Starting Five

“Something wrong, coach?”

1. (Don’t) Suit Up!

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*

Jeremy Langford and Sparty led 49-0 at halftime on Saturday. They can play with anyone.

*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!

Barney thinks I was ill-suited to do this piece

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*

Men in Blazes?

*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.

Remote Patrol

Men in Blazers

NBC Sports Net 10 p.m.

Sponsored by Magnolia Bakery

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.

It’s All Happening!

 Starting Five

He can scream until he is blue in the face, but William Wallace cannot change Scotland’s vote

1. “You Did WHAT!?!?”

“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* **

Actress Nicky Whelan, who is from Australia, which is like due south of China, which makes this photo totally legit here.

*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.

3. 56-0

Devin Hester as he breaks Deion Sanders’ NFL record for TDs on returns, high-steppin’ in for his 20th career of such. Hall of Famer?

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.

Wasn’t it refreshing to see a genuine, malicious NFL beat down that did not involve women or children?

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*

Apple Corps: In case you’ve been unable to locate your drug dealer this week

(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).

“I’d like a new jersey (lower case, of course)”

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

***1/2 stars

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.



Starting Five

1. Goin’ to a Fogo, Everybody

If you have between $875 to $2,875 burning a hole through your pocket, I highly recommend a night’s stay at the Fogo Island Inn on Fogo Island, which is just north of Newfoundland, which is just northeast of everything in North America.

If you don’t, I hope you take a few minutes to read about the innkeeper, Zita Cobb. She’s quite a lady. Thanks!

2. Tucker, The Man and His Dream


Given that tease, (—->) I could not wait to dive into Ross Tucker’s column on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. And then came the first two sentences: “Roger Goodell has done an excellent job as commissioner of the NFL. I’m aware that’s not the popular opinion right now.”

Does anyone see a discrepancy here?

I actually agree with many of Tucker’s points, it’s just that as a Princeton alum, you’d hope he had more mastery of the meaning of “objective.”

By the way, I uploaded that tweet from my camera phone. The previous shot on the phone was of Mirk, my housemate. Here he is earlier today in repose from the Medium Happy World Headquarters, i.e., “The Chaise.”


3. Infamous Jameis

What now?

Really like what my friend and former colleague, Dan Wolken, had to say about the situation. As much as Winston lets down Seminole fans here, the administration at Enable U. is just as sorry. And I like that Dan had the temerity (!) to note Jameis’ “phony humility and contrived smile.” (I’m assuming that’s Dan’s objective evaluation).

I can only speak for myself here, obviously, but short of the alleged sexual assault, the other misdemeanors are not what bother me about Jameis. It’s the shine job he does on all of us whenever he’s being interviewed. The words simply do not match the acts.

4. From A’s to Zzzzz’s

Billy Beane and Johnny Ramone because, of course.

Have I blogged about the Oakland A’s yet this week? Yes? No? Anyway, the A’s hostthe Texas Rangers this afternoon. If the Athletics lose, it will give them a worse record than the Rangers, the American League’s worst team, since having traded Yoennis A. Cespedes For the Rest Of Us on July 31 (17-28 versus 17-27).

The A’s, who had the best record in baseball at the time of the trade (66-41) are now 83-68 and only two games up on the second wild-card spot. They’ve lost two in a row at the Coliseum to Texas in the past two nights. I blame Beane Ball. Also, I blame the name

5. 1984: The Year in Tunes

When college marching bands are still playing your tune 30 years later, you know you’ve written a hit.

Love that Rolling Stone put out a list of the 100 Top Hits of 1984 and declared it “Pop’s Greatest Year.” I was both a high school senior and a college freshman that year, and your’e about as exposed to music as one ever gets at that stage of life. I always knew, even then, how lucky I was to be constantly bombarded with so many great tunes. And notice, as you tear through the list, how varied the styles are as well.

That said, I’m not sure that 1984 trumps 1966, a year that gave us “God Only Knows” (the greatest pop song of all time?), “Summer in the City”, “California Dreamin’”, “Paperback Writer”, “The Sound of Silence”, “Good Vibrations”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, “Cherish” and “Last Train to Clarksville”, and, as they say on the infomercials, “much, much more.”

I’m going to attempt to pick 10 songs from Rolling Stone’s 1984 list that I feel truly had the most impact in the year (and that I didn’t hate, because if you peruse that list, I’m sorry, you can say [say, say] that there are some TRULY crappy songs). Not making my list of 10 songs because it wasn’t so impactful, and yet one song from one band that I love as much as any from that era, is “Head Over Heels” by the Go-Go’s (so, yes, if you’ve been following, today we’ve gone from Fogo to the Go-Go’s). The album “Vacation” was seen by the critics at the time as a drop-off from “Beauty and the Beat”, but I think both are incredibly strong.

Herewith, the 10 Best and Most Emblematic Pop Tunes of 1984, as culled by a white boy from Phoenix:

10. “Panama”, Van Halen

“Jump” got more air-play, but this is the tune that made you turn up the stereo and hope that no red lights were in your future for the next three minutes.

9. “Missing You”, John Waite

Your girlfriend had a huge crush on him. And there was nothing you could do about it. Don’t even try changing the station.

8. “99 Luftballoons”, Nena

Mutually assured destruction has never again been so danceable

7. “Feel For You”, Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan? Chaka Khan? The epitome of a song whose first 45 seconds you love, then you may change the station.

6. “Here Comes The Rain Again”, Eurythmics

Just a perfect pop song.

5. “Sister Christian”, Night Ranger

“You’re motoring/What’s your price for flight?” The best power ballad of this, or many, years. Although I always preferred “When You Close Your Eyes” from this album.

4. “Take On Me”, A-Ha

This year was the peak of MTV, and no song ever made a better video.

3. “When Doves Cry”, Prince

The best damn opening guitar riff of the ’80s, or at least until Slash came along. It’s debatable.

2. “Boys of Summer”, Don Henley

Going away to college, leaving the first girlfriend you ever had…this was my first requiem.

1. “Borderline”, Madonna

“Like a Virgin” came later in the year and would eclipse this, but this is the tune that made us all fall for The Material Girl

*Note: No song got more air-play in Phoenix the first four months of 1984 than Def Leppard’s “Photograph”, but it was actually released in 1983. Likewise, “Thriller” was still all over the air waves in ’84 but the album was released a year earlier.

