IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

 

Starting Five

Form

Form

60 Points in 29 Minutes

Imagine what Klay Thompson might have done last night had Steve Kerr played him in the fourth quarter. The sixth-year Warrior became, by my count, the 24th different NBA player to put up 60 points in one game, but the first to ever do so playing fewer than 30 minutes. That’s nuts. The last Golden State Warrior to post 60 in a contest? Rick Barry in 1974, who was also an unconscious shooter.

You can call Thompson the third- (or even fourth-) best Warrior if you want. Two of his teammates own the last three NBA MVP awards, after all. But in Thompson’s five-plus years since leaving Wazzu, the son of a former No. 1 overall draft pick (Mychal Thompson) has put together an NBA-record 37-point quarter and, last night, a 40-point first half.

And I love Thompson’s reply last summer when he was asked how he’d have to change his game to accommodate the addition of new teammate Kevin Durant: “I ain’t changing sh*t.”

The other thing I love about him? His first name could be the call letters for an easy-listening FM station in Los Angeles.

2. Just Endure The Suffering

For the Jets (or Notre Dame) fan on your Christmas list

For the Jets (or Notre Dame) fan on your Christmas list

Colts 41, Jets 10 on Monday Night Football. If only New York had drafted Christian Hackenberg.

And is it me, or has Jon Gruden emotionally checked out? If I’m Jack Swarbrick, maybe I kick the tires there.

3. Called On the Matt

Derek Almena

Derek Almena

So NBC’s Today Show landed the first morning show interview with Derek Almena, the 47 year-old father of three who managed the Ghost Ship warehouse space where at least 36 people perished on Friday night.

Lauer went directly for the kill shot, opening with: “Are you the man who should be held accountable?”  Watch the video in the link here.

4. The $400 Million Man?

Bryce Capades

Bryce Capades

*The judges will also accept “Harper’s Bizarre Salary Demand”

Bryce Harper wants the Washington Nationals to sign him for one-tenth the cost of the order that Donald Trump just canceled with Boeing. Is he worth it? Hey, it’s not your money (unless you have ESPN or Fox on cable, which you do, in which case it kinda is).

Harper wants $400 million over ten years. In his defense, he was woefully underpaid last season at $5 million per. In five full Major League seasons Harper has earned less than $13 million despite winning Rookie of the Year AND one NL MVP award.  At least NINETY players earned more in 2016 than Harper, one of the two or three best position players in the game, has earned in his career. And he just turned 24 years old.

So I’m going Teddy KGB on this: “Pay the man. Pay that man his money.”

5. Eight Is Enough

Yes, maybe we'd get a Bama-USC rematch in the 1 vs. 8 game, and it would likely be closer.

Yes, maybe we’d get a Bama-USC rematch in the 1 vs. 8 game, and it would likely be closer.

Whether we here at the Medium Happy Department of Caring Obsessively About College Football like it or not, there’s just so much momentum building in the broadcast media (which is very good at coercing the populace into making poor decisions, if you hadn’t noticed) for an eight-team playoff, that it seems inexorable.

Our main complaint is we don’t see a correlation between desiring the four (or even eight) best teams in the nation to be in a national playoff and giving conference champs an automatic bye, particularly when that conference championship game invite is based solely on your intra-conference record. Do we need an 8-5 team in the national playoff? Because that’s conceivable.

If it were to happen, though, here are my ground rules/suggestions:

1) You cannot play a I-AA school and be eligible for the playoff.

2) You cannot play in excess of seven home games and be eligible for the playoff (Mr. Harbaugh). A neutral site game counts as half a road game. And half a home game.

3) A team that follows the above two rules AND finishes undefeated is automatically in (the Group of 5 Rule).

4). Any Group of 5 team that finishes in the Top 16 is automatically in.

5) Scrap all conference championship games. You win your conference based on intra-conference record, then head to head, then strength of out-of-conference schedule. In place of those conference games, that weekend, come the quarterfinals. At the favored school’s home site.

Any questions? Suggestions?

Music 101

In The Year 2525

We’ve been doing this section for nearly two years, and have yet to cover this song??? What’s wrong with us?!? This is a 1969 tune by one-hit wonders Zager and Evans. In 1969, which boasted all-time classic No. 1 hits such as “Come Together” (The Beatles), “Suspicious Minds” (Elvis), “Wedding Bell Blues” (The Fifth Dimension), “Age of Aquarias/Let the Sun Shine” (also The Fifth Dimension) and “Good Morning Starshine” (Oliver), THIS bleak futuristic song (“In the year 2525/If man is still alive…”) by the Nebraska duo stayed at No. 1 the longest. Six weeks. That opening question no longer seems rhetorical, does it?

Remote Patrol

The Crown 
Netflix

Uneasy lies the head...

Uneasy lies the head…

We finally finished Season 1. It’s excellent. This is a history lesson of the British monarchy just before and after World War II, with outstanding work by Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth, Jon Lithgow as Winston Churchill and others. It’s basically Dynasty or Dallas with better accents, but it all (mostly) really happened. The production values and attention to detail are outstanding. Stick around for Episode 4 (Act of God) and Episode 9 (Assassins). I promise, you’ll love it.

Katie’s Sweet 16

by Katie McCollow

By now you know who Katie is. You just wish, like me, that you saw her byline here more often. We’re glad to have her when she has time.–j.w.

Hello Friends! It’s so nice to imagine you all again, sitting at work, reading this nonsense for lack of anything else to do. I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween and Thanksgiving? Yes, I did too, thank you for inquiring. Notice how I skipped right over that other thing that happened since we last met, that thing that made everyone in the country lose their sh**, either by irrationally imagining every other person a loathsome idiot or defensively explaining to anyone who would listen that they are not a homophobic, woman-hating racist (both things I was already doing on the regular, btw).
I’m talking, of course, about the Gilmore Girls reboot on Netflix. Siiiigh. I really, really did not want to talk about that, but since I brought it up, fine, let’s do this.
Gotcha, sillies! You were afraid for a minute I was going to bore you senseless with yet another Gilmore Girls post. I’m not–that’s John’s job.
I am here to bore you with my list of Top 16 Pop-Culture-Centric Experiences in 2016. Just to clarify, this is my own personal, curated list culled from what I saw, heard, read, lived or what have you, so your will not find anything like “The Cubs won the World Series” or “The End of Brangelina” or anything like that on it.

16. The End of Brangelina

You know what I wonder the most about this whole thing? Nothing, but 16 is kind of a lot of things, and now I only have to write 15 more.
Boy, they look so happy

Boy, they look so happy


15. Blackish

Yes, it’s on it’s third season. Yes, I’ve watched Modern Family since the beginning and it’s on right afterward, but I didn’t watch it. I don’t know why (please keep your judgemental theories to yourself). But I’d heard from many different people how funny it is, so finally we watched it, and it immediately became our favorite show. It’s the funniest, most charming and delightful sitcom since, well, Modern Family, which quit being consistently funny two years ago but we still watch it because we are even lazier than it is.
What took you so long, McCollows?

What took you so long, McCollows?


14. Bruce Springsteen

My husband had a milestone birthday this year, and our wonderful friends took us to see Bruce Springsteen in concert to celebrate. Sure, I’d heard the stories about how epic his shows are, but I’d never seen for myself. Well, now I have, and I gotta tell you, all the stories are 100% true. Dayyummm.
Hell no, I'm not done! It's only been six hours, you baby.

Hell no, I’m not done! It’s only been six hours, you baby.


13. Alan Rickman Died

I mean.
Mr. Rickman in his most well-known role. We Love, Actually you.

Mr. Rickman in his most well-known role. We Love, Actually you

 

12. An American in Paris

When my oldest turned 16, I took her to New York City, which set a terrible precedent for my other kids, who expected the same when the time came.  I managed to put off taking kid number 2 until he turned 18 this past January. The Imperial Poobah of this here very site kindly let us stay at his place, under the guise he was out of town anyway. I came to realize, through my keen powers of deduction (not for nothing have I watched Sherlock so many times) that he had actually spent the entire weekend on a park bench, just so we’d have a place to stay.*
While there, we caught An American in Paris, and I loved it. It more than made up for standing in line outside a shop in SoHo for three hours so my son could buy a sweatshirt with a gorilla face on it.
I don't know. The kids love it. At least they did last winter.

I don’t know. The kids love it. At least they did last winter.


