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The Rewards of Low Expectations

I remember coming home from school one day, probably elementary school, though it could have been junior high. And my father was home early. And I had my school materials with me, and a test paper on which I got 100%, which was in the teacher’s printing on the top. And I showed it to my Dad, and he laughed and said, “If you get 120%, let me know.”

He was kidding, but I guess it bothered me, because I still remember it. I was a very good student, I got A’s in every academic subject. And it was expected, not a cause for a pat on the back. I suppose that I relied on my grades to avoid having to do too many chores, so it was not all one-sided. But I was shyish as a boy, and so my days at school, while not at all unpleasant, were mostly rewarded by grades and test scores. There was a moment I remember from when I used to watch “The Simpsons,” and Lisa wants there to be more tests; she pleads, “Validate me!” I related to that.

What my father was saying was that my getting 100% was not noteworthy, and since my parents knew I was bright, they expected it. Not getting such grades would only be attributable to my not studying enough, or being lazy. Those are difficult expectations to deal with on a daily basis. Now, I knew of classmates, particularly in early years, whose parents gave them money for good grades. I knew kids who got a $1 for each “A,” and a couple who got more than that. I never got any money for “A’s,” of course; and while I didn’t want to have the low academic expectations that those boys had, I didn’t think it was completely fair.

There was a time when kids or adults who had high achievements were praised. Then we had a trend where people who tried very hard, even if they didn’t do that well at something, were lauded. I don’t know if that is better, or not. Also, although I loved to play sports, albeit only being good at one part of the game, like shooting baskets, or catching passes, or pitching softball underhanded, I did resent the fact that while the best athletes at school were usually greatly admired, the best students didn’t get nearly as much of that. In fact, if you were a great athlete, you could be arrogant about it; but since almost everyone thinks they are intelligent, you have to be modest about it, which is probably as it should be, but why not for athletes or musicians or movie stars?

Anyway, it does cause one to think about “the burden of high expectations,” as perhaps stated by Linus Van Pelt, or maybe it was someone else. And to consider something which is not its converse, but still comes from an opposite force, which I used to call “the Woody Hayes theory.” Woody Hayes was a famous football coach at Ohio State in the 1950’s-1970’s. He was a prototype; the highly successful basketball coach Bobby Knight, who went to Ohio State, greatly admired him, and was a very similar personality.

Hayes knew about military history, he loved General Patton. He was a martinet, and he was usually rude to the media. He would answer curtly, would sometimes yell at them. This was so familiar, that on the occasions when he actually was polite, it was met with great praise. It was said that Hayes could be charming when he wanted to be, which was something said about Knight, too.

I don’t think that Hayes was a great coach, but he got great players, and he won by simply having his teams run the ball up the middle and ultimately wearing out the opponent’s defense. “Three yards and a cloud of dust” was first attributed to the style his teams played. So he would win the Big 10 title in various years, and his team would come out here for the Rose Bowl game, played in Pasadena. And Hayes would do the obligatory visitor’s press conference, and he would usually be witty and nice, and the media would praise him, and say, “see, he’s not such a bad guy, after all!” Low expectations, exceeded, often are rewarded like that.

Sometimes I would meet a woman who had an attachment to a man who by her account, was not really very nice to her, but who would occasionally be, and so she would forgive him. This is a pretty common syndrome, as we know. The nice person is expected to be that; the erratic person or jerk is often given much more leeway. It is a variation of the Woody Hayes theory I made up. Not that there is anything one can do about any of this, but it is interesting to consider.

On a related front, we see that states are giving rewards to people to get vaccinated. The most notable of these is what the Republican governor DeWine devised for Ohio, where people who finally got vaccinated were entered in a lottery where the winner got a million dollars. Imagine that. Other states have offered rewards such as guns, free admissions to concerts, food and drink, to anyone who finally relents to being vaccinated.

This is not fair, though those of us who got vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, because it was the healthy and safe thing to do, were glad to do it, as more than its own reward. But why do the laggards, the people who proudly refused to get vaccinated, now get these enticements and possible riches to do it? If there is ever another pandemic, will more people hold out, hoping to get the big offers?

We want everybody to get vaccinated, because we do not want to see others get sick; and also, very importantly, because we know that the more people are vaccinated, the less chance there is that they will pass the virus to others, and so we are all safer, anywhere in the world. But still, it does not seem right, just like, in a much less important context, my friends were getting money for the occasional “A.”