Remote Patrol

No. 5 Auburn at No. 20 Kansas State

ESPN 7:30 p.m.

Nick at Night: Marshall leads the Tigers onto what is not the loveliest village on the plains

The Tigers last traveled west of the Mississippi for a regular season out-of-conference game in 2002, when they lost at USC. And yet the War Eagle! kids, slight favorites, have covered in 13 consecutive games. They’ll take Manhattan…?


I Have A Sinking Feeling I Might Get A C+

Isn’t it nice how John said yesterday that he didn’t know any moms who were half-assin’ it in Parentville?

And here I am, sitting just several states away.

Because that’s what friends do, kids; they pretend they don’t notice each other’s glaring flaws. Although…OK, it is possible that John doesn’t know I have kids. I do though, right? I’m so confused. Can we talk about something else?

Starting Five

1.She’s Fifty Years Old

She likes to kick, she likes to streeeetch…Molly Shannon, AKA Sally O’Malley,  turned 50 yesterday.

You couldn’t kick this high at any age

Remember when you first saw that  sketch, and you were like “Ha ha ha! That is so hilarious, she’s just like my deranged aunt who’s constantly telling me about her sensei! Pass the beer, my rock-climbing final is at 8 a.m. and I need to get at least an hour of sleep first!” And now, Sally’s creator is actually 50 and you’re sitting in your TV room, watching the older woman who lives down the street from you fly by on her bicycle while you ice your hip.

2. The Search History On My Phone

My searches over the past few days, in order, are: 1. What is up with Erica Christensen’s hair? I started watching Parenthood on Netflix last year, and I got completely sucked in even though I can’t honestly say I like the show. Except that I love it. Arrrg! I love it even though I hate it so much! I hate all the characters, I hate everything they say and do and wear and think and I spend every episode yelling at the screen. Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia play the mom and dad. It’s hard for me to write that without thinking of her:

Anyoots. They live in a super cool house in Berkeley and are former hippies, I think–I’m not sure if that was ever explained, but it seems like they are. He’s a crank and she’s a whiner. She yells things at him like, “I’ve been painting for 20 years, and I’d like to paint something (she likes to paint, of course–that’s what all former hippies do) other than this yard!”

Then do it. Why is it your husband’s fault you don’t know how to drive, walk, or buy a plane ticket? No wonder he’s crabby. Peter Krause is their oldest son, and he is very responsible. You know, because he’s the oldest. He’s married to Monica Potter, who has the personality of a bag of wet leaves. She gets teary-eyed a lot.

There was a story arc last season that concerned her battle with breast cancer, and the stylist put her in a horrible bald wig so obviously crammed full of her luscious blonde mane, instead of feeling the emotion the show wanted me to feel, I couldn’t look at her without laughing.

My, what an enormous and perfectly round head you have. It’s almost like you don’t have cancer at all.

Next is Lauren Graham, playing basically the same character she played on Gilmore Girls but with inferior writing.  Dax Shepard is third in the lineup, he’s a goof, and lastly is Erica Christensen, who is actually my favorite character because she’s the only one I never want to slap. But her hair looks like dryer lint. Or that hair that comes out of a spray can, remember that stuff?

Only 14.99 a can!

Am I wrong?

(Ed. Note: Forgive me, Katie; I don’t watch Parenthood –I’m still attempting to master “Adulthood,” but I found this video that allows us newcomers to learn to insta-hatewatch the show in just five minutes; perfect song choice, by the way…it takes me directly to Season 2 of Extras)

2. What’s so great about a Carl Zeiss lens?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I got a new phone. It’s a Nokia, and I bought it because I didn’t feel like taking out a second mortgage on my house for another iPhone.  I was also promised that Nokia had the best cameras of all phones because they have Carl Zeiss lenses. So, imagine my dismay when all the pictures I took with my fancy (but less expensive!) new phone were just as blurry and flat as the pictures I took with my crummy old phone. Are you imagining it? So you know what I’m saying.

An actual picture of my dismay

But never fear, Medium Happy readers! I spent all last evening googling how to properly use the camera on my new phone, and I am thrilled to report it still sucks.

Sidenote–I am watching Parenthood while I write this, and whiney Bonnie Bedelia, in a Chaka-Khanish show of womanly independence,  has gone to Italy with her painting class because she has had it with painting that yard! And now Craig T. Nelson is going crazy in a ‘when the wife’s away, the man will play’ montage–he’s eating ice cream for breakfast! He’s not wearing pants! He’s taking  a leak in the yard!  He is little more than an animal without her.  Couples never do anything alone! Never.  I hate/love this show. 

3. Wrist Cyst

Are you sure you want to hear about this? Fine. A few days ago I woke up with this weird bump on my wrist. This is the sort of thing that makes me want to immediately go out and buy a bald wig so people will feel sorry for me, but apparently it’s something called a ‘ganglion cyst’ and it’s harmless. My sister, who is also an artist, told me she gets them all the time.

Where’s my ice bucket challenge?

Craig T. Nelson is now eating whipped cream out of a can. I am not making this up.

3. Mid September

I was out on my run today, looking around me and thinking “Today, this is the most beautiful place on Earth.” Now, let me tell you something about where I live– the weather stinks. Like, really, really stinks, almost all the time.

But sometimes it doesn’t, and on those days it’s so gloriously beautiful, I feel like the luckiest tic in the mattress because I live here. Today was one of those days. And it got me to thinking, my town is a lot like my younger sister. I spent my youth playing sports and lying on my parents’ roof, slathered in baby oil, cooking my skin into rashy oblivion.

My younger sister didn’t move or go out in the sun until she was in her mid-twenties. Now she’s got beautiful, peaches-and-cream skin and since she started running a few years ago, kicks my can several times weekly. She isn’t always plagued with injuries or constantly looking for the fountain of youth at the bottom of a bottle.

Ahem. What were we talking about?

The point is, maybe if my town wasn’t entombed in bad weather 97% of the time, it wouldn’t be as completely perfect as it is on days like this. Well! As analogies go, that was total crap.

4. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

This guy again? Uh, YES PLEASE

That’s right, Steve Coogan again. You didn’t think I was going to do it, did you?

And then I went and did it. 

Watched this on Netflix. Fantastic; that is if you like hilarity and good times.

