According to a study by the London Zoological Society, world populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined an average of 52% in the past 40 years. That’s pretty much the most depressing news I’ll hear all year.
Ebola isn’t the world’s deadliest virus. Man is. Honestly, I’m rooting for Ebola. And for animals. They do a much better job of taking care of the planet than we do.
And if you want to see a vivid example of how our excesses are screwing over the better inhabitants of this world, look at what walruses are dealing with in Alaska. I’m sorry, but Rust Cohle was right.
More animals, less people. It’s a recipe for success.
*Honestly, I did not mean that as an Oakland A’s reference, but if the trunk fits…(Thanks, Okerland)
2. He’s Quite a Muslim
The misleading CNN.com headline reads “Maher Slammed for Comments,” but I’ve come to expect very little in the way of insight or intelligence from the one-time leader in cable news. To CNN’s credit, though, it provided professor Reza Aslan a forum to set the record straight on the difference between “Muslim countries” and “radical Muslims.”
Watch and learn, kids. Aslan does not dig in his heels, does not devolve into demagoguery. He level-headedly explains the facts and even concedes points to CNN’s two anchors when they are correct. What he does endeavor to do, oh so patiently, is to teach them to understand context.
I get that Aslan “took down” Maher’s comments. But even more so, he schooled Don Lemon and his female co-host. The woman, whose name I don’t know, consistently fails to get his point that there are a lot more mostly Muslim nations than just Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran and that to describe all of them as extremist is, as he says, “and I mean this very seriously, stupid.” Which is when, ha ha, CNN cuts off the interview.
3. Royal Succession
K.C. outlasts Oakland in a game that began in September and ended in October. Twelve innings, 17 runs, and unofficially, 34 bunts. The Royals rebounded from a four-run deficit in the 8th inning while Salvador Perez, who appeared to take his at-bats blind-folded in the 8th and 10th innings, wound up driving in the game-winning run.
The A’s wind up going 22-34 since the Yoenis Cespedes trade, a .392 win percentage. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who finished with baseball’s worst record over the entire season, had a .395 win percentage.
Bad timing in Japan, as Mount Ontake erupts for the first time in 35 years and kills at least 48 hikers. Paul Myerberg of USA Todaywill later note that Notre Dame had won a national championship more recently than Ontake had last erupted.
5. Presidential Protectors
A brazen plan. The element of surprise. Commitment to the task. If you don’t believe a bunch of yahoos can assassinate a head of state in seemingly the most secure of places, allow me to introduce you to the death of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.
So, truly, you and I should be pissed about what occurred at the White House. I imagine POTUS opened a full can of whupass on the Secret Service and I wonder if a few of them have not been reassigned to guarding Jimmy Carter’s bunions. And I know ISIS has to be pissed: They’re thinking to themselves, We could have stormed the White House and beheaded the president of the United States and filmed it.
They honestly could have gotten away with it. The Secret Service actually owes Omar Gonzalez a huge debt of gratitude.
Meanwhile, I’m sure this clip replayed in President Obama’s mind a few times since the incident. It’s not as if he hasn’t noted it before.
Meanwhile, Michelle and the kids were spotted at Home Depot earlier today buying locks and an electronic alarm system. That should help. Also, isn’t Craig Robinson free these days? He’d make a good family member to have around.
October is the crazy aunt of the calendar family–she dresses in wildly colorful outfits that look amazing even when they’ve turned to tatters, is drunk by noon, asleep by five and lives on apples and candy.
By the end of her visit you’re sick to death of her and never want to see another popcorn ball, but damn if eleven months later you’re not totally looking forward to seeing her again.
This month my posts will be chock full of mischief, spooky stories and tales of Octobers past. That is my promise to you.
1. Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle
Because regular peanut brittle isn’t good enough, right?
I have to back up a little. You know how some people keep glass bowls of candy around their houses or jars of jelly beans on their desks? I am not one of those people, because if I were, I’d weigh 900 pounds and be broke from always having to re-buy the candy to re-fill the bowls and jars, which would be extra problematic since I am already broke from having chosen to be an artist instead of a dental assistant or some other, more financially reliable, thing.
You: My cousin is an artist and he makes six figures a year.
Me: While I have no doubt your cousin is a much better artist than I am, I also have no doubt that he is a total liar.
My point is, I really love sugar. I could stare at a bag of potato chips for a week and all that would happen is the bag of potato chips would be a week older and feel really awkward, but if I come face to face with a cookie or a box of Mike and Ike, ain’t nobody comin’ out a winner in that battle.
My parents keep candy around the house. They never eat it–they’re admirably fit and healthy, always have been, but a few years ago they were both told they had mild diabetes (is that a thing? I don’t know, but they were told to control it with diet) and they basically quit eating everything but cherry tomatoes and bran flakes.
But they buy giant bags of chocolatey treats from Sam’s Club and leave them in plain sight in the back of their kitchen cupboards behind the garbanzo beans, presumably to torture me and make me feel bad about myself.
The latest perpetrator is this stuff:
Dear God. It is so good…there are no words. And a perfect segue to my number two…
Ha ha! A hilarious and long-held truism–sweatpants are for lonely losers who want to drown their self-esteem in a bag of chocolate-covered peanut brittle, right?
Not so fast. I’m seeing these all over this fall:
And I approve. Dress ‘em up, dress ‘em down, shower, don’t shower, all I know is, bring on the brittle.
3. Dumb George Clooney And His Dumpy New Wife
That wasn’t me saying that, I would never say that.
It was Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock, and they said it in super jealous voices. I mean I think…why else would they have skipped the big wedding? No other explanation is possible! Some people.
I did not spend a shamefully long time on Monday looking at pictures of the wedding and all the accompanying parties. I didn’t Google who made that short, flowery dress the bride wore afterward because I did NOT think it was fantastic. I have better things to do, thank you very much.
I bet she never wears sweatpants as real pants.
4. Gone Girl, The Movie
Opens Friday, and I’ll be first in line. I’m not sure what I’ll be first in line for, but the movie still opens Friday.
No, I really do want to see this, like everyone I thought the book was great, so great I ran right out and bought Gillian Flynn’s first two books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects. Loved them both. Well, “loved” is not the right word–both way too dark and disturbing to “love”, I’m not Jeffrey Dahmer for God’s sake, despite that crack I made about the new Mrs. Clooney’s unfortunate cankles. Wait, I didn’t make that crack–but I bet Angelina Jolie did.
Damn Clooney, out-wifing Brad Pitt like that.
You know why I love following the lives of the beautiful people? So I don’t have to think about headlines like this one:
5. Dallas hospital diagnoses first patient with Ebola
Uh, no. That will not be number five. When I said I would fill my posts with stories of terror and mayhem this month, I meant more “Hey look we’re all having fun around the campfire”, not this.
Number five is my new kitten, asleep in the chair next to me, not a care in the world. Isn’t that so much better?
