best record in program history and making the Cyclones real contenders for the league title. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker mocked this idea at the beginning of the season, but what the hell does he know?

ITEM SIX: Watch David Chappelle opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live.” I can imagine no better thing to see, laugh at and think about than this.

Daniel P. Finney is still optimistic enough to believe he may one day be in a torrid affair with a celebrity.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Pop Culture, sports, TV

HOT SHEET: Calamity for Hawkeyes, Cyclones; World Series Dad 2.0 jokes; and more jokes to learn and say for trick-or-treat

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The typist slumped into his over-stuffed recliner shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday with the idea of flipping between the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State game and the Iowa vs. Purdue game.

The memorial service for Grandma Lois earlier that day and the heavy brunch of blueberry pancakes, eggs and bacon at Jethro’s exacted their toll and a deep nap soon swept him away.

The Hawkeyes and Cyclones both lost in his deep slumber and he awoke content, having missed nothing important.

ITEM TWO: The typist and Dad 2.0 used to watch the World Series together in the fall when he was a boy. Many years have passed since the pair last met to do so in person.

The recent deaths of family members and illnesses of friends left the typist in an atavistic mood. He did not wish to risk an in-home visit in the pandemic, so on a whim he texted his father.

Dad 2.0, a retired printer, is a quiet man, but he occasionally unleashes a savagely funny one-liner when the mood strikes him, which it did during the fourth game of the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays.

On the Dodgers’ shaking their hands after a soft base hit, something they call “barrels are overrated,” which means hard-hit balls are overrated:
What’s with the monkey imitations?

On the Aflac duck commercial with Nick Saban:
It’s the beginning of the end when you see the ducks clapping.

On the great baseball name of the Dodgers’ Max Muncy:
That must be his stage name.

On a broken-bat single by one of the Rays:
That bat is coming out of his paycheck.

On Verizon Wireless’ incessant 5G commercials:
That’s too much “G.”

ITEM THREE: Game Four of the World Series provided one of the finest unofficial Fall Classic games the typist had ever witnessed.*
*As every Iowan of a certain age knows from Frank Miller editorial cartoons, an official World Series must include the New York Yankees.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say on Beggars’ Night in Des Moines:

Q: Why was the broom late?
A: It over swept.

Q: Where do hamsters go on vacation?
A: Hamsterdam.

Q: How do you communicate with a fish?
A: You drop it a line.

Q: What did the music teacher say when her students asked if they could sing their favorite song?
A: “Of chorus”

ITEM FIVE: The typist can’t stop listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album, “Folklore,” which two readers gifted to the Hot Sheet when it was released.

The album is melancholy and goes places Swift’s previous albums didn’t. Her work enthralls the typist. She’s a good writer and her presentation is perfect.

Swift seems to be genuinely interested in her fans having a good time and communal experience at her concerts. And she shows kindnesses big and small to fans, especially young girls.

The typist is an admitted grouch. Swift’s generally upbeat work would not seem to fit with his daily dourness.

Well, people can surprise you whether they be singers or paragraph stackers.

ITEM LAST: Try to get a nap in today.

Every breath Daniel P. Finney takes without your permission raises his self-esteem.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, News, Pop Culture, sports

HOT SHEET: Football, Busch Light, ranch dressing and other pointless s***

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The Iowa Beef Industry Council selected selected its best burger Iowa. It’s the Who Gives A Shit Just Eat Wherever You Like And Stop Being Such A Goddamn Follower served everywhere. It’s served with Busch Light and ranch dressing because Iowans really like these exceptionally dull things with a pointless fanaticism.

ITEM TWO: The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was pen pals with the director of the Des Moines Metro Opera, reports WHO-TV. As a nation mourns a pioneer for gender equity under the law and one of the most respected jurists of her time, we must also mourn the loss of the loss of the last active pen pals in the nation. Toast their special friendship with a Busch Light and dip something in ranch.