“Hey, I like hilarity and good times,” you might be thinking. “Maybe that Adam Sandler movie Blended would be fun for someone like me!” NOT SO FAST, hilarity-and -good-times lover. Blended might actually be the worst movie of the year, and I saw Tammy.

The only thing funny is how much we got paid

No. I’m sorry. Tammy is worse. But Blended is a close second.

5. Robin Thicke

“I didn’t actually write any part of that rapey song because I was high the entire time!” That’s not a quote from Mr. Thicke, it’s a quote from my 19-year-old daughter, paraphrasing Mr. Thicke. It made me laugh so hard I had to share it.

I’m not gross and skeevy, I just look and act that way!

Kind Regards,



Starting Five

The NFL would probably find a way to outlaw this play based on the principle that “it creates unfettered joy.”

1. Trust Fall

Watch this video of a fake punt that occurred in the second quarter of Miami’s 41-20 win over Arkansas State last Saturday. This took place in the second quarter, the Red Wolves trailing 20-7. As you can plainly see, it’s 4th-and-5 from the Hurricane 40.

The ball is snapped back to the punter, Luke Ferguson (unseen), and your eyes attempt to follow the ball, which leaves the screen. And so the first time you watch the video you may miss the Arkansas State player who folds his arms across his chest and performs a trust fall.

A few observations:

1). I cannot tell his number, though it seems to be a single digit. I don’t know who he is (Update: Medium Happy intern Jacob Anstey believes the player is Charleston Girley, who is now our second-favorite Girley Man in college football) {Updated Update: Apparently, the player in question was Booker “I Don’t Even Read Her” Mays}

2) If the Miami defense was paying attention, they’d notice that he was technically an interior lineman. You can only have four men in the backfield, and the Red Wolves already have four –the punter, the two up-backs, and the man in motion. That’s why the player is lined up on the line of scrimmage and is hence an ineligible receiver since only the last player on either side of the center who lines up on the line is an eligible receiver. So the Miami linebacker, Thurston Armbrister, should not even be covering him. Work on that, Al Golden.

3. People are calling this “the worst fake punt ever.” I hope I never think like they do. I love the imagination that went into this. Clearly, the trust-fall dude is meant as a distraction. It’s how magicians pull tricks or how crimes get pulled off by con men: Get the victim’s eyes and thoughts on something away from the primary action. I LOVE the offensive coordinator/coach (Walt Bell?) who devised this play.

4) reason people are criticizing the play, I think, is two-fold: 1) It’s different and 2) It didn’t work. But I think the reason it didn’t work –and I cannot wait to hear what Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson says– is that the punter was supposed to throw to the player in motion who went on the wheel route, but the punter geeked out, panicked, and just tossed it to the wrong side of the field. That’s my theory. We’ll find out later.

5) Finally, behind all the lovable goofiness of the play (at least for me), we have what should be a targeting penalty and an automatic ejection. Watch how Armbrister goes head-hunting on the player. I believe this is the reason the targeting rule was created, and the fact that it has been misapplied almost universally since is no reason NOT to employ it here. I hope the ACC looks at this play and punishes Armbrister. This wasn’t a football play; this was all about taking someone out.

2. “AD, DA. DA, AD”

I don’t think this is why God invented trees

Yes, I just went “Uma, Oprah” on all of this.

So, sorry, but here’s my hard-line thought: Adrian Peterson and “parenting” don’t belong in the same sentence, because a parent is someone who wakes up in the same home as his children. And while I understand that we live in a modern world of divorces and single parents and second marriages, a terrific parent does everything he or she can do to remain in the same town as his children. And it’s not as if finances are a problem in AD’s case.

He apparently has five to seven children by four women. I’m not sure on the details. I’m not sure if he is sure on the details. Let’s be honest here: Adrian Peterson is a man who do what he do because he is more interested in satisfying his carnal desires. And because there are laws and stuff, he must pay child support. Otherwise, good luck with that, ladies.

If you are going to become a parent–and I am not–then your kids become your priority. Because it’s your job not to send awful adults out into society. You must do everything possible to prevent this, and that means love and time and structure and, yes, discipline. I know a lot of parents, both married and divorced. I don’t know a single negligent mom; I do know some dads who are doing C+ jobs at best.

It all goes back to the Wisdom of Rust Cohle: “The kids are the only things that matter, Maggie. They’re the only reason for this whole man-woman drama.”

When it’s all said and done, I’m not so bothered by the fact that AD beat his child as I am that he is not actually being a father to them day in and day out. He’s taking almost zero responsibility for the lives that he has created. That’s what’s despicable.

3. Adulthood: It’s Always Been Dead

Scott’s essay did not reference a single African-American in pop culture, though I think we can agree this guy had some adulthood issues.

So maybe because it was written by a culture maven and because it appeared in the New York Times, and perhaps because it references Huck Finn and some artsy-fartsy intellectual literary critics, lots of people have been praising this A.O. Scott essay on the “Death of Adulthood.”

However, Scott undercuts his own argument by referencing men such as Ben Franklin (and what about Henry the VIIIth? Or even Hamlet? Caligula?). Men have been refusing to grow up for centuries, if not millennia.

Coach Taylor: Now there was a a MAN

You can cite shows such as Mad Men, The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and say that men are refusing to be adults (though I’d argue Walter White, in particular, was inspired to perform his deeds, at least at first, because he wanted to better support his wife and son). And wasn’t the entire previous half season of Mad Men about Don Draper’s realization of his role as dad, which all began the season before with his Hershey’s pitch epiphany? Either way, I can throw Friday Night Lights right back in his face. Did he forget that show? Or was it just conveniently omitted because it didn’t fit his narrative.

Finally, how do you write 4,000 words taking down male maturity in modern pop culture and never once reference Entourage?

4. A Nack For Writing

Most writers are less engaging in person. Bill Nack does not at all fit that scouting report.

Today on, my favorite SI writer of them all, at least in terms of pathos-laden prose, William “Bill” Nack gets some play. And if you have the time, read his bonus piece (that’s what we called them;  now the kids refer to it as “long form”) on Bob Kalsu, an NFL player who died while on active duty in Vietnam (his is the only name of a U.S. professional athlete on the Vietnam wall.

The interview with Ted Keith, whose father, Larry was a terrific writerand then an editor (and quite the engaging personality) at the magazine for decades, is illuminating. One moment that is not included, and it’s one of the many reasons I’ll always love Bill (besides the fact he can pronounce the final paragraph of The Great Gatsby in both English and Spanish and will happily do so on command), is a meeting that took place with all the writers before the Christmas party in 2000. AOL had just acquired Time-Warner and hence, SI, and some publishing boob was brought in to tell us how this brave new world was going to work for all of us.

