IT’S SOMEWHAT HAPPENING!*

by John Walters

*MH staff is back today, but tomorrow never knows.

To Boldly Go*

*The judges, back from their Tongan sabbatical, will also accept “2021: A Space Odyssey”

William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise, becomes, at the age of 90, the oldest human ever to travel to outer space. Oldest living human, that is. Upon his return Shatner sounded like a trippy-dippy lyric from a late Sixties Crosby, Stills & Nash or Joni Mitchell song.

Shatner likened the atmosphere to a “comforter of blue” wrapped around the planet. Launching through it, it’s suddenly ripped off, “and you’re looking into blackness,” he recalled, “and you look down ― and there’s blue down there, and the black up there, and it’s just … it’s just … there is mother and Earth and comfort, and there … is there death?”

“I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary,” Shatner said. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can maintain what I feel now.”

“It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death and the … oh, my God,” he continued, burying his face in his hands.

“The moment you see the vulnerability of everything. It’s so small. This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver, it’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe.”

“Is that death? Is that the way death is?” he pondered. “WHAP and it’s gone. Jesus.”

You have to respect the humility and sincerity behind those words. Well, you don’t have to, but we do.

Vocal Hero

This is Los Angeles Charger coach Brandon Staley, whom we knew nothing about before yesterday. Now we are fans:

Robin, The Joker

We don’t know how this made the internet, if it’s a trailer for a biopic on Robin Williams or what, but wow, the impersonation here by Jamie Costa is pure genius. Which it absolutely had to be, since he is portraying a pure genius. Notice how the littlest mannerisms, even the smirk after he makes the fart joke, or perfectly tailored to the lat Robin Williams.

The Cain Mutiny

We remember covering Mary Cain when she was a 4.0 high school student in Bronxville (a very tony area above the Bronx), N.Y., and setting national prep records in middle-distance racing. Then, inexplicably to us, this incredible scholar-athlete chose not to compete collegiately but rather to turn pro, put herself in the hands of Alberto Salazar and the Oregon Project, and move to Portland. The cross-country prodigy moved cross-country but without the support system that a college atmosphere would provide.

At the age of 18, Mary Cain basically had a full-time job as a runner and was going to college on the side. While being 3,000 miles from home. It was a really dumb choice (and you have to imagine her parents were on-board with this), and not surprisingly, it all flamed out. And quickly.

Cain never made it past Olympic Trials and never, of course, ran an NCAA race (as she was a pro). Now she’s suing Salazar for $20 million.

Cain is 25 now and the former pre-med, at least from what we can see, has not attended medical school. It’s a sad story.

What Ever Happened To ‘Shut Up And Dribble’?

Some interesting allies have put themselves in Kyrie Irving’s camp…

…. while Rich Eisen injects some common sense into the story:

VICTORY

by John Walters

It’s a seven-letter word that begins with the letter “V” and it has inspired plenty of talk about “a personal decision” and “sacrificing individual needs for national welfare.” It’s a polarizing word:

Vietnam

That’s right, Vietnam. What did you think I was talking about?

Imagine, if you will, a national crisis of sorts.

It is deemed good for American welfare if you soldier up and head over to the Mekong Delta and the thick jungles north of Saigon. This act of sacrifice for your country may very well cost you your life… but you must do it. Your country needs you.

But it’s a personal decision, you say. First of all, you don’t even know where Vietnam is. And you don’t have any reason, personally, to fight anyone from Vietnam. And they’re not even attacking our country. Our country is under no direct threat from Vietnam. And you want me to risk my life for this?

Yes

Yes, you must.

And what if I refuse? Will I lose my job?

Yes, probably, because we are going to imprison you.

But it’s a personal decision.

Uncle Sam does not see it that way.

*****

Nearly 60 years ago, communism and not Covid was deemed the existential threat (never mind that both emanated from Asia). And those who dared to refuse induction into the armed services were incarcerated while also labeled yellow.

Now here’s the big reveal: 1) The fate of Vietnam never directly impacted the national welfare of the United States and 2) Over the course of roughly a dozen years, some 68,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam.

Fast forward to 2021. Now, the national welfare of the United States is not terribly at risk due to Covid-19, but more than ten times as many Americans have died from it than died in Vietnam… in about 1/8 the time.

So it begs the question… why is something that has proven so much more deadly in so much less time allowed to flourish here on the basis that fighting it would compromise one’s freedom, and yet something that was so minor an existential threat to the U.S., relatively, treated as such a great crisis that not only were you forced to put yourself in far greater peril but that you were not even allowed the option of “it’s a personal decision?”