11. Olexa Bulivitsky

I’d never heard of him, and he lived in my very same city for 50 years. Palm to forehead, girl who calls herself an artist! Caught his show at the Russian Museum of Art last February, and I was blown away.
I went home and cried myself to sleep

I went home and cried myself to sleep

 

10. American Idol’s Last Season

Just stop with the eye-rolling, m’kay? It was a great show, and we watched all 15 seasons religiously, even the Nicki Minaj/Mariah Carey year. We loved it, all of it–it was a popcorn munching, everyone-on-the-couch-and-under-the blanket, turn-off-the-phones-and blow-off-your-homework family tradition, and my youngest daughter has never known life without it (sob).  Do NOT preach to me about The Voice, I don’t care and I don’t want to hear about it. A. I.’s last season was a touching, heartwarming, bittersweet experience and The Voice can suck a fat one.
How I feel about The Voice

How I feel about The Voice


9. Jeremy Jordan

Perhaps the best thing the last season of American Idol did was reintroduce me to Jeremy Jordan. I remember his Tony nomination for Newsies a few years back, but what can I tell you? I filed him away and forgot about him. So what happened was, I’m watching A.I. and this man-bun sporting goof auditions with Celine Dion’s “All Coming Back To Me Now”, and I’m like, “OMG I love that song” and I YouTube it. And the first thing that comes up is Jeremy Jordan singing it, and I’m immediately baptized a bona-fide Superfan, so much so that I even watch Supergirl. Sometimes. I mean I DVR it.

Watch this a zillion times. You have still only watched it half as many times as I have.
By the end of that night, I had texted my sisters with an idea for a musical comedy in which he and Adam Lambert play brothers with wildly different personalities, and we started writing it the next day. By the end of the summer it was done.
Huh, no, they look nothing alike, that’s a terrible idea and you are clearly not a genius.
 

I am not making that up- it’s registered with the WGA and we even entered it in a contest. The only problem is, if we can’t convince the two of them to be in it, it can never actually be made. But it was hella fun to work on. Oh, and…
 
We want Peter Gallagher to play their dad.
(Ed. Note: If you haven’t figure it out, this entire column is a shameless plea from Katie for Jeremy Jordan’s agent to contact her. Please do. I haven’t seen the script, but it’s gotta be better than School of Rock.)

Thinking about Jeremy Jordan leads me to…

8. Smash

On which he starred in the second season. Again, I know, I’m late to the party, it was canceled two years ago. For the second time this post, I have to say I don’t know why I didn’t watch this show when it was on, and the thought that my added eyeballs may have saved it from cancellation haunts me. And that is my punishment. Anyway, I binged this show on Amazon, too, and I could not have loved it more. First of all, it’s about putting on a Broadway show.  Secondly, It’s so completely, howlingly silly and fun, it makes Nashville look subtle. And the soundtrack is sublime. I’ve since read that it was a favorite for ‘hate-watching’, a phrase I don’t subscribe to. Why would I watch something I hate? Just because it’s terrible doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect.
What the hell was I doing in 2012?

What the hell was I doing in 2012? 


7. For the Love of Mary, by Christopher Meades

I felt like I should have a book on this list, lest I look like a dummy who spends all her free time watching musical soap operas. Which isn’t not true, but to quote Paul Giamatti in Rock of Ages, “I wish the true parts were falser”.
This is a picture of a book

This is a picture of a book


6. Gilmore Girls on Netflix

You didn’t really think you were going to get off that easy, did you? It is stupendous, and I couldn’t be happier to see all my old friends again. That’s all I’ll say on the subject, and I’m not even including a picture, you’re welcome.

5. Sing Street

Ireland, 1985. A fifteen-year-old  kid starts a band to impress a girl. My favorite movie of the year by a mile.

John Carney does it more than Once


4. The Last Five Years Soundtrack

Not the original, the new one, featuring Jeremy Jordan (there he is again! He almost wins MVP of the year for how much joy he brought me- I said ALMOST) and Anna Kendrick. I listened to it every minute of every day starting in early January for about a month until my copy of…

3. The Hamilton Soundtrack

…came in the mail. I’ve listened to it every minute of every day since then, except for the break I took when…

2. Prince Died

…and then I had to listen to every Prince song ever recorded until my tears ran dry, or at least abated, since they are still very wet (yes, I just thought of a gross Prince joke, we all did, everyone just stop it).
Me, thinking about Prince

Me, thinking about Prince

Me, thinking about Prince

Then it was back to Hamilton, but Prince goes back on about once a week.
Don't look at me like that, this is MY god***n list!

Don’t look at me like that, this is my G**D*** list!


1. Hamilton

As in, the actual show Hamilton, on Broadway, and I didn’t even get booed (for once).  So yeah, your math is right, I actually visited NYC twice this year, and got to see Hamiltonwhat am I, the Duchess of Kent? It’s a long, wonderful, luck-filled story of how it all came about, but I have to pee so I’ll save it for another day.
Well, that image isn't cool at all. It doesn't even give me chills.

Well, that image isn’t cool at all. It doesn’t even give me chills.

Well that image isn’t very cool at all. It doesn’t even give me chills.

Oh, and despite what our president-elect stated in his dumbest tweet ever, it is not overrated.  Not one bit. If you aren’t able to see it, at the very least watch Hamilton’s America on PBS, it’s fantastic.
And listen to the soundtrack. Ask John for it, he isn’t using his.

Me, when John admiitted he isn't listening to his soundtrack every 13 seconds....

Me, when John admiitted he hadn’t memorized the soundtrack 13 seconds after I forced it on him

So probably you’re thinking Lin-Manuel Miranda wins MVP for the year, right? Any other year, and yeah, he would have. But I gotta go with my hometown boy, friends, anything else would be just plain wrong.
Back atchoo, Prince, safe travels wherever you are....

Back atchoo, Prince, safe travels wherever you are….

 That’s all I’ve got, kids, other than to say, I sincerely hope you all have a very happy holiday season and that 2017 brings you all great blessings and peace. OMG, I completely forgot about Downton Abbey’s last episode, ugh. Oh well, I mean in retrospect, that show was kind of a snooze.
Oh, fer Chrissakes, cheer up. It's literally the only thing you didn't win this year....

Oh, fer Chrissakes, cheer up. It’s literally the only thing you didn’t win this year…. 


*I saw him sleeping on a park bench. And I was like, “Hey! John! I thought you were out of town!” and he jumped up and scrambled into a hedge. I’m 40% sure it was him.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Blacknall's 70-yard TD catch early in the 3rd quarter cut the deficit to 7 points

Blacknall’s 70-yard TD catch early in the 3rd quarter cut the deficit to 7 points

Full of Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing

The SEC Championship Game begin in 1992, long before the BCS or the 4-team playoff.

The Big 12 Championship Game began in 1996, then stopped in 2010, then will start up again next year.

The ACC Championship Game? 2005-present.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 Championship Games? 2011-present.

All of these were set up by the individual conferences with the main intent to earn more money, both by selling tickets and creating a product to sell to ESPN and Fox, both of whom are only too happy to promote these products during an otherwise slow sports weekend on the first big weekend of holiday shopping. You can’t expect the voices on these networks to give you the real dope on why these games should and do play a minor role in picking the playoff, because they’d be undercutting their own product.

Friday night, Brady Quinn, Fox: “Penn State’s gotta be in if it wins, otherwise what are these championship games for?” I just told you.

If this year's records used next year's Big 12 set-up, Bedlam would have to be repeated the following week in Arlington, Texas, for the ultimate anti-climactic game.

If this year’s records used next year’s Big 12 set-up, Bedlam would have to be repeated the following week in Arlington, Texas, for the ultimate anti-climactic game.

Props to ESPN’s Chris Fowler, who after announcing Saturday night’s ACC championship game, made an excellent point about why the four teams who were in a week earlier still belonged: “No one’s non-conference schedule got any weaker between this week and last week.” Basically, he was saying, “This bed’s already been made.”

Conferences are akin to political parties, each acting in its own best self-interest. The 4-team playoff, which aspires to pick, in the words of selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, “the four very best teams” in the country, should not and is not held hostage to this balkanization. May the four best teams go forward. May the conference championships be recognized for what they are: a way to reward the teams  that finished with the best intra-conference records within that conference. Nothing more, nothing less.

And so when a Philadelphia media person, @NickKayal , tweeted that Penn State being omitted from the four-team playoff was “the biggest sports tragedy of all time” (yes, someone stumping for Penn State used those words to discuss a football game), I wondered when everyone went down that rabbit hole. Nick has since deleted that tweet.

Ghost Ship

The blaze in the makeshift artists' colony claimed 33 lives

The blaze in the makeshift artists’ colony claimed 33 lives

The death toll now is at 36, three dozen, in the Ghost Ship Warehouse fire in Oakland. If you’ve seen photos of the interior of the venue from before the fire, it looked like the East Bay’s coolest hangout for those who knew about it. You could totally picture Green Day playing a show there. You could also envision it being a total tinder box, with wood and dirty laundry and hoarder material strewn about. It was a monument to clutter.

I heard one survivor say she barely had time to grab her coat and shoes. She’s lucky. When you’re inside a burning building, you don’t stop to grab anything. You run.