The Open Door Policywas a great idea–in 1899. But I doubt this is what Secretary of State John Hay (“Hey!”) intended. We’re all thinking the same thing, no? If ISIS hears about this –and surely they have–they think to themselves, “Why are we bothering with journalists when we can take out the biggest prize out there?”
Just three miles southeast of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington Nationals rookie left fielder Steven Souza on Sunday demonstrated that at least someone in the nation’s capitol is deft at patrolling his patch of grass.
Souza extended all six-foot-four inches of his frame to rob Christian Yelich of the Florida Marlins of an extra-base hit on Sunday. As you know, that was the 27th out of the game, a game in which National starter Jordan Zimmerman had yet to allow a hit. So on the final day of the season Souza’s catch served as the final out of the Marlins’ season as well as preserving Zimmernan’s no-no.
It was also the second consecutive year in which the Marlins were no-hit in Game 162. This is a team that packs its bags early.
3. My Two Jons (Johns)
If only for the title of the segment, “Chatty Chatty Bomb Bomb” the Daily Show deserves props for last night’s evisceration of U.S. legislative debate as compared to that of our former parent country, England. Yep, it’s sad. We broke away from them but they definitely have the edge on us in terms of how to run a democracy.
As Jon Stewart notes, Congressman Jack Kingston explains why our legislators are afraid to debate the “To Bomb or Not to Bomb Isis:”
”A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. ”It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
Oh, as Stewart notes, that’s FORMER Congressman Jack Kingston. He only spoke candidly after losing his primary.
Meanwhile, I love this Daily Beast piece on Last Week Tonight. Why? Because the writers says, “I call bullshit” on John Oliver’s protestations that he and his staff are not doing journalism. You know what Oliver is doing here. If he admits to his staff’s actual agenda –to make the world a better place through informing us –then he loses the coveted role of clown. By maintaining that they’re just doing comedy, they avoid all the trappings of having to be a respectable news agency. Brilliant of Oliver and his staff. And good of the author of the piece, Asawin Suebsaeng, for seeing through it.
Again, the question must be asked: Why are the most trenchant news pieces of this generation taking place on Comedy Central and HBO?
4. Red Shoelace Diaries
A casserole of leftovers from Saturday’s college football events:
From College GameDay in Columbia, S.C. It begins with Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier uttering words that every coach in the sport whose team has at least one loss (and isn’t in the SEC West) should memorize: “We’re still in the hunt…for whatever we’re in the hunt for.”
Also from GameDay, it was not the former Ohio State QB but rather the former Michigan Heisman winner, Desmond Howard, as well as host Chris Fowler (Colorado) who threw shade –kids, am I using this correctly?–on Michigan. Des: ““I didn’t see one guy (at Michigan) on the field at practice who wanted to be great.” Chris: “Other than blocking & tackling & turnovers & penalties, Michigan’s looking pretty good.”
Michigan quarterback Shane Morris saw stars after that hit against Minnesota. Wolverine officials evaluating him on the sideline originally thought he saw five stars, but later assessed it as closer to two or three stars.
(and, yes, I recycle my Twitter jokes here; but I prefer to think of it as Twitter being my notebook for yuks).
The Medium Happy 8: 1) Alabama 2) Texas A&M 3) Oklahoma 4) Florida State 5) Oregon 6) Auburn 7) Baylor 8) UCLA
5. “That’s How It Ends…”
Washington State coach Mike Leach is an easy mark for pundits because he is not afraid to be different. That’s one reason that, for the most part, I love him. He got mocked for saying this yesterday, but most of what’s below makes perfect sense to me. Especially since I spent much of Sunday night and Monday morning in crowded airports where people spent far more time looking at their screens than interacting with one another.
“I’m not really good with technology. All this button pushing and whatnot. I mean, you can just imagine based on what’s happened in the last 15 years. Conversations won’t happen 10 years from now. There aren’t going to be people to talk to, it’s going to be this (mimics pushing buttons). ‘Do you want to go out on a date with me?’ ‘I don’t know, what do you look like?’ ‘Well I look kind of like this.’ ‘OK, what are your interests?’ ‘Well, what do you think my interests are? Looking to this thing and typing into this just like yours are.’ ‘Yeah, no kidding, that’s what everybody’s doing.’ ‘Well, where do you want to go?’ ‘Well, what difference does it make? Because all we’re going to be doing is looking into machines anyways.’ Well, that’s true and in the end, it’s going to tough to perpetuate the species. There’s no question about that. So we’re all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That’s how it ends.”
Looking forward to the new parlor game, though: “Rust Cohle or Mike Leach?”
We Need To Talk
CBS Sports Net 10 p.m.
At least at the national level, CBS attempts to become the first to launch an all-female talk show centering on sports issues. You’d be a rube not to like the concept. I’m not totally on board with the idea of 12 rotating female panelists, but let’s give it a shot. The Distaff Dozen are:
There’s a small coterie among this bunch who are longtime friends and drinking buddies (with one another, no with me). And I can tell you true that the conversations they’ve had at NYC holes of watering have been and would be far more candid than you’ll probably hear here. I get that. There’s also a member of this panel who once forced her publicist to lie to my editor about her having no only taken part in a national popularity contest involving her attractiveness, but having sent in a better photo of herself (while telling journalists the entire time how denigrating to women it was for such a contest to exist). By the time I had air-tight proof of the subterfuge it was too late and I was in trouble with my bosses. I have no respect for that woman, to be honest with you.
The first pitch from Clay Buchholz was low and outside. Derek Jeter stared it through the strike zone, bending over as if to examine its course more intently. It looked like a ball, but the umpire signaled strike.
It was a meaningless early autumn game between two franchises unaccustomed to playing meaningless early autumn games. Particularly versus one another. The sky was cerulean blue, not a cloud to be seen. TBS was airing the game, even though at least five other Major League games had playoff implications on Sunday. Ernie Johnson had the call while another legend at the position, Cal Ripken, Jr., was his partner in the booth. Fenway Park on this day borrowed the moniker normally attributed to that other park opened in the ‘teens of a former century, “the friendly confines.” Not only was there a complete dearth of hostility, there was a climate of love.
The sky was abnormally brilliant on this afternoon. It felt a little like the day another Yankee shortstop made history here.
The second pitch was a ball. Ichiro Suzuki, who himself will end up in Cooperstown some day, too, stood on third base, having just tripled in a pair of runs to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Ichiro batted lead off and Jeter second on Saturday and Sunday, a tribute, it seemed, from manager Joe Girardi, to the two future Hall of Famers in these games.
The Fenway faithful, so conditioned to chant “Yankees suck!” at the sign of those interlocking NY ball caps, instead chanted “De-REK Je-TER!” Forty-six years ago on this day, in this ballpark, another Yankee with a single digit uniform retired: Mickey Mantle. The Mick was only 36 in 1968, but his body was broken. He batted .237 that season and played first base. Can you imagine how Twitter would have savaged him? Mantle had wanted to retire after 1967, but the Yankees lured him back with an offer of $100,000. Derek Jeter earned 120 times that in 2014.