And Bill just raised his hand and politely asked, “So how many of us are going to be laid off?”

 5. She’s Dowd-y

This should be the cover of next month’s Southern Living

So allow me to pile on and, as others have done, note that Ann Dowd is not only the actress who plays the leader of the Guilty Remnant in The Leftovers, but was also the sad sack girlfriend of the Yellow King whom we first meet in the season finale of True Detective. Since she’s been killed off in the former, perhaps HBO will bring her back as the replacement for Peter Gregory on Silicon Valley. Or she can become Selina Meyers’ new BFF on Veep.




Starting Five

I would not tell this man how to vote

1. Thistle Never Do

Scotland, when the sun is shining, may be my favorite place on the globe. Really. I mean, just look at this shot of the Isle of Skye (even the name is magical):

But there’s this part of Scotland, too:

So, yes, when it comes to Thursday’s independence vote, we can trot out the usual tropes: William Wallace, Nessie, Trainspotting, “Head! Move! NOW!”, The Last King of Scotland, Scotch, Non-Paul haggis, etc.

I don’t know the answer. I do believe, though, that a better symbol for a Scottish independence movement than a unicorn would be a hooligan named Begbie.

No, this is not Begbie. This is his saner mate, Renton

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a bleepin’ big television. Choose washing machines…choose independence?”

Scotland will trade independence in exchange for someone ridding them of Roose Bolton and Mance Rayder

One final thing. If you’ve ever watched the opening of Game of Thrones (one of the best TV themes ever written, by the way), or paged through the inside cover of one of George R.R. Martin’s books, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture Westeros as Great Britain, and hence you can picture The Wall as either Hadrian’s Wall or the border between England and Scotland. Either way, this makes the Scots the Wildlings. Sure, Mr. Martin is a proud native of Bayonne, N.J., but still I believe he may have been making a point.

And of course our favorite Brit, John Oliver, had some thoughts.

2. NO (tre Dame)

“Also receiving votes…”

So here’s Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press columnist and AP voter, explaining how come he did not find a spot for the 3-0 Fighting Irish in his AP ballot this week:

The Irish were a 28-point favorite against Purdue on Saturday but struggled before adding a little distance in the fourth quarter…”

First, peruse Mr. Sharp’s ballot. You will notice that Georgia, Stanford and USC, all teams that have been favored in the past two weeks “but struggled” before, well, losing, are still on it. As is Florida, a team that was favored at home versus unranked Kentucky “but struggled” before winning in three overtimes.

I’ll admit, this makes me angry. But not for the reason you may think. Notre Dame is too high in this week’s poll (No. 9) and I honestly have no problem with anyone ranking them anywhere in the Top 25. Put ‘em at No. 24. Fine.

The reason this rankles me so much is that I think of having spent a full year waiting tables when I was between jobs in sports writing, and yet this clown probably earns six figures while either trolling for the sake of the attention or going far out of his way to show prejudice against one program.

Mr. Sharp, the point spread should not inform your ballot. The game should. But if you do apply such a cynical guideline, then apply it evenly.

Also, maybe Mr. Sharp was appealing to his Wolverine fan base with this vote (and while Michigan isn’t in his Top 25, either, the difference is that even every Ann Arborian knows they don’t belong, so it’s not as if he went out on a limb with that exclusion), I don’t know.

The funny part? I actually like Sharp’s top ten.

I used to think Rob Parker was the stupidest sports writer person from Detroit. It pains me to think that he has competition.

And if you are wondering who in the AP poll voted Notre Dame next lowest, yes, it was Scott Wolf, who has the Irish at 17.

Oh, and yes, I realize the AP poll has no actual effect on which four teams make the playoff. So I’m getting all lathered up over an anachronism.

This week’s Medium Happy Eight:

I was a little discomfited on Saturday night listening to a pair of ESPN announcers dissect ‘trill’ (“true + real” in rap vernacular) and Bun B.

1) Texas A&M 2) Oregon 3) Oklahoma 4) Florida State 5) Alabama 6) Auburn 7) LSU 8) Baylor

Meanwhile, Georgia has first-and-goal from the four and the best running back in college football and Mark Richt opts to be cute. Give Vince Dooley credit: he was always smart enough to hand the ball to Herschel at the goal line when the season was on the line. Georgia, disappointing us for 34 straight years.

I still like Gurley Man as my Grange favorite, and plays like this are why.

3. New York, New York (New York)

Kazantsev has already been drafted by the Medium Happy Flip Cup team

For the third consecutive year, Miss New York wins Miss America (which is the Maryann to the Miss USA’s Ginger). Kira Kazantsev, a first-generation American whose parents are from Russia and who actually grew up in Walnut Creek, Calif., before attending Hofstra (“on the Island”) won thanks in part to her fandom of “Pitch Perfect.”

(Kazantsev shrewdly entered as a New York, wisely avoiding the Group of Death that is California. An Alabama native used the same ploy two years ago with similar success).

Kazantsev performed “Cups” to the tune “Happy,” thus aping Beca’s audition for the Bellas. Honestly, I’d have preferred to see her singing “Titanium” in the shower (with Brittany Snow, of course…”That’s my jam”), but that’s just me. Or at least for Kira to walk onstage and say, “I didn’t know we had to prepare that song…”

4. Outlier

Gladwell ran a 3:55 1500, equivalent to about a 4:14 mile, back in college.

Author Malcolm Gladwell, age 51, runs a 4:54 in the Fifth Avenue Mile on Saturday in New York. As one clever fellow noted on Twitter, he probably spent 10,000 hours running to achieve this goal. Seriously, this is an incredible feat of feets. To break five minutes at any age as a non-professional runner is prit-tte, prit-tee good.

5. “And I Would Also Like All the Amputees to Put Their Hands in the Air Like They Just Don’t Care…”

He also said he won’t perform again unless RGIII starts next week for the Redskins

You’ve heard about or read about this by now. Kanye West, no stranger to making an ass of himself due to his Guinness World Record-sized ego, attempts to bully two concertgoers in Sydney into standing up. Except that they are physically unable to do so.