3. Mutually Assured Distraction

 

Maybe president-elect Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Maybe he’s just crazy like a fox. Or crazy like a guy with a fox sitting on top of his head. What if Trump watched an old black comedy, or a political satire (Wag The Dog?) and realized the best way to hide your flaws as a president is to get into a war. Who needs domestic policy when you’re fighting to save the republic?

This is the president of the most populous nation on earth. And you don't even know his name, do you? (Either did I)

This is the president of the most populous nation on earth. And you don’t even know his name, do you? (Either did I)

Think about it: absent the loss of life (we can always get more people; we’re very good at making them), a war between China and the United States would greatly benefit both countries. Unemployment would go down, domestic manufacturing would go up. We’d stop importing good from China. They’re living in a land mass smaller than the continental U.S. and they have FOUR TIMES the amount of people we do. I imagine China would love to shed a little dead weight.

You’d have to agree not to use nukes. Fine, done. Then, China and the U.S. could be like Nick Saban and say, “We’ll play you, sure, but at a neutral site.” So we’d have to get someone to host the land war phase. I recommend Vietnam (they did such a wonderful job the last time). Think about it: Trump gets to save the U.S.A., even if it’s his tweets that incited the whole conflagration. It’s genius.

4. Very Berry

Berry scored the game-winning points on a PAT pick-six

Berry scored the game-winning points on a pick-two

Maybe I don’t pay enough attention to the NFL. Maybe I’m just following the wrong people on Twitter. Or maybe no one cares all that much because the NFL season really doesn’t begin until Week 15 (of 17).

All I know is that if this had happened in college football, my timeline would have been buzzing about it. The second-place AFC West Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) were visiting the first-place NFC South Atlanta Falcons. With 4:32 to play, the Falcons scored to go up 28-27. At home. But why kick a PAT that’ll only put you up two?

So the Falcons go for a two-point try, a slant-in pass by Matt Ryan that Chief super safety Eric Berry not only picks off but returns the other way. That’s two poinst. Now the Chiefs are up again, 29-28. And that, rightfully, was the score when the game ended. K.C. is now 9-3 and still breathing down 10-2 Oakland’s neck.

Oh, Berry had a pick-six earlier in the game. He’s a safety who accounted for four safeties worth of scoring.

5. Greenville, Not Grinnell

It’s usually this time of year, or a few weeks earlier, when Division III Grinnell College of Iowa puts up 150 or points on some opponent without hap and then the purists look for their soap boxes and wag a finger or two (“Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”) at coach David Arsenault or his son, Dave Jr.

And while Grinnell did put up 167 versus Silver Lake on November 19, we are happy to report that another Midwest D-3 program has already outdone them this young season. Three nights later, on November 22, Greenville College, located in downstate Illinois, took down Lincoln Christian, 178-125. As the score suggests, overtime was not necessary.The Panthers had four players score at least 23 points led by Shane Smith’s 36. They scored 103 in the second half.

Curious trivia note: Despite putting up 178, Greenville only made seven free throws and shot less than 50% (7-15) from the line. They shot better (51%) from beyond the arc and attempted nearly five times as many shots (37-72) from there.

We need to set up a Greenville vs. Grinnell matchup next season.

Music 101

So Far Away

Just because her songs don’t measure up to Taylor Doose’s standards doesn’t mean they’re not good enough for MH. This is one of SEVEN monster hits off Carole King‘s 1971 classic Tapestry, which everyone’s big sister owned in the Seventies (the album stayed on the charts for six straight years). It’s odd that she never even approached having commercial success with any subsequent albums or singles—the Brooklyn-raised alum of the Brill Building songwriters packed them all on this one. And yes, that’s James Taylor on the acoustic guitar. He probably thinks this song is about him (wait; wrong early Seventies monster-hit female artist).

Remote Patrol

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

CBS 10 p.m.

And nobody has to answer any questions about world peace

And nobody has to answer any questions about world peace

Why is this televised? Who cares! It’s next-level lingerie talent strutting in Paris as Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and The Weekend perform. It’s a thing, babe. Don’t fight it.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

This is as close as two storied NFC franchises were willing to go for

This is as close as two storied NFC franchises were willing to go for “Color Rush Thursday.” Good on them.

Making America’s Team Great Again

It wasn’t their prettiest victory—rookie Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 86 yards and the opponent was without its quarterback, its former MVP running back and its head coach (“Win One For the Zimmer!”)—but the Dallas Cowboys got it done on the road in Minnesota on a Thursday night, 17-15.

That’s three wins in the past 12 days for the How ‘Bout Them’s, and 11 in a row after a season-opening loss to to the New York Giants (whom they now have 9 days to prepare for in a rematch). Roger Staubach never led the Cowboys to 11 straight wins. Troy Aikman never led the Cowboys to 11 straight wins. And, oh yeah, Tony Romo never led the Cowboys to 11 straight wins. But rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has.

His name is Lucky and he wears

His name is Lucky and he wears “13.” And yes, if you’re paying attention, this is not from last night.

It’s been a magical season thus far, as Prescott and Elliott have played like seven-year vets, while that massive offensive line, wideout Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten have been themselves. But let’s face it: It all goes back to Lucky Whitehead. You’ve got to have a Lucky Whitehead. Without a Lucky Whitehead, Dallas is nowhere.

2. Troubles in Paradise

Maybe if LeBron wasn't so busy dancing on football sidelines and receiving a commemorative watch or picking up his Sportsperson of the Year Award, he'd start membering her's a pro basketball player (sometimes I just like to poke the Susie B. bear)

Maybe if LeBron wasn’t so busy dancing on football sidelines and receiving a commemorative watch or picking up his Sportsperson of the Year Award, he’d start membering her’s a pro basketball player (sometimes I just like to poke the Susie B. bear)

The Cavs and Warriors, who have the best records in their respective conferences, both lost last night. Don’t know the last time that’s happened.

The Cavs lost for a second straight time (at Bucks by 17, home to Clips by 19) by more than 16 points. I don’t know the last time that’s happened in the regular season to a LeBron James team.

Not what they meant by 'get a leg up' on the competition

Not what they meant by ‘get a leg up’ on the competition

No time to panic (that’s for you, Susie B.), but I’m with Sir Charles: I don’t like the way the new Warriors play (and I’m not even referring to Draymond Green’s karate kicks). Now Chuck became the second Alabamian this week to take a public swipe at women, saying, ““Maybe I’m old school but I’m never gonna like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people,” but I do agree with his larger point.

I know Golden State has the league’s best record (16-3), but the ball movement as compared to last season is lacking. It’ the David Guetta with Sia “Titanium” offense: “Fire away, fire away!” It’s not a sustainable strategy.

3. From Jerry Orbach to Jerry Maguire, From Christian Borle to Christian Bale…

I spent a rather significant chunk of this week NOT opining about who should be in the College Football Playoff (it’ll figure itself out tonight and tomorrow) but instead finding and explaining all 250 or so pop culture references from Gilmore Girls, A Year In The Life. From obscure Finnish conductors (sort of redundant) to 19th-century cabinet makers (“That’s a Duncan Phyfe”). I do this all for you, America. Here’s the fourth and last installment, which has links near the top of the text to the preceding three installments.

Not in Richard's chair, Luke

Not in Richard’s chair, Luke

Here’s the lede for No. 4:

Eight best picture mentions. George and Rosemary Clooney. Tori and Candy Spelling. Nancy and Barbara—but not Frank—Sinatra. Emerson, Wharton and Longfellow (but not Emerson, Lake and Palmer). Aaron Sorkin and Michael Bay. Jerry Orbach and Jerry Maguire. Christian Borle and Christian Bale. The Jungle Book and “Welcome to the Jungle.” Gilmore Girls, A Year in the Life, covered as many miles of the pop culture trail as Cheryl Strayed did the Pacific Crest Trail.

What did we learn, other than that residents of a Brigadoon-like New England town can be uncommonly erudite while making poor life choices? We learned that almost any hurdle can be overcome if there’s coffee and you have access to Emily Gilmore’s checkbook. That you can survive an entire year, with frequent trips to London, off one “Talk of the Town” piece in The New Yorker. That there really is a circle of life, as Logan is destined to become Christopher, Jess is destined to become Luke, and Rory is destined to be her mom. “Welcome back, Rory,” they said. “I’m not back,” she protested. Yes you are.

4. The Tragedy of Joe McKnight

As you know, McKnight becomes the second ex-NFL star to be shot and killed in a road rage incident in New Orleans this year

As you know, McKnight becomes the second ex-NFL star to be shot and killed in a road rage incident in New Orleans this year

It’s too early to expound on the details of the road-rage incident that claimed the life of former USC and New York Jet running back Joe McKnight in his home town of Terrytown, Louisiana. McKnight, 28, got into some sort of altercation with 54 year-old Ronald Gasser, who is white. McKnight was unarmed; Gasser was not.