Not unlike Mantle, Jeter’s status owes as much to his aura and legend as to the actual numbers. You think Jeter is overrated? The Mick had 1,000 fewer hits and a .298 batting average (Jeter finished at 3,465 hits and .310). Of course, Mantle hit for more power and, when healthy, was a fantastic center fielder. He had more talent than Jeter. But he squandered a lot more talent with a robust appetite for nightlife. Mantle was a swinger in every sense of the word.
The litany has long been Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle. You can argue all you want that there were better Yankees than Jeter besides those four, but only his name will join theirs. Teammate Mariano Rivera was the greatest closer of all time, pure class and a deservedly beloved player (unlike Jeter, he actually gave reporters anecdotes). Some people will invoke Mo’s name, too, but more out of a sense of obligation to the numbers. Jeter’s name will come quicker. He is the fifth Yankee immortal.
The third pitch from Buchholz was sliced foul, a sharp liner into the seats beyond first base. Someone earned a nice souvenir. Now Jeter was behind 1-2 here in the fifth inning. He was 0 for 2 on the day.
How strange to witness a Yankee-Red Sox game from Fenway that did not feel like a heart attack, but rather a coronation. Game 4 of the ALCS, October 17, 2004. One day earlier the Yanks had won 19-8 in Fenway to take a 3-0 series lead. When I boarded a plane in Phoenix on Sunday evening the Yankees held a 2-0 lead in Game 4.
Four-plus hours later I landed at Newark and hoped to get word that the Bronx Bombers had ousted the Sawx. Instead, the game was still in progress in the 12th inning. David Ortiz ended it shortly thereafter. That series, and the 2001 World Series versus the Diamondbacks, which featured three clunker games and three classics (one of them auguring the Mr. November nickname as Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the first World Series game to be stretched into the 11th month), are the two that I’ll remember best from the Jeter era. Even though both ended in failure.
The fourth pitch was a fastball. Jeter smashed it directly into the dirt. The ball took an insanely high hop –a Baltimore chop as Baltimore’s most legendary infielder looked on from the TBS booth–and if you were watching, you just smiled.
Of course The Captain will get an infield base hit on his final day as a Major Leaguer. Only one man in the game’s history has more recorded infield hits than Jeter and that man was chugging from third to home on contact. The Red Sox third baseman, whose name I’d never heard before, attempted to bare hand it but failed to grasp it. Base hit. RBI.
Inside the dugout, manager Joe Girardi tried to get Jeter’s attention. He ran his hand across his neck a few times, gesturing to Jeter if he wanted to come out. He did. The crowd, already standing, roared louder. Jeter’s mother, wearing sunglasses, wiped away tears. No. 2 smiled broadly as he jogged off the field, hugging teammates and doffing his cap. If the years have not been kind to his hairline, they have been to everything else. He looks and runs much the same as he did as a 22 year-old rookie. The smile is as effervescent; not at all jaded. To quote Billy Crystal’s fine ESPN tribute, “This is a ballplayer.”
“Maybe all I know about Paul is that he was a fine fisherman,” Norman MacLean tells his father about his brother after his departure in A River Runs Through It. “You know more than that,” the father replies. “He was beautiful.”
This is true. Derek Jeter loved being a Yankee the way Paul MacLean loved being a fly fisherman in Montana. He had the great good fortune of doing exactly what he’d always wanted to do in life and even better, he never once took it for granted.
Those of us who have lived in New York City, who have followed his career, all of us are older this morning. And not just by a day.
(By the way, one of my very favoritest writers of them all, fellow Valley of the Sun high school grad JR Moehringer, penned a magnificent elegy to Jeter on ESPN.com. Give yourself a little time to read it…and subconsciously, I guess that’s where I pilfered this hed)
2. Tear Down THIS Wall!
See, Berlin used to have a wall. And marathoners are known to hit a wall. But yesterday at the Berlin Marathon Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto crashed through a wall by becoming the first human to go under 2:03 in a marathon. Kimetto’s world-record time of 2:02:57. He broke the world record, set in this same race last year, by 26 seconds. It may be time to start thinking that someone will go below 2:00 this century. Which is insane.
Kimetto also earned a free T-shirt and got to choose whatever bagel he wanted at the post-race refreshments table.
3. Football In One Easy Sentence
This weekend’s football wrap-up: Arkansas faked a punt from just beyond midfield at Cowboys Stadium, it fooled everyone and went for a touchdown, while New Orleans faked a punt from just beyond midfield at Cowboys Stadium, it fooled no one, and the Saints surrendered the swine bladder on downs. Both teams lost.
p.s. This was the most successful fake punt of the month by a school with Arkansas in its name, but not the most creative.
4. For the Love of Pete
I missed it, but Saturday Night Live launched its 40th season on (well, you can guess the day) and the breakout star was a kid who is literally only half the show’s age. None of SNL’s male rookies of a year ago made an impact, but Pete Davidson only 20, showed up with an extra carton of swagger in his lunch box. It was his first show, but the kid won the audience over right away.
Hey, Pete Davidson just looks funny. And he is funny. And he enjoys being funny. It’s amazing how few cast members on SNL have gotten this over the years.
As loyal reader An Inconvenient Ruth noted, George Clooney, 53, got married this weekend “to a barrister, not a barista,” Amal Alamuddin. Though it was even money up until he said, “I do.”
Medium Happy was invited to the nuptials, but had to send its regrets with a request to “Invite us to the next one.”
Hopefully, George is not a “silly man” who “loves trains” and never finds himself in a scene like this. Particularly because the party of the second part is already a lawyer. That’s from Intolerable Cruelty, a tiny gem of a Coen Brothers movie from 2003 (and, by the way, why was Richard Gilmore stepping out on Emily?)
“Objection, your honor, he’s strangling the witness!”
The Captain, No. 2, Derek Jeter, has 3,463 career hits, seven of which have been walk-off hits. That figures to about 0.02%, so of course one of the seven is his final hit in Yankee Stadium.
Jeter has 260 home runs, or about 7% of his hits have been home runs. So it figures that his landmark 3,000th hit was a homer. You link enough unlikely occurrences together and connect them to one person and, well, that’s how legends are constructed.
A cottage industry evaluating Jeter’s legacy has sprung up of late. There was a time when fans and writers would simply think, “Oh, the guy is No. 6 all-time in Hits, has five rings and was never an asshole over two decades.” But apparently that’s not enough now.
I used to work with some outstanding and highly intelligent waiters at the Steakateria, the best of whom, Peter IhaveareallylongItaliansurname-o, used to love to pigeonhole me to remind me how overrated and selfish (“Why is he still playing shortstop with A-Rod there?”) Jeter is, and I don’t quite have a comeback to that. Here’s the reasons I, and a lot of fans, I surmise, love The Captain:
1) One career, one team: Nobody ever says, “He’s the greatest husband; he’s been married four times!”