ITEM THREE: Hot Sheet predicts a 4-4 Big Ten season for the Iowa Hawkeyes with losses to Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin. The typist also predicts Hawkeye fans will drink lots of Busch Light and dip lots of things in ranch dressing.

ITEM FOUR: Unavailable due to coronavirus quarantine.

ITEM FIVE: Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos moaned about the tough draw the Cornhuskers received in the Big Ten schedule, reports the Omaha World-Herald. The Bugeaters play five preseason AP Top 25 teams. Ohio State plays one. Nebraska’s schedule is undeniably tough, but if they it can’t all be Busch Light and ranch dressing.

ITEM LAST: Players at 71 courts in Estonia made 114,357 free throws in 8 hours to set a Guinness Book of World Records mark and honor basketball’s 100th anniversary in the nation, the UPI reports. No word on how much Busch Light and ranch dressing was consumed in celebration.

OK. Let’s close the book on this one. Please donate if you can and, as always, behave and be kind. Especially be kind.

Daniel P. Finney shaved Monday and nobody noticed.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Iowa, sports

Sunday Thoughts: Kirk Ferentz learns the perils of the woke walk

Photo by Leonardo Marchini via PixBay

Beware the woke wave. White folks may think they can surf it, but it is just as likely to crash them into the reef and leave them bloodied and broken.

Review the long weekend of University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa posted a video of their top Hawk talking about listening, learning and growing on the issue of racism that has again gripped national discourse in the wake of a Minneapolis police officer’s killing of George Floyd.

Ferentz went on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt to talk about an open and productive team meeting that included the subject. 

Ferentz came across as earnest both in the video and in the interview. I don’t know Ferentz, but I’ve no reason to doubt his sincerity. 

But before any white person cuts a video like that, they should ask themselves an important question: How clean is my house?

Ferentz soon learned his house was just as messy as any American institution. Former Hawkeye players came forward on social media with allegations of racist talk and behavior by the team’s strength and conditioning coach and his own son, Brian Ferentz, the team’s offensive coordinator. Others said adapting to the “Iowa Culture” caused anxiety and failure to do so would be costly.

Ferentz quickly regrouped. The strength and conditioning coach is on leave pending an investigation. (That coach denies racism. Brian Ferentz remains on the job.) Iowa will form an advisory committee chaired by a former player.

Ferentz cut a new video and shouldered the responsibility. He choked up talking about the allegations of racism in meeting with reporters Sunday afternoon. Again, Ferentz seemed earnest and his actions seem like more than just reactionary pandering.

Coaches, teams and schools all over the country have posted videos and text messages similar to Ferentz’s. They pledge to listen, learn and grow together.

I want to believe them, yet I am cynical enough to be wary of college coaches gesticulating their concern over racism after Floyd’s killing. 

Few institutions reap as much one-way benefit from the talents of African Americans as NCAA college football and men’s college basketball. It benefits coaches to come out and say, “Hey, we support African Americans here. We’re behind you.”

I wonder what percentage, even if it’s a sliver, of these messages are motivated by marketing and recruiting concerns. Did your school tweet that black lives matter? No? Then maybe a prized African-American recruit goes somewhere that did.

But it’s kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

If you don’t, then your program will be labeled racist. If you do — and you don’t know or are willfully ignorant of racial issues in your program — then you will be beset with racial allegations anyway.

Lost in all this is any ability to gauge sincerity. 

Like I said, Ferentz seemed earnest. I tend to believe both his videos. Many coaches from across the NCAA and into pro sports posted similar videos or text messages in support of the movement for equality and against racism.

I want to believe them all. I choose to believe them because I want to believe the people I love and celebrate are good and decent and real.

But life is more complicated than that. About 20 years ago, I moved from Des Moines to Omaha for a job. I thought Omaha, about twice the size of Des Moines, to be much more openly racist than Des Moines. 

I read a column by a former editor of mine who works in Omaha now. He said he heard the most overt racism in his career in Des Moines. He’s worked in Texas and Detroit, among other stops.