Apparently, Gasser shot McKnight more than once, then witnesses say he stood over McKnight and said, “I told you, don’t you f___ with me!” before shooting him again. Gasser turned over his gun to cops who arrived at the scene. It seems inexplicable, but Gasser was released without being charged. There has to be more to this, no?

5. Fascist Forward

Dude, You Already Won

Dude, You Already Won

It had all the charm and decorum of a Nuremberg rally. Last night Donald Trump embarked on his “Thank You” tour (or, if you didn’t vote for him or are a fan of the First Amendment, his “F___ You” tour) in Cincinnati by reminding his followers, some of whom were wearing “Deplorable Lives Matter” T-shirts, that the media is “dishonest”and singling out the 18 year-old Somali who attacked students with a knife on Ohio State’s campus earlier this week (killing no one; someone or some people set fires in eastern Tennessee last weekend that have killed 11, but they’re probably not Muslim, so you know…).

Trump boasted about saving 1,000 jobs in Indiana, while failing to mention that it meant a $7 million tax break for a company that made $7.6 BILLION in revenue last year. “There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship,” Trump said. “We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag. From now on it’s going to be America first, okay?”

And then they all went off and burned down the Reichstag and blamed it on someone else?

You don’t want globalization? Cool. We’re all down with that. You ready to pay more for items, America? Or are you ready to work for less? Option No. 3: the corporate overlords who worry about nothing other than percent-growth-rate above last year’s corresponding earnings quarter have to reassess their priorities. Oh, that ain’t happening? Then go back to Nos. 1 or 2. Those are your options, America. But you get a red baseball cap with them. Enjoy. And remember to always blame your problems on somebody else, some mass of people beginning with an “M” (Media, Muslims) as opposed to looking in the mirror.

I can’t blame Donald. Leading Fascist rallies is something he’s good at; picking cabinet positions is boring, and you don’t hear the roar of the crowd. He’s kind of like the Springsteen of presidents. He NEEDS to feel that adulation.

Music 101

14th Street

Laura Cantrell grew up in Nashville, moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, and only then discovered that she loved country music. For years she lived a double life, working as “Vice President, Business Manager, Equity Research” at Bank of America, while also playing spots such as The Back Fence and beyond as a country music singer. She even opened for Elvis Costello on a tour in 2002.

This song was actually written by another artist, Emily Spray, but I think you’ll like the job Cantrell does with it.

Remote Patrol

Pac-12 Title Game

Colorado vs. Washington

FOX 9 p.m.

Elijah Qualls: 6'1, 321....

Elijah Qualls: 6’1, 321….

Use the 7 p.m. Ohio-Western Michigan MAC title game as your amuse bouche, then dig into this game from Santa Clara. Try to watch at a bar with a lot of Wolverines fans, and see how long they stick around. I like the Dubs tonight, BIG. Not B1G. B-I-G.

Also, tomorrow, UCLA and Lonzo Ball at Kentucky in hoops (CBS, 12:30 p.m). Should be fun.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Luke 2.0

Luke 2.0

More Gilmore?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Spoiler Alert: If you watched Gilmore Girls all the way through, you learned an important life lesson: It’s best not to screw up in life, but if you do, it’s a good idea to have wealthy parents (or grandparents). You got that, kids?

Anyway, so much to say on the revival (loved “These Boots…”, LOVED Stars Hollow: The Musical, hated the Steampunk Life and Death Brigade’s homage to Across The Universe, thought Kelly Bishop [Emily Gilmore]  smacked it way over the fence and deserves at the very least a Golden Globe and Emmy nomination, missed Krysten Ritter, didn’t at all miss Luke’s sister and brother-in-law, loved Michel), but here’s what I’ll posit:

Emily's D.A.R. scene in Episode 4 was a thing of beauty.

Emily’s D.A.R. scene in Episode 4 was a thing of beauty. “Bullshit!”

Rory is not carrying a wee Wookie in her womb. The child is Logan’s. Possibly (probably?) conceived in New Hampshire. Logan is the new Christopher, which makes our lad above, Jess, the new Luke. Logan is only bad for her, Jess is only good for her. Does this sound familiar? Also, did you notice how the camera turned from Rory to Christopher in his big office all alone in that final shot? He saw what he gave up, and for what?

Logan will be able to pay for the child’s needs, but he will not be part of its life (he may even do all that he can to keep it secret). Jess will be able to publish Rory’s book (I know a little something about self-published books in Connecticut taking off and being successful; Jess, pound the pavement, babe!).

Since being editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, Strong, 5'2

Since being editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, Strong, 5’2″, has appeared in Mad Men and co-created Empire. Not coming up short.

This won’t be our last Gilmore Girls item; far from it. Curious footnote: Danny Strong, who plays Doyle, Paris’ estranged husband, lampoons himself somewhat in the revival. He’s playing “a sellout” Hollywood screenwriter who plays snooker with Michael Bay. In real life he’s one of the two co-creators of ABC’s Empire. Not bad, kid. Not bad.

2. Carrier Pigeons

It’s good that Donald Trump negotiated a deal to save 1,000 jobs at Carrier in Indiana. Of course, Carrier is going to save whatever money it is losing by not going global with tax breaks from both the federal and state (remember who the governor of Indiana is?) government. I think we can all agree that it’s better to have people work than to be on the dole, but what happened here is basically the government decided to subsidize 1,000 jobs, not that Carrier decided it was better business to keep 1,000 jobs here.

Two more items, both very important: 1) As current White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday, “All president-elect Trump needs is to do this 804 more times and he’ll equal the number of manufacturing jobs saved during President Obama’s presidency.” So, even if he has eight years, he’d need to do the equivalent of this deal once every four days.

Pence cashe in some of his political capital on this Carrier deal. It's a cortisone shot: feels better, but doesn't cure the actual ailment.

Pence cashe in some of his political capital on this Carrier deal. It’s a cortisone shot: feels better, but doesn’t cure the actual ailment.

2) And this is the more Trump-ian aspect of the deal: Carrier’s parent company, United Semiconductor, has existing contracts with the federal government that account for up to 10% of its revenue. So Donald, I’m assuming, may have just made Carrier an offer it couldn’t refuse. Hey, that’s just smart leverage on Donald’s part. On the other hand, this is a “give a man a fish” strategy as opposed to a “teach a man to fish” strategy.

As long as Americans insist on belonging to unions and demanding health care and other benefits, and as long as major companies operate with both eyes on their quarterly earnings reports, globalization is going to be a reality. And jobs will flow out of the country, no matter who’s president.

3. Plane In Vain

This shouldn’t happen in the 21st century. The charter flight that went down in Colombia just a few miles short of the runway in Medellin, killing at least 71 people, including most members of a Brazilian soccer team, apparently ran out of fuel. It’s one thing to run out of gas when you’re driving your KIA Sorrento out on I-275, but it’s another when there are dozens of people aboard a plane and gravity is in play.

Tragic story. The Brazilian soccer team, Chapecoense, was enroute to play the first leg of a home-and-home in the Copa Sudamericana against Medellin’s Atletico Nacional. Six people survived the crash because the plane did not explode on impact, which is likely because there was no fuel left to burn. This story on 41 year-old keeper Nivaldo, who’s been with the club more than a decade and was not on the flight, is worth reading.

4. “Oh, Mr. Graaaant Tinker

Tinker was not a meddler. He identified the talented people, then got out of the way. Good style, that.

Tinker was not a meddler. He identified the talented people, then got out of the way. Good style, that.

One of the legends behind the scenes of network television (along with Garry Marshall, Norman Lear and Aaron Spelling) passed earlier this week. Grant Tinker, the NBC network exec behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show (he was married to her for 20 years), as well as Hill Street Blues, Taxi, The Cosby Show, Miami Vice and Cheers, died at the age of 90. Of those network era lions, only Lear, who created All In The Family (my pop’s favorite show and one of mine), survives.

Highly recommend this read. Go down to the part where the author invites everyone over to his house to watch TV as long as they tune theirs to Cheers. Tinker started out as an ad man, and he was basically a more polished Don Draper in the Sixties (he worked on The Dick Van Dyke Show, where he met and wooed a young MTM) without the clandestine back story.

5. Hot Karl

Towns: Just turned 21

Towns: Just turned 21

It was still only November, practically preseason in the NBA (even though, don’t look now, but teams are more than 20% through their schedule), but we’ve had some stunning performance already (perhaps because it still feels like preseason). Last night Minnesota Timberwolves 2nd-year man Karl-Anthony Towns scored 47 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a 106-104 loss to the Knicks.

If the T-Wolves can just keep that nucleus (Towns, Wiggins, LaVine) and if Ricky Rubio ever learns to shoot, this team could be dangerous. They’re like the 2011 OKC Thunder, but not quite as talented. Oh, by the way, they’re currently 5-13. Why’d they get rid of Sam Mitchell again?