2) Bearing: Humble, professional, respectful of the game and fellow players. It’s why even dudes don’t begrudge him the assembly line of actress/pop diva/supermodel conquests. By the way, 24 year-old Taylor Swift is a Manhattainite now. I’m just sayin’…
3) Longevity: He never had a better season than anyone in the American League (except for 2006) and you might even argue that the other dude who had a walk-off hit last night, Adrian Beltre, is a more talented baseball player. But do it for 20 years. That ain’t easy. Being consistently terrific for two decades? That in itself is greatness. And when people refute that, I wonder, Wait, so what was so special about Cal Ripken then? I mean, his lifetime average is 33 points (.276) lower than Jeter’s. Isn’t the streak at least 50% of his aura? That’s longevity.
4) Achievement: You know what? He was actually pretty decent. And no one with any sense has ever considered him the greatest player of all time or the most talented player to wear pinstripes. But he was, in the words of another former New Yorker, “Prit-tee, prit-tee good.”
5) A Sense of the Moment: Real humans don’t fall in love with stats. We fall in love with moments and stories. Jeter was a prince when it came to that. And while I cannot find a Bill James statistical metric to back up my point, I watched a ton of Yankee games before and after Jeter arrived. His presence, his insistence on doing things professionally and with respect for the game, rubbed off on everyone who played with him. And that made the Yankees better. I’ve seen enough to know that this is not myth. And the naysayers will learn this in the coming seasons.
*I really enjoyed Jeff Passan’scolumn on last night’s game, by the way.
**There was a moment when the score was tied 2-2 in the 2nd inning with a 2-2 count and 2 outs. It’s a coincidence, but it’s cool.
*** And, okay, maybe Baltimore’s second baseman was playing out of position. And I would have loved it if Buck Showalter, Jeter’s first Yankee manager, had called for an intentional walk with first base open. It would have been the biggest troll move in baseball history.
2. Tackling Dummies
I didn’t watch too much of the UCLA-Arizona State game last night –I was too busy jumping up and down on my hotel bed in my underwear doing “Derek Jeter!” chants– but every time I tuned in, it looked as if I was watching a colorized version of Horse Feathers.Wow, that was some bad tackling, Sun Devils.
*p.s. An Arizona coach with four letters in his first name and six in his last, the first one “G.” was fired today. But it was Kirk Gibson.
3. Remington Steel Magnolia State
Someone, or some two, from the SEC West, will partake in the inaugural CFB playoff. Will anyone from among them, most notably Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M or Mississippi State, go undefeated? I seriously doubt it, but they won’t have to.
The king of the SEC West is almost certainly headed to the CFB playoff. So is the runner-up. I wouldn’t even want to rank these four right now, but I’d put Alabama and A&M as my favorites. The fun begins next week No. 3 Alabama at No. 10 Ole Miss (both undefeated), No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 14 Mississippi State (also both undefeated) and No. 17 LSU at No. 5 Auburn.
The Bulldogs host the Aggies at noon in Starkville, while the Rebels will most likely host the Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. in Oxford. It’s about a two-hour drive to cover the 98 miles. Expect some enterprising reporter(s) to attempt a two-fer.
Update: I’m told the latter game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. EST. So, oops.
4. Groundhog Die
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio may be a good guy — I have no feel for him yet–but he does seem to be charismatically challenged. In a moment straight outta “Veep,” de Blasio dropped a prized groundhog and it later died. I found out about it by reading Ryantology.
Why was de Blasio hoisting a groundhog yesterday? He wasn’t. This happened last February 2 and the groundhog , in Staten Island, died a week later but we’re all just hearing about it now. Not a good year for innocent creatures in Staten Island who are handled roughly by New York City employees.
5. Fortt Knocks
Quick, name every African-American studio anchor on a cable business network. Yeah, me neither (okay, if you cannot name a single studio anchor on a cable business network, you may want to skip this). Today I watched as CNBC’s Jon Fortt, who is black and is ordinarily their Silicon Valley-based tech reporter, co-hosted what I believe was their 10 a.m . show (Something with “Squawk” in the title, maybe?).
Anyway, I think Fortt has found a home. Very good-looking guy, smart, and it’s not as if there are a glut of African-Americans in these positions. Plus, he knows Apple, and CNBC spends at least 25% of every morning discussing Apple.
Fortt is a DePauw (the one in Indiana) alum. Here’s hoping for bigger things for him.
Rory McIlroy was asked what he would be if he weren’t a professional golfer and replied, “A virgin.” You can’t beat that.
I remember the opening Opening Day of Derek Jeter’s career. Both the New York Mess and New York Yankees were breaking in rookie shortstops. It was April Fool’s Day, 1996. The local tabloids wondered aloud which shortstop had the brighter future. Ordonez finished with only about 2,800 fewer hits.
Of course, this was the week that Derek Jeter took all the hits, from people who’ve long pined to remind us that, statistically and as a fielder, Jeter is unworthy of our adulation. I mean, he’s no Red Ruffing. I’m done with listening to that. Every once in awhile a professional athlete comes along who defies X- and Y- axes and quantification. Larry Bird, for example. Herschel Walker, as a collegian. They are larger than life figures who are more than the sum of their parts.
The thing about Keith Olbermann’s rant on Tuesday isn’t that there weren’t a few kernels of truth. There were–a few. The thing is that Derek Jeter has never been a charlatan (like A-Rod). He has never shrunk from the greatest moments, and he has never been petulant or difficult, either with the media or with teammates. And, you know, No. 6 all-time in Hits despite playing at least three to five seasons fewer than any player ahead of him.
The vitriol of Olbermann’s rant, in light of when it occurred and in light of the fact that Jeter has never done anything but behave as the consummate professional, well, in the 6:47 of air time that Olbermann spoke, I actually learned a lot more about Keith Olbermann than I did about Derek Jeter. And I feel sorry for him.
By the way, if Keith holds according to form, he’ll come back with an essay about how all of us overreacted to the essay and that he was just pointing out relevant numbers, you know, kind of like reminding the mourners watching JFK’s funeral cortege passing by that John F. enjoyed an extra-marital dalliance or two. No, Keith. you have to own this. In the final week of the career of an unforgettable player who nobody (besides Jorge) ever said was the greatest of all time but who always approached the job the way you’d teach your kids to do, you needed to scold us for, in your opinion, elevating his legacy. What an incredibly small act on your part.
I’m going to enjoy the next couple of days, watching the final games of Jeter’s career, because I understand that in terms of charisma and professionalism and yes, talent, players such as he come along once a generation at best. For New Yorkers, Jeter is the ’73 Knicks or Joe Willie Namath. He’s a legend. And he’s earned that status.
2. The Daily Harrumph: Simmons Sez
ESPN suspends its most multi-platformed star, Bill Simmons, three weeks for this rant. It would’ve been more if Norby had seen the tape.
So, of course, Twitter came to The Sports Guy’s defense. I think this is because Twitter is disproportionately inhabited by people who will always take the little guy’s side against the establishment’s side, probably because most authority types don’t have the time to waste on Twitter (as I do).
