IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right


Note: How did we miss “House Of Carbs” as the headline for Item No. 1 yesterday? We failed you. We’re sorry.

Starting Five

1. Brexit Strategy*

*The judges also fancy “Come What May” 

Poor Theresa May. The British Prime Minister is trying to break up with Europe, but she just cannot find the right words. May’s Brexit proposal, which was ratified in general by 52% of the popular vote in 2016, suffered a most resounding defeat in particular in the House of Commons, 432-202, yesterday. And Parliament didn’t even attempt any three-pointers.

We realize this and William Barr and Steve King is a lot less fun to talk about than Happy Meals in the White House, but it’s all a part of a bigger story: the wave of white nationalism—I’m sorry, I mean “Western Civilization”— that crested with Donald Trump’s election in 2016 but now seems to be on the wane. Could it be that common white folk are just tired of being afraid and hostile all the time? One hopes.

2. Wahoo’s Next?

Jack Salt’s hometown is the Eisenhower Era…

The Who are planning another tour. So are the Wahoos of Virginia, who defeated Virginia Tech in the first-ever matchup of top ten schools from the Commonwealth last night, 81-59. The Cavs are 16-0 and uh-oh, we’ve all seen this play before. No. 4 UVA, one of two unbeatens left in the country (the other is Michigan) hosts No. 1 Duke on Saturday in Charlottesville.

When healthy, Duke starts four freshmen. Virginia starts no freshmen but three nouns: Salt (Jack), Guy (Kyle) and Hunter (De’Andre).

3. Area 51

The Golden State Warriors are like the parents who are about to have their seventh child and are as nonchalant about getting to the hospital on time and the lamaze classes as they’d be about making a trip to CVS. The Dubs, who entered last night with the second-best record in the Western Conference, visited the Denver Nuggets, who had the best record, and promptly hung an NBA-record 51 first-quarter points on them.

Daddy’s home.

The final score was 142-111 as KD, Steph and Klay combined to drain 18 three-pointers. The Dubs woke up with the best record in the West (30-14 to Denver’s 29-14) this morning. Let the season begin.

4. Heis

Wanted to say a few words about recently and reluctantly retired (for now) Notre Dame associate athletic director John Heisler, who just departed after more than four decades on the job. John was a tremendous asset to the Fighting Irish for 41 years and, for a couple of generations of sportswriters, the true ambassador of the school’s athletic programs. He has an army of acolytes in the press box because he is always professional, always honest and, if you got to know him well enough, has a wickedly dry sense of humor.

I never knew Heis (like “Rice”) as an Irish undergrad (I barely wrote for The Observer), but I met him soon after arriving at Sports Illustrated. Like, within the first month. In those years Notre Dame was, with Miami, the top dog in CFB. Heis was the person to whom you spoke about anything ND-related and I was the college football fact-checker at SI. A long and trusting relationship began.

In the past decade, Heis’ and my relationship grew in a wonderful way. As Notre Dame pushed him out from day-to-day projects, John took over (created? I’m not sure) an extraordinary annual project, an anthology book of profiles of Notre Dame sports people called “Strong Of Heart.” John first plucked me to work on these in 2010 and I’ve done two or three for him each year since. It’s my favorite annual project.

Every year Heis and I can go months without speaking or emails. Then September comes and one of us emails about the project. I’ll shoot an idea or two to Heis, he’ll shoot me down, and then he’ll come back with a few suggestions and tell me to pick two (he’s known me long enough not to give me three, if he ever wants the book published on time).

Thanks to Heis, I’ve met a plethora of fascinating Notre Dame folks. Spent an afternoon with the woman who created the “Play Like A Champion Today” sign. Spoken for hours upon hours on the phone with Rudy Ruettiger. Profiled Ryan Shay, which is why I now touch his bench whenever I go on a run in Central Park. Spoke at length to my classmate Nicholas Sparks, whose own success story is better than most Nicholas Sparks novels. And, again thanks to John, spent a wonderful day with former Irish wide receiver Thom Gatewood and his lovely wife Susan and now consider the two of them dear and close friends. Thom is truly as kind and classy a man as I’ve ever met.

I owe John Heisler a great debt for this project, and it’s allowed our friendship to grow deeper. I truly don’t know why Notre Dame let him go so unceremoniously: I’ve looked for a tweet of gratitude from the school’s official athletic site. Nothing. For something on the athletics home page. Again, nothing.

That, I just don’t understand (while admitting I’m not on the ground in South Bend). On the one hand, for anyone to be able to work for the same employer for 41 years, well, good on them for being a fantastic employee but you’re also somewhat blessed. Too many of us, especially in the sports industry, have learned that there is no loyalty in this business no matter how great an employee you are. Still, from afar it seems as if Notre Dame could have handled his exodus more graciously.

John’s a class act. And a good and smart man. Notre Dame will miss him.

5. Relief


Honestly, this is how we feel when we really gotta go but we still know we’ve got to put the key in both downstairs doors in our building, then climb five flights of stairs, then we get into the apartment and into the bathroom, zip down and….ahhhhhh. We feel you, Mr. Whale.

Music 101

Rock Around The Clock

If this wasn’t the birth of rock and roll on television—no, wait, it was. Elvis may have been the baptism, but this appearance by Bill Haley & His Comets on Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater on May 31, 1955 was the first communion between rock and roll and television. Six weeks later, on July 9, 1955, this song would become the first rock-and-roll tune to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Almost one month later, on Sunday, August 7, Haley and the Comets became the first of many iconic rock acts to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Remote Patrol

East Of Eden

8 p.m. TCM

Too fast to live/Too young to die/Bye bye. James Dean, the original Brad Pitt, was only 24 when he passed. Before doing so, he had three major roles: In Giant (his last film, 1956 release), in Rebel Without A Cause (his signature film, October ’55 release) and in this, his breakout role (March ’55 release). Of the three, this is the only movie that was in theaters before Dean died in an auto accident not far from this film’s Salinas, Calif., setting, on Sept. 30, 1955. Before landing the role in this movie directed by the legendary Elia Kazan, Dean had to meet and get the approval of this classic novel’s author: John Steinbeck.

He was nominated, but did not win, for a Best Actor Oscar posthumously for this role: the first time the Academy Awards ever did this.

 

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

1.Mayor McCheesy*

*The judges will also accept “The Dollar Menu Starts Here” and “The Fast Supper”

As someone who in the past may have exhibited a slight disinclination to take the side of Donald J. Trump, I want to make one thing clear: I am not FURIOUS over last night’s White House reception for the Clemson football team, where the best of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King et al was served. I’m not TRIGGERED. But I do feel it necessary to expound on how what might have been a kitschy idea became a major fail (even Clemson players going through the buffet line were snickering, “I thought this was a joke.”).

1.) If you’re going to serve fast food and make it casual, get a note out to a team official that the players and coaches should dress casual. That Clemson players and staff were all in suits as they snarfed down Whoppers and Big Macs was just plain wrong. If the food is casual, so too should be the dress.

2) For a guy who spends as much time on Twitter as President Trump does, it’s amazing how oblivious he is to fast food trends. Trump basically ordered what Seventies Dad considered cool fast food because Trump’s mind has never really evolved, culturally or intellectually, from the Mid-Eighties. If you’re gonna go fast food for college football players in 2019, you go Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Popeye’s and Shake Shack (In-n-Out not being on the East Coast).

3) You know what McDonald’s does as soon as it cooks and wraps a burger? It places it under a heating lamp until it is served. I’ve been both part of sports teams who placed massive orders and of a serving staff that’s filled them, and so I appreciate how hard it is to both FILL a big order AND keep the food warm. This never occurred to Donald J. Trump.

Figure how long it took to make all that food for any one restaurant. Some of the burgers were already sitting and waiting as other burgers were being cooked. Then you drive it over to the White House. Then it sits on trays until the team enters. That’s a minimum, MINIMUM, of 20 minutes. Go to your local McD’s or BK today, order a burger, then sit and wait 20 minutes before you take your first bite. Tell me how it tastes. WHY WEREN’T THERE FOOD-WARMER TRAYS, the kind you’d find at any halfway-decent Marriott or Sheraton hosting a buffet lunch for the local State Farm office managers’ meeting?

“Supersize Me?” Dexter Lawrence is 6’5″, 340. That horsemeat has already left the barn.