Huge throng of people, a command to rise, but where one man could make it happen, another cannot. This is the difference between Jesus and Yeezus.


Terrific interview by Richard Deitsch (not to be confused with another former colleague of mine at SI named Richard Deutsch, though how can you blame anyone?) with Fox Sports’ Charissa Thompson. Great reveal: She once married a guy because he saw that she was about to dump him so he went all in.

My favorite quote from the piece: “Yes, there are a lot of blondes here, but all the blondes are different.” (Speaking of which, Happy Birthday to former FOX Sports blonde Mary Strong-Sullivan, who is now a successful yoga entrepeneur in both Manhattan Beach and North Berkeley, Calif. Visit The Green Yogi and get your shakra on.)


Former Baltimore Ray-ven Ray Lewis pulls the “If God is for us, who can be against?” card on NFL Countdown yesterday. My answer: the two dudes in Atlanta who were murdered. Nobody on TV uses more words to say less than Lewis. He’s a medicine show masquerading as an NFL analyst.


Really, Urban Outfitters, really?

Do you mind if I wait until you package this with the Sharon Tate maternity wear.


Is this what you were talking about, Katie Nolan? Because I think Hannah Storm nailed it.


Starting Five

Will he serve time?

1.  Culpa Cabana

The accused, Oscar Pistorius, 27, is found guilty of culpable homicide, which means that he may receive anywhere between zero jail time and 15 years for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day.

The judge, Thokozile Matilda Masipa, stated in her decison that Pistorious “has some African in him,” although to be fair, she was reading that decision. She also agreed to let Pistorius remain free on bail until the sentencing hearing begins on October 13. Pistorius has been out on bail during almost all of the trial.

As I’ve said before, I’ve always just wanted to ask Oscar, “Even if we believe you, do you not think that some amount of punishment for such reckless behavior is warranted? How much time would you give you?”

I think we all know the answer to that question, though.

2. That’s So Raven

Super major kudos to Deadspin for paying attention yesterday. Well, it certainly sounds as if someone got to Bill Polian between Appearance No. 1 and Appearance No. 2. “And another thing I’d like to say about ‘The Decision’…”

Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann, to his credit, will not abate his attacks on the credibility of the NFL and Roger Goodell. Watch how he goes for the Gene Rayburn mic prop at 4:25 of this video.

3. Manne-Kin*

Yes, but is the fruit real?

As much as I hate-watched The Leftovers all summer, I did love the reveal on the season finale. Turns out the Guilty Remnant had one of the better Punk’d ideas of all time, re-creating all of the vanished from their town as mannequins and placing them where they’d been at the time of The Departure (sadly, Kevin Garvey’s motel paramour-or-less is not shown, which keeps this episode from receiving an A-plus).

Still, you knew something big was coming, and this lived up to expectations. Also, though I’m still not sure if Chris Zylka is a decent actor, he is really, really handsome (and as far as I can tell now has joint custody, along with his non-biological father’s girlfriend, of an Asian-African American baby. HBO’s got your Modern Family for you, ABC). And as for Holy Wayne, why did he stab himself to death in a men’s room in Mapleton? We’ll just have to wait and see next season, I guess.

*We have a winner…

4. “Not in the Face!”

Commissioner Goodell has suspended the ball indefinitely

Major League Baseball goes all Men in Blazers as Giancarlo Stanton, the leading candidate for National League MVP honors –unless you’re voting for Clayton Kershaw– is struck in the cheek by a Mike Fiers pitch last night in Milwaukee. Stanton was also called for a strike on the play when he was struck, in case you’re looking for today’s literal example of “adding insult to injury.”

Stanton, who leads the N.L. in both home runs (37) and RBI (105), suffered facial fractures and is done for the season.

Chase Heady — “That’s Headley!”– of the Yankees was struck in the chin by a pitch as well.

5. Tell It To Her Heart

So, yesterday Katie goes all “Me and Tig Natarro should be besties if there’s any justice in the world” and I’m feeling left out because I’ve never heard of Tig Natarro. So I did a little research. She IS very funny (oh, and minor thing, but it’s Tig Notaro). Anyway, I found this terrific monologue about Tig’s multiple run-ins with late 80′s/early 90′s pop diva Taylor Dayne. Worth your time. And here’s some solid stand-up from her.

(Next week, we’ll add some Steve Coogan movie scenes…)


Stretch Hummers. A boy named Track. Shirtless, drunken brawling. Truly, THIS is Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Over on TNT, Team Coco devises some other terrific restaurant promos inspired by Olive Garden’s “Never Ending Pasta Pass.”


Bill Clinton: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Barack Obama: “ISIS is a terrorist organization.”

Remote Patrol

Bill Maher Doubleheader

HBO 9 & 10 p.m.

Maher has been on vacation since early August, or in other words, since before Ferguson, before the ISIS beheadings, before Ray Rice. He’ll air back-to-back live shows from Washington, D.C., tonight. There won’t be a dearth of available subject matter.


I’m Not Sure What’s Happening

Ahh, subs. Gotta love ‘em, right?

If history has taught us anything, the answer to that is a resounding “NO”.

Is there anything worse than having front row seats to the big game, only  to find the star player benched with a torn meniscus? Or tickets to the hottest show in town, and that sad slip of paper flutters out of  your program, explaining that an understudy is filling in because the diva has polyps on her vocal chords?

Well, sure, there are lots of worse things. Ebola, for instance. But it’s Thursday, and I’m here and John isn’t, so here is your

JV Five

Wait wait wait wait wait…I know what you’re  probably thinking: “Hey! This isn’t porn! What’s wrong with my computer?”

Or perhaps you’re thinking “WHY, why is she here today?? I purposely skipped reading MH yesterday because they said she would be here on Wednesdays.”

And you were told that, you were…but you see, kids, to you, ‘Wednesday’ means the third day of the work week; the day your secretary wears her red skirt;  the night that Modern Family is on.  Maybe you’re even one of those miscreants who insists on calling it ‘hump’ day.

To me, ‘Wednesday’ is more of an idea; a dayish kind of time in the middle of the week.  It’s like how my daughter’s school tells me to pick her up at 3:15. To me, that means sometime after my nap but before my cocktail. And you know what? It always works out. Let’s just say I don’t believe in splitting hairs.

Moving on…

1. The Black List on Netflix

Netflix paid NBC 2 million dollars an episode for this show. I tried to watch it last night and gave it up after about 15 minutes to watch Muriel’s Wedding for the tenth time instead.