I don’t think Simmons should have been suspended for three weeks, but I completely , agree with Norby’s decision to suspend him. Forget for a moment ESPN’s billion-dollars deal with the NFL. Granted, that probably played a role.
But the facts here are simple: 1) An ESPN personality came right out and called the commissioner of the NFL a liar, without any type of hedging. 2) He used profanity. 3) He dared his bosses to come and get him.
I’ve been thinking a lot about both sides of this issue and here’s the way I see it: Simmons exists on a number of levels at ESPN. He’s both about to be the host of his own TV show, but he’s also still the guy who does podcasts with Cousin Sal and J-Bug. The problem is, once you’re the guy on TV, you’re the guy on TV. It’s not as if you can adjust your attitude and your approach to your wardrobe. Rather, it’s highest-common denominator.
Simmons has moved in to a new neighborhood. Maybe he used to enjoy putting the kiddie pool in the front yard and blasting Kid Rock as he washed his car in the driveway, but you can’t do that any more in this neighborhood.
A year and a half ago, Simmons had what I thought was his finest moment in television when he basically called Doc Rivers a liar. Nobody suspended him. You know why? First, because he was right. Second, because he didn’t puff out his chest and dare anyone to tell him he’s not allowed to express his opinion.
Charles Barkley says a lot of off-the-cuff stuff on television. But I don’t recall Chuck ever daring his bosses to punish him for his outrageous comments. Sure, Simmons said of Goodell, “He’s a liar,” but I imagine Norby was even more peeved when Simmons said, “Leave me alone.”
Well, Norby did not.
All that’s left is to see if Simmons, whom I’ve always been a fan of, is a man of his word. “If one person says (you’re in touble),” Simmons threatened, “I’m going public.”
Well, Bill, at least one person did. It’s your move. But I imagine the Sports Gal isn’t too happy with you right now, either. So you’re probably going to keep it zipped. We’ll see.
We’re getting a cat, that’s what. As in tomorrow. Tomorrow is cat day.
Baby Toonces was born ten weeks ago tomorrow, at which point she will be old enough to leave her mother’s teet and come stink up my house.
We’ve never had a pet, which is weird when you consider my childhood household always had them, but not weird at all when you consider that I am a neat freak and cleaning up after an animal is not on my list of things that sound like fun.
I straight up hate dogs. Hate ‘em. OK I don’t hate hate them, I just don’t ever want one.
Well, I kind of wanted one once; we actually went through the process of getting approved to adopt a rescue dog a few years ago–and when we got the call that they did indeed have a pooch for us, I excitedly sat the children down and showed them his picture.
They looked at the picture and after a beat, my daughter, who was about 8 at the time, said, “Well, I am not going out at five in the morning to pick up his poop.”
My son said, “I think it was just a phase,” and went back to his homework.
I take comfort knowing that that dog is living in a house somewhere where his family is OK with picking up his poop at five in the morning.
Like I said, my family had loads of pets growing up–but there weren’t so many rules then. Take the dog for a walk? Never! The dogs came and went as they pleased, the cats even more so. Heck, the cats came back knocked-up half the time, ain’t no big thang. It was the seventies–the neighbor lady never wore a bra, my favorite food was Spaghettio hotdish and the dog pooped with impunity.
I’ve always liked cats. Cats and I understand each other. The problem is, I’m allergic.
I wasn’t always–I’ll tell you a story now, but I’ll give you a minute to get a hankie, because it’s a weeper.
N’kay, you ready? So when I was about 10, this cute little kitten started skulking around my yard. She wouldn’t leave, maybe because I kept feeding her, but I think it was because she was destined for me. Sometimes I’d open the back door and she’d run into the house and my dad would yell something about who let that G-D stray cat into the G-D house, and a chaotic scene right out of Cheaper by the Dozen would ensue.
Finally winter came, my mom told me to bring the cat in, and that was that. We never called her anything but Kitty. She was the best. When I was fifteen, she had kittens in my bedroom closet, all over my new Girbaud jeans–those bad boys cost 2 months movie theater salary, y’all, that’s how much I loved that cat.
I woke up one day a few years later, and I couldn’t touch her without sneezing violently and having my eyes puff shut and my throat itch.
I had to kick her off my bed, out of my room, and– I believe she thought–out of my heart. She started sleeping on a pile of fiberglass insulation in the basement and developed huge tumors on her stomach.
We couldn’t keep her off those things, it was weird.
I tried to reassure her nothing had changed between us and she still came running whenever I came home and called her non-name, but you can’t tell me that cat didn’t notice that I couldn’t even pet her anymore.
Are you beside yourself with grief? I know! It’s a terrible story.
So, um…what do you guys want to talk about now?
Ha ha, I had you going there, admit it.
No, the cat story is 100% true, I won’t sleep a wink tonight for all the heartbreaking memories. I mean you thought I didn’t know I was in charge of coming up with a
and it got super awkward for a second. Can we consider that whole big cat story number 1? Great. Moving on…
2. The Fall TV Season
It’s finally starting! Hooray. It’s no longer light out after dinner, after tonight I’ll be all caught up with Parenthoodand watching Chopped on demand is making me fat since I can’t get through an episode without making a BLT. I need some good old-fashioned commercial television, at least for two weeks until I realize all the new shows are terrible and I go back to watching documentaries about Ramen noodles.
3. She’s Not Afraid of the “F” Word
First that radical pixie cut a few years ago, now this. Girl, I don’t care that your accent in The Bling Ring was crap, you rock.
In case you didn’t hear, ol’ girl got up in front of the U.N. on Sunday and gave a kick-ass speech about the importance of being a feminist, that’s right, a feminist–which has become a bit of a dirty word amongst young female celebrities of late.
It’s not the notion of feminism they don’t like, it’s the word. Too may images of saggy boobs, sour mugs and bad hair days. I get it. But note to young women: Being a feminist doesn’t make you a ball-busting, dried-up old man- hater. It makes you sane. Go ahead and embrace Wendy Wasserstein’s adage that “You’re not a feminist, you’re a humanist”–but next time you get your lady bits sewn shut or you’re forced to live in the barn for a week because you’re unclean, tell me you’re not a feminist.
Less than 100 years ago I couldn’t vote. True, I wasn’t born yet– but also because I am a chick. That’s right, a chick–a word I use proudly because I can if I want to. We’ve come a long way, baby!
Now I don’t vote because I don’t want jury duty.
4. Netflix Shame
OK, as I’m writing this, I’m finishing up with season five of Parenthood, which I touched on earlier in this post and last week. All of a sudden, the show stops and a sign pops up on the screen that asks, “Are you still watching Parenthood?”
Uh, yeah I am, what’s it to you Netflix? Like you spend all your free time raising money for homeless chimps. Jeez.
5. This Ad I Found On Craigslist
seeking a non pro female photographer for nude male pics (nw)
I’m a shy chubby guy that’s trying to break out of my shell. I’d like to find a woman willing to take nude photos of me. I’m very self conscious of how I look so someone who is confident with an easy going calming personality would probably work the best. I’m actually in (location deleted to protect the not-very-innocent) but willing to travel to your location if needed. I am 41.