So what, with the government furlough and all, was Donald Trump supposed to do, you ask? Lots of things. First, you might have delayed Clemson’s visit. Smart, and wait for spring when you can do a Rose Garden reception outside. Second, you could have appreciated that you don’t have any expertise/experience in personally hosting large groups of people, and you might have called someone from the hospitality staff at the nearby Trump Hotel in D.C. and put them in charge of this.

I’ll only mention as an aside that Fox News would have destroyed President Obama for disgracing the White House this way and there would’ve been a snide remark or two dozen about how “this is what black people like to eat.” I’m not going there. Like I said, this could have been a cute idea and also highlighted great American companies. But Donald Trump is congenitally incapable of thinking about others and he’s not very good at accepting that he doesn’t know everything. So he just thought, What do I like to eat? and then figured out the simplest way to make that happen times 100 and voila!, this is what you get.

It’s not that the fast food idea sucked. It’s that its execution was one more revelatory incident into how Trump’s mind functions. He doesn’t follow through well. He slots everything into his worldview, which includes an incapability of appreciation that it’s no longer 1985 (he probably thinks everyone on that team knows who Madonna is). And, well, he’s a buffoon.

The denouement of this moment would be the Clemson team managers handing out Chick-fil-A meals to the players as they boarded the plane back to campus. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that.

2. Taking Their Cuse

Syracuse entered Cameron Indoor and 11-5 and unranked. Duke entered 14-1 and the number one team in the nation. The Blue Devils’ top three players—Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish—are all freshmen and are the top three names you’ll find in many a 2019 NBA mock draft. Also, the Blue Devils were 104-0 at home as the number-one team in the nation against every school except North Carolina.

So what happened? Reddish was sick, point guard Tre Jones separated his shoulder in the first half (he’s out indefinitely; and no one is shedding tears for Coach K) and Duke could not hit from beyond the arc against the Orange’s 2-3 zone. Williamson did pour in a freshman-record 35 points for the Blue Devils, but the Battle-ing Boeheims win in OT, 95-91.

3. SportsBall

Would we do an entire segment on SportsBall as to why this is such an antiquated practice and how we already have the technology to improve upon it? You betcha.

So we had this idea two days ago and we were going to post it on Twitter, but we’re doing our best to tweet less in 2019 (New Year’s resolutions and all) and besides, we’d rather share it just with you. So, here’s our idea for a refreshingly different sports show that might appear on the ESPN or the FS1: SportsBall.

What would it be about? Well, it would be more about the actual games themselves and less about the personalities and the personality-driven drama that you see on most of the ESPN and FS1 daytime programming.

Examples of what we would have: 1) An examination of how Pete Maravich was able to average at least 43.8 points per game for three straight seasons at LSU without benefit of a shot clock or the three-point stripe 2) A “Meet the Sacramento Kings” segment 3) Debate on whether the NBA would work better as a “4-on-4” game (more shifts as players would be gassed sooner), 4) A piece on how college football players put in time beyond their 20-hour mandated weeks, 5) A question as to why no one else has copied the successful Green Bay Packers model (I’m still feeling you, Billings Bighorns).

Examples of what we would not have: 1) Any GOAT conversations, 2) Almost all of the LeBron drama 3) Speculations on what coaches should be fired, 4) Anything remotely related to Lavar Ball.

A segment such as Scott Van Pelt’s “Bad Beats” would be welcome on SportsBall. A debate as to whether or not Russell Westbrook is selfish would be unwelcome.

Whaddaya think? Who wants to throw money at us?

4. Superhero

Yesterday afternoon I read a pice in The Ringer by Sean Fennessey about how “This is the most wide-open Best Picture race in years” and that it may be because “we don’t even know what Best Picture means.”

I know what it means, Sean. It means that film that makes the hairs on your forearms stand at attention as you watch it, at least in certain parts. That movie that may bring you to the brink of tears but if not that, brings out your strongest GENUINE feelings (I ALL CAPS genuine because Three Billboards was outstanding at manipulating its audience with faux feelings and issues, etc.; it was horribly disingenuous and I hated it hated it hated it and I think enough voters felt the same way I did last year, but were afraid to say so, which is why it got all that buzz but then a compromise candidate such as The Shape Of Water, a film no one cares to see again, won).

Enter Free Solo, a documentary about climber Alex Honnold, who in June of 2017 became the first human being to climb 3,200-foot rock face El Capitan (in Yosemite Park) without any equipment except the limbs and appendages God gave him, a good pair of rubberized soles and a chalk bag.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first: This is a shoo-in for Best Documentary and it should also win Best Cinematography and Best Score (I haven’t been moved by a score that fit its moment this much since James Franco’s “escape” scene in 127 Hours). Is this the Best Picture of 2018, overall? I’ve seen every “worthy” film except Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody and for me, excepting those two, it is. Without question.

I saw Free Solo at an IMAX where I sat through four consecutive super hero film previews (Shazam, Alita, Captain Marvel and Hellboy) and increasingly became more and more depressed about what this says about Fascism, authoritarianism (“Save the world!” is a popular tagline), Hollywood’s sensibility about how dumb its audiences are and how desperately in need they are of someone with superhuman power to escape them (cue: hopeless economic and societal times). You can write an entire Phd thesis about what the epidemic of these films (and their box-office-boffo success) says about society at large.

Then Free Solo began. No CGI. No extraordinary powers, excepting will. There was even superhero backstory (a dysfunctional family where our hero never heard the word “love” and never learned to hug), a supportive but distracting and pretty girlfriend and our hero finding a rare moment of self-doubt.

Then comes the climb. It lasts, in film time, about 15 or so minutes (the entire climb took 3 hours and 56 minutes). I looked around at my fellow patrons and if you go I encourage you to do the same at this juncture in the movie. Look at where people put their hands. You’ll see people with a hand over their mouth, or as a visor at their forehead, or near their throat or even heart.

It’s suspense. It’s terror. Deep down we know he’s going to make it (we’d have read about it if he hadn’t) but watching a human being do what Honnold does here, playing with death at every new hold or reach, evokes something so visceral and real. For me, hands down, it’s the Best Picture of the year.

It’s also the Best Documentary I’ve seen since Grizzly Man and who’s to say, between Timothy Treadwell and Alex Honnold, who was more unable and unwilling to cope i modern society or even who had more of a death wish? The difference is that, for now, Honnold has eluded the Grim Reaper.

Stay tuned.

5. Closs Call

It’s only been a few days since Jayme Closs escaped her kidnapper, so we were not quite expecting to read a story that was so incredibly detailed in terms of her parents’ murder, her abduction, her captivity and, ultimately, her escape. But this is what happens when the murderer/kidnapper talks to police—his first words to them were, “I did it”—and when your victim emerges, thankfully, alive.

Read this story. It’s harrowing and horrible. A couple thoughts: there was no way the police were ever going to be able to prevent her parents’ murder, but it’s almost unconscionable that they let him get away in the beginning. As you’ll read, the killer had put Closs in the trunk of his car and was only 20 seconds from pulling out from their driveway when three screeching patrol cars passed him on the way to her house. Three! Racing toward a potential crime scene on a rural highway at 3 a.m., and not one of them thinks to stop the car that is on that road at that hour (a car being driven by a lone white male).

I’m not sure if any reporter asked that question at the press conference, but that should’ve been the first question asked.

Music 101

Walk Like A Man

Finally watched Jersey Boys the other night (as an Italian-American Jersey boy myself, I felt it was my duty). Don’t know whose idea it was to hand Clint Eastwood the director’s megaphone, but this was less of a musical and more of a “Behind The Music.” That tall, dark and handsome dude on the right is Bob Gaudio, the genius songwriter behind the The Four Seasons’ plethora of hits. As the movie explains, he was introduced to the group by a mutual friend, another young Jersey Eye-talian named Joe Pesci. Of course, who knows how far they ever would’ve gotten without Frankie Valli’s inimitable vocals.

This was the band’s third No. 1 single (March, 1963) in a seven-month span after never having charted before. Also, if you see the film, though it does not explicitly spell it out, you finally know who and what “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” is all about.

Remote Patrol

Anchors Aweigh

10:15 p.m. TCM

Dig: We realize there’s a lot of TCM in this space and that may skew older viewer (it definitely skews older viewer), but damn, girl, they don’t make ’em like they used to. Triple-threat Gene Kelly (dancer-singer-leading man) and Frank Sinatra doing his very, very best to keep up in this 1945 Best Picture nominee about two sailors on shore leave in Los Angeles.

Four years later, this duo would team up to make a similar film (sailors on shore leave in New York City), On The Town.