We wish we were watching Muriel’s Wedding, too. And we also wish John would come back.

It’s probably good. People seem to think so. It just seemed like one of those fast-paced, crime-type shows, where he’s all “I’m super smart and evil kind of like Hannibal Lecter” and she’s all “He doesn’t even know me yet he knows me so well, like a father figure which makes my attraction to him all the more confusing” types of shows,  and I couldn’t get into it. Plus her wig was very distracting.

2. Bad Rice Spoils the Whole Soup

No, not a metaphor about that punch-happy football player,  I’m talking about actual rice.

My mother, who is the best,  is under the weather. So yesterday I went to my folks’ house and made her some soup, of the healing, nourishing, chickeny variety.  Put the chicken in the pot, added onions and garlic and sent my dad to the store to get carrots and peppers and what have you, and as I’m standing at the counter, chopping and scooping and stirring, my mom, who is supposed to be convalescing in the big recliner,  comes shuffling up behind me and starts dumping something into the pot.

“Mom! What is that? What are you doing? Sit down,” I say.

“Oh, it’s just some black rice. Your father and I got it at Trader Joe’s. I’ve never had it before. I thought we could try it instead of noodles,” she says, and shuffles back to sit down in her chair.

You know you’ve been a mother for a long time when even illness can’t keep you from messing with the soup. Or maybe she knows I’m JV in more ways than one.

The soup has now turned the color of sewage. The good news is, it smells awful. Like if feet had a baby with very strong cheese and mud.

I scoop out the chicken to remove the bones, and the meat is a terrible dark gray color. It looks about as appetizing as zombie flesh.

Mmmmm…whose hungry?

My dad comes in, peeks into the pot over his glasses and announces, “I’m not eating that.”

“It’s good,”  I say. I guess I thought I could fool him by saying that.

“Are you staying for dinner?” He asks me.

“No,” I say. No way. 

My mother is giggling wildly to herself. Some things are just worth it, I get that. And oftentimes a good laugh makes you feel better than a bowl of soup.

I wouldn’t eat me, either

3. Margret Cho’s blog about Joan Rivers’ funeral

Touchingly heartfelt, hilarious and  extremely crude. And the crude part, she was just quoting Howard Stern anyway. I think Joan would’ve approved. I say that like I knew her. Which I didn’t.

Speaking of funny ladies, I am very happy to tell you that the fantastic Tig Natarro is coming to my town, and I am going. She is someone who I actually fantasize about being friends with in real life.  I wish she’d return my calls.

I love you too, Katie!

4. The Trip to Italy, part 2

I saw it.

I loved it. It was as terrific as the first one, possibly funnier  and like the first, had its moments of depth and thoughtfulness and subtext. That’s right, I said subtext. Do you want to punch me yet?

Also, this one is bright and tight and bursting with color and scenery, whereas the first one looked like maybe it was shot on someone’s phone.  And Steve Coogan’s hair is nice and short–compare:

Hi! I’m a goofy looking comedian!
Oh wait, actually I’m a movie star.

And lastly, my friends, I round out my back-up five with

Going Incognito

A few minutes ago, my household was thrown into a panic when I accidentally hit the ‘back’ button and everything I wrote here disappeared. Laundry baskets were kicked, blue words were expressed, a chocolate cream pie was sent airborne (that was immediately regretted and then said pie was eaten off the wall).

But all was well when I realized everything had been saved by the miracle gnomes of WordPress. My God, what a time we live in. But I also apparently bumped another button on my computer and was informed I had gone ‘incognito’.

What?? How fabulously mysterious. I don’t know what it means, but I really like the sound of it.

Seriously you guys, I just read that researchers have decided if your baby gets crabby when you leave the room, it means it’s going to have unhappy relationships as an adult. Whaaaaaaat?

Come on. How can they possibly know this? The only way to possibly know if this extremely alarming prediction is true would be to follow the crabby baby in question his or her entire life, watching and butting into his or he relationships, which would certainly give those relationships a higher chance of being terrible.

Change me or I’ll get divorced!

Woman on date: “Hey, uh, who is that dude in a lab coat whose been following us and listening in on us all night? It’s kind of freaking me out.”

Man she is on date with: “UGH is he here again?? GAAAAH! That BLEEEEEEP BLEEEEEPITY BLEEEEP has been following me my whole BLEEEEEEEEEP life! Where is he? I’ll kill him! Kill him I say!” 

He flips the table over, sending spaghetti bolognese and wine everywhere and starts ripping the restaurant apart as the researcher in the lab coat makes his way out the back. Meanwhile, his date dials Uber.

Until next time,






It’s All Happening!

Starting Five

1. It’s a Shame About Ray

Where to begin? How about here: Just after CBS promoted Norah O’Donnell’s “exclusive” interview with NFL Commish Roger Goodell this morning, it ran a countdown clock until the kickoff to its Thursday night football game…because there’s nothing else going on in your life until then.

Oh, Sports Illustrated, which boasts the highest-paid sports writer in the country, completely whiffs on the Ray Rice story because that writer, Peter King, took the word of a third party earlier this summer and assumed the tip as fact…without even bothering to fact-check it with the prime source. And if any of us fact-checkers had done that when I was there, the celebrated Peter Carry (Mr. Pearlman presented one side of the story; there’s certainly others, myself included, who rolled their eyes at that hagiography) would have ripped us a new one. Or had us writing “Faces in the Crowd the next three years.

…and also what it exposes about our reportage

Kudos to Peter King for owning up to his error but this is an egregious mistake for someone whose entire franchise, and it is a franchise, is built on his reportage of the NFL. As he himself said, “I didn’t do my job the right way (i.e., I did my job the wrong way)…I let you down.” Of course, that did not prevent SI from figuratively smashing Janay Rice in the face a second time by putting a screen grab of the elevator incident on its cover this week.

And by the way, all of us failed here. Me, too. Not just PK and SI. Any of us in the media who never reached out directly to the NFL or the Revel Casino and at least asked to see the tape, who never phoned the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office and asked for an explanation. All of us failed. 

——O’Donnell’s interview of Goodell was mostly solid, but she missed a terrific opportunity to pounce. At one point she asked The Commish, “What changed?…Did you really need to see a video of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision (i.e., upping the suspension from two games to “indefinite”)?” Excellent question.