Why is the Vaccine so much more reviled than Vietnam (by a certain section of our nation)?

I think we know the answer… these people worship warfare and are intimidated by science. The former is easily explicable, even attractive, to them. The latter intimidates them.

The simple truth is that Vietnam was one-tenth as deadly as the pandemic and yet no man of draftable age was given the “it’s a personal decision” option. Because the war machine needs fuel to operate.

You’re praised for saying no to a needle. You’re pilloried for saying no to a machine gun.

This is America.

Where Have You Gone, Matt Amodio?

by John Walters

After 39 episodes and a little more than $1.5 million in winnings, Yale PhD student Matt Amodio at last succumbed to mediocrity. Amodio, 28, who regularly piled up per-game winnings of $50,000 and for whom Final Jeopardy! was normally little more than an exercise in seeing what total he wanted to shoot for, headed into Final Jeopardy! last night in third place.

The question: What country did the Nazis take over in World War II, and then, with parts including the Danube and the Alps, did the Allies divide into four sectors? Even if you did now know the answer, you’d be likely to guess Austria or Hungary, right? Amodio guessed Poland. The other two contestants correctly chose Austria.

Amodio looked defeated but in a sense almost relieved.

It must be a weird sensation, to win between $30,000 and $88,000 (his top one-day output) per show but after a month or so to just be so tired of having to live in a hotel and to have simply put your real life on hold.

A note: Amodio’s run nearly ended when it was still in the teens. He led by less than double his next-closest competitor and Final Jeopardy!, with the topic being ” ’80s Movies,” referenced a dip that was used to erase characters. Amodio did not know that the correct answer was “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” but, fortunately for him, nether did the woman in second place.

Amodio was dethroned by an actor, also in his twenties, who had the good fortune in Double Jeopardy! to hit two daily doubles in a row. He missed the first, but nailed the second. That’s usually where Amodio distances himself from the pack, finding the daily doubles in the second round. All good things must come to an end. Now what does a PhD student with $1.5 million (before taxes) in his back pocket due for motivation to finish his doctoral thesis?

THE GANGSTA BOWL

by John Walters

Last night No. 15 Coastal Carolina whipped Arkansas State in Jonesboro, 52-20, to improve to 6-0. The Chanticleers already had the lowest MH number (Scoring Defense ranking + Scoring Offense ranking… the lower the number, the better the team) in the nation before last night’s game.

Tonight Cincinnati, fresh off last Saturday’s win at Notre Dame, hosts Temple. The Bearcats are 4-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation. They’re garnering way more love on national sports radio to break the four-team playoff glass ceiling than Coastal is.

Let’s jump to the future and assume (a large assumption, albeit) that both Group of Five schools remain unbeaten the rest of the way. In December each would play in its conference championship game (the Sun Belt and the American Athletic, respectively) against a foe that may not be ranked.

And we have not even broached the topic of G5 unbeatens UTSA, SMU (who’ll play Cincy) and BYU (who won’t have a conference game). In short, those conference title games will not move the needle much for Coastal or Cincy as far as the selection committee is concerned.

We have a better idea.

The Gangsta Bowl

Before we share this latest lame-brained idea, a point of agreement: there are no steadfast rules in college football. You cannot blow up the BCS! Until you do. Oklahoma and Texas can’t just secede to the SEC! Until they do. Players cannot transfer without sitting out a year! Until they can. Or be paid for their name, image and likeness! Until D.J. Uiagalelei shows up in a Fansville ad. BYU and Coastal Carolina just cannot schedule a game in the middle of a season! Until they did.

Anarchy is okay in college football. As long as someone is getting paid. Paging Dr. Weknowdis.

Thus, we present the Group of 5 Bowl, or Gangsta Bowl (Nuthin’ But A G Thang). If, after 12 games, two Group of 5 schools (e.g., Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina) are still undefeated, do not waste their and everyone else’s time with conference championship games that will do little to improve either school’s Playoff stock. Instead, in the words of Dennis Green, “crown their ass” in terms of conference titles and arrange for them to play in the Gangsta Bowl. 

The Gangsta Bowl would draw more viewers than the two conference championship games combined. The Gangsta Bowl would put a better “W” on the victorious team’s resume—and compel the selection committee to deal with it. The Gangsta Bowl would elevate all Group of 5 programs because it would enhance the chances of the winning side making the playoff.

You wanna chirp at the selection committee and Power 5 programs for maintaining a glass ceiling? Fine. But here’s an idea that would challenge Group of 5 conferences to obliterate their own self-imposed glass ceiling. 