Historical perspective: This film was released on July 19, 1945. It was still in theaters when the Japanese (or “Japs”) surrendered less than one month later. It was like American Sniper with tap dancing.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right


I worked with Kurt at Newsweek. He’s super plugged-in. Read the whole thread on his timeline.

Starting Five

The money’s on the bedside table

1. Agent Orange?

The problem with investigating whether a father is molesting his daughter or a mother beating her children is that once the accusation is leveled it cannot be retracted. And unless there’s sufficient evidence, that potential victim has to return to live with the parent and face even harsher music. At least for awhile. This is why Child Protective Services always try to separate the children from the parents, especially during the investigation.

The problem with the FBI investigating whether the President of the United States is in league with a foreign adversary is somewhat analogous. The Director of the FBI works for the President, hence to launch such an investigation is to betray your boss. Which puts you in sort of a Catch-22 situation: If you’re wrong, you’re done. And if you’re right, you may also be done because he’ll do everything in his power to discredit you and call YOU the traitor as a means of playing the last card in his hand. The….um….Trump card.

What we do know now, via Greg Miller of the Washington Post: “U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years.”

We also know that “President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials.”

Fishy, at best.

Then there’s this. It was a “Yes” or “No” question, and he was unwilling to provide a definitive answer:

The New York Times piece about how the FBI initiated its investigation into Trump and a possible Russian compromise ends with these two paragraphs:

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Donald Trump isn’t as smart, nowhere near, as Richard Nixon was. And he’s even sloppier.  As far as we’re concerned, it’s only a matter of time before Robert Mueller’s investigation is released and, given how thoroughly this has likely been done, given how many accomplices of Trump’s have already copped to plea deals, the evidence will be overwhelming. After that it’s just a matter of whether Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham want to do their jobs or if they choose to go out like the warden in The Shawshank Redemption.

But it’s going to happen. And the stain of the Trump name will last for a long, long time. Barron, we suggest changing your name and perhaps moving to Saudi Arabia.

2. Homeland

The Chiefs last hosted an AFC championship game in 1970.

Kansas City. Los Angeles. New England. New Orleans. All four home teams won. The AFC teams won by blowouts, the NFC games were closer. But all were mostly a snooze. Now we get conference championship games that were sequels of two of the better games played all season (Pats 43, Chiefs 40; Saints 45, Rams 35) and a potential KC-LA Super Bowl that would be a leftover from the most exciting game of this or most any season (54-51, Rams).

Bree wears the same colors in his Hall of Fame NFL career as he wore in college at Purdue

The most intriguing potential non-2018 wrinkle would be a New England-New Orleans Super Bowl pitting a pair of legendary 40-something QBs who are among the most prolific passers in NFL history: Tom Brady, 41 and gunning for his sixth Super Bowl ring, is No. 3 all-time in passing  touchdowns and No. 4 in passing yards and pass completions. Drew Brees, 40, is No. 2 in passing TDs and No. 1 all-time in passing yards and pass completions.


The Colts lost, but this was the highlight of the divisional round.

Hosts next Sunday: K.C. and New Orleans.

3. Wall War I 

This was Donald Trump’s words of advice to the graduates at Wagner in 2004. You don’t say, Donald…

Interesting. Here’s what sort of escapes our understanding. Democrats and Republicans seem to agree that we need to do a better job of border security. An effective president, one who understands that this nation operates under the rule of law, could simply appeal to the electorate by saying, “We need a wall in order to effectively fight the rampant breaking of the law that is illegal immigration.”

Now, some of us may not agree with him that a wall is a necessary strategy, but it’s impossible to dispute that the border is porous and that a large number of people illegally cross it each month. You or I may not consider that unethical or even harmful in any way (or you may), but the facts show that there are laws and they are broken daily. And liberals supposedly love the whole “rule of law” deal, so to deny this is to be a hypocrite.

The problem with Trump, and the Republican Party, is that it cannot stop there. He and, by its complicit silence, the GOP, needs to make these people your bogeyman. Rapists. Cold-blooded killers. Drug dealers. Those types are by far the aberration.


Consider: Using this logic we should be eradicating Catholic priests and Christian pastors because a good number of them are pedophiles or child molesters or perverts or adulterers. Now, you may argue, but those are the aberrations. Bingo. So is the MS-13 gang member.

The wall is not an effective weapon, it is a large waste of money, and the reason Trump is using to trumpet it–NATIONAL SECURITY—is a canard. The worst thing you can say about 90% of illegal immigrants, if not greater, is that they are technically breaking a law.

What the wall represents, for most of its supporters, is a stopgap between white, Christian chauvinist America and the future (if not the present). There’s no wall big enough to prevent the inevitable. Get over it.

4. Travel 2019

Zadar

Tahiti and Wyoming, Costalegre and the Paparoa Track, Gambia and Uzbekistan…

Every year we look forward to the New York Times telling us where we should travel across the globe, even if we haven’t had the opportunity to use our passport since 2010. True. Sad. That changes this year, hopefully.

Here are the paper’s 52 Places To Go in 2019 and we’re already ahead of the game because we live in one of them (31). One down, 51 to go. Can’t wait to see ya, Gambia. We have you on our radar, Zadar.

Eilat, Israel. Good diving at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Two more things: You could take a good three months, if not an entire year, just to visit places west of the Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska-Dakotas western borders here in these United States, plus Alaska and Hawaii, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. I could easily come up with a “52 Places To Go” in just that admittedly large region.

Two, here’s the lucky schlub whom the Times is giving the gig to travel to all these places this year. As we happen to be a straight white middle-aged male with a senatorial-type name and no disturbing back story or religious cult affiliation, we highly doubt we will ever be selected for this duty. Alas…

5. Laine-y!

Did you have Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Seinfeld cast member who would graduate to the most successful post-Seinfeld comedy career (with maybe Bryan Cranston going on to the most overall success)? We missed this when it happened, but here JLD, who is not a stand-up comic per se, delivers an address both heartfelt and hilarious. The dig she gets in on Veep co-star Tony Hale may be our favorite moment.

Second favorite? When she points out just how hard Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David, worked on his eponymous show as her voice cracks a little. I don’t think people ever appreciated just how much effort went into that. Half, if not most, of being a genius is just putting in the overtime.

Reserves

Believeland > La La Land

We’ll admit we’re mostly bored with the NBA (blame us, that’s fine) but it was a bizarre weekend: On Friday or Saturday—we forget—the Phoenix Suns, the worst team in the West and missing their top player, Devin Booker, beat the Denver Nuggets, the top team (by record) in the West. On Sunday the Cleveland Cavs, the worst team in the NBA,  abetted by all five starters scoring between 15-20 points, beat the Los Angeles Lakers (minus LeBron) at Staples.

Music 101

Jump

In high school there were bands we loved, we liked, we didn’t think twice about and then, a couple that we actively despised. Put Calgary-based Loverboy in that final group (the headband, the scarf, the 2-sizes-too-tight red pants: What were you thinking, or hiding, Mike Reno?). This was their most redeeming effort, even if it was the second-best tune with this title released during our those years.

Remote Patrol

Syracuse at No. 1 Duke

8 p.m. ESPN

Cam Reddish’s last-second three-pointer in Tallahassee on Saturday preserved Duke’s No. 1 ranking (not that it means much of anything) (especially in mid-January) (no, we’re not cynical) (no, you shut up!)

Okay, the Cuse isn’t all that good this season, but here are the numbers combined for coaches Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski: 80-plus seasons, three schools, 1,978 victories and six national championships. This will almost certainly be their last meeting at Cameron Indoor.

CHRIS PICKS! DIVISIONAL ROUNDS AND DALLAS COWBOYS

by Chris Corbellini

Divisional Picks: America’s Team … and some other teams that play this weekend

(SITTING HERE ON A FRIDAY NIGHT, TRYING TO ENCAPSULATE A LIFELONG SPORTS OBSESSION)

(SITTING HERE)

(SITTING HERE)

(ABANDONED A LEDE WHERE I SAY MY NAME AND ADD I AM AN ADDICT — OF A SPORTS TEAM)

(OK, I’LL USE THE GOODFELLAS OPEN)

(YOU CAN’T GO WRONG WITH THE GOODFELLAS OPEN)

(ALRIGHT, HERE GOES)

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy.

