Sunday, November 30, 2014

“Tebow Time!” (American Football)

One of the sporting icons of recent times was a nine-days wonder – a young American Football Quarterback (QB) named Tim Tebow. A champion at College level a few years ago, idolized by most followers of the College game, he played only one season in the professional NFL, and was an exciting addition to the mix. One of the most erratic of players, his competence in the game was like nothing so much as the little girl with the little curl in the nursery rhyme – who when she was good, she was very, very good; but when she was bad she was horrid.

Tim’s problem was that he was often (usually?) horrid for the first 80-90% of every game, and sometimes superbly good in the closing minutes. During the latter period, passes that had flown yards above the heads of receivers or wide of their hands, suddenly began to hit their targets. His fans called it “Tebow Time”, and spent a lot of nervous energy waiting for it to arrive. When it did – when it did – they forgave him all the wretchedness and delighted in his glory.

During his second season as a professional in the NFL, in 2011, he was the erratic and unreliable QB of the Denver Broncos – only in the team because of his College reputation and the fact that the Broncos’ Number One QB proved to be even worse. His coaches mixed jubilation with despair, and attributed his last-minute victories to what they called his “intangibles” – plain luck, as often as not.

The last three minutes of the Miami game became the stuff of legend. Denver’s Defensive Unit had kept Miami to two touchdowns and a field goal (17 points); Miami’s Defense had kept Denver’s Offensive Unit scoreless for the first fifty-seven minutes of play. A walkover. But… but… wait… The remaining three minutes were Tebow Time.

Out of nowhere, the Offence scrambled and blocked and fizzed around like a fart in a bottle, and conjured up the necessary 17 points while the Defense – miraculously inspired – harried and hurried the opposition off the field without points. Tebow Time had come, just in time to tie the score; and Denver went on to win in sudden-death overtime.

That and similar flukes along the way got Denver into the post-season Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the bookies made 13-point favourites. This time, Denver’s Offence and Defense were both erratic for the entire game. It was Pittsburgh who fought back like tigers to overcome a two-touchdown lead and tie the game in the fourth Quarter.  Overtime again! High drama! The toss of the coin gave Tebow one last chance to do his thing.

On this occasion, eleven seconds was all the Tebow Time he needed. In the very first play, desperately protected by his Offensive Line from the Pittsburgh rush, he waited a tad over two seconds (one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three…) and fired a bullet up-field. The plan called for the receiver to run twenty yards north and cut fifteen yards eastward, and arrive exactly when and where the ball arrived.

It’s a beautiful piece of action – the crossing route executed at high speed. Eight or nine Offensive players are running every which-way, and the defenders don’t know which of them is the designated catcher. This time, the intersection was perfect. The receiver on the left ran up and across to the right, caught the ball at full speed, brushed aside a couple of grabs, veered left again and galloped sixty yards to the goal-line. Game over.

The home crowd went bananas, while Tim did his two-second kneel-down before joining in the hysteria. After scoring, he always went down on one knee for a couple of seconds with his head bowed, in the gesture known as Tebowing. Asked once whether he prayed to his God for a win, he shrugged and said, “God doesn’t care who wins football games, but it’s only fair to thank him when things go right.”
The son of missionaries, he was an evangelical Christian. During his College career, he adopted the common custom of football players of pasting black strips beneath their eyes to shield them from the glare. He advertised his faith by having John 3:16 (a famous verse from the Gospel) hand-printed in white on the black strip. In that Pittsburgh game he passed for 316 yards at 31.6 yards per completion. The TV commentators made a big play of the figures, and John 3:16 was the top search item on Google next morning. If you Google “3:16 game” you will have your choice of 56 million entries to read all about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Minimum Wage in Cayman

The idea of a formal minimum wage is very attractive. Nobody should have to spend every hour of his waking life working just to keep body and soul together. A “living” wage, paid to reasonable people working reasonably conscientiously, for enough hours each week to allow time for a reasonable amount of leisure and a reasonable amount of savings. What could be fairer?

In practice, though, there are difficulties. By definition, only the lowest-paid workers in a community would receive the formal minimum. Everybody else would be paid more. Indeed, a formal “minimum wage” would in practice actually be several minimum wages – one for each of several occupations and personal circumstances.

So we’re faced with the likelihood of finding ourselves lumbered with yet another bloated Civil Service bureaucracy to monitor the separate minimum wages for all the occupations listed on the Census forms and maybe even in the Yellow Pages. Plus rewards for skills, experience and responsibility. Plus, gratuities and commissions would need to be reported and monitored. Plus, plus, plus. All formal minimum wages would be based on some kind of political advantage, with little consideration given to economic realities.

Would single individuals receive the same money as married-with-children? Surely not. Would every re-assignment mean a different pay-scale, like the notorious Civil Service “promotions” do? Probably. All disputes would require arbitration; there might need to be an entirely separate arbitration-justice system. All private-sector wages would be set by faceless bureaucrats assuaging their hunger for control.

There won’t be much left of our private-enterprise system. The FCO requires that all our professional politicians be native Caymanians, and almost all their cronies are too, naturally enough. The birthright-entitlement foolishness (endorsed by all the MLAs and cronies, as well as the FCO), would ensure that any minimum-wage legislation would discriminate against immigrants one way or another.

The most certain victims of discrimination would be our lowest-paid migrants. Most native Caymanian householders would flat-out refuse to return to the old days of doing their own housework, baby-minding and gardening. They would vote for a Minimum Wage only on the clear understanding that they could cheat with impunity. In practice, that would be allowed. They would pay their domestic workers below any formal minimum wage, regardless of what the law said.

Nobody in authority would hold them to account. Nobody in authority holds them to account now, if they short-pay their indentured servants and/or steal from them and/or over-work them. In the slavery era, there were good slave-owners and bad ones; it’s the same sort of thing now. It’s a personal option. Without protection from either law-enforcement or the see-no-evil Human Rights Commission, and with no labour unions permitted, unskilled migrants are easy to exploit.

Cayman’s rules for the poorest indentured labourers are arguably harsher than they were in the 1830s for the unskilled labourers imported to the West Indies from India and China. At least then there was a Protector of Immigrants charged with monitoring the migrants’ treatment. Today, we have an entire bureaucracy (the Immigration Department and its politically appointed committees) charged with protecting the migrants’ employers – i.e. the persons who hold the indentures. What a farcical situation that is!

So what would be the point of a Minimum Wage? It wouldn’t benefit migrant workers one bit, and would surely make unemployed Caymanians even less attractive to prospective employers. The most sensible way of helping our least-productive Caymanians would be to scrap the protectionism that is built into the labour-laws.

Make them know that in order to beat out migrants for jobs they must put in an honest week’s work every week. Holding yet another knife to the collective throat of private-sector employers, in the form of a Minimum Wage for Caymanians, would be yet another exercise in futility.