The Gangsta Bowl. Ready to make an entrance, so back on up/Cuz you know we’re ‘bout to rip sh*t up.

We

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Farewell, Omar

If you’ve never watched The Wire (HBO), that’s something in your life you need to change immediately. If you have, then you know what an unforgettable character Omar is. Last Sunday Michael K. Williams, the man who played Omar (as well as other memorable characters on Boardwalk Empire and The Night Of), was found dead in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn, apartment. Apparently of a heroin overdose.

It was Omar who famously said, “You come at the king, you better not miss.” Omar was an inspired character, a fearless, trenchcoat-wearing, bad mamajamma who stole from drug dealers. You don’t do that. He was like a phantom; they feared him because he seemed to just disappear into the shadows. The character was also gay, which just added to the uniqueness of Omar.

Williams was also phenomenal in The Night Of. He sorta reminds me of the black Phillip Seymour Hoffman. A gifted actor who owned every scene in which he appeared and then died, alone, of a drug overdose, in New York City. Williams was 54.

Teenage Dream

Raducanu has come from nowhere, or London, to charm the tennis world

The “women’s” singles final at the U.S. Open will feature two fetching, charming teenagers from friendly nations: Laylah Fernandez of Canada, who turned 19 earlier this week, and Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, who is 19.

Fernandez is ranked 73rd in the world; Raducanu, 150th. Needless to say, it’s the first Grand Slam final for either young lady. It’s also the first U.S. Open final between two teenagers since Serena Williams defeated Martina Hingis in 1999.

Munnlaney?

On one side of the coin, you’ve gotta give John Mulaney credit for appearing on his close friend Seth Meyers’ show and being so forthcoming. This was cracklin’ good television.

On the other, the veneer of our Catholic school nerdy boy man is now off. Some of Mulaney’s best bits (“You buy the cow”) now come off as, if not phony, then at least not standing the test of time. Nobody’s perfect, of course, but comedians are supposed to use their lives as material for their sets. In so many ways, Mulaney was hiding his. All those hours he spent serving as the responsible big brother to Pete Davidson to keep him off the wayward path? Who was shepherding whom?

And I know I sound a little like a jilted lover—or Mulaney’s ex-wife, who has kept her dignity throughout this awful stretch—but it sure sounded weird to hear Meyers congratulate his good friend for becoming a dad to-be. In the past year Mulaney has left his wife, gone into rehab twice, gone totally Hollywood by hooking up with a B-list celeb (Olivia Munn) who’s dated a Hall of Fame quarterback (Aaron Rodgers), and now impregnated her.

You have to wonder if Mulaney got the Rodgers Rate there…

Life is messy. And you hope better days are ahead for this man whose ceiling is higher than anyone of his generation. But remember that character he played in the classic SNL game show skit, “What’s That Name?” He doesn’t come off too much better in person right now.

Just The Vax, Ma’am

President Biden steals a page from Texas Gov. Abbott’s playbook. You wanna hand out a $10,000 punishment for aiding and abetting an abortion? Here’s a $12,000 punishment for working for a company of more than 1,000 employees and not getting vaccinated. I pity the unvaccinated Uber driver in Plano who drives an expectant mother to the clinic. That’s a $22,000 bill right there.

Biden noted in his speech that “even Fox News” has a vaccination policy for its employees. I wonder if that snippet made it onto Fox News… or OAN… or NewsMax.

Go, go, Joseph/You know what they say…

The Bucs Start Here

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last seen winning the Super Bowl in their own stadium, kicked off the NFL season last night by hosting America’s Team. And Tom Brady’s charmed life just continues as they eked out a 31-29 win with the help of an uncalled offensive pass interference that would have negated the final, field-goal winning drive.

Odd. Tom Brady being helped out by the zebras in a game-winning drive. Has that ever happened?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Remember The Amnio!*

*The judges will also accept “The Elephant In The Womb” and “Fetal Positions”

The abortion issue is a simple question of the lesser of two evils. Is it right to abort a pregnancy and put a fetus to death unnaturally? No. Is it good to saddle a woman with a pregnancy and a total overhaul of her life because of an unwanted pregnancy, particularly if the sex was non-consensual? Given that choice, you decide what the lesser of two evils is.

Of course, the Texas legislature and the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, decided that the latter is the lesser of the two evils. But let’s be frank here: Keeping women in the kitchen and at home raising babies and out of positions of economic power much less government is the real goal here. Particularly poor and middle-class ones.

