Saturday, October 29, 2011


It has been a few weeks since I sat in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, reading a list of items for which “we” must atone (Jews atone in the first person plural, not the first person singular). When I got to the word “cynicism,” I did a double take. “That sure applies to me, “ I said to myself. I can’t believe how cynical I have become as of late when it comes to government and politics.

As I closed my eyes and atoned for that cynicism, I was jolted by the memory of an incident from the previous week. A friend had commented about my recent increase in cynicism, but oddly enough, he was paying me a compliment. According to this friend, my uptick in cynicism toward politics and government was merely a reflection that I was finally opening my eyes to reality.

Is that really true? Is cynicism just a higher stage of wisdom? Or, if you prefer the question asked this way, is it possible, given the present state of the American political marketplace, to be overly cynical – or is our political mess worse than we could possibly imagine? This much you can’t deny – cynicism has become as American as apple pie. The New York Times reported that, according to a nationwide telephone poll of 1,600 adults that was conducted from October 19th-24th, “89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, ... 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress.” My only question is why those numbers weren’t 100, 100 and 100, respectively.

Seriously, I have to laugh when I hear Democratic cheerleaders get on TV and rave about how “we progressives” just adore the tough talk that has lately emerged from Obama’s lips. I’m reminded of the old joke about the time when the Lone Ranger and Tonto were surrounded by a group of angry Indians and the Lone Ranger asks his buddy, “What do we do now?” Tonto’s response is the same as my response to the Administration’s cheerleaders: “What do you mean ‘WE’”?

When I look at the President that I and millions of other progressives worked so hard to elect, I see a consummate campaigner but hardly a committed progressive ... let alone an effective leader. His promises in 2008 were full of red meat for liberals. Yet as President, he showed little willingness to take on the ever growing inequalities of wealth when he presided for a full year over a Congress with 60 Democrats in the Senate and a large majority in the House, another year with 59 Democrats in the Senate and a large majority in the House, and 2/3 of a year with a split Congress. So now that the Republicans have essentially said that they will fight him on any meaningful legislative effort involving core economic issues, Obama has entered campaign mode, and we can expect him to remain there until early November of 2012.

Why should I give a damn whether his political calculus is to campaign as a moderate or a progressive? Didn’t these past three years show that what he says on the campaign trail and what he fights for as President may have little to do with each other?

So now that I have basically said that whatever statements the President has to make about economics are mere words that need not be taken seriously, I do have to acknowledge that at least his “mere words” seem to make a lot more sense than those of his adversaries. Call me a masochist, but I watch the Republican debates religiously – I even TiVo them when I’m not home. And I find them as ridiculous as a Three Stooges festival. It almost seems pointless to mock the debates, for the participants do such a good job of that themselves.

It’s probably fitting that the current poll leader among the Republican candidates, Herman Cain, is a guy who wants to introduce a 9 percent federal sales tax at a time when the nation needs to encourage consumer spending. Not to be outdone, Rick Perry came out with his own tax plan that would lower taxes for the rich, maintain the taxes for the middle class, and send many others scrambling through tax form after tax form to find out which of those categories they fit into. Generally speaking, the Republican tax proposals have two things in common – they would add to the deficit, and they would redistribute money in favor of those who need it the least. Keep in mind that this is a time when deficits and income inequalities have famously shot through the roof. So why would we want them to increase even more?

It’s as if some Einstein was asked to propose a plan to address an epidemic of obesity and came up with the idea of lowering the price of beer and fries. I can see why the idea might catch on, don’t get me wrong. But its creator belongs more on Comedy Central than on CNN, that’s all I’m saying.

Leave it to the loveable lunkheads like Cain, Perry, Paul and Bachman to make Mitt Romney look good. Hell, they’re even making Newt look good. But most importantly, they’re making Obama look good. Despite all the cynicism reflected in the above poll, and despite the current state of our economy, the new numbers indicate that as many people approve of the job Obama is doing as disapprove. And that says more about his opponents than it says about him.

Perhaps the relatively positive view of Obama is, paradoxically, the most profound statement of our current level of cynicism. Our view of government has become so negative that as long as you don’t leave your ex-wife when she has cancer (Newt), strap your dog to the hood of your car during a family road trip (Mitt), say you are pro-choice one day and pro-life the next (Cain), conduct yourself during debates like you’re drunk and then threaten to skip the debates altogether (Perry), or support dismantling the EPA (Bachman) or everything beyond a truly minimalist government (Paul) ... I guess the American public will be happy enough with your performance.