Goodell responds, “No, we certainly didn’t…”

This is where Mike Wallace would have gone Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on The Commish. Because, YES, they certainly did. The events bear that out. O’Donnell should have told him that his actions and his words are incongruent. She missed a golden opportunity for a KO (yes, I’m deliberately being insensitive here).

—-I don’t know Katie Nolan. People may infer from my Twitter comments that I do not like Katie Nolan. Not true. I just don’t like many of the arguments that she makes, and I do believe that a lot of observers simply buy them because she’s the cool girl who can hang out with the guys but all the guys also (not so) secretly have a major crush on her. Which, of course, is not her fault.

But let’s examine this essay, which, by the way, has been roundly hailed by the likes of Deadspin and SB Nation. She begins with, “How do I reconcile my values and beliefs with my love for a sport that has an ongoing issue with domestic violence?”

Oh, there’s a hand up in the second row. Yes, Mr. Walters? “How about you don’t reconcile them? How about you take the side of your values and beliefs and leave it at that? It’s impossible to serve two masters blahbity blah blah when one compels you to abandon those things yada yada which you profess to espouse.”

So, it can end there. But, that may not be enough for you or Nolan (it should be, though; most of the time, the simplest answer is the best).

Next, Nolan mentions the idea of a boycott, dismissing it out of hand because 1) It’s unrealistic to think that the majority would go along with it (Did you hear that, Messsrs. Adams, Jefferson, Hancock, etc.? Let’s not try it because, right or not, it may not work) and 2) “it would remove the critical thinkers from the conversation.” Except that boycotting is SPEAKING. As loudly as possible. Against a tyrannical power who isn’t taking your arguments very seriously in the first place, don’t you know. Like, the Boston Tea Party probably accomplished more in terms of getting King George’s attention than another town/Fanueil Hall, no?

My problem with her argument here is that, based on this logic, there is never a good reason to boycott anything. Unless she can specify it to why a boycott versus the NFL in particular is a bad idea, it’s a hollow argument.

And by the way, you don’t as an individual boycott the NFL (or any company) necessarily because you think it will work. You boycott it as your personal message to them and anyone who may know you that you do not accept the status quo. Perhaps others will see what you are doing and, as well, find the courage of their convictions. A boycott is the LOUDEST possible statement an individual can make. “You didn’t just lose me, Mr. President. You lost my vote.”

And maybe I’d buy Miss Nolan’s argument just a little if she did not confess in the next part that she had an opportunity to question Roger Goodell at a Fox function, but passed because she did not think it was appropriate at the time. Well, suggesting a boycott on a website that is owned by very powerful men who have a billion dollar contract with the NFL is probably also inappropriate, so whether or not you actually believe your own anti-boycott argument, I’m taking it with a grain of salt for the same reason you chose not to question The Commish: probably not a wise career move to advocate a boycott on a Fox-owned site.

Moving on, Nolan takes a shot at ESPN’s Chris Berman when she could just as easily have taken a shot at, say, Terry Bradshaw. Again, that wouldn’t have been politically astute, now would it? Katie’s just one of us –she’s a pro at looking into the camera and making you feel as if it’s just you and she against the world — but she certainly knows who’s buttering her bread. So, yeah, let’s knock Boomer over on the other network and hope no one notices that I don’t have the balls to notice the cracks in my own house.

Finally, she basically pleads for a better job from her bosses. But it all comes down to this: Is there really anyone who doesn’t know that hitting a woman is a shameful act? And even if you put ten Katie Nolans on NFL pregame shows, won’t the producer then go directly to a stadium shot taken from waist level of a bouncin’-and-behavin’ cheerleader…who will in ten years or so marry Joe Buck and become a “credible “reporter for the NFL Network ( but that’s an entirely different story ), which is itself an ironic phrase?

(And, by the way, there actually are former NFL cheerleaders who have become credible reporters)

I think your NFL audience understands that striking a woman is a heinous act. It’s the men in the NFL locker rooms –not all, but a disturbing amount– who just don’t care. Because they’re young and they’re wealthy and they’re big and strong and nobody but nobody, and certainly not some man or woman on an NFL studio show, dictates to them how they will behave.

“All aboard for Fred Smoot’s Sex Boat!”

But you know what will get their attention? Loss of income. And you, as a fan, have no greater power in this respect than your wallet. And your wallet alone won’t mean much, but it’s a beginning.

I was talking to an ex-NFL player just two days ago about another ex-NFL player. He said that this guy used to walk into clubs wearing nothing but a fur coat and jeans and say to women, “Are we going to have sex tonight? No? Then get outta my face.”

That’s your NFL problem right there. Deal with that. Joe Nacho Cheese doesn’t need more females in the media to edjumicate him about how to treat a woman. And, understand, I’m all for more females having a larger television voice. Let’s begin with Sally Jenkins and Mary Carillo, the two smartest women in sports media I know. But Mr. Fan isn’t the problem. Mr. NFL Player is.

Two more things: If you care enough about a cause, you’re willing to risk something for it. I point to my own personal hero, Pat Tillman, as Exhibit A. You can also point to James Foley or Steven Sotloff if you like. Granted, fighting the Taliban (or exposing ISIS) versus taking on the NFL’s domestic violence problem may, for most, seem to be crises on entirely different levels. Understood. The point is, though, that these men didn’t think twice about what was more valuable: their principles or their safety.

Katie Nolan sat in front of a camera and told me that, when she had the chance, she was not willing to risk appearing rude. And that’s fine. But now she tells me that, hey, if given a more lucrative job with greater visibility, well, yeah, she’d be willing to say something. I don’t consider that a profile in courage.

And, finally, this: the Buffalo Bills were purchased yesterday, after the latest Ray Rice tape was released, for what is believed to be a record price of $1.4 billion. The NFL is printing money, so while they’d like it if their players stopped punching wives and girlfriends in the face, or at least started treating bitches with the same respect they afford their moms or grandmothers, business is good. They hear you, Katie, they’re just not listening. And they won’t take you seriously as long as you continue to participate in three fantasy leagues and base your entire week around Sunday.

As William Rhoden said on CBS This Morning, “We can’t continue to be addicted to this game.” He’s right. But what is it going to take for the rest of you to listen to him? Apparently, the footage of Ray Rice punching his fiancee in the jaw is not enough.



Starting Five

“I’ll get Tommy Trojan over here and then we’ll see how tough you guys are.”