Given my upbringing in suburban New York, and the stone-cold fact that I’ve never lived within 1,500 miles of Dallas, this makes as much sense as a platypus dry-humping a volleyball. That’s quite a visual for you, I’m sure — and almost as bizarre as a kid wearing a Herschel Walker jersey down the hallways of a Big Blue Central School District. Yes, I follow and have a rooting interest in the rest of the iconic NYC sports teams – Rangers, Knicks, Yankees, St. John’s in March – and yet in pro football, where I’ve spent most of my career, I bleed Dallas Cowboy.

If I made a list of things worth living for, Amari Cooper’s sublime double moves would be on there, side by side with steaks at Peter Luger’s, the view from Diamond Head, St. Mark’s Square in the moonlight, and the Heather Thomas poster from the 1980s.  Just today, I walked through Grand Central Station and mused how it’d be great to see the Cowboys Star dead-center on the main floor, replacing the info booth. Again, my blood type is Cowboys-positive. I’ve had it checked.*

And it’s not like I’m hiding vodka in the broom closet here. My hometown and college friends know my allegiance lies with a Texas team, so whenever the franchise takes a hit (T.O. crying about Romo, the ‘07 divisional playoff, the Dez non-catch in Green Bay), I’ll inevitably get a text from someone I haven’t heard from in awhile, or receive a smarmy-as-f-ck Facebook post. Which is certainly fair, because I can be the smarmiest of all if the Cowboys beat the Giants – which, by the way, happened twice this season. And that’s a shame, Giants fans. Truly. Be careful now … you’re getting failure all over my floor before I have visitors over for the playoffs.

And yet, even had I grown up a Dallas hater, I’d still have to concede that the Cowboys have been a big part of my career, perhaps more so than any other franchise, in any sport. To wit:

-In May of 2004, during my final NFL Films job interview, the shop’s coordinating producer asked me what I thought of the Dallas Cowboys draft. Here was my first test of football knowledge, and certainly not the last over the years that followed. I told him it all hinges on the development of their second rounder, Notre Dame running back Julius Jones. It didn’t work out that way (Jones had just one 1,000-yard season), but I got the job regardless.

-For seven seasons I worked on the HBO series “Inside the NFL,” led by legendary producer Bob Ryan, who produced the Cowboys highlight films in the 1970s and actually nicknamed them “America’s Team.” Bob also reviewed my spec screenplay that was part of an application care package I sent to Films (I taped that script, a resume, and a photo of my undefeated Pop Warner team atop a picnic cooler with cold beers inside, and then FedEx’d it to their offices) — and I later discovered he awarded me a B+. The grade was circled in red with an exclamation point on the script’s front page. Considering his standards, I consider that a personal triumph.

Middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan: If that name doesn’t scream “COWBOY!”, what does?

-I was a segment producer for the Cowboys Hard Knocks season in ‘08, and my storyline was about an undrafted, undersized and lion-hearted receiver named Danny Amendola. As one former ex-player told me later: “You put that guy on the f-cking map. He should be paying you.”

-I did several NFL international spots in one five-minute burst with a young Pro Bowl QB named Tony Romo, and thought as I walked away “That dude’s gonna be a TV star someday.”

-I produced a Peyton Manning feature for the NFL Network with Michael Irvin as my talent. The former Cowboys great did a terrific job — willing to do as many takes as necessary to get it right.

-Last year I produced my first NBC Sports piece with one of my favorite NFL writers, Peter King, on Dallas tight end Jason Witten.

-A few weeks later, right after Thanksgiving, I returned to Dallas to direct a piece on Roger Staubach – fitting because he’s the one who started the entire Corbellini Cowboy Fan Club. Staubach is my father’s favorite football player, following his career at Navy and then with the Cowboys after his military service, and when I mentioned that to the former Dallas great after our interview, he then asked if we were related to a “Bill Corbellini,” who was a close business associate of his in the area. Staubach and his son both remarked the name was so unique we had to be related somehow (the real estate titan also asked me about undeveloped property near the Javits Center; the man is still hustling).

Tom Landry: Sharp-dressed man

Sports heroes often let you down when you first meet them, but my first and final impression of Staubach was he had a stately quality to him – a quiet, as he sat at his corner office and went through the tasks of his day. I’ve called my father just twice in 20 years after a meet-up with a pro athlete: post-Staubach, and post-Muhammad Ali. That’s the list.  We’re Cowboys fans. You have to be one to understand.

You get older, and you get lost in your day-to-day, and you feel the burden of life being a little unsatisfying like anklets made of stone, and so you must find the joys where you can. Not doing so is wildly irresponsible of you. And a big Dallas Cowboys game still lights me up.

And BTW, I like the Cowboys to beat the Rams in LA this weekend.

(LONG SIGH)

I can’t help myself.

If you still don’t get why, go dry-hump a platypus.

OK, here we have the divisional playoffs. The best NFL weekend of the year. As usual, I have William Hill odds listed, with the home team in caps.

CHIEFS (-5.5) beat the Colts

The Chiefs can’t stop an opponent’s run game — an oddity for a team in the second round of the playoffs — and they’re up against a very good runner-receiver this weekend in Marlon Mack. Mack has become a poor man’s Edgerrin James for the Colts — more than capable of pounding the Chiefs defense senseless. If this game is close Mack could be the difference-maker, with his 10-12 touches in the fourth quarter serving as punches to the kidneys of the Chiefs defense.

Right, right, but this game won’t be close. Both Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill feast on zone defenses – and the Colts play zone more than any other team in the NFL. Watkins, admittedly, is questionable due to injury, but how do you not play in this one at Arrowhead?

Cowboys (+7) beat the LA RAMS

Moving on.

Chargers (+4) beat the PATRIOTS

The Chargers defense definitely checked out late in the Ravens wild-card game, allowing rookie QB Lamar Jackson to throw a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes to Michael Crabtree. That can’t happen again against the Belichick-Brady Patriots. And besides the occasional defensive lapse, the Bolt’s weakness is stopping pass-catching running backs (Hello, James White), but that can be game-planned around. Plus, like I mentioned here last week, the Chargers have a rally cry to get behind: Get Philip Rivers a Ring.

Rivers hasn’t forgotten his playoff losses to the Patriots back in his 20s, and I think he’ll really grip it and rip it from his opening offensive series. Never underestimate an elite QB who’s been given a second chance late in his career. The Chiefs and maybe even the Colts would be a greater challenge athletically than the Pats, but New England in New England is the mental hurdle Rivers needs to leap over to ready himself for the Super Bowl. I think it happens.

Eagles (+8) beat the SAINTS

I know. I know. New Orleans absolutely smoked Philly during the regular season. But the Eagles have all the momentum here after that black-and-blue, double-doink victory in Chicago, and the Saints are so much weaker defensively than the Bears. New Orleans ranks 30th in the NFL against an opponent’s No. 1 receiver, 31st against the No. 2 wideout, and 29th against pass-catching running backs (stats courtesy Pro Football Focus). Nick Foles has been locking onto Alshon Jeffery, the team’s No. 1, ever since last year’s Super Bowl run, so this go-around he’ll be a decoy and it’ll be Darren Sproles’ time to shine, with Nelson Agholor also getting involved.

Last week: 2-1-1
Playoffs: 2-1-1

Total: 26-38-1

*(Editor’s Note:  I’m a little older than C.C., but we grew up in suburban New Jersey and same. For me, it was Roger Staubach. I got a Dallas Cowboys helmet for Christmas when I was six and it was like the rapture. Wrote Tom Landry a letter and got a reply.

At age nine Santa gave us an early Christmas present: four tickets to Cowboys at Jets, Shea Stadium on December 21. America’s Team vs. Joe Namath. We sat in upper deck seats in Flushing, huddled under blankets we’d brought, and froze our tushes off for three quarters  before our dad said, “Let’s go. Gotta beat the traffic.”

One week later I was in my bedroom, bawling my eyes out because the Cowboys were about to lose to the Vikings in the playoffs. The rest of my family did not abandon the TV set, and then I heard a loud roar from the den, and that’s how I missed the Immaculate Reception. That season, 1975, the year the Steelers beat Dallas in the best Super Bowl yet up to that moment, was Peak Cowboys Obsession for me.

When, at age 28, I saw Texas Stadium for the first time, I was vastly disappointed. A local who had witnessed this type of letdown from other visitors over the decades tried to explain it to me: It’s not a football stadium, it’s a TV studio. It was designed as such.)

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

 

Starting Five

Lost And Found

“Ohhhhhhhhh, I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I’m still alive/Yeah, I-I-I-I-I-I’m still alive” The 13 year-old Wisconsin teen, Jayme Closs, who’d been missing since the mid-October evening when her parents were murdered in their home, is found, ALIVE and well as can be suspected, in a remote northwestern Wisconsin town.