Dear Sir, Wheew! I’m so glad you specified you’re 41. Up until then, I thought you were just some weirdo. I’ll be right over.
The NFL cannot be in too much trouble if it makes the cover of both The New Yorker and Time in articles based around how much trouble it is in. A couple of things about The New Yorker cover. First, as many people have pointed out, the po-po actually have a worse problem with domestic violence within the ranks than the professional football players do. Second, I think it would’ve been far more inflammatory if the cops were depicted shooting an African-American referee signaling a touchdown.
Time’s story is about a high school defensive back in Missouri who suffered a fatal traumatic brain injury making a tackle. Author Sean Gregory could have found similar stories all over the country — I remember the tragedy of Charles Youvella, who weighed just 115 pounds and stood 5’5″ and died during a 60-6 playoff loss last November. Youvella had scored the game’s only TD.
Football can be a very violent game. I can write highly obvious sentences, too. As long as there is testosterone, males will play games of varying violent degrees. I don’t think football is going anywhere. Does the violence in football directly correlate to the misdeeds of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer and Adrian Peterson, et al? I really don’t think so. But that’s a little more complicated.
By the way, speaking of Time magazine covers and football, how about this?
2. Virginia is for Shovers
I thought I’d engage in a little tone-deafness this morning –you’ve inspired me, Tallahassee– by following a piece about violence in football with a quirky note about a giant playing high school football in Virginia.
This is Dondre Harris. I don’t know much about Dondre except that he stands seven foot tall, weighs 380 pounds and is a senior defensive tackle at Essex High School in Virginia. Obviously, it’s not Harris’ fault that he is this size –let’s blame his parents and perhaps the local potable water supply. Still, can you imagine being the size of Charles Youvella and coming across Harris? There’s no real solution to this dilemma, but just remember that F=ma. Force equals mass times acceleration.
Harris still has not received any scholarship offers and I haven’t seen him play. But if there’s a George Whitfield of linemen, I bet he’d love to meet Dondre.
3. The Two Faces of Jim
Is this Jim Harbaugh?
Or is this Jim Harbaugh?
I’ll give you a hint. The first photo was shot on Sunday, after the Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 23-14 to drop the 49ers to 1-2 (Arizona head coach Bruce Arians has his team at 3-0…oh, did you remember that the Super Bowl will be staged in Glendale this winter?). The second photo was taken last December, after the 49ers defeated the Cardinals 23-20.
I didn’t realize these were from different contests and years at first, as the coaches are wearing the identical garments. It was Harbaugh’s pen necklace that revealed the difference for me –that and his wildly different demeanor.
Hey, nobody likes to lose, Jim. But there really isn’t a more petulant child in all of the NFL than he.
4. Would You Miss Miss America?
Of course John Oliver and his writing staff have more time than, say, his old boss Jon Stewart does to develop harsh and hilarious rebukes to all that is wrong with the world and in particular the USA. Of course. Still, what a magnificent job he does every Sunday night firing arrows at corrupt or flawed institutions.
Two nights ago on “Last Week Tonight”Oliver pointed his tongue at Miss America and, in particular, its claim that it provides $45 million in scholarships to women each year. Lots of great moments here, from Donald Trump telling a female reporter that she wouldn’t have her job if she weren’t attractive, to a recent contestant actually being asked a question about ISIS and beheading and positively nailing it in 20 seconds –I hope she won– but my favorite moment comes at the end when Kathy Griffin tells him, “When I look at Giuseppe, I want to have sex with him. And when I look at you, I want to have sex with Giuseppe.”
And that’s really what it’s all about, no? The winner is ordinarily “The Female We Would Most Like to Have Sex With.” And for that, you get a free education. “Ain’t that America/for you and me/Ain’t that America, something to see, babe/Ain’t that America/Home of the freee/Little pink bikinis for you and me…”
5. You Gonna Stick With That Story?
Last Friday Thursday afternoon Jill Tarlov, 58, was attempting to cross West Drive in Central Park after having shopped for her daughter’s birthday present. Tarlov was in the crosswalk, though I don’t know if she had the right of way with the traffic light, and I don’t know whether or not she was talking on her phone.
Just then Jason Marshall, 31, came cycling down that grade –the area is just below the finish line of the New York City Marathon, and going in this direction cyclist are gathering up some downhill velocity– yelling, “Get out of the way!”
Tarlov did not get out of the way. And Marshall, say police, swerved to avoid a group of pedestrians but then struck Tarlov. I know, you’re wondering, so let me tell you: Marshall’s bike was only minimally damaged.
Tarlov died from her injuries. Doctors who examined her at New York Presbyterian Hospital said her injuries were consistent with those of someone who had been struck by a car. Through his attorney Marshall yesterday said that he was “deeply saddened” by Tarlov’s death –I suppose he is– and that it was “an unavoidable accident” but also that he was proceeding at “eight or nine miles per hour.”
I can see Marshall’s claim that, at eight or nine miles per hour, the fatal accident was unavoidable, because like you I saw the original Austin Powersmovie.
The New York Post, never one to raise racially charged hackles, describes the white Tarlov as “a beloved Connecticut mom” and the black Marshall, who is a baritone sax player and lives in East Harlem, as “an out-of-control bicyclist.” So they’ve already made up their minds.
I imagine Marshall, a triathlete, is probably upset about Tarlov’s death –and the fact that police have confiscated his $4,000 bike as evidence, though he has not been charged with a crime as of yet –but it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone being struck by a bicycle going less than 10 m.p.h. even being knocked to the pavement, much less being killed. And it’s not going to help Marshall that he keeps an on-line log of his training and clocked himself going 35 mph on a morning ride earlier that day (speed limit in Central Park for cyclists is 25 mph).
Postsript: On Saturday, just one day later, I ran a loop of Central Park. There was a police car parked at one light up in the northern end of the park (other vehicles are prohibited from being in the park on weekends, though cyclists are supposed to obey the traffic signals). The light was red and about half a dozen cyclists were stopped next to the cop car. Then a cyclist rode through –he happened to be African-American–without stopping. The cop car never moved. The cyclists just looked at each other like, What was that all about?
And of course the entire point of this item was just a lame excuse to brag that I’d run a loop of Central Park. At my advanced age. But I am really slow. Really slow. Like, in the eight or nine miles per hour range these days.
Drug Kingpin Hippos
Animal Planet 10:02 p.m.
I’ll admit. I saw the title, read the blurb, and I stopped looking for other shows. Pablo Escobar left behind pet hippos that are now terrorizing local residents??? Was this in the script for Medellin???