That probably explains why year after year, decade after decade, the vast majority of incumbents who run for Congressional seats come out victorious. That also explains why as badly as he did as President, George W. Bush came out victorious when he ran for re-election. To a cynic, hope starts to give rise to fear, and the next thing you know, you find yourself voting based on the idea that “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”

Of course, Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of hope, not fear. But with each feckless step that he took as President, that “hopey, changey” stuff gave rise to an even greater layer of national cynicism. It might end up cementing his victory next November, but what do you bet that when he does get re-elected, he’ll be selected as the lesser of two evils. And he’ll preside over a powerless Government.

When it comes to cynicism, we in America have come a long, long way since the last inauguration. Then again, at this point, the only direction we can go is up. If there is a silver lining here, I guess it’s that. Oh yeah – that, and the fact that we political junkies have in store for us a whole year of really, really good comedy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This is to let you know that I will be attending my 30 year college reunion this weekend at Stanford and will not be able to write my weekly blogpost. The Empathic Rationalist will return with new material on or about October 29th or 30th.

Talk to you then.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


It was barely two weeks ago when I heard my daughter, Hannah, mention the name of Gilad Shalit. As she was leading the Reform High Holiday services at the University of Maryland, Hannah took a moment away from the traditional prayers to remind us all about the horrible ordeal suffered by Shalit, an Israeli soldier, at the hands of his Hamas captors. Hannah implored us to pray for Shalit’s release, and I doubt there was a soul around who didn’t join her. For five years, Shalit has been forced to live in captivity. He was seized when he was just a teenager, and during the last several years, Hamas has refused to permit the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Shalit to evaluate his living conditions. It is difficult to know whether or not Shalit’s situation would measure up to the Bush Administration’s view of “torture,” but there has certainly been no objective reason to believe he has been treated humanely. This is, after all, Hamas we’re talking about. The words “humane” and “Hamas” have in common the same first letter, but other than that, I don’t see any common ground whatsoever.

Suffice it to say that my view of Hamas is widely shared in Israel, and it is largely for that reason that the case of Gilad Shalit has garnered such publicity there since the time of his kidnapping. Shalit has become a national symbol – a symbol for the innocence of the Israeli people, who the Left sees as militarists and occupiers but who see themselves as a peace loving society surrounded by unfriendly, and sometimes savage, neighbors and morally entitled to behave in self-defense. Gilad Shalit is truly the picture of innocence: a baby-faced 19-year old boy when he was kidnapped, Gilad did not score high on the Israeli army physical fitness tests, but he nevertheless volunteered to serve in a combat unit. Therein lies one of the ultimate tragedies of war – that it claims some of our most noble, giving souls. The Israeli people are well aware of that fact, and they have been determined to ensure that this war would not claim the soul, or the body, of Gilad Shalit.

Shalit has had to wait nearly two thousand days before he could be freed. Fortunately for him, he will only have to wait two days more. This coming Tuesday, Hamas will return Shalit to his loving family in Israel, and in return, Israel will free not one, not one hundred, not one thousand, but 1,027 Palestinian political prisoners. The swap will be eerily reminiscent of an earlier deal – one procured by Shimon Perez in 1985 in which 1,150 Palestinian prisoners were freed in exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured during the Lebanon war. The 1985 swap resulted in the first Intifada and an incredible amount of bloodshed. One wonders what exactly will be the result of this deal – other than incredible joy for the Shalit household and a surge in Hamas’ popularity among the Palestinians.

Let’s be clear that we can all rejoice that Shalit will be free. As birds-in-the-hand go, this is a big one. But I still have many questions for the Israeli Government. The following come immediately to mind: If these 1,027 political prisoners have truly belonged in Israeli prisons, aren’t you saying that they are legitimate threats to the lives of the Israeli people (as well as visitors like my daughter Hannah, who hopes to attend rabbinical school in Israel)? Doesn’t it mean that as soon as they are freed, they collectively can be expected to slaughter dozens or even hundreds of Israelis – bringing the same kind of grief on their families as has been endured by the Shalit family these past five years? By contrast, if these released prisoners don’t pose a threat to the lives of innocent Israelis, why the hell were they imprisoned in the first place? Were they rounded up based on the shakiest of evidence? Is that why Israel is so willing to let them go – because they never should have been imprisoned to begin with? And aren’t you sending the worst possible message to Hamas -- if you’re able to capture one of our citizens, you’ll be amply rewarded?