Late yesterday afternoon, Closs walked out of the woods near the town of Gordon, about 70 miles north of where she’d been abducted on October 15, and approached a woman walking her dog. She asked for help. The woman immediately knew who she was and they ran to the nearest home. When the lady at the house, Kristin Kasinskas, opened the door, she said “it was like seeing a ghost.”

They phoned 911 and within 10 minutes the suspect was abducted. At the moment all that is known about him is that he is 21 years old.

UPDATED: This is the loser who abducted Closs and killed her parents. He doesn’t look like someone who illegally crossed the border from Mexico.

2. Lord Wall-demort

Did someone erect a wall around Ted Cruz’s shaving kit?

In a potential maneuver that could only be described as wildly popular among his MAGA base, President Trump is considering diverting funds that are slated for disaster relief in Puerto Rican (brown people) and California (libs!) in order to construct his southern border wall.

We’re anti-wall, but we almost want to see it constructed just so MAGA land can learn that the drug situation won’t change one bit because of it. The wall’s chief function would be to keep a few walk-thrus who would probably wind up working as the best domestic servant, landscaper or back-of-the-house kitchen help you’ve ever had, from getting through.


You can keep out a few people who are risking everything for a better life with a wall. You can’t keep out the future.

3. Spurs 154, Thunder 147 (2 OT)

In case you missed it…the 301 points are the most in an NBA game since December of 2006, when the Suns beat the Nets in double OT, 164-157…LaMarcus Aldridge scored a career-high 56 points without attempting a single three-pointer. That’s the first 50-point game without a three since Shaq did it in 2000…the Spurs made their first 14 threes and finished 16-19 from beyond the arc, setting an NBA record for proficiency (minimum 15 attempts) in a game at 84.2%…Russell Westbrook had an insane triple double (24-24-13) but it wasn’t enough…Aldridge finished 16-16 from the free throw line while teammate Marco Belinelli was 5-5 from beyond the arc (the Spurs just refuse to play without an off-guard of Italian descent, don’t they? Will Sir Charles start proclaiming, “Be-li-NEL-li!?”

–Elsewhere: UCLA overcame a 9-point deficit in the final minute in Eugene and Bill Walton was calling the game (we switched away when the Ducks were up 65-50 with about five minutes left). Can ESPN simply air that final minute on a continuous loop today?

4. Buster And Friends

Root is one of the five best character actors of the past 15 years or so, no?

A day later and we are still marveling over Buster Scruggs‘ six tales of the Old West, served up Coen Brothers style. We’ve decided to rank our top 10 favorite characters from the film:

–Bank Teller (Stephen Root) in “Near Algodones”

–Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

–Artist (Harry Melling) in “Meal Ticket”

–Mr. Knapp (Bill Heck) in “The Gal Who Got Rattled)

Buster (Nelson) may be the most charming character on film this year

–Englishman (Jonjo O’Neill) in “The Mortal Remains”

–Prospector (Tom Waits) in “All Gold Canyon”

–Mr. Arthur (Grainger Hines) in “The Gal Who Got Rattled”

–The Canyon (Telluride Valley) in “All Gold Canyon”

–Alice Longabough (Zoe Kazan) in “The Gal Who Got Rattled”

–Trapper (Chelcie Ross) in “The Mortal Remains”

Mr. Arthur (Hines) epitomized the laconic, get-‘er-done frontiersman

You’ll notice we left out almost all of the famous actors attached to the project: Liam Neeson, James Franco, Tyne Daly, even Brendan Gleeson. All good, but it was almost better not having much prior recognition of them.

Ranking the vignettes (and this is not an easy task): The Gal Who Got Rattled, Buster Scruggs, The Mortal Remains, All Gold Canyon, Meal Ticket, Near Algodones.

An unofficial 11th-best character, by the way? The jargon. If you are a lover of language (and we certainly qualify), the script here is gold. “My cognomens” or “pardon my apothegm” or “I’m comin’, Mr. Pocket!” I don’t know if Oscar will ignore this film, even though it’s the Coen Brothers, because it’s mostly on Netflix and it’s six separate pieces, but I’d give it Best Screenplay (and Best Score, as well).

5. Yakt-y Yak

Go pull up your Google. We’ll wait. Now type in “Yakt, Montana.” There it is, see, right along the Kootenay River in the northern part of the state. Now scroll up and to the right and you’ll find “Yaak, Montana.” See the Yaak River Tavern?

So far, so good. Now scroll up and to your left, over the border into Canada, in the southeastern corner of British Columbia, and you find Yahk, B.C.

Yakt, Yaak, Yahk.

Obviously, you’d recognize this as Yakt and not Yahk or Yaak

So we’re announcing the First Annual Medium Happy Field Trip (TBD) on which we travel to the trio of Yakt/Yaak/Yahk and get the what-for on this. Bring your passport.

Or you can kick back in Yahk.

Music 101

Bust A Move

This 1990 tune by Young MC won a Grammy for Best Original Rap performance and remained in the Top 40 for 20 weeks. Sure, the rhymes are rather pre-pubescent (She’s dressed in yellow/She says hello/Come sit next to me you fine fellow)  but you keep listening, no? An undeniable classic in the early years of hip-hop.

Remote Patrol

Young Mr. Lincoln

8 p.m. TCM

Young Winston

10 p.m. TCM

I’d argue the singular greatest men, in terms of what they did to advance the highest ideals of freedom and liberty, of their respective centuries. Lincoln here is played by a young Henry Fonda, in a breakout role. Churchill is portrayed by Simon Ward, and if you don’t already know his story as a young man, by the time he was 30 Churchill had fought in Cuba, India, northern Africa and South Africa. He also succesfully escaped from a POW camp in South Africa. For years I’d advocated that someone should make a film about his early years. Turns out Sir Richard Attenborough already had in 1972. My bad.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right


Unless you’re an obsessive college football/Jalen Hurts/astronomy fan, this tweet may be a little too abstruse. We laughed.

Starting Five

1. All In The Family*

*The judges will also accept “Mobster’s Ball”

It was twenty years ago today…A cold January Sunday evening in New York. We decided to give this new HBO show a try, although we thought the name sounded a little weak. One hour later, we were hooked. This Tony Soprano fella, he wasn’t like any other mobster we’d seen. He wasn’t dapper. He wasn’t particularly well-spoken. He reminded us of the Italian-American dads we’d grown up with in our Middletown, N.J., neighborhood, dads like Carmine Valardi and Sal DeMarco.

Tony was vulnerable. But on a dime he could turn vicious. The show. One moment it was heartless, the next, hilarious. It cared about food.

The next day, a Monday, I told some of my SI friends about it. No one else had seen it. Within three to four weeks all of us, whenever something did not go our way, would be saying, “What? No (bleeping’) ziti?”

Was The Sopranos the best TV show of all time? I don’t know about that. It was the most ground-breaking show, however, since All In The Family. It opened the door for all the great dramas and series (most of them on HBO or AMC or Netflix) to follow: Breaking Bad, The Wire, Mad Men (created by a writing alum of the show), True Detective, The Americans, Game Of Thrones, The West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Deadwood. Maybe it killed network TV (I’m not the only one to say this; it’s not that original a thought). It definitely made TV cooler than the movies.

As for the finale, whatever creator David Chase was trying to do with it (and he’s not telling), the unintentional error of it is how much air that scene has sucked up relative to the other 85 1/2 episodes that preceded it. The NYT writer suggested to him that if anything the scene was hopeful. “There is some hope in it,” Chase replied. “Don’t Stop Believin is the name of the song, for Christ’s sake. I mean, what else can you say?”

Final scene. About 12 to 15 Sunday nights after the series premiere. Three of us are sitting in The Emerald Inn (the old location on Columbus) and in walks the hulking, ursine presence of James Gandolfini. He’s got a bag of recently purchased books from the Barnes & Noble two blocks down. He sits by himself and orders a beer. The three of us watch in awe but we know: don’t bother the famous people. So we leave him alone. About 5 minutes pass and yes, some other bro has to ruin it and approach him to tell him how much he loves the show. Gandolfini shoots him a pained smile and thanks him. Takes a quick sip of beer, gathers his things, and exits. He looked miserable. And that was at the end of Season 1.