Reserves

When Sportswriters Attack*

*The judges will also accept, “Heather Dinich Walks Into a Bar…”

I’ve never met Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News in person—we may have shared a press box long before I knew of him—but he is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. Perhaps my very favorite (I write that simply to make Jamie Reidy jealous).

Now yesterday, ESPN’s Heather Dinich appeared on an ESPN studio show (SportsCenter, was it? Pardon The Intervention?) opposite Paul Finebaum. Dinich is to the College Football Playoff committee what Richard Engel is to Lebanon: she’s the embedded reporter. And here she is probably asked by the segment producer to make the counter-argument to “PAWL!” as regarding the Crimson Tide. And we know which way PAWL! is going to lean, so she has to be the contrarian. Dinich reminds everyone…

 

That, for those of you laymen in the audience, is what we professionals refer to as a “hot take.” Well, I don’t know if Cecil was watching this live, or what, but then he tweeted…

 

As someone who’s sent out a few tweets I regret (Only last night I tweeted that the Pac-12 has zero black head football coaches, forgetting David Shaw, although let’s face it, David Shaw is whiter than Sonny Dykes, amirite?), I’m imagining Cecil wishes he had this one back. I respect him for not deleting it. And I don’t know Ms. Dinich, but I’m sure she’d be able to explain head-to-head versus best win better than that scraggly haired guy who’s always occupying the final stool at the Dublin House.

Alabama did not allow a single touchdown in November. Not one. The Tide are the best team in the nation, and there should be very little argument about that. Doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten on New Year’s Eve or in January, but to me it means there’s only so much that stats and advanced stats reveal. I DO trust my eyes. I DO trust my gut.

Meanwhile, I like Cecil a lot. That opinion was harsh and a lot of our colleagues came down hard on him on the Twitter because of it. He thinks she’s overrated (her best win is against USC?). To Heather’s credit, she chose not to get into a Twitter catfight (much to the chagrin of The Big Lead and other blogs).

But here’s the thing: At what point do you tell the producer of your TV show that you don’t want to have to make arguments that you don’t actually believe, that you’d rather have your integrity than be Skip Bayless? I dunno.

Music 101

Maybe We Should Fall In Love

The Springsteen of the Southwest, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers consistently put out solid records and their live shows are purely evangelical. The 48 year-old from Tempe, Arizona, is a regular husband and dad who just happens to regularly go on tour and glug tequila shots from adoring patrons who pass them up to the stage. Good guy, good music.

Remote Patrol

Cowboys at Vikings

NBC 8 p.m.

Jason Witten: Now in his 14th season with the Cowboys. Only one TE in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez, has more receptions than his 1,072

Jason Witten: Now in his 14th season with the Cowboys. Only one TE in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez, has more receptions than his 1,072

I’m so not a fan of the NFL on Thursdays, but Dallas is the NFL’s best team this season, winners of 10 in a row. The Vikes, at 6-5, are having a surprisingly good season minus Teddy Bridgewater under center. This should be a good one. It would be an even better one if they were playing outdoors, truly outdoors.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Oops

Oops

1. NBA Twilight Zone

What was in the NBA water last night? The Cavs, Spurs and Clippers, who entered the night with three of the league’s four best records, each lost to a team that entered the evening with a sub-.500 mark. The Clips lost to Brooklyn by five in OT, the Spurs fell at home to Orlando (no, really) and the Cavs lost by 17 at Milwaukee.

At least we were treated to the signature play of J.R. Smith‘s career, as while he was supposed to be guarding Tony Snell, he recognized Jason Terry (whom he once elbowed flagrantly in a playoff game) seated on the Bucks bench, was probably shocked to learn he was still in the league, and then went over to greet him (so they’ve made up). Ball gets inbounded to J.R.’s open man, who dunks uncontested. How can you not laugh, even if you’re LeBron?

2. “Working on Building/Working on Building/STARS HOLLOW!”

Christian Borle and Sutton Foster. They were actually married outside Miss Patty's stage.

Christian Borle and Sutton Foster. They were actually married outside Miss Patty’s stage.

Olay, sure, Taylor Doose teases Stars Hollow: The Musical early in Episode 3 of the Gilmore Girls revival, but did you really think they were gonna go for it for TEN MINUTES? And then the Palladinos go ahead and hire Christian Borle (currently playing Shakespeare as a rock star in Something Rotten on Broadway) and Sutton Foster to play the leads (“She was Kinky Boots!”). And what about your director, Nat?

Nat: Minimalist director

Nat: Minimalist director

Anyway, it’s nowhere on YouTube, so you’ll just have to go to Netflix and see it for yourself. Note: Borle and Foster used to be married and were HUGE Gilmore Girls fans. They’d watch it together. They were married about eight years but remained friends after. Then Foster got the lead in Bunheads, a show that the Paladins produce, so she was a natural for the role of Violet here. She actually suggested Borle, a two-time Tony Award winner, to play Carl. And now you know the rest of the story.”

3. Ore-Gone

The Ducks never allowed fewer than 26 points in a game this year, even surrendering 28 at home to UC-Davis

The Ducks never allowed fewer than 26 points in a game this year, even surrendering 28 at home to UC-Davis

The Ducks fired coach Mark Helfrich after four seasons. In his first two years in Eugene, the Coos Bay native went 24-4 and led Oregon to the national championship game. In the last two years the Ducks were 9-4 and 4-8 and this season were particularly awful on defense, finishing 125th nationally (out of 128 teams) in Scoring Defense, surrendering 41.4 points per game.

Coos Bay native and secular saint Steve Prefontaine cannot be pleased

Coos Bay native and secular saint Steve Prefontaine would not be pleased

Still, isn’t it anathema at Oregon to fire someone from Coos Bay? Steve Prefontaine is from Coos Bay. Where would Phil Knight and Nike be without Pre (I mean, sure, he’d still be a monster success, but Pre is sort of Knight’s Moses), and where would Oregon be without Knight? I get it: the talent level had declined and Oregon couldn’t stop anyone.

So who’s next in Eugene? Memo to Chip Kelly, currently coaching the San Francisco  1-9’ers (UPDATED: 1-10’ers; I just wanted you to see the joke): Get back. Get back. Get back to where you once belonged.

4. Blue Bloods

Lonzo is a Ball-er. Bruins will be 8-0 when they visit No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday

Lonzo is a Ball-er. Bruins will be 8-0 when they visit No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday

You checked out the early men’s hoops rankings? Of the eight schools that have won at least three national championships, seven are ranked int the top 14. Kentucky (8) is No. 1, North Carolina (5) is No. 3, Kansas (3) is No. 4, Duke (5) is No. 5, UCLA (11) is No. 11, Indiana (5) is No. 14 and Louisville (3) is No. 14.

The only slacker among the eight schools with three or more cut-down-nets is UConn. The Huskies are struggling at 2-4.

The only school in the Top 5 without three national titles is No. 2 Villanova, which is both the defending national champ and the only school from a non-Power 5 conference to cut down the nets (twice, in fact: 2016 and 1985) since 1985 (UPDATE: I forgot UNLV, 1990; apologies to the Runnin’ Rebels and my old friend Paul Gutierrez).

Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention that the school that has ended the longest winning streak in men’s college hoops history, Notre Dame, is 7-0 after taking Iowa down by 14 last night (and its women’s team is No. 1 with a date against UConn, winners of 79 in a row, a week from tonight).

I guess the lesson here is that in sports, as in America, it’s a lot more of an oligarchy than people would like to believe.

5.  “We’re Going To Dine at Jean Georges—and Mexico’s Going To Pay For It!”

Can't we just have a taco bowl and stay in?

Can’t we just have a taco bowl and stay in?

That’s president-elect Donald Trump and potential Secretary of State Mitt Romney dining in New York City last night. They went to Jean Georges, a three-star Michelin Guid joint located above Columbus Circle. Official reports have the three men (they were joined by Reince Priebus as the designated “Why-don’t-we-change-the-subject?” guy) ordering  “a young garlic soup with thyme and sautéed frog legs, and diver scallops with caramelized cauliflower and caper-raisin emulsion as appetizers.

“Priebus and Trump ordered a prime sirloin with citrus glazed carrots for their main course and Romney ordered lamb chops with a mushroom bolognese sauce. All three of the men had a chocolate cake for dessert.

Remember when conservative pundits killed Obama for ordering mustard with his cheeseburger (Laura Ingraham: “Do these men not have anything better to do?”)? Where are they this morning?

For once, I’m with Mike Pence. Spend about one-tenth the money and enjoy an appetizer sampler and then the burger at TGI Friday’s next time, guys.

Music 101 

So Quiet In Here

What the Beach Boys are to summer, Van Morrison is to autumn. He just fits this time of year. As you look outside at 4:50 p.m. and see darkness, your best bet is some mulled wine (I had some this weekend. Who knew!?! So good!) and Van the Man. This is from his 1990 album Enlightenment, which is highly under appreciated.