That SCOTUS allowed a law to stand that encourages other Texans to snitch on anyone remotely associated with an abortion and make money off it ($10,000!) is straight-up Dark Ages behavior. Even if someone is innocent, they’re going to have to pay a lawyer to defend them and they won’t be able to recover that court cost.

Will abortions in Texas (and other red states soon to feel emboldened on this reversal of Roe V. Wade) cease? No, they’ll just happen clandestinely and in unsafe fashion. Anyone ever see In The Heat Of The Night? Yup, that.

The staff here at MH encourages all women of child-bearing age to flee Texas forthwith. And what, then, will the men of Texas do for, um, satisfaction? Well, they can do what many of us have been telling Texas to do for years now: Go f*ck themselves.*

*And before one of my most loyal readers lectures me on Christianity and how wrong it is to take a life, I’ll remind him that pro-lifers seem to care a lot more about the lives of unborn babies than they do of children and adults. When they begin to show me that they give the slightest sh*t about those who are already born and poor and hungry and homeless, I’ll begin to feel their sincerity about cute unborn babies.

Stupid Human Tricks

This?

Or this?

The MH staff thinks trickster No. 1 is much further down the Darwinian ladder….

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Are You Sycamore High School Football?

You have to love that this still can happen in 2021, in a world of online research and Google-mapping, etc. Last Sunday ESPN aired a high school football game between IMG Academy of Bradenton, Fla., and Bishop Sycamore of….where, exactly?

Forget for a moment that Bishop Sycamore had actually played a game on Friday night before being waxed 58-0 on national TV. Or that the players that the school’s coaching staff promised had D-1 offers don’t. The biggest deal is that the school does not actually exist as a school. It’s an “on-line charter school” and really, particularly in the Covid age, who knows how much any of these football players attend class? In high school, not college.

IMG is barely better. It’s a super-sports academy (I’ve spent time there) where the classes are an afterthought. IMG produces great college talent in football, basketball and tennis. It’s a sports academy. Period. Where students do the minimum amount of academic work to get by (of course, you can say that about plenty of high school students). But at least IMG is an actual place.

Newton’s Fourth Law Of Thermodynamics

A veteran quarterback at rest during August training camp will soon be displaced by a talented rookie.

The Patriots cut former NFL MVP Cam Newton and name rookie Mac Jones as the starting quarterback. Jones becomes the third Alabama starting quarterback from the past five years who will be a Week One starter in the NFL in 2021.

If you’re wondering, the last Alabama quarterback to start a game who is not currently an NFL starter is Blake Barnett.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Ida Evacuated Sooner

Well, blow me down. Hurricane Ida, a category-4 hurricane with winds approaching 155 m.p.h. strikes landfall almost squarely in New Orleans.

Hope everyone’s safe, but nature really does put on the best show.

Frost Bites

Nebraska at Illinois felt a little wrong more than one full week before Labor Day and in 96-degree heat… particularly if you’re a Cornhusker fan. Down 9-2 early, the Illini and backup quarterback Art Sitkowski reeled off four consecutive touchdowns and held on to win 30-22.

How poorly is Scott Frost doing in his return to his home state and alma mater after leading UCF to a 13-0 season? I didn’t quite believe this when I read on the Twitters, so I checked it out and it’s true: Frost would need to go 37-1 over his next 38 games simply to match the record Jim Harbaugh has had at Michigan, a record that by most accounts has been very disappointing for that former college QB who returned to coach his alma mater in the same conference.

Dunno if Frost can right the harvester in Lincoln, a school that has been synonymous with college football success for an entire century. But the Huskers have a pretty big game versus Oklahoma on Sept. 18. And that one’s in Norman. Good luck. Norman, or Waterloo (No, not the Iowa one)?

Oh, Mr. Graaaaant

Actor Ed Asner passed away Sunday at the age of 91. He had many roles in life, but none so career-defining as the gruff but lovable Lou Grant, head man of the WJM news team on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. There may have been a sitcom or two as good as MTM, but there’s never been a better ensemble cast on a sitcom. And Asner was the captain of that ship.

The line I remember, and it may have been from the premiere episode. Lou says to Mary, “You’ve got spunk… I hate spunk.”

That’s So Raven

The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Washington Football Team 37-3 in both teams’ final preseason game of the weekend. Here’s what’s nutty: it was Baltimore’s 20th consecutive victory… in preseason football games. That’s a streak that extends back five years. Has any NFL club ever been so dominant in so meaningless a facet of the sport?

And what, if anything, can we extrapolate from this? I don’t know. The NFL record for consecutive regular season wins is 23, held by the 2008-2009 Indianapolis Colts… who used to be the Baltimore Colts, I think.