This is a deal that puts “Empathic Rationalism” to the test. From the standpoint of empathy, it’s a big winner. But rationally, this deal just doesn’t make sense. From Israel’s standpoint, Tuesday’s swap is the kind of event we’d associate with a Jimmy Carter, not a Benjamin Netanyahu, which makes this even more puzzling. I realize that the “Free Gilad” cause is a compelling one, but so is keeping Israel secure from terrorism. If history is any guide, Tuesday’s swap will open the door to freedom for many criminals and death to many innocents. To me, it’s a major head shaker.

This prisoner swap reminds me of one of those classic philosophical dilemmas that ethics students learn about in college. You are given scenarios like the following: Ten men on a boat have swallowed a poison, and they learn that they will die unless they are given an antidote. There’s enough of the antidote around to save nine of the men. But as for the tenth, for him to survive, he would need to consume all of the antidote that is available. So here’s the dilemma – is it appropriate to provide the antidote so as to save the nine lives and allow the tenth to die, or should the ten men draw lots so that the tenth man is given the same chance that each of the others has to live?

When I first heard that dilemma, it was raised by a philosophy professor who had published an article proposing that the men on the boat should draw lots. That, he said, is the only “fair” outcome – all these people must have an equal chance to live. Period. Personally, though, I thought the professor was crazy. At the risk of seemingly overly utilitarian, I couldn’t imagine how one life could possibly be equated in importance to nine. And I would like to imagine that if I were on that boat, I would have gladly given up my life if it meant saving the other nine.

That brings me back to Gilad Shalit. Right now, the deal is being widely hailed. “The end of a national nightmare,” “the return of a national hero,” “a time to rejoice” … Yes, it is all that and more. But we seem to be forgetting that maybe, just maybe, these 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were in captivity for a reason. Just maybe, the Israeli prisons have been filled with Palestinians who have demonstrated a passion for killing Israelis who are every bit as innocent as Gilad Shalit. And maybe, when these political prisoners are freed, they will wreak vengeance on the country that they have surely learned to hate even more as a result of their own captivity. If that happens on a large enough scale, I cannot imagine the Shalit family will believe that the release of Gilad was worth it.

Despite what my philosophy professor said, I still think that “numbers count.” That’s why the Shalit deal doesn’t add up.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


The Days of Awe, as the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known among Jews, are centered around the concepts of repentance and renewal. Sometimes, when they give talks during this period, rabbis concentrate on the former of these themes, and other times they discuss the latter. Yesterday evening, at the concluding service of Yom Kippur, I heard a rabbi devote his entire talk to the idea of renewal. And he concentrated on what could be taken to be nature’s foremost means of generating renewal – death.

You don’t hear too many tributes to the Grim Reaper at synagogue. You hear even fewer in the Spiro household. My dad, the family philosopher, may not have been steeped in Spinoza, but he internalized the Spinozist line that “A free man thinks of nothing less than of death and his wisdom is a meditation on life.” Last evening, though, we were told by the rabbi that without death, we can’t enjoy life as we know it – where the new is truly different than the old, and the power of time requires us to act now or perhaps forever lose the opportunity.

Anyone who has seen the movie Groundhog Day knows what life could be like if we could live a single day forever. For all of the central character’s accomplishments – saving lives, developing talents, you name it – the moviemaker had us all convinced that we would trade such a storybook life for our own, as long as we were able to spend our limited time on this planet with a loving fellow-traveler. That is not to say that mortality is objectively preferable to immortality, but only that each of us has made our peace with it. Our ideal is simply to be the best “mere mortal” we can be given the constraints. Anything more would seem … well, disrespectful to the civilization we’ve developed, one that involves the challenges of living well, dying gracefully, and remembering those to whom we owe a debt of gratitude – mortal and immortal.