2. Premature Exasperation

Remember, he doesn’t have temper tantrums

Whether or not President Trump stormed or Stormied out of the Situation Room yesterday during a bipartisan meeting regarding the government shutdown and border security, he did leave it prematurely. The Dem leaders asked him if he would end the shutdown, now in its third week, while they negotiated, and he said no because “then you won’t give me what I want.”

So when the Chuck & Nancy Show said they would not relent on the wall, he waved his palms in the air and said, “Bye bye” (I mean, you can easily picture this, no?) and walked out. Pelosi afterward, expounding on the disconnect between the president and the 800,000 government employees not being paid, on the White House lawn: “He thinks maybe they can just ask their father for more money.”

Sick burn, Nance. Sick burn.

3. Kliff Notes

Lots of stuff to unravel here: Kliff Kingsbury was interviewing with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals last week while still with USC…Kliff said he’d pick Kyler Murray No. 1 overall, which was wild because the Cards have the No. 1 pick and Murray, the ninth overall pick in last June’s MLB draft, just made himself available for the NFL draft…Kliff is dating Fox sideline reporter Holly Sonders, who has filed for divorce from Eric Kuselias (who’s well, kind of a capital D D-bag himself)…Kliff is 39 years old and four of his six seasons at Texas Tech were losing seasons (his best, 8-5, was his initial season) despite having two first-round QB picks play for him (Baker Mayfield and Pat Mahomes, who may be the NFL’ ROY and MVP, respectively, this season)…Is he a better QB coach/OC than HC? We’ll see.

4. Isn’t It Ironic?

We thought this was funny and curious. Perhaps you will, too. In yesterday’s Bubble Screen for The Athletic I noted that on Tuesday, ESPN host Rece Davis mentioned on a couple of occasions that Levi’s Stadium, which opened in July of 2014, has been the site of a Grateful Dead show but that he never mentioned its signature moment, below. Explicitly, verbatim, this is what we wrote: “The B.S. wonders…if you noticed that while Rece Davis mentioned multiple times that the Grateful Dead had played at Levi’s Stadium, he never referenced the venue’s signature moment: Colin Kaepernick taking a knee (If you had “Coldplay performing with Beyoncé,” move three spaces back).”

We weren’t admonishing Davis, although a few readers suggested that we were implying as much. We were honestly wondering why.

Let’s delve further: First of all, the Grateful Dead minus Jerry Garcia is hardly the Grateful Dead. Second, be opposed or in favor or Kaepernick’s gesture if you like, but it is by far the most-discussed moment in that stadium’s brief history. Why wouldn’t ESPN even mention it? My guess is for the same reason readers came at me in the comments for even mentioning it.

But here’s where it really gets funny. The fact that the Grateful Dead doesn’t bother readers in 2019 but Colin Kaepernick does demonstrates how counter-culture eventually becomes culture. Fifty years ago the Dead were seen as every bit as dangerous to mainstream, Flyover America as Kaep is now. If you didn’t already know, the Dead got their start as the house band for Ken Kesey’s infamous and legendary acid test, which were at the vanguard of the hippie/psychedelic movement. They were the soundtrack to the “long-haired, freaky people.”

A must-read for any fan of American history or culture in the 20th century

If you don’t already know about the acid tests (read Tom Wolfe’s outstanding The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), these were all-night and beyond dance parties where a giant drum of Kool-Aid was placed somewhere and LSD was dropped into it. This is literally where the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” originated.

So there’s the irony. You have a segment of the population drinking the Kool-Aid, defending Trump’s misrepresentation of Kaepernick’s gesture, defending ESPN’s right to be inoffensive as opposed to transparent, thinking of the Grateful Dead as more sacrosanct to Git ‘Er Done America than Kaepernick. And yet the Dead were FAR MORE counterculture than Kaep and it is they who helped make “drinking the Kool-Aid” a part of the lexicon.

Gotta love reality. You could never make this stuff up.

5. Slim Fast

So we’re still reading that book (Hank & Jim, by Scott Eyman) and we are reminded how humbling it is to read: The more you learn, the more you realize how much you never knew. And you may say, ‘But, Jdubs, all you’re learning about is celebrity lives and dirty laundry.’ And? We think our friends Mike & Katie would agree that there is nothing more worthy of being learned about.

Anyway, yesterday we came across, Mary Raye Gross, who would later be known as Nancy “Slim” Keith, who is purported to be the Original California Girl. Blonde and blue-eyed, Slim was born in Salinas, Calif., in 1917. At age 16 she traveled to Death Valley where, at the Furnace Creek Inn, she met movie star William Powell (of the Thin Man series). Powell introduced her to William Randolph Hearst and from there it was on.

Clark Gable pursued her. So did Ernest Hemingway. She was on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar by age 22 and befriended another young model, whom she would introduce to her by-then husband Howard Hawks (famous film maker: Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, etc.). That model was Lauren Bacall.

Slim, Jim

Kieth/Hawks would never go into the movies, but she would amass husbands (she left Hawks for agent/producer Leland Hayward, who then left her for Pamela Churchill, who then left him for Averill Harriman…and the beat goes on), but she became legendary as a socialite of the Hollywood and 5th Avenue scene. Truman Capote would later lampoon her in an unfinished novel of his and when she got word of it, she never spoke to him again.

One line, casually thrown out by Eyman in his book, made us chuckle. He wrote that Slim was “prone to sarcasm and adultery.”

Music 101

Arnold Layne

This was the beginning for one of the most successful rock groups of all time. The single, released on March 10, 1967, did not exactly catapult Pink Floyd to stardom, but there was a lot more than songs about transvestites who steal women’s mannequins to come.

Remote Patrol

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

Netflix

Six Western vignettes courtesy of the Coen Brothers, and well worth your time. In the first two death is a punchline, but then it gets a little more serious. We were overwhelmed by the scenery and particularly in the fourth vignette, above (that’s Tom Waits, by the way), it is stunningly obvious to us what a better planet this is without us than with us. Don’t @ me. Do you think the Coen brothers were perhaps maybe trying to imply the same thing? Wait until you watch it before you reply. This is flat-out outstanding stuff, and the fifth vignette could easily have been extrapolated into a feature-length film.

 

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right


He has friends? No one allows me to hand down sentences, but if I could I’d leave Don Jr. alone and unarmed in a large pen with one animal from every species that he’s killed. That would be fun. And I’d honestly love to see that.

Starting Five

Dabo’s No Dumbo

“S-E-C!”, meet “A-C-C!”

Clemson 44, Alabama 16, and it was really only close for the first 25 minutes. Takeaways:

–Clemson and its folksy, self-effacing coach Dabo Swinney have shrewdly positioned themselves as the Kinder, Gentler Bama (though, who isn’t?). And while you weren’t looking, the revolution already occurred. In the past four years, the Tigers have the same exact record (55-4) and the same number of national championships (2) as the Crimson Tide.

–True freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence (a.k.a. Sunshine, Fabio, Spicoli, Avatar and Young Roger Waters) validated Dabo’s September faith in him (and by acting when he did, Dabo also saved Kelly Bryant a season of eligibility, so good on everyone) and has a chance to be the closest thing to John Elway we’ve seen since John Elway. Fellow true freshman Justyn Ross (12 catches, 3 TDs, all on home run balls and 301 yards receiving in two playoff games) is miraculous. We’re looking at a Heisman and Biletnikoff Award winner, respectively, here.


–That fake field goal!?! Gah! Nick, what were you thinking? Sure, the score was 31-16 in the second half and Bama likely would have lost anyway, but that had no chance. I mean, when Chris Fowler is calling it out before the snap…Take the points (and we know the kicker was iffy, but you gotta try). That or give Tua a shot. About that…

–Before kickoff Todd McShay said that Tua and Lawrence were both future No. 1 overall draft picks. Maybe simply to save face he’d maintain that even today, but would any GM really take Tua number one overall after that wretched performance (including the early pick six where he threw between his two receivers?). Don’t think so.

Ross goes full Michelangelo on this grab

–Is this a “Tide-al” shift game, a la Bama pantsing indomitable Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl but in reverse? Is the Saban era beginning to wane? We’ll see. The Tide do bring in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, but ol’ Saint Nick (not jolly) will be 68 and he’s gone through a slew of coordinators in recent years.

–I have more on ESPN’s coverage, etc., but it’s in The Bubble Screen in The Athletic. So why not subscribe, read the story, put in a comment like “The only reason I subscribe to this rag is because JW writes for it…occasionally,” and make my day? I mean, if you’ve been reading this drivel here free for six-plus years, maybe good karma (Or guilt? Guilt work just as well for me) will persuade you to part with $3.99 per month in support? And don’t say, “I’d rather give that money to you, JW,” because we both know you won’t. So that’s today’s screed. Am I buggin’ ya? Edge, play the blues…

2. Wall-To-Wall-For-Wall Coverage

The good news? Donald Trump did not declare a “national emergency?” The bad news? Stephen Miller is still a hackneyed writer and he was playing all of his old material.