I don’t doubt my former editor’s experience just as he didn’t doubt mine. I believe we see what we want to, especially when it’s our hometown and our home teams.

We are willing to accept information that supports our belief that we don’t do the bad things that happen in other places as if we are somehow exempt from the indecencies and inhuman treatment that plague every other place.

That’s called confirmation bias and I am as guilty of it as anyone.

I made that mistake earlier this month in these paragraphs. I suggested protestors go to Minneapolis where Floyd was killed rather than protest good, hard-working cops in Des Moines.

That was naive on my part, maybe outright ignorant. 

Racism isn’t limited to one city, state or nation. They’re protesting in England, France and Germany, too. White people have been terrible toward black and brown people for centuries.

Study colonialism. For centuries, white people showed up in other nations, killed some (or a lot) of the natives and said, “All this is ours now and you’re now ruled by us.”

Ferentz handled his situation with class and dignity, but how it shakes out for the Hawkeyes going forward will be interesting and important.

As for me, well, allow me to come clean: I’m dirty. We are all sinners.

I truly, absolutely and without hesitation do not believe that I am superior to anyone because of the color of my skin.

But I have had racist thoughts. I have laughed at and told racist jokes. And I’ve benefited from a society designed by rich white men to benefit other white men.

I don’t cut myself a break because I was born a ward of the state. I was a white baby boy. I was adopted quickly, though the results of that pairing were mixed at best.

Still, I don’t know how many African-American babies were in the county hospital the same day I was that ended up in foster care and never knew a permanent, stable home.

Racism is a virus in which all white Americans are carriers. The debate is how active it is in our thoughts, actions and deeds.

I have no idea what the solution is. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be unemployed. 

All I can say is this, which I repeat often: We are all children of God, created in His image and deserve love, dignity and respect.

Act as if this is true and we will make it true.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, People

Iowa mom’s long racial awareness journey and why white Americans need to follow her path

Jonathan Hayes and wife Kristi Kinne-Hayes with their four children. Submitted photo.

Kristi Kinne-Hayes grew up in Jefferson, a Green County city made of 4,200 almost all white people. Kristi played six-on-six girls’ basketball and became one of the best players in the state.

She knew local police officers by their first names and thought of them as just another face in the crowd rather than law enforcement.

Kristi played college basketball at Drake University, leading the Bulldogs to an NCAA Tournament berth her senior season in 1995. She seldom thought about race even though she played alongside and was friends with people of different races.

She had a longtime friend who played softball at Drake who was mixed race and never knew until someone asked her friend about her race in a Kansas City bar.

A background like Kristi’s makes it seem unlikely that she would comment on the ghastly death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. But life, love and motherhood changed her perspective and her long journey from racial indifference, maybe even racial ignorance, to awareness and empathy is one all Americans — especially whites — need to take right now.

Kristi graduated from Drake, survived ovarian cancer and met and married Jonathan Hayes, a former University of Iowa tight end who played for the legendary Hayden Fry during the famed coach’s revitalization of the program in the early 1980s.

Hayes is also African-American. But a mixed-race relationship didn’t expose Kristi to the racial hatred the corrupts America’s soul.

The first time Kristi brought Johnathan home to Jefferson to watch a ballgame, fans swarmed the Hawkeye hero for autographs.

“That was so traumatic for me because when I was at the game, people came up for my autograph,” Kristi said. “I told Jonathan they only wanted his autograph because they already had mine.”

The couple settled in Cincinnati, where Jonathan served as tight ends coach for the NFL’s Bengals.

They had four children. Yet it wasn’t until their eldest daughter, the couple’s second child, turned 16 that evil racism finally struck the mother of four mixed-race children.

Kristi and Jonathan bought a new car and gave their older vehicle to their daughter. They put the old plates on their daughter’s vehicle and paid the fees, but Ohio Department of Transportation computers hadn’t yet processed the transaction.