Generally, at a High Holiday service, our thoughts turn to thanking the one immortal of whom we are aware. The word “Jew” means “thankful.” It comes from the decision of our matriarch, Leah, to name her son, Judah, saying, “This time I will give thanks to Adonai” (Genesis 29:35). But yesterday evening, the rabbi wanted to take a moment to praise the essence of mortality, and he did so largely by quoting the words of a fellow mortal. This is a man we’ve all heard a lot about lately because he died, with tremendous notoriety, earlier during these same Days of Awe. I am sure you will recognize him by name when you read the following words, which come from a commencement address he gave at my alma mater (Stanford) in 2005.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you'll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

“About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for ‘prepare to die’. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

“I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

“This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful, but purely intellectual, concept:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but some day not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

As a Luddite, you’d think I would curse the ground Steve Jobs walked on. It is largely due to his products that I often feel as alienated from this society as I do. Believe me, I couldn’t tell you the difference between an i-pod, an i-pad and an i-phone, and I’m not apologizing for it either. But, ironically, for the same reason that I am a Luddite – valuing what is known as “humanity” over what is known as “technology” – I cannot help but appreciate what drove Steve Jobs to be the person he was. Sure, he loved technology. And yet by all accounts, he was also a warm, caring, unassuming person. What’s more, when all was said and done, the epitaph of this college-dropout-turned-billionaire could aptly include that immortal Frank Sinatra lyric, “I did it my way.” I love that quality in a person. In fact, it is precisely that same quality that most endeared me to another celebrity who passed away during these Days of Awe.

I will allow those of you technophiles who are “Jew”-ish to thank Steve Jobs for all that he has given you personally. For me, I will reserve my more heartfelt thanks to a fellow Jew who died, of all days, on Yom Kippur (in other words, yesterday).
Al Davis grew up in Brooklyn and never did outgrow his Brooklyn accent. His football team was called the Raiders, but pronounced “Raiduhs” by any true fan of the team – even though they’ve never been based outside of California. It is only respectful to pronounce that name the way Al did because Al Davis WAS the Raiders.

There is no team in American sports more associated with a single human being than the Raiders were associated with Al Davis. He once coached the team, came to co-own and then own the team for decades, and micromanaged the team in virtually every respect that involved the product on the field. You could say that his obsession with this team was positively Ahabian. Indeed, many would say that he was willing to break virtually every rule and moral principle imaginable in order to help that team win. It was a great formula when he was young and ahead of the curve, and a horrible formula when he was old and the game had passed him by. But again, win or lose, at least nobody can deny Al Davis that same epitaph referenced above – he did it his way to the brutal end. And his way can be summed up in a single immortal line: “Just win, baby!”

Nobody in their right mind has been rooting for Steve Jobs to meet his maker. But I know a number of Raiders fans who have been rooting for Al Davis’ demise for years. The same team that he built to greatness in the 60s, 70s and early 80s has long since been run into the ground, thanks to his meddling. I suspect that there is a whole generation of football fans out there who associate Al Davis with incompetence, if not insanity. More recently, he has been nicknamed the Crypt Keeper, because … let’s just say his face hasn’t aged well. In short, Al Davis has become a punch line – and as for the joke, there are many to choose from.

But that was the old, living Al Davis. The new, dead Al Davis deserves better and will surely get what he deserves. For there is something else about death we should praise – her ennobling quality. Stated simply, nothing dignifies like death.

If you don’t believe me, just turn on ESPN or the NFL network over the next few days. What do you bet that these networks will assemble a group of Davis’ friends and admirers to explain precisely what made the man great? Here’s a man who moved his franchise not once but twice, but what do you bet he’ll be toasted by his friends for his “loyalty”? Here’s a man who made one crazy personnel move after another and whose team hasn’t had a winning season since 2002, but what do you bet we’ll hear that as a football mind, his was second to none? The fact is that mortals can be complex figures, and the same person who exhibits disloyalty in one respect can exhibit extreme loyalty in another, just like the same person who exhibits brilliance at one time in his life can manifest idiocy in another. When you die, unless you’re a truly evil figure, you get to have the good times and the good qualities remembered much more than the bad. It’s the least the living can do for you.