Remote Patrol

Doubleheader

No. 15 Purdue at No. 14 Louisville

No. 3 North Carolina at No. 13 Indiana

ESPN 7 p.m.

Honestly can’t name a single player on any of these squads. Does Grayson Allen play for one of these schools? No? Okay. Well, I guess this is roll call. Maybe I’ll know a name or two after tonight (Who am I kidding? I’m going to re-watch Gilmore Girls; you do what you like).

 

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Fire On The Mountain

There’s a 500-acre wildfire blazing in eastern Tennessee, near the North Carolina border, in the Great Smoky Mountains. Dollywood is under some threat. It doesn’t help that the southeast is experiencing its worst drought in a more than a decade.

Officials suspect arson, in case you were wondering if we had a candidate for our new daily item, “What The Hell Is Wrong With People?”

2. What The Hell Is Wrong With People?

Okay, so there’s more than one nominee today. An 18 year-old freshman at Ohio State drove his vehicle into a crowd, got out, and then began stabbing people. A Somali immigrant who posted on Facebook that he was “sick and tired” of seeing fellow Muslims “killed and tortured,” the student stabbed 11 people, none fatally, before a campus cop shot him dead.

I have no idea nor do I care, as the cable and network news stations like to report, “if this was terror.” It’s a meaningless construct. Also, I have no idea how this will affect the right-to-knife movement.

3. Twitter: A Weapon of Mass Distraction

This was Donald’s most recent tweet this morning…

 

I don’t doubt he believes this. I also don’t doubt that he fails to understand the First Amendment. I think a better, fictitious American president, Andrew Shepherd, explained why Donald is wrong on this one (1:35). This was Aaron Sorkin’s first attack, 20 years ago, on Trump, even though at the time he had no idea which vile politician Bob Rumson actually was going to represent (turned out it was Cheney and Trump).

More importantly, from what is the Wizard of Trump Tower trying to distract us? From yet another divisive cabinet selection? And when that tweet inspires an uptick of flag burners, Trump will call them “losers” and create an even more divisive country. Well done.

4. Pahranagat Falls

Spring Mountain, after losing last year's state championship game to Pahranagat

Spring Mountain, after losing last year’s state championship game to Pahranagat

It happened more than a week ago, but the longest win streak in high school football history came to an end in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pahranagat Valley High School, which plays eight-man football, lost to its rival, Spring Mountain, 68-46, in the I-A state championship game. Spring Mountain only led 40-38 entering the final quarter, then broke away for the win.

What makes this rivalry so interesting, as I wrote about last year, is how different both schools are. Pahranagat is a closely knit, isolated Mormon town going back generations. The kids start playing football together in second grade and they run the same system all the way up through high school.

Spring Mountain is equally isolated, but for a different reason: it’s a juvenile detention facility located in the mountains northwest of Las Vegas. Most of the players are only there for one school year and many of them come from broken homes.

Pahranagat is exclusively white. Spring Mountain is almost entirely minorities.

Side note: One week earlier Division III Mount Union’s 112-game regular season win streak was also snapped, by John Carroll University. Mount Union has made it to the D-3 quarterfinals, though, and it faces Alfred (a school, not a butler) this Saturday.

5. No Ordinary Joe (etc).

This, by the way, is the only home uniform the Browns should ever wear

This, by the way, is the only home uniform the Browns should ever wear

Two prodigious NFL streaks to make note of before we get any further into this week:

  1. Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas, a first round pick in 2007, recently played his 10,000th consecutive snap. The former Wisconsin Badger has never missed a snap in his career. What makes this Gehrig-ian feat somewhat tragic is that in nearly 10 seasons, Thomas has never taken a single snap in a playoff game. The Browns, currently 0-12, are 47-109 in his career. Their only winning season came in his rookie year, when they finished 10-6 but missed out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker (the 10-6 Titans got the last spot). Thomas has lined up with 18 different Browns starting quarterbacks behind him.

    Tucker, a former undrafted free agent, played at the University of Texas

    Tucker, a former undrafted free agent, played at the University of Texas

  2. Kicker Justin “Updog” Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens hit four field goals on Sunday, including three from beyond 50 yards in the first half (the first NFL player to ever do that). Tucker has now connected on 34 consecutive field goals (the league record is 44, by Adam Vinatieri) and has yet to miss a PAT or field goal this season. In the strike shortened 1982 season, Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley became the only NFL special teams player to be named league MVP. Moseley made 21 of 22 field goals, at the time a league record for successful percentage.

Music 101

When Will I Be Loved

In 1975 Linda Ronstadt covered this Everly Brothers song, originally released in 1960, and turned it into a No. 2 hit. The only thing keeping it from reaching No. 1 was The Captain & Tenille’s monster hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” (it didn’t). This tune belongs on any compilation hit of 1970s signature tunes or at least on the soundtrack of a Paul Thomas Anderson film.

Remote Patrol

Gilmore Girls

NetFlix

Spoiler alerts aplenty, as I have finished this four-part series: Considering the names of the four episodes, why didn’t Carole King get up and bang out, “Winter, spring, summer or fall/All you got to do is call….” (she wrote it; James Taylor only covered it)? The letter that Emily referred to in that therapy session that was purportedly received on her birthday…they never came back to that. Was that a reference to an old episode that I forgot? How did Rory buzz in and out of London as if she were simply heading to New London, and where was she getting the money to live that entire year (she never had a paying job)? How great were Emily, Paris, Kirk and Michel throughout, and when did Bootsy get so many lines? Why did they give Luke a toupee? Was Mitchell Huntzberger right all along (“You don’t got it”)? You think Jess has been lifting? If you never again see the Life and Death Brigade, do you agree that it will be too soon? Also, finally, I counted the pop culture references: at least 250 in the four episodes.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Castro is dead at 90

Castro is dead at 90

1. Castro Es Muerto

Stepping all over Florence Henderson’s moment in the sun, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died on Saturday. He was 90. The former guerrilla leader took power on January 8, 1959 (just days after Michael and Fredo Corleone had fled on a plane to Miami) and ruled the island of 11 million with an iron fist as it languished economically via communist policies.

2. Grey Cup Runneth Over

Calgary and Ottawa went into overtime at the 104th Grey Cup, but the Redblacks prevailed when 41 year-old quarterback Henry Burris (Temple grad) hit Ernest Jackson (Buffalo grad) on a post route for an 18-yard TD. Jackson bobbled it three times before securing the ball just as he crossed the goal line. For Ottawa, who finished the regular season 8-9-1 (Calgary was a league best 15-2), it was their first championship since 1976.

Burris completed 35 of 46 passes for 461 yards in the 39-3 win, even though he injured his knee in warmups and it was uncertain if he’d play. The trainer gave him a shot in the locker room just before kickoff to numb the pain. “They gave me some happy pills,” said Burris, a 17-year CFL veteran.

One big difference between the Grey Cup, which had 33,000-plus fans, and the Super Bowl. At game’s end they name a Top Canadian (Ottawa tight end Brad Sinopoli).

3. Raiders of The Lost Art (of Winning)*

Mack (rhymes with

Mack (rhymes with “tackle for loss”) had his first career pick-six on Sunday against Cam Newton

*The judges are cool with “Del Rio Grande”

With Sunday’s 35-32 defeat of the Carolina Panthers, the Silver & Black are 9-2. They’ve clinched their first winning record since 2002 (the year they lost in the Super Bowl to the Bucs) and became the second team this season (besides the Falcons) to defeat both Super Bowl teams from last February.

For years the Oakland Raiders bragged about “Commitment to Excellence” and that no other franchise had as good an all-time won-loss record. And that was true. But now they’re not even Top 10. It’s been a humbling 15 years, but with emerging stars such as QB Derek Carr and LB Khalil Mack, the team that wears the same uniform and plays in the same stadium as it did in its Seventies glory years looks as if it’s headed for a renaissance.

4. Wee Hour Tweeps

USC's Adoree Jackson owned the Irish with a punt return, screen pass and kickoff return, all of which went for TDs and were longer than 50 yards

USC’s Adoree Jackson owned the Irish with a punt return, screen pass and kickoff return, all of which went for TDs and were longer than 50 yards

Donald Trump, who became famous for 3:30 a.m. tweets, has company: embattled Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. After the Irish lost 45-27 at USC to end their sour season at 4-8, Yahoo! writer Pat Forde filed a story reporting that Kelly’s representatives were looking into other options. This after Kelly had definitively declared in the post-game presser that he’d return next season.

 

I

If you’re keeping score at home, both Kelly and Trump tweet around 3:30 a.m. Kelly just finished a week in which all of Notre Dame’s 2012 and 2013 wins (21 in all) were vacated, while Trump is now slightly concerned about a bigger win being vacated.