If you missed President Trump’s 9-minute barrage of “We Need a Wall Physical Barrier,” which was covered on all three major networks (but thankfully, not TCM), think of it as “Man With Iron Will Wants Steel Wall.” We’re not going to fact-check it here; you can read  that here.


As for Chuck and Nancy’s Democratic response, we can’t beat Charles Pierce’s observation.

Our solution? Let’s build a Wonderwall. Maybe (maybe), it’s gonna be the one that saves me (saves me).

3. Sears Is No Longer Where America Shops


When we were kids growing up in Middletown, N.J., the Sears on Highway 35 was THE department store. It’s where you’d buy the family TV, or a coat or a lawnmower. My sister reminded me how we’d use the carpet displays like slides.

Anyway, Sears, which opened in 1886, is most likely going out of business very soon. There’s a hedge fund and a last-minute bid and some business muckety-muck, but the end is near. Sears was an anchor store at American malls for generations. Its demise is a metaphor for malls in general.

4. Parks and Wreck

Want to be even more depressed about how evil the Trump administration is when it comes to protecting our beautiful natural wonders, our national parks? Here’s Outside with a report on how the shutdown is doing serious damage to them (visitors are still flocking to them and POOPING in them as toilets overflow while workers are furloughed) and asking why the parks remain open (because no one in the White House cares about anything besides money and power).

Oh, and already seven people have died in national parks since the shutdown began. Seven. In two weeks! Maybe we ought to build a wall around our national parks?

5. Jimmy Thing

We’ve always admired Jimmy Stewart as an actor, an American and just an overall decent fellow. Now we’re reading Hank & Jim, by Scott Eyman, which profiles his 50-year friendship with Henry Fonda, and we admire him even more.

The Jimmy Stewart you see in The Philadelphia Story and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a recent Hollywood arrival, a bachelor, who has a fascination with planes and flying and earns his pilot’s license in his spare time. The Stewart you see in It’s A Wonderful Life is a seasoned World War II veteran, a B-24 pilot who flew roughly 20 missions into Europe from England.

Moreover, the Army Air Corps had made Stewart an instructor and wanted to keep him as such doing work in Idaho. They understood a dead Jimmy Stewart might be bad for national morale. But Stewart insisted on flying missions and at last Uncle Sam relented.

When you read the sections of Eyman’s book that relate to this period of his life, you see a Jimmy Stewart who, well, behaves exactly as you might expect a Jimmy Stewart-like character to behave in a film. His crew loved him and he was both humble and heroic. Once he volunteered for a Christmas eve mission. Another time German strafing fire literally went through his seat and between his legs before exiting the ceiling of the cockpit. Stewart even flew a pre-dawn mission over Normandy on D-Day.

The next time you watch It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), take a moment to consider all the things Stewart had just experienced before making that film. And that he was George Bailey, sure, but he was even more his war hero brother.

Music 101

Blister In The Sun

Few bands achieved greater cult status in the Eighties without their fans having no idea what they looked like or who their lead singer was (Gordon Gano) than Violent Femmes. The Milwaukee-based band hit it big in 1983 with their eponymous debut album, released when Gano, the trio’s principal songwriter, was just three years out of high school.

Remote Patrol

A Face In The Crowd

11 p.m. TCM

They’re mine! I own ’em! They think like I do, but they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em.” Sound familiar? Andy Griffith stars as a megalomaniacal entertainer whose charismatic facade wins him as many converts as fans. Based loosely on Wil Rogers,  whose son would later admit dad’s folksy charm was largely a facade, this 1957 Elia Kazan film also unknowingly presaged at least one future American leader.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

1. Double Doink!*

*The judges will reluctantly accept “Grizzly End”

You may choose to remember it as Nick Foles finding Golden Tate on 4th-and-goal from the 2 against the NFL’s best defense. History will likely remember it as Cody Parkey‘s game-winning 43-yard field goal attempt doinking off the left upright, ricocheting off the cross bar and falling harmlessly into the end zone. “A double-doink,” as ESPN’s Cris Collinsworth called it.

Eagles 16, Bears 15 in the last and most suspenseful playoff contest of the weekend.


Yes, Parkey split the uprights moments before as the Eagles called time out just before the ball was snapped. Yes, Philly’s Treyvon Hester got a finger tip on the ball, perhaps altering its trajectory just enough. Ye, Parkey inconceivably hit kicks off the uprights four times in ONE GAME earlier this season.

We’ll remember, as much as the Parkey Plunk, a masterful 2nd down catch and yards-after-catch by Eagle tight end Dallas Goedert just past midfield on the final drive that went for 10 yards. It felt like the play that gave the Eagle a jolt. Collinsworth said, “Remember this play.”

We did. He was correct.

2. “We Are The Champions”

At the Golden Globes, Bohemian Rhapsody stuns everyone, including its own producer, by topping A Star Is Born for Best Drama (Yo, it’s got “Bohemian” in the title and the voters are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association; what did you expect?). Also, Rami Malek over Bradley Cooper in an upset. On a positive note, Cooper did not soil his pants at the ceremony and he did not go home and hang himself; we don’t think.

Other moments from the evening…

–Andy Samberg’s intro of the first presenters: “He discovered Ali and she discovered him in a garage…please welcome Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa.”

She was a shoo-in to win this one.

Carol Burnett noting that she was so glad we had this time together, and acknowledging sadly that a show like hers, with that monstrous budget (and 30 million viewers a week) would never happen today.

–An older viewer asking “Is that a man or a woman?” How many households across America does this happen in during awards show season?

Christian Bale, who won Best Supporting for portraying Dick Cheney in Vice: “Thank you to Satan for giving me the inspiration to play this role.”


–Seeing Roma win Best Foreign Picture and Best Director and wondering how many more countless Americans this film will put to sleep (beautiful to look at, but boring).

–Seeing the smile on Chris Pine’s face as Jeff Bridges gave his Cecil B. DeMille Award speech and wondering if they had taken hits from the same bong.

–Watching Michael Douglas give Glenn Close a congratulatory smooch (there’s a film called The Wife??? Really?) and instantly thinking rabbits may be in peril.

–Wondering how shocked and disappointed the gang from A Star Is Born must be this morning. Honestly, it’s fantastic right up until she sings THAT SONG on stage. The second half loses its footing. I refer to it as the “2018 South Florida Bulls.”

(One more thought on ASIB: The trailer’s really all you need. It’s better than the film, in fact.)

–The jokes by Andy Samberg that were so clever that they flew over most everyone’s head. The joke about the Black Panthers and Oakland during the otherwise flat monologue and then the intro for Steve Carell which was a bait-and-switch on the hackneyed idea of connecting title of an actor’s films to introduce him. You were led to believe it was Jack Nicholson (“You don’t have to be an easy rider or fly over a cuckoo’s nest to see this actor is as good as it gets…ladies and gentlemen, Steve Carell”). We appreciated the effort, Andy.

3. Coppin: A Plea

You may have heard that Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies finally, after 126 consecutive regular season wins dating back to November of 2014, lost. This was at Baylor last Thursday evening (it was the Huskies’ first regular-season loss without overtime in 209 games dating back to February 2013, also to Baylor).

But that’s not the only spectacular news involving losing, streaks, and college basketball right now. At Coppin State, an HBCU in Baltimore, neither the men’s (0-15) or women’s (0-13) hoops teams have won a game this season. Check that, the men won on Saturday, breaking a both programs-losing streak that had dated back to last February.

The men’s squad, now 1-15, took down Savannah State, 73-67.

The UConn women bounced back at Houston on Saturday, 81-61, but this team is no leviathan. The Huskies only have one player taller than 6’3″ All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, who lives outside the arc anyway, and that’s a 6’4″ frosh not seeing much PT. In their last four games, the Huskies have only won by 10, 9, and 20 and they lost by 11.

4. Will Fields Find Grass Greener in Columbus?

Follow along if you wish: Jacob Eason was the No. 1 rated Pro-style high school quarterback in the nation in 2016, and he signed with Georgia. But then he got injured in the Dawgs’ opener and lost his job to Jacob Fromm, who had been the No. 3 rate Pro-style prep QB in the country in 2017. Fromm led the Bulldogs to within a couple plays of the national championship, and so Eason transferred back home to U-Dub.