I grew up loving Al Davis because (a) he looked so much like the folks in my dad’s family, who also came from Brooklyn, (b) he never sucked up to the establishment or pretended to be anything other than a football guy, and (c) he allowed his players to beat to their own irreverent drummers as long as they fought hard to win football games. Long before Sarah Palin called herself a “maverick,” Al Davis was the real deal. He looked at the fat cats who ran his industry and gave them all the middle finger. And just like the rappers in LA thought that was pretty friggen cool, so did I – and I grew up in the mean streets of Bethesda, Maryland. To this day, I still think that if you grew up in the 60s and 70s and didn’t think the old Raiders were cooler than the other side of the pillow, there’s something seriously wrong with you. And that “cool” trickled down from the top. The tone was set by Al Davis.

So there you have it. Two men died this past week. One is universally beloved. The other is thought of as a bit of a freak. Yet perhaps their most dominant characteristic is the same. They both dared to be themselves, and they encouraged that same quality in others.

Jobs and Davis leave behind them roughly seven billion people, few of whom were nearly as successful in making their own marks. But we all can learn from their example. The High Holidays are over, but if we played our cards right, the lessons of these holidays can remain for a full year. We repent and seek renewal. We repent for such things as the willingness to waste our lives by living someone else’s. We seek renewal by recognizing what it is we truly want to achieve in life, and then steeling ourselves to ensure that these goals come to fruition. Jobs did it. Davis did it. And you can do it too. Just let the prospect of death give you that kick in the pants that you need. And then, just LIVE, baby!

Saturday, October 01, 2011


It last happened in 1960, the year of my birth. Despite winning five NBA Championships in 11 years, the Minneapolis Lakers were ready to move west. With the team’s new superstar, Elgin Baylor, in tow, owner Bob Short decided to take his team from one of our nation’s coldest cities to one of our warmest, Los Angeles. The franchise decided to keep its name – the Lakers – despite the fact that the only body of water for which LA is known is the Pacific Ocean. And more importantly, the franchise figured out how to keep its winning ways. Unbelievably, when the Lakers won the NBA title in 2010, it was the franchise’s 16th title and 31st appearance in the championship series in a little over 60 years. The latter stat is truly astounding. It means that over the course of more than six decades, this one franchise has been one of the top two basketball teams in the world 50% of the time. I don’t believe that any other major league franchise in any sport can make that claim.

So yes, the Lakers have done their share of winning and more – both in Minnesota and Los Angeles. And they have become larger than their sport. When you think cheerleaders you think of two franchises – the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and the Laker Girls. Personally, I can’t name a single Cowboy Cheerleader, but I remember Paula Abdul back when she cheered for the Lakers. I bet Jack Nicholson does too; he’s had courtside Laker seats for literally decades. And Jack is hardly alone. A Laker game isn’t just a basketball game, it’s an opportunity to get out your binoculars and ogle celebrities. You’ll find almost as many of them there as at the Kodak Theatre on Academy Awards night.

Hollywood likes its Dodgers, but Hollywood LOVES its Lakers. And why shouldn’t it? Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neil, Kobe Bryant … these aren’t just Hall of Famers, they’re superstars. James Worthy is a Hall of Famer, but next to those other Laker greats, he’s a bum – which is the word the good people of Brooklyn used for their beloved Dodgers. Nobody in his right mind calls the Lakers bums.

My friends in La La Land, when they say their nightly bruchas, should thank God for life, liberty and the franchise from Minneapolis. A native of the Land of Lakes, Prince had the right idea but the wrong spelling: it’s not Purple Rain, its Purple Reign. It started in Minneapolis and has continued in LA. And we all know that when Kobe Bryant retires, somehow, the Lakers will beg, borrow or steal another superstar to take his place. The Lakers don’t rebuild, they reload. Ain’t no force in the universe powerful enough to stop them for long – not even the force of karma.

The people of LA know about karma. It’s a well-used concept in the movies. One minute the hero is riding high, but a couple of scenes later, his life is falling apart. And it works in reverse too, for Hollywood is full of Cinderella stories. Just ask Julia Roberts: one day she’s turning tricks on the streets of LA, and a week later, she is having sex with Richard’s “Gere” and about to marry into billions. As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!”