1. A.D. Hoc Committee*

(The judges will also accept “PH Unbalanced?”)

For posterity’s sake: Late in the third quarter, USC kicks a 25-yard field goal to forge a 10-10 tie with Stanford in Palo Alto. Then the Trojans are penalized five yards for “delay of game,” for not respecting that white space that rings the field. Coach Steve Sarkisian barks, so he earns a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (my guess is both flags came after repeated warnings about both).

Then Sarkisian claimed that USC was not delaying the game, but instead saving its cousin from drowning. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, from its own 15, USC loses a starter when Hayes Pullard is ejected for targeting. On the very next play, from USC’s 47, Stanford QB Kevin Hogan fumbles and USC recovers.

Responsible for fewer calls, if not passes, dropped

By this time someone on the USC sideline has already texted athletic director Pat Haden, a member of the 13-genius Selection Committee panel, and told him Stevie has poopy pants. Whatever. So Haden puts down the crab puff and hustles down to the sideline to be Sark’s champion in Trial by Combat. Meanwhile, the 3rd quarter conveniently ends –remember, USC has the ball again–and Haden, a Rhodes Scholar, commences to do something very dumb: advocate for his coach (“Fight on!”), during the game, with ABC’s cameras there.

Now, first, the genius who texted Haden, or the person who ordered that genius to text, is mostly at fault here. Second, by the time Haden arrived USC had already gotten the ball back and it wasn’t as if any of those three calls were going to be reversed, so what was the point of bitching? Third, big ups to Stanford for its in-game in-stadium mobile phone reception. Methinks The Tree is actually a cell phone tower. Finally, I don’t agree with my friend Dan Wolken that Haden needs to resign from the Selection Committee. I am heartened, though, that all the simpletons who thought a 13-member panel of enlightened post-hormonal geniuses and an expanded “playoff” would bring greater clarity –not to mention an improved product–are so quickly seeing the folly of their idea. It was always stupid. This weekend’s hi-jinks just prove as much.

2. Medium Happy 8

Incorrigible Utes: Only A&M has scored more points than this Power 5 (vomit at the term) school that remains unranked.

Not to be confused with the AP Poll, where Utah, a school that apparently some voters have yet to realize is in the Pac-12, is not ranked despite beating Idaho State 56-14 and Fresno State 59-27. We’re not saying the Utes are even the best school in the Beehive State –No. 25 Brigham Young probably is– but how come they are not ranked while five one-loss teams are?

Our Top 8:

Texas A&M: Aggies have beaten a ranked team on the road, in a nationally televised Thursday night game, and are averaging 62.5 points per game, the most of any team that has played two games.

Oregon: Defeated No. 7 Michigan State with 28 unanswered 2nd-half points and are averaging 54 points per game.

Auburn: Have now covered 13 straight games –McMurphy’s Law–and have been the most impressive squad in the Tuscahasseeburn Triangle.

Oklahoma: Sooners have outscored opponents 62-3 in first half, which at this time of year is indicative of a focused team.

Florida State: The Seminoles should be No. 1, but they certainly have yet to play that way. Boredom? Self-satisfaction? This is a team that appears to be guilty of shellfish behavior.

Baylor: Only school in nation in the top ten in both Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense. No, the Bears haven’t played anyone. Most teams haven’t.

In their last scheduled meeting, Jaylon Smith and Notre Dame handed Michigan its first shutout defeat in365 games.

Georgia: Dawgs only 1-0,  but look even better after Clemson crushed  foe without hap, 73-7.

Alabama: Tide were a 42-point favorite. Led 41-0 when game was called in fourth quarter due to lightning. They are the anti-Auburn.

By the way, this weekend’s games are miserable. Georgia at South Carolina is the only one halfway worth watching, and I think the Doggies, off a bye week, will roll. Go out and run a half-marathon instead or something.

3.  You Can’t Spell ‘Crisis’ Without ‘Isis’

No joke: these are members of ISIS’ all-female brigade.

Intolerant of any religion or ethnicity that is not their own and hiding behind hoods and robes. Whom does ISIS remind me of….?

Anyway, The Obama appeared on “Meet The Press” yesterday and announced that he had hired Chip Kelly to go on offense against ISIS, or something like that, and that he will also lay out a “game-plan” in a nationally televised address on Wednesday.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed this splice of footage from the 1994 Whit Stillman film Barcelona as a tactical and dynamic U.S. foreign policy.

4. Rice Capades

From KO to OK in one easy press conference? Not so fast.

As my pal Arash “Guest List” Markazi tweeted, “seeing is believing.” The video of Ray Rice tossing a compact left hook at his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, and knocking her out, obtained today by TMZ, puts this entire ugly affair in a new orbit.

Who saw this video –the NFL, the Ravens, the police?–and yet still only put Rice in a pre-trial diversion program and gave him a two-game suspension. The NFL is claiming it only just saw the elevator video today. If that is true, then maybe it’s time to give Rice at the very least an 8-game suspension. Worse, of course, is that prosecutors did not seek jail time against Rice. Untenable position.

As for you and me? If the NFL does not at least further punish Rice, let’s stop watching and attending games. At least for a weekend. Come on, America, I know you can do it.

Finally, yes, I don’t know why seeing the video should amp up the rage so exponentially. How did we think she came to be knocked out? The logic on this is solid, but the truth is that the video changes everything. It eliminates any doubt.

5. Ali Baba and the Sept. 18 IPO

Get ready, home-gamers. Ali Baba, the of Asia and much of the rest of the world, will have its initial public offering (IPO) on September 18. The price range is expected to be $60-66 and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t above $100 per share by Christmas.

A quick note on high-profile IPOs.

GoPro (GPRO) (June 26) $28……….Today: $61

Twitter (TWTR) (Nov. 7) $26……….Today: $51

Facebook (FB) (May 18, 2012) $45…..Today: $78

Chipotle (CMG) (Jan. 26, 2006) $22….Today: $677

There are, of course, many more companies that file for IPOs and whose stock plummets afterward. My point is that these are some of the more high-profile IPOs of the internet and Twitter age, when everyone can MMQB these companies. I didn’t even note Google or Apple or Pied Piper (!), but they’re all highly, even exponentially positive. I think Ali Baba (BABA) will go the same way. Besides, I’m going to like, as an investor, being known as BABA Walters.

Chipotle (CMG)