That opened the door for Justin Fields, the No. 1 rated Dual Threat-style QB in the nation in 2018 to matriculate at Georgia this past season. But Fields could not beat out Fromm, either, and so now he has opted to transfer to Ohio State, where Tate Martell, the No. 2 rated Dual Threat QB from 2017, has sat patiently or impatiently for two seasons.

One of these alpha dudes, Fields or Martell, is not going to win the job in Columbus. And Martell has a two-year head start there in terms of knowing the culture and the plays and well, everything.

Meanwhile, Ryan Day is stepping into this job as of last week and if you ask us he’s dancing with danger. Martell is white, Fields is black (we assume that Dwayne Haskins, the starter this year, is leaving; he’d likely be the first QB taken in the NFL draft). Martial has been the understudy; Fields is the interloper. Like it or not, these factors could lead to a divided locker room.

But maybe Day has seen enough of Martell to know that he’s not in love with him. That at the very least he’d love to see if Fields can push him to be better. At the most, if Fields can push him out. If Day were truly committed to Martell, you think he might dissuade Fields from relocating to Ohio’s state capital.

Either way, the Buckeyes aren’t exactly pushing themselves next season: the OOC is Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati (good this season, I know) and Miami of Ohio, all at the ‘shoe.

5. The Life Aquatic

Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier): We just did not sea him in the role

Remember the story line in Entourage where Vincent Chase landed the lead in Aquaman, but then a power outage on the opening weekend threatened to submerge the film in bad press (due to low box office)? Fortunately that make-believe Aquaman rebounded, allowing Vinny to pursue passion projects Queens Boulevard and Medellin (which did tank)…

The actual Aquaman film came out three weeks back, starring another former HBO actor (Jason Momoa, who portrayed Khal Drago in Game Of Thrones) and it’s tearing up the box office. Aquaman has done $940 billion globally, which is just ridiculous. The people want superheroes. Don’t ask me why.

Reserves

There’s nothing cooler than nature (although Mahershala Ali comes close)

and…

 Music 101

Woman, Woman

In 1968 Gary Puckett and the Union Gap had two singles climb to the top 3 in the Billboard charts: This and “Young Girl.” We’d say someone in the band had issues but they were actually recording material that someone else had written. This song, their first hit, actually went to No. 1 in Canada.

If you want to win a wager with friends, tell them you’ll give them $20 if they can name the   famous Sixties recording artist who was born in Hibbing, Minnesota. They’ll say Bob Dylan, who was actually born in Duluth but raised in Hibbing. Puckett was born in Hibbing, but his family soon moved to Yakima, Wash.

Remote Patrol

College Football National Championship Game

Alabama vs. Clemson

8 p.m. ESPN

Will number four be a bore? The Tide and Tigers are meeting in the playoff for the fourth time in the past four seasons–between them they will have won 11 of the 12 games played in the playoffs since late 2015—and Levi’s Stadium promises to be wet and perhaps not quite close to full. Have you ever worn soggy Levi’s? Then you know.

The Duelin’ Dabos are an underdog in this matchup for a fourth straight time. We like the Tide tonight.

CHRIS PICKS!

by Chris Corbellini

 

Wild-Card Weekend picks: A Rivers Runs Through It

He’s thrown for more yards than John Elway, boasts a higher completion percentage than Steve Young, has just as many career comebacks as Joe Montana, has a better career passer rating than Kurt Warner, was named to the Pro Bowl more times than Troy Aikman, and has thrown for more than 2,100 yards in postseason play.

That’s not just a career. That’s a bust in Canton.

So, why don’t we give a sh-t about Philip Michael Rivers?

Couple of guesses, and in no particular order: Norv Turner, Martyball, his frowny Twitter meme, his famous Brady Bunch-ish family photo on the beach, the fact that life is too sunshine-y in Southern California to live and die with the Chargers in the postseason, the undisputable fact that his franchise made a mistake leaving San Diego and he’s the face of that mistake, the crosstown Rams always on the verge of something special, his WTF shotput release, the Belichick-Brady Patriots dynasty tap-dancing through his entire career (more on this in a moment), he had LaDainian Tomlinson’s god-like fantasy season in 2006 and they never got past the divisional round, and finally, he swiped the offense from Mr. All-American, Drew Brees.

Strangely, maybe the climate has the most to do with it. For eight games a year, plus the occasional playoff game, Rivers has been letting it rip under sunny skies and a slight breeze. Now, I don’t agree with this theory, but I can’t dismiss it entirely. Example: I once interviewed former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown about being a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame but not getting the final call, and with his Heisman Trophy perfectly positioned in the background for my shot, Brown explained that the HOF writer who championed him (he wouldn’t say who) told him other voters thought playing in the LA sunshine was a knock against his career. The thinking went he had it too easy for half his season, every year. Later, off camera, the typically level and almost-stately Brown added a four-letter word to his explanation. (Later that week, I had a similar run-in about the same topic with former linebacker Kevin Greene, who I thought was going to tackle me off my chair while we discussed his candidacy. It should be noted they BOTH were finally inducted into Canton).

But I digress (for the second straight week). Not that you are really looking for it, but when was the last time you heard an NFL star, past or present, say something about Philip Rivers besides the rote “He’s a great player?” Brees and Rivers are actually buddies and neighbors in SoCal, but that’s about it. Maybe there’s a blasé attitude towards Rivers because he looks blandly competitive at best, and whiny and uptight at worst. True story: A day after the Chargers-Patriots AFC Championship Game in January 2008, I was sub-clipping sound footage from that game for NFL Films, and sure enough my camera caught Rivers midfield, a little stunned and petulant after the loss. Surveying the dancing Patriots that circled him, he screamed “ACT LIKE YOU’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE!” In response, naturally, the New England players then hollered and hooted even louder. I always think of that moment when I think of Rivers. He was just 25 at the time, but I can’t help myself.

That can change, of course. Rivers still has the power to change those perceptions. These days his career has reached the Bettis/Elway/Bourque/Drexler level in terms of “c’mon, can’t we get this guy a ring?” It’s a rallying cry for the Chargers to get behind, and they’ve had some fantastic moments getting to this point, with the rally in Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football being the most memorable. Quietly, oh so quietly, Rivers and the 12-4 Chargers have been constructing a Super Bowl contender, perhaps hoping the Belichick wouldn’t notice this time.

If the Colts get past the Texans on Saturday, and Rivers claws his way out of Baltimore a day later, the Chargers will indeed face BB’s Patriots in the second round. Which is exactly what I predict will happen. What the “other” LA team does at that point is really up to Rivers and Rivers alone. IMO, it’d be fitting to see him celebrate in Foxboro at midfield.

But before we get there, here are my Wild-Card Weekend picks. As always, the home team is in caps, with William Hill odds.

Indianapolis (+1) beats HOUSTON

Take the over, too (O/U: 48.5). Deshaun Watson is gonna put on a show at home, and Andrew Luck will match him, lightning bolt for lightning bolt.  I’ve been to Houston for an NFL playoff game, and as one would expect from a football-mad town, the city reaches apex batsh-t when it’s a pre-snap third and long and their defense is about to hunt. But I also see Luck converting in those situations, even with JJ Watt at full Grizzly Bear, and that’ll be just enough.

DALLAS (-2) beats Seattle

The Seahawks offensive line is mediocre, and of all the Wild-Card Weekend teams, Seattle is weakest against the run. So yeah, I think Zeke Elliot has a nice fantasy football day ahead, and the Cowboys D will run down Russell Wilson eventually, despite his ridiculous, change-of-direction scrambling ability. This one feels like a 17-13 finish. In fact, both of these Saturday games could be instant classics, though Indy-Houston should be more of a barnburner.

LA Chargers (+2) beat BALTIMORE

Get him a ring, Chargers. Overwhelm Lamar Jackson, and force the rookie to throw downfield.

CHICAGO (-6) beats Philadelphia

My quantitative analysis, thanks to the PFF player grading tool: There’s an 8.6-point differential when comparing the Bears defense against the Eagles offense (about .782 points per man). That’s the biggest discrepancy of the weekend, and it’s not a good thing for Philly. Not a single Bear graded below a 65, and seven of 11 starters graded above an 80 (most teams have 1-2).

My qualitative analysis: Chicago’s defense should grind these birds into hamburger helper.

Last week: 0-4. Ow.

Season: 24-37