Unfortunately for my friends in LA, the karma I’m talking about now doesn’t have much to do with Cinderella. It’s more the “Behind the Music” kind of karma. Do you recall Behind the Music? It’s a VH-1 series that would profile different rock n’ roll groups. Inevitably, the trajectory would be the same: band meets, band plays for almost no fans and makes almost no money, band hits the big time, band members enjoy superstardom, band members enjoy drugs, band members enjoy drugs a tad too much, band members turn their lives into a living hell … or a short story, depending upon the band member. Seen it once, seen it a million times.

So how is that kind of karma going to bite the good people of LA? Enter into the equation another purple clad team from Minnesota. Ladies and Gentlemen of Los Angeles, I want to introduce you to my Minnesota Vikings.

On the surface, the Vikings are one of the flagship NFL franchises. They’ve been in the league as long as the Lakers have been in LA, and they have graced the Super Bowl not once, but four times. They have their own Hall of Famers, men like Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Paul Krause, Randall McDaniel, Ron Yary, John Randle. Hall of Famers yes, superstars no. You see, the Vikings have never won the championship. Not once. And during the last 34 years, when the Lakers have made 16 appearances in the championship series of its sport, the Vikings have been to the Super Bowl precisely zero times. And believe me, it’s not for lack of coming close – it’s because every time they do come close, some seemingly supernatural force stops them from winning during the final play-in game before the Superbowl. In the ‘87 season, it was a running back who dropped a ball in the end zone; in ‘98, it was the kicker who didn’t miss a kick all year but missed the kick that would have sealed the deal; in ‘09, it was the boo-boo of having 12 men in the huddle, a penalty that took the team out of the range of a field goal that would have won the game. Are you mathletes sensing a pattern here? Every 11 years, the franchise flirts with its fans by snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory and keeping the team out of the Super Bowl. And every Vikings fan knows that if and when the team finally does make the Super Bowl, they’ll do what they did the four times they got there in the late ‘60s and early-mid ‘70s: lose.

That, folks, is a snake-bitten franchise. And don’t look now, but it could be moving to Hollywood at the end of this season.

The signs of the move are simply too irresistible to ignore. The Vikings are from Minnesota, the Lakers came from Minnesota. The Vikings wear purple, the Lakers wear purple. The Vikings have a stadium with a lease that’s about to expire and a tax base that isn’t willing to bail out another billionaire owner, and Los Angeles has millions upon millions of people but not a single professional football team (other than the University of Southern California, but supposedly they don’t count). In the past few years, the good people of Minnesota bought themselves a stadium for the baseball team (the Twins) and the flagship college football team (the Gophers). And how did that work out? Well … the Twins just lost 99 games this year. Can you imagine? I know the baseball season is long, but it’s not THAT long. Ninety-nine games is a horrid number. And as for the University of Minnesota Gophers, not only are they 1-3, but they have lost this year to such perennial powers as New Mexico State and North Dakota State.

North Dakota State? Are you kidding me? Imagine your state having spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars that could have gone for teacher salaries or health care but instead went to a stadium in which you can watch your college football team lose to North Dakota State. I suspect that taking a nice leisurely drive to the Mississippi River and dumping the money in the drink would have been a better use of time. At least the scenery would be nice.

And now, Minnesotans have another decision – whether to dump hundreds of millions more on yet another new stadium for yet another struggling team. This time we’re talking about the Never Won the Big One Vikings. And since 11 years have not elapsed since they last flirted with a Super Bowl appearance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the franchise has lost its first three games of the season. Indeed, the fact that they were winning by 10-20 points at halftime of each of these games might be somewhat surprising – Lord knows that no other team in NFL history has started the season in that manner – but for the fact that this is the Vikings we’re talking about. Their history is as cursed as the Lakers’ is charmed. They don’t just lose when it counts. They lose in freaky ways.

And now, the smart money is on their moving to LA.

I don’t know about you, but I’m expecting to see a movie in around 2025 chronicling the story of the Lakers and Vikings. It will be called something like “A Tale of Two Teams,” and it will have all the ups and downs you can possibly ask for in an Oscar-nominated flick. The problem is that the “best of times” will always be referring to the Lakers and the “worst of times” will always be referring to the Vikings. But for all their differences, they will always be linked together by a common city, a common fan base, and a common color.

Besides, ask any big time director: happy endings are great, but there’s nothing like the drama of a top flight tragedy. With the Vikes coming to town, the possibility for great scripts are endless.