Let’s say this much: Saturday night in Tallahassee was wonderful theater. The No. 1 team in the nation…the nation’s longest win steak on the line…Florida State’s midnight (or, 11:07 p.m.) decision to suspend Jameis Winston for the entire game in light of new information, and then Kirk Herbstreit calling them out on national TV for this, stating bluntly, “I’m not buying it.”…Jameis’ absolute tone-deafness…a true freshman QB for Clemson enters the game late in the first quarter and shows the poise of a future All-American…FSU backup Sean Maguire’s inability, most of the game, to seek out any receiver who was not his roommate (Nick O’Leary… Maguire and O’Leary–and they call Notre Dame the Fighting Irish)…and of course, Clemsoning. This was the most Clemsony Clemsoning of all time…and the cherry on top had to be Jimbo Fisher excusing his Heisman winner’s sartorial gaffe by noting that he did it “because he loves his teammates.”
I mean, imagine if Clemson doesn’t lose that fumble and kicks the game-winning field goal. It’s Winston’s fault that FSU loses and we all know it. And, I’m sorry, but with only one more ranked team (Notre Dame) on the schedule, the SelCom would have every reason not to choose the Seminoles as a final four team even if they did win out. Either way, it was a fascinating game. I just wish Brent Musburger had called it. ESPN is going to give Chris Fowler, who is perfect as the host of College GameDay, anything he wants, but in an atmosphere like Saturday night’s, there are at least five men who were better-suited for that role, beginning with Brent. It’s really all the game lacked.
3. That’s Amari
I haven’t been that crazy about Alabama (or Crazy in Alabama) this September, but the Tide opened my eyes on Saturday in the 42-21 defeat of Florida. Lane Kiffin (this is not easy for me to say) did a terrific job coordinating up those plays, Derrick Henry ran like a Bama RB is s’posed to, Trent Richardson-style, Landon Collins hit like a poophouse of red clay, and most impressive of all of them was wideout Amari Cooper.
Right now Cooper, who had (this is where Katie McCollow eyes glaze over and she begins to daydream about chocolate chip cookies with Steve Coogan’s face) 10 receptions for 201 yards and three touchdowns, is our new leader for the Red Grange Award. He currently leads the nation in both receptions (43) and yards per game (163.8). I still love the Gurley Man, but Mark Richt didn’t give him the pig bladder at first-and-goal on the 4 with the season on the line and then last Saturday he got outrushed by Samsung Michel, his own backup. Granted, it was during a 66-0 win, but still
Right now the top two candidates for the Grange are Cooper and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has thrown 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions and whom Rod Gilmore likes a lot because he’s not always in trouble.
Amari is such a pretty name, isn’t it? It stems from “amare”, which in Latin means “to love” (or to be constantly injured), which is not to be confused with “amore,” which means a big pizza pie has just struck you in the eye.
3. Medium Happy 8*
*The judges are accepting suggestions for a snappier name.
(Our weekly ranking of the top eight teams in the nation, based almost entirely on what they have done on the field. We will note that Drew Sharp found it in his heart to place Notre Dame at No. 23 on his ballot this week –they covered against Bye–and that Scott Wolf has 1-2 Clemson at 15)
1. Texas A&M (4-0)
One of two schools –the other is located just 90 minutes northwest–in the Top 10 in both Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense, and also have a quality road win at SC.
2. Alabama (4-0)
Okay, Nick, you’ve sold me.
3. Oklahoma (4-0)
I said, “Nooooooklahoma” to Saturday night’s unis, but the Sooners pulled away in the second half in Morgantown. West Virginia has out-Clemsoned Clemson this month in terms of best two losses by one team.
4. Florida State (3-0)
They found a way to win. More impressive to me than Oregon, whose defense is again soft.
5. Oregon (4-0)
The Ducks have a high-quality win, but they eked by a Wazzu team that lost by more to Nevada. Not at all impressed with the defense. By the way, keep your eyes on Cougar sophomore wideout River Cracraft. He catches everything.
6. Auburn (3-0)
Nice road win in Manhattan on a Thursday night.
7. Michigan State (2-1)
I doubt Sparty will lose again. The Michigan game will be ugly.
8. Baylor (3-0)
Not at all impressed with the schedule, but they’re tops in the nation in Scoring Offense and No. 2 in Scoring Defense. Upcoming games are at Iowa State, at Texas, versus TCU and at West Virginia.
Looking ahead to next week: LSU is going to smote New Mexico State with a vengeance just the way Georgia and Michigan State took out their frustrations on Saturday in 66-0 and 73-14 wins, respectively…Arizona, which scored 36 fourth-quarter points on Cal and stole a win with an Ave Maria Paseo (we are close to the Mexican border in Tucson, after all) will get rolled in Eugene by the Ducks.
4. Suit Up!
In the category of “Fish Out of Water” journalism, here’s a piece I wrote on suits. I wanted to write a three-piece story, but the editors sagely overruled me.
5. While My Qatar Gently Weeps*
*We know. We know. It doesn’t really rhyme with “guitar.” We just couldn’t resist.
So it has come to the attention of FIFA officials that Qatar is somewhat warm and uncomfortable and now one of them says that the 2022 World Cup will not be held there. So, yeah, thanks to those 1,000 or so migrant workers who died thus far constructing stadiums, but are you free in the summer of 2022, America?
It’s the right move. Why they ever $$ chose $$ Qatar $$ in the $$ first place $$ is beyond $$ me.
Men in Blazers
NBC Sports Net 10 p.m.
Well, this ought to be truly sub-optimal. Michael Davies and Roger Bennett continue to dominate as, following in the grand tradition of Rowan & Martin, the Smother Brothers and Rizzoli and Isles, they bring their two-man act to an actual scheduled TV broadcast. From the crap part of SoHo. Size the day.
“They can take away our lives, but they will never take…our…eh, never mind.” Listen, Scotland, I’m all for you doing whatever is in your best interests, but no more bitching about how the English refer to you as Scots when you act like wankers and as Brits when you (Andy Murray) win Wimbledon.
Scotland, after centuries of at least some moaning and groaning about its English overlords (and ladies), had the opportunity to become independent yesterday and said, “No, thanks.” Think of it this way: they’re that kid you knew in college who always had a dog-eared copy of Kerouac or Thoreau or even Hunter S. Thompson in his backpack, but then two months after graduation was back living with his parents.
2. Jack Pot* **
*The judges will also accept “Yo! Yo! Ma!”
**The judges will not accept “The Great Wall Street of China”
Today is the day that Ali Baba (BABA) has its IPO (Initial Public Offering). If you did not know, the Chinese symbol for this company is $$$$.
Ali Baba, China’s Amazon, has 80% market share of the world’s largest economy and a 46% revenue growth. Also, its founder, Jack Ma, is a former English teacher who looks like some team’s mascot.
BABA was priced at $68 for its IPO but as I type this, it looks as if it’ll open at between $84-87. My bet is that it’ll approach at least $95 per share today. Worth noting: Baidu (BIDU), the Chinese Google, had its IPO in 2005 and its stock price has risen about 8,000% since then. If you had just invested $10,000 on Day 1, that would be worth $800,000 today. That’s crazy talk.