5. “Bitterly Disappointed”

Friday’s and Saturday’s rivalry games were mostly anti-climactic, or just blowouts, save for one: Michigan at Ohio State, which went into overtime. With the Wolverines up 27-24 in the second overtime, the Buckeyes’ Curtis Samuel escaped a 10-yard loss (that would have put the ball on the 30 on 4th down, putting Urban Meyer in a pickle: try a 47-yard FG with a shaky kicker or go for it on 4th-and-15?) with some nifty reversal of field running to set up a 4th-and-1. On that play QB J.T. Barrett, barely, and I mean BARELY, pushed the ball to the 15-yard line for a first down (he landed at the 16). Like by the length of the pleat of a khaki.

On the next play Samuel ran around left tackle, the Wolverines over pursued, and he went in untouched for the win, the victory, and a highly likely playoff berth (with the added benefit of Ohio State NOT having to play this Saturday in Indianapolis).

It was a lot closer than that, Jim.

It was a lot closer than that, Jim.

The scantest of distances, inches really, and in overtime, separated a probable Michigan berth in the playoff from one for Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh complained in the post-game presser, repeatedly, that he was “bitterly disappointed” in the officiating (UM was flagged seven times; Ohio State, two) but that fourth down was too close to blame on the refs. Besides, Michigan returns to Ann Arbor cognizant that it went 1-2 in games outside the state of Michigan, its lone win being at Rutgers.

p.s. This was the most watched television game of the season, with nearly 13 million viewers, and it kicked off at noon.

Meanwhile, as Penn State waxed Michigan State 38-12, some fun angst is set up. The Nittany Lions, if they beat Wisconsin in the B1G, would be conference champs and own the head-to-head versus Ohio State. Those two factors purportedly matter to the SelCom. But unless U-Dub or Clemson lose, Penn State, with two losses to Ohio State’s one, will almost certainly be on the outside looking in. Then again, playing in the Rose Bowl is a decent consolation prize.

Reserves

Music 101

Bad Company

Like the band Talk Talk, whose hit single and debut album were also named “Talk Talk,” mid-Seventies British rockers Bad Company put a song on their eponymous debut album that was also eponymous. That’s Paul Rodgers, who also had a decent solo career in the early Eighties, with the searing vocals. Bad Company was managed by Led Zeppelin’s legendary manager, Peter Grant. The song never charted in the USA, though it is a staple of FM radio stations and can be found on juke boxes of reputable domestic dive bars. Also, if you pay close attention, the song uses the same progression as Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”

Remote Patrol

Gilmore Girls 

NetFlix

Rory and Lorelai have just been told Luke's only serves decaf

Rory and Lorelai have just been told Luke’s only serves decaf

Emily Gilmore dropping a Llewyn Davis reference. Hep Alien covering Joe Jackson’s “I’m The Man.” Kirk dressed as Eraserhead. Luke giving out bogus WiFi passwords.  A town meeting in which it is pointed out that two episodes does not constitute an arc. It’s too good! I’m only two episodes through the four reunion episodes, but the Palladinos are showing no rust. If you were ever a fan, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how seamless this reunion is nine years after they shipped Rory off on a bus to cover the 2008 election.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Wessonality

“A Lovely Lady”

A fond goodbye to Florence Henderson, a.k.a. Carol Brady, who passed away at the age of 82. In the 1970s Henderson was the ideal mom. Remember, Bobby, the only steps in this house are the ones that lead up to your room.

Born in Dale, Indiana, on Valentine’s Day, 1934, Henderson was one of 10 children. There aren’t enough boxes on my TV screen….

By the way, the show made its debut in 1969, so both Mike and Carol had to be 30s-ish widowers. Unacceptable for either to be divorced. And Carol married an architect who designed a home with just two bedrooms (and one bathroom) for six kids. Smart.

Meanwhile, I never was able to figure out how the exterior of the home fit the inner floor plan. Whose one window was that on the second floor? And why was it to our left when it felt as if the hallway went to the right? Mike Brady, what kind of evil wizard were you?

2. Giving LSU His O-Face

Orgeron, 55, has infused the Tigers with enthusiasm.

Orgeron, 55, has infused the Tigers with enthusiasm.

It was interesting to hear ESPN’s Dave Flemming and Jesse Palmer openly discuss the next LSU head coach last night as interim coach Ed Orgeron led the Tigers to a 54-39 defeat of Texas A&M in College Station. There was a time this season when the Aggies were 6-0 and the Bayou Bengals were 3-2 in that time span.

All Orgeron, a Louisiana native, has done in Baton Rouge is lead the Tigers to a 5-2 record since the late September dismissal of Les Miles. In the two losses, both at home, LSU took No. 1 Alabama to the 4th quarter deadlocked at 0-0 before succumbing 10-0, and then came as close to pay dirt without scoring at the end of the game in a 16-10 loss to Florida. Those are your two SEC Championship Game teams.

Guice, a sophomore, will ease the sting of Leonard Fournette's exodus

Guice, a sophomore, will ease the sting of Leonard Fournette’s exodus

Orgeron was 6-2 at USC as a midseason replacement for Lane Kiffin a few years back and is now 5-2 as LSU’s interim coach. And yet no one wants to let him marry their daughters, even though the daughters appear to love him. Odd.

By the way, Derrius Guice rushed for 285 yards and 4 TDs today.

3. U.S. Steel (X) Was A Steal

U.S. Steel, ticker symbol X, was one of those companies such as General Electric (GE) or International Business Machines (IBM) whose stock your dad owned. But you could have done very well in 2016 by investing like your dad.

In September of 2014 X was as high as $46 per share but by late last January, the company that J.P. Morgan (the industrialist, not the panelist on The Gong Show) co-founded was down to $6.15 per share.

Today? $33 per share. That’s about a 450% rise in 10 months. While CNBC spends day after day obsessing over Twitter and NetFlix and Tesla, here’s a company that’s more than 100 years old that everyone knows that could have made you serious money this year.

The company is based in Pittsburgh, and maybe as an investor you needed to think like a Pirate: “X marks the spot.”

4. China Woes

Some nasty death tolls in China, the world’s most populous country, the past week

Three days ago nasty fog contributed to a 56-car pileup in northeast China that left 17 motorists dead (I’ve been a passenger in a vehicle in the countryside in Beijing and I’m still surprised we all survived).

And earlier this week 74 construction workers at a power plant in southern China died when a platform collapsed.

China still has nearly 1.4 billion people, or four times as many as the USA, in a land mass that is smaller than the  USA (when you include Alaska, which we do because hey, why not?)

5. Is Aretha Franklin Still Singing?

The Queen of Soul performed the national anthem before the Vikings-Lions game in Detroit yesterday, and seems to have been inspired by the ghost of Ray Charles (who was known for taking “America, The Beautiful” out for long walks).  The 74 year-old siren clocked in at 4:35 and at that length, even if you aren’t Colin Kaepernick, you may have felt the need to take a knee.

Simply brilliant. Props to the producer who had this inspiration and to the higher-up who let him or her run with it.

Reserves

Just wondering, in New Zealand do they celebrate All Blacks Friday?

Music 101

The Life of Riley

After producing iconic New Wave bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen,  Liverpudlian Ian Boudrie created his own pet project, The Lightning Seeds (taken from a misheard Prince lyric). This song, named in honor of Boudrie’s young son, was released in 1992 and was a minor hit in the U.K.

 

Remote Patrol

No. 19 Boise State at Air Force Academy

CBS Sports Net 3:30 p.m.

Brett

Brett “Let ‘er” Rypien (thanks, Boomer)

Why watch? Because the Broncos are looking to put the finishing touches on their 7th one-loss season of the past 15 years. Amazing. And that’s not including a pair of undefeated seasons. It’s yet another year in which the Broncos narrowly missed an undefeated season due to one unfortunate hiccup. And you can LC at the same time (Fox) to watch the Apple Cup , which features one team they beat earlier this year (Wazzu) and another that has their former coach, Chris Petersen (U-Dub).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to take a few minutes to address a few words written by a friend of mine yesterday, words that in total I won’t reproduce here. Suffice it to say that if you know what I’m talking about, I’m mostly referring to the lead paragraph.

As an alumnus, what mostly caught my eyes were the words “high-minded sanctuary” and “perception….is all there is.” The Notre Dame I attended, and I doubt it has changed all that much, was replete with decent, funny, hard-working kids who took school but not themselves very seriously. In fact, there was no better way to be ostracized in Dillon Hall than to be full of yourself. Self-deprecation equaled survival.