Or how the “bad boy” who occasionally acts nice, is rewarded; while the “nice guy” is expected to always be that way. Or how a Republican who barely stands up for the democracy, is given plaudits, while Democrats are always supposed to; and when one occasionally makes a mistake in policy or comment, he or she is castigated by virtually everyone.

And how Ashley Parker of the Washington Post, who seems to be a capable writer and nice person, wanted to praise Trump for actually wearing a mask, and wrote something about, “Dare I say, that Trump looked presidential, wearing the mask?” And when he somehow said anything remotely coherent, the media wanted to laud him for it, whereas if Hillary ever misspoke in the slightest, the media was all over her for days?

There is a lot to unravel about this theme. Low expectations bring more praise, while high expectations evoke more criticism? Being a jerk most of the time intimidates people, and they so much want you to be nice to them, so that if you are for a minute or two, they are so grateful? People who do the right thing most of the time, are too often taken for granted?

This is about more than “unfairness,” or “the vagaries of the human personality.” It is people being manipulated by those who want them to be desperately grateful for their attention and flashes of good humor. It is about a media which is always excusing and being seduced by the political bad boys, while being bored and even contemptuous of the nice guys and girls, because either they are not as much fun, or they feel that they are desperate for acceptance or praise. Hillary got that, so did Gore and Dukakis. “You just don’t get it, do you, Governor?,” is what Ted Koppel said to presidential nominee Dukakis on a 90-minute special interview. Do you think he would ever have said it to a Republican? That person, and the forever weaponized Right Wing media, would have had his head and career for it.

It is good to be aware of these individual and collective propensities, at least, as it helps to highlight much of what is wrong with politics and culture. And my father, who was always proud even when I just had a letter to the editor printed in the paper, certainly should not have his lighthearted joke used as anything more than a jumping-off point for the more serious themes discussed, which were all probably all things that we talked about and agreed on.

More vacations ruined by DeSantis in Alaska.

Yep. Alaska.

Here’s the story as far as I can piece it together. Florida is suing over the CDC protocols on ships. Is it suing the CDC? The cruise lines? Unsure. DeSantis is trying really hard to force the cruise lines to accept unvaccinated passengers on ships. You know they’re going to want to go maskless which means EVERYONE will need to wear a mask.

In the meantime, Alaska worked with the CDC so that they could bypass Canadian ports from Seattle to Alaska. Canada is still closed to American travelers. Anyway, this conditional sail order seems to have been all worked out between the CDC and the cruise lines. Sounds like they figured out how to either get all vaccinated ships or figure out where to put the germy passengers or something. That would kind of make sense since there’s no place to leave unvaccinated cruisers ashore if they don’t comply with the mask mandate.

But this new lawsuit with Florida will make the rules they’ve agreed to in Alaska null and void because it would force the cruise lines to mix vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers, everyone would have to wear masks and the rules on cruises to Alaska would be more difficult to enforce. Or something.

Florida and the CDC have been to court. The judge mandated them to go to mediation. Mediation seems to have failed or at least Florida isn’t winning because the CDC has put a gun to Alaska’s head.

As it turns out, something like 80-90% of cruisers want vaccinated only cruises. So, DeSantis is sticking up for the somewhere less than 20% who aren’t going to let anyone tell them what to do.

Years of libertarian on steroids talk radio will do that to you. At some point, you’ve boxed yourself into a corner when the rest of the world forces you to acknowledge its existence.

Now the parties are headed back to court. I’m puzzled why this judge can’t just rule in favor of the cruise lines, CDC, and 90% of cruise line passengers and make everyone get a fricking vaccine. That way, everyone can enjoy the sunshine without a mask and resulting mask tan lines, without fear that the ship will have to go into lockdown, passengers will be left on the docks with no way to get home or that cruises will need to end early. This doesn’t seem like a very hard decision. You can’t have EVERYTHING you want just because you threaten to hold your breath and kill the cruises in Alaska too.

Was this judge appointed by Creamsicle? Who knows. I’ve seen comments from many vaccinated cruisers who are planning to fly to Europe or other destinations to get away from the whole catastrophe because it looks like US based cruise ships are going down unless this gets straightened out quickly.

There is also conversation that letting DeSantis and his lawsuit prevail will make cruising from the US unsustainable economically and will permanently damage the industry. I can believe it. The reputation of cruising safely without a lot of additional hassle and possible cruise ending behavior by the maskholes would suffer.

The unvaccinated can’t go to Europe to catch a cruise. They’re stuck here. That’s because the rest of the world doesn’t want them or their stupid tantrums. But it’s going to be a long summer for the rest of us.

Thanks, Ron.