That was the score after three quarters in the Georgia Dome last night in a football game. This is why I always berate SEC teams for scheduling non-conference patsies. Wait, what? Atlanta? The Falcons? Never mind.
I didn’t watch the game –there was a decent college game, outside of the kicking, taking place in Manhattan, Kans. –but apparently fans of the Buccaneers are wondering if their team will simply fast forward to 0-16. Sure, Tampa Bay was the first team to go 0-14 (1976), but then the Detroit Lions outdid them a few years ago by going 0-16, so it’s time for Tampa Bay to come back over the top by being the first NFL team in the Super Bowl era to put together TWO winless seasons. You can do this, Tampa!
3. Blurred Lines*
(Medium Happy hired a consultant who advised us to skew younger with our audience [sorry, Susie B.] Anyway, the consultant also told us that we could save money by hiring consultants, which seemed counterproductive, but who are we to argue with wise, sage consultants who have expertise in telling everyone else how to do their jobs?)
This morning, the line for the iPhone 6 outside the Apple store at 59th St. and Fifth Avenue reportedly stretched 20 blocks down 5th Avenue (the line for ashes outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, eight blocks south, on Ash Wednesday only stretches one or two blocks).
Meanwhile in Baltimore, the line for the Ray Rice jersey exchange stretched the length of –I don’t know, what unit of length could I possibly insert here as a metaphor????–several football fields as fans lined up to turn in their purple 27 jerseys. Because, you know, what could make more sense than finding out your misappropriated hero worship of a man who simply plays a game has been compromised by discovering that he is not actually heroic? Here, here, NFL fans.
4. Copper Kettle Clash
I’ve got to give some love to Arizona football today, as the state’s top two ranked teams, defending champion and No. 1 Mountain Pointe, and No. 2 Chandler (alma mater of Brett Hundley), square off in Ahwatukee (a.k.a. “All White ‘tukee”). But the more historically significant contest will take place in the heart of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, as the 100th meeting between the high schools of the neighboring mining towns of Globe and Miami takes place.
It’s known as the Battle for the Copper Kettle and these are two old, authentic Arizona mining towns. No Scottsdale splash and flash out here. They’d already sold 5,000 tickets for the game by Monday, even though Miami is 1-3 and Globe is 0-3. The coach at Miami, Brandon Powell, was once the quarterback at Globe, as this cool story by Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic details.
5. The Film Room with Chris Corbellini
This week our intrepid reviewer went to see The Skeleton Twins, starring Stephon and Penelope, or something like that.
The Skeleton Twins
by Chris Corbellini
You can take the boys and girls out of Saturday Night Live, but you can never take the Saturday Night Live out of those boys and girls. The script for “The Skeleton Twins,” chock full of family dysfunction, becomes a ray of sunshine on screen thanks to the chemistry between SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Here is an indie about suicide and suicide attempts, depression, infidelity and closeted homosexuality, and yet with Hader and Wiig as the leads it somehow manages to be funny. Not darkly funny or morbidly funny or ribald “Bridesmaids” funny. Funny with a gentleness and honesty that cannot be faked.
It kicks off with a line of voiceover narration: “I don’t know, maybe we were doomed from the start,” and finds Wiig eyeing a handful of pills, and Hader in a bathtub with his wrists slit open, 3,000 miles apart but clearly sharing the same brain and DNA. Before Wiig can take one last big gulp the cell rings and a nurse calmly explains her brother tried to kill himself. He beat her to it. Off she flies to Los Angeles to bring the struggling actor home to upstate New York … to look after the poor soul, sure, but also to rescue something and distract her from marriage and the downward facing dog her life has become. The movie spells out quickly that depression is the family curse — the father killed himself, and mom checked out by joining another clan altogether — and their shared illness leads to bad choices and outbursts directed at well-meaning loved ones, and each other.
The details and casting elevate good material to very good, and in flashes here and there, Wiig and Hader take it a level higher. The story understands that depressives never take rejection well, and in some cases, all it takes is an off-hand remark to be the trigger and send someone cannon-balling into a pit of gloom. Like Hader’s character, Milo, casually saying to sis she might not be a good mother. The husband, played with unfailing optimism by Luke Wilson, calls it “landmines” when discussing his wife’s occasional meltdowns during a heart-to-heart with Milo, and guessing it’s his fault, admits he always apologizes for whatever he said. If only he knew. The brother knows.
The town Wiig’s character, Maggie, still lives in had to be small enough that there’s a yearning to leave and seek out the cities and fortunes of life, but big enough where a not-so-innocent rendezvous at a restaurant with a scuba instructor wouldn’t arise suspicion with the locals. The kind of ‘burb you ignore as it passes by the window of your Metro North train out of New York City. That is, until the holidays, when the main streets are lit up with flickering Christmas lights, or Halloween decorations. I guessed the filming took place in Sleepy Hollow or Katonah, and while I was wrong, I was happy to see that’s what the filmmakers were going for. The setting is important. Aside from the house and a dentist office and a hometown bar, there’s nowhere else to go to distract Maggie and Milo from reconnecting, and to take turns body-slamming each other emotionally, Superfly Snuka-like, as only family can.
Let’s circle back to the hometown bar. One memorable scene finds the brother and sister at a table at the watering hole on Halloween, reminiscing about their family therapist when they were teenagers. It also shows quite clearly that even after 10 years apart, it doesn’t take long for siblings to get in step with one another, to remember what that was once like, and find joy in it. It’s almost like they have their own language. Hader and Wiig have that kind of connection in real life, after all those years and skits and behind-the-scenes drama on SNL (even the parties were stressful), and it unspools for the rest of us to see here. You can feel the director’s giddiness over this, when the pair can make a simple cutaway shot of passing a photo of their mom’s new family between each other feel both hilarious and familiar. And then there’s the pair’s rendition of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now” in the living room, the showiest and funniest scene in the film.
Don’t get me wrong, “Skeleton” wasn’t a perfect acting showcase, and if depression isn’t your brand of cinematic scotch, you might consider skipping this. I thought the waterlogged ending was afterschool special-ish, and Milo’s attraction to his former schoolteacher, played by Ty Burrell, came from an especially dark place (with Milo playing up the eager youngster angle in his presence, the most energy he shows in the movie). But after all those Saturday nights together, after Hader as Stefon and Wiig dancing with Mick Jagger, you do feel like you know them like family. It’s the same old rock-solid Wiig, who can deliver laughs from stress and dark places, and Hader is right there with her, moment for moment, insult for insult, in his first leading role. And you root for their Milo and Maggie to get it together. For that secret language they share, if nothing else.
P.S. – I thought it odd that Maggie would be her brother’s emergency contact for a hospital since they hadn’t spoken in 10 years, but then again, I don’t have a sister that would guilt me into doing so. It also shows how lonesome Los Angeles can be for single actors still hanging onto the dream. The ER had no one else to call.
P.P.S. — I just have to link out to another of Hader’s funniest moments on screen. I’m sure he was concerned “nutless monkey” would stay with him forever.