During this same period, in case you were wondering, the Ravens are 52-28 with no Super Bowl appearances, all under John Harbaugh. A very good record. Just something less than 20-0.

The China Syndrome

China has issued an edict BANNING the playing of video games between Monday and Thursday and allowing just one hour per day on Friday through Sunday. Sometimes, repressive authoritarian regimes have their upside.

Now, sure, you may cry, “But my free-dumb!” and you’re correct, but China, the world’s second-largest economy and first-largest country by population, has smartly deduced that having so many of its children spend so much of their times with their faces in screens is not beneficial long-term (we’ll see on that… stay tuned). Of course, the irony in all of this is that China leads the world in companies that manufacture the games and the hardware that makes these games possible.

So, yes, let’s profit off it. But let’s not do it. Sure, I’ll own a whorehouse, but none of my daughters are going into that business….

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

From Beirut To Kabul

From History.com

October 23, 1983

A suicide bomber drives a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. That same morning, 58 French soldiers were killed in their barracks two miles away in a separate suicide terrorist attack. The U.S. Marines were part of a multinational force sent to Lebanon in August 1982 to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. From its inception, the mission was plagued with problems–and a mounting body count.

I remember that day well. I believe it was a Sunday morning when the news broke, my senior year of high school. I remember it being tragic, the worst loss of U.S. military life in one day since at least Vietnam. And I remember no one calling for President Reagan to resign, but then, he had been so damn good in Knute Rockne: All American and Kings Row (films in which, respectively, he had lost his life and legs).

It wasn’t really Reagan’s fault, after all. The mission was next-to-impossible, and whenever you have an opponent willing to commit suicide as part of their attack, it presents problems (ask any Naval commander in the Pacific from World War II).

Yesterday a dozen or so U.S. military personnel were killed in Kabul (a dozen, not 243) while executing a near-impossible task: evacuating Americans and Afghans from Kabul via the airport. For those citizens to not flock to the airport means they risk being kidnapped or killed by the Taliban or ISIS in their homes or wherever they are hiding. Their best escape route is via the airport, of course, where more than 80,000 have been evacuated the past week or so, but that means bunching up in crowds outside the airport gates, which, of course, makes them an inviting and vulnerable target.

And yet here are plenty of disingenuous Republican “leaders” calling for President Biden to resign. It was not President Biden who released 5,000 Taliban prisoners nor was it Biden who brokered a deal with the Taliban last year (it was President Trump and Mike Pompeo). These Republicans know that, but they also know that so many of their cult are sheep who don’t care to possess the ability for critical thought.

Beirut was a terrible day. But we were one country then. Kabul was, from a body-count perspective, far less significant. But we have awful people on one side of the aisle in 2021. And useful idiots supporting them.

Ten Turns 30

Happy 30th birthday to one of the very best debut albums in the history of rock and roll.

I remember the moment. Labor Day, 1991. Walking into an appliance store on 72nd just west of Broadway, in search of a stereo. You know, it’s the early ’90s so I need a CD player that also plays cassettes. So sad that I abandoned my turntable (what were we thinking?).

Then I hear it. This BELLOWING guitar that sounds like a battle cry. The opening chords of “Alive.” It was a beautiful late summer afternoon in Manhattan, the kind where the humidity has departed and you can feel the early strains of autumn. The golden late afternoon sun outside. And inside, this sound I’d never before experienced.

Make no mistake, Pearl Jam came out of the gates early that fall, before Nirvana. The other Seattle-based grunge band would soon take the lead. By Christmas holidays they’d be sharing a stage together, both serving as warm-up acts for RHCP.

Our favorite songs from Ten, in order: 1) Alive 2) Release 3) Jeremy 4) Oceans 5) Black 6) Once 7) Evenflow

Won’t See You In September

Not appearing at the U.S. Open that begins next week: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Venus Williams. That foursome represents 17 U.S. Open singles titles since 1999. Or nearly half.

The door is wide open for Novak Djokovic to become the first man with 21 career singles titles (and he should celebrate at the iconic 21 in midtown Manhattan). And as far as we know, Naomi Osaka is coming to Flushing Meadows. Naomi versus the New York media. Should be a fun show.

Death Valley Daze

Two male hikers have died in separate incidents at Death Valley National Park this week. Why? Because it’s really, really, really hot there and they were really, really, really unprepared. The men were 52 and 60 years old (man, is that old!) and to be honest, it wasn’t even that hot in Death Valley. Only about 109 degrees.

You have to love a national park that lives up to its name. And the hype.