One story: my roommate, a 6’5″ swimmer who probably could have played tight end on the football team if he’d truly wanted to (as a back up), was an outstanding athlete and brilliant in school (he since has acquired a PhD in mechanical engineering). But, during a sophomore SYR (hall dance) he got wildly drunk and threw a bucket-ful of punch at me (I’m sure I deserved it). He was stopped by an R.A. The R.A. asked him his name and room number. My genius roomie gave a false name (“Pete Smith”) but then provided the correct room number.

A half hour later came a knock on our door from the rector and my roomie, real name Jeff, got into a spot of trouble. The point is that for the next two-plus years we referred to him either as “Pete Smith” or “Sh*thead” and he just grinned and took it.

When the upcoming ESPN “Catholics vs. Convicts” doc arrives, you’re going to learn a lot more about another guy from my dorm, Pat Walsh. Pat was a good enough athlete to make the basketball team as a walk-on, but he was also mischievous and entrepeneurial enough to mass produce a line of T-shirts, cobble together enough friends to help him sell them, and pocket about $35,000 (in 1988) in one week.

At the end of that glorious October Saturday, Pat knocked on the door of our wonderful rector, Fr. Joseph Carey (the same guy who’d read Jeff the riot act), and asked if he could stash the money there overnight. “Cares,” as we all called him (a nickname he earned), reluctantly agreed, putting himself in tremendous jeopardy by doing so. But that’s why we loved the guy.

And while all of this was going on, quarterback Tony Rice, who would make the cover of SI three times in a four-month span that season (has anyone other than maybe Michael Jordan had that many SI covers in so short a period?), was living in our dorm amongst us fellow students and just being as funny and approachable and down to earth as any human possibly could be. One of my closest friends to this day was Tony’s R.A. and hey, you wouldn’t go to Tony for help on your Physics lab, but you were always welcome to hang out with him and just shoot the sh*t (he was like a much less crazy Tracy Jordan from “30 Rock”).

A Pat Walsh original: It was always meant as a joke, something that much of the outside world never got.

A Pat Walsh original: It was always meant as a joke, something that much of the outside world never got.

Last March I attended the funeral of the father of a Chicago born-and-bred Notre Dame classmate of mine. His name was John Boler. Now, Mr. Boler did not attend Notre Dame (he graduated from John Carroll, so maybe I’m really as a Notre Dame alum taking credit here that belongs to a John Carroll alum) but he made sure that his children did. And in the last 40 or so years of his life he was as supportive of Notre Dame as anyone you’ll ever meet, mostly because he loved what the university stood for.

You can look it up, but John Boler donated $20 million to Rush University Medical Center (the largest private contribution in the hospital’s history) to help build a new tower. The hospital had saved Mr. Boler’s life twice and his wife’s once and so John Boler asked what he could do to help. And the hospital, which was in the midst of a $300 million fund-raising campaign, requested $20 million. I’ll let John’s son, my good friend Matt, take it from here:

“My dad told the leadership it was a family decision since it was so big and we all went to meet with them together.  At the meeting, my dad told Dr. Larry Goodman, the CEO, that he wanted to help and handed him an envelope.  In front of everyone, Larry opened the envelope and inside were two lottery tickets.  My dad said with any luck they would win and it would pay for the whole thing.

Larry and the leadership looked at each other uncomfortably and laughed awkwardly, clearly unsure about what was happening.

My dad then told them that of course we would make the gift.  Once my dad did that, it was a few weeks before another family made a matching $20 million gift.  They were off and running.  To a man, everyone at Rush will tell you the tower could not have been built if my dad had not made the initial gift.”

The Boler family has probably donated as much (if not more) to Notre Dame and much of it anonymously (yes, I just went Ted Danson on “Curb…”, but I’m outing him; he didn’t out himself). John Boler, by the way, grew up without a father and literally slept in a closet. He was entirely a self-made man. When his son, my friend Matt, celebrated his 50th birthday this summer, a massive affair, he hired a band based on the fact that the band would be giving all the profits from the gig to military veterans. That’s pretty in line with the people I’ve come to know from Notre Dame.

Anyone who works in or covers college football knows Tim Bourret, a good friend of mine and the associate athletic director at Clemson. Tim is a Notre Dame alum who has all the traits of Domers that I love: he’s smart but not arrogant; decent but not pious; helpful and kind but not saccharine; honest and trustworthy and quick to laugh. Tim’s just a good egg. He’s the ideal Notre Dame person and he’s the typical Notre Dame person, too (Note: I’m probably the biggest asshole that Notre Dame has produced, at least in terms of people you may have heard of).

Notre Dame isn’t perfect nor has it ever claimed to be. But it does strive to be good and true to its ideals, inside and outside the football program. Players start out inside the dorms and live amongst their fellow students and many continue to do so all four years (one notable exception was Jimmy Clausen, whom Charlie provided special dispensation for, which is a reason Clausen never quite got Notre Dame…even though he’s seemingly now figured out a way to make that association work for him at NBC).

There is obviously a tension, one that also exists at places such as Stanford and Northwestern, when your student body all finished in the Top 3% of their high school classes academically (probably higher now) and your football team is populated with students who finished in the top 1% of the nation on the gridiron. The average Notre Dame student is as ill-equipped to score a touchdown versus Virginia Tech as one of its football players is to get an “A” in general chemistry.

And so, of course, most do not take general chemistry, but most do the work and most give an honest effort. I don’t know for sure. I’m certain that institutionally, from the adults who run the place, that there is no institutional corruption taking place. There is tremendous pressure to succeed at Notre Dame (and many other schools, yes) and young people succumb to taking short cuts. What I have seen is that when they do, and when Notre Dame finds out about it, they punish them and then welcome them back after they have sat out a semester. From Julius Jones to Everett Golson, both of whom sat out an entire year and then returned (and there are others), this is the case.

Almost always, these players (as well as students who are not athletes) return. They want to be at Notre Dame.

I was a varsity athlete at Notre Dame. I rowed crew. We had 5 a.m. practices. One late winter morning I hit the alarm at 4:4o a.m, as usual, and opened my door in Room 335 in Dillon. Staring back at me was an avalanche of laundry bags (at the time the guys had our laundry done for us, a late vestige of overt sexism). A few friends, paying me back for a prank I had pulled, had spent part of the wee hours going down to the basement and then toting giant sacks of laundry back to the third floor so as to create a mountain, stretching floor to above my door, of laundry sacks. They’d then taken a photo of themselves leaning proudly against their mountain. Somehow I eventually dug myself out. And then I began thinking about payback. That’s how we made it through winter, in that interminable span between the end of autumn and the start of Bookstore Basketball.

Every year John Heisler, the associate athletic director at Notre Dame, puts together a book called “Strong of Heart.” Each edition has profiles of Notre Dame alums or former employees who had some connection to the athletic department. And every year I do one or two profiles of them and am humbled not so much by the accomplishments of the people, but by the strength of their character.

Thom Gatewood. This was back when Notre Dame did not lose to Northwestern. No. 27 is Rick Telander, who would go on to write some of the best Notre Dame-related stories in Sports Illustrated that the mag ever ran.

Thom Gatewood. This was back when Notre Dame did not lose to Northwestern. No. 27 is Rick Telander, who would go on to write some of the best Notre Dame-related stories in Sports Illustrated that the mag ever ran.

This fall I did a profile of Thom Gatewood, the first true African-American superstar at Notre Dame (after Alan Page, but Tom played offense). Tom held the Notre Dame career receptions record for Notre Dame from 1971 until 2006, but he never bragged about it. When Tom was going to be a senior at Notre Dame, he asked a white student in his dorm who was not an athlete to be his roommate. This was in 1971. Not typical. The two men are still close friends to this day.

When Thom was dating his future wife, Susan, he never told her that he had played football. Or that he had played at Notre Dame. Or that he had been an All-American. She had to drag it out of him after a month or so of dating, basically playing 20 Questions with him. Thom, whose dad was a construction worker and mom a homemaker, was a black kid from a tough neighborhood in Baltimore who spent all eight semesters at Notre Dame on the Dean’s List. He was recruited by every major school in the country (O.J. was his host at USC and Bo Schembechler promised him “I’ll change my offense for you”) but he chose Notre Dame because, as he says, “Ara Parseghian didn’t promise me anything.”

These days, still in fantastic shape, Thom gives tennis lessons to the children in the community where he lives, many of them the kids of Asian or Turkish immigrants. None of them know that he was once Joe Theismann’s favorite target, or that he appeared on TV with Bob Hope as an All-American, or that he was recently voted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That’s not Thom’s style.

Anyway, this has been quite the rambling and somewhat incoherent essay (apologies to my Freshman Comp & Lit prof). Suffice it to say that as long as Notre Dame exists and attempts to play big-time football, there will be a certain amount of tension in trying to both uphold the school’s academic and ethical values and, you know, not sucking. Not losing to Duke and Navy in the same season. But those of us who went there, just about every last person, know this: If Notre Dame is even the least bit a great institution, that is because at its core it is a good place. Of this I am certain.