One evening their daughter came home pale.

Kristi asked her what was wrong.

She had been pulled over by police. The car tags were wrong.

“She said, ‘I was sure they were going to shoot me,’” Kristi said. “I thought, ‘Why would you think they would shoot you?’”

And the privilege of being a white star athlete from small town Iowa evaporated. She was now the mother of four children whose facial characteristics most white people would identify as black.

“If there’s a little bit of brown, to other white people, you’re black,” Kristi said.

Living with racism did not limit her children’s success. Eldest son, Jaxson Hayes, was a first-round draft pick by the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans last year.

Daughter Jillian is a highly prized women’s basketball recruit committed to the University of Cincinnati.

Kristi reminds them that she doesn’t care if other people label them black only, just remember that their white mother and her family loves them just as much as their African-American father and his family.

“Your name is clean,” Kristi tells her kids, “keep it that way.”

Still, she worries. Jaxson is off in New Orleans, just turned 20 years old and having the time of his life as an NBA rookie despite the league shutdown due to coronavirus.

She tells her children that if they are pulled over, put their hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel.

“I never thought I would have to tell my children that,” Kristi said.

Kristi saw the news reports and videos of a Minneapolis police officer putting his knee in the back of George Floyd, an African-American man suspected of forgery.

Three other police officers stood by and did nothing. They were all fired. As of this writing, it’s unknown if they will be criminally charged.

The killing of Floyd is a complete institutional failure by the Minneapolis police. That officer pressed his knee into the back of that handcuffed man’s neck as he pleaded for mercy, he could not breath and eventually lost consciousness and died.

He stared into the crowd almost as if he was daring someone to tell him he was wrong. The crowd pleaded with him to render aid, to check Floyd for injury or get him some water.

The officer refused.

A friend of mine made this observation a few years ago: “There’s two things we learned from everybody having cameras on their phone: There are no UFOs and police sometimes kill people for no reason.”

The true horror of this event: None of those officers moved to stop their fellow officer from committing a crime. It was depraved indifference.

Here in Des Moines, some of my police sources told me they were aghast at another cop so drunk on power that his defiance led to the death of a man.

“When you have him in cuffs, get him up and in a car and off to the station,” one cop told me. “That diffuses the situation right there.”

Another cop told me police administrators were circulating a video by a top training instructor illustrating the dangers of the knee in the back hold and all Des Moines cops will have to sign off on having watched it.

There’s been little local backlash at Des Moines police because of the Minneapolis killing, but the danger of using national stories to paint local pictures hangs over every police station.

Kristi saw that news and it moved her. She lives in Cincinnati, a city that saw race riots in 2001 after police shot an unarmed African American teenager. Kristi and her family moved to Cincinnati after that terrible period.

But motherhood long ago took the woman from Jefferson’s ability to be color blind.

Moved by the story, Kristi posted to her Instagram a trending meme of the officer with his knee in the back of Floyd’s neck and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. The caption read: “This is why.”

So what does all this have to do with Kristi Kinne-Hayes, the great Iowa basketball star?

ESPN commentator Emmanuel Acho pleaded with white America in a video posted to his Twitter feed Tuesday.

“My white brothers and sisters, we need y’all’s help,” Acho said. African-Americans have been outraged as people continued to die unnecessarily, but white Americans have remained mostly indifferent or hesitant to raise their voice in protest.

We need to take the journey Kristi Kinne-Hayes took in her 46 years. She went from living blind to race because it never directly affected her to having a profound understanding of just how horrible racism is in this country.

I’m not saying you need to repost the meme or start hashtagging everything #blacklivesmatter.

But we must all do our very best to engage empathy for people who are not like us.

It’s very hard for anyone to see life through the perspective of someone who has lived so differently.

Our failure to do that is already too late for so many, the latest being George Floyd.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is reader-supported media. Please consider donating at paypal.me/paragraphstacker.