by John Walters

John G. Hubbell

A moment of tribute for John Hubbell, who passed away two nights earlier in the midst of his 94th (?) year. Mr. Hubbell was the author of the above book but also, more importantly, with his wife Punkin, of nine children: Woody, JP, Mary Louise, Joe, Margy, Bill, Andy, Katie and Mary Jeanne.

Katie is, of course, MH’s frequent contributor and resident scream, Katie McCollow, who is married to this site’s conscience (if only we followed it more often), Mike McCollow.

John Hubbell lived a damn-near perfect 20th-century life. He was a full-time writer at the Reader’s Digest and was able to raise the funniest family I know in a house on the shores of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. I first met Mr. Hubbell in the summer of 2004, when I was living in the Twin Cities, and was made a welcome guest to a number of Hubbell happenings.

The best way I might describe Mr. Hubbell was as the eye of the storm. In a tempest of children, one funnier or louder or drunker or more opinionated than the next, John Hubbell, who had a jawline of granite, was the quietest one in the room. But he always had a smile on his face and a warm and gentle way about him.

In his final months, in a Minneapolis-area nursing home, Mr. Hubbell could be spotted in his “I’d Rather Be Watching Gilmore Girls” sweatshirt as one of his children snuck into his first-floor room window to spend time with him. Just this past week, all of the Hubbell kids gathered together one last time and an impromptu pizza party was held.

Mr. Hubbell had been working in his last years on two memoirs, one about his career (Writing for Wally; My Life With a Brilliant Idea) that has been published. A second memoir, about his brood, has yet to be finished (but will be). Here’s a passage from it:

And the years passed and one by one they all grew up and graduated and got jobs and left home and fell in love and got married, and before we knew what was happening, it happened. Suddenly, Mrs. Hubbell’s dream house was much too big for the two of us, with its huge front porch, and its six bedrooms, its study, its immense living room with the fireplace, its large formal dining room, its family room and its huge kitchen/laundry room… soon we lived in a much smaller house in a pretty suburb, and those nine kids and our 30-plus grandkids and great-grandkids come often and visit and we often visit them. And there are many more joyous hellos than there ever were sad goodbyes.

If you visit Katie’s Instagram or Facebook pages, you’ll see some wonderful photos of the patriarch of this hilarious and happy family. Rest in peace, Mr. Hubbell.

The Train

Today (NOW!)

5 p.m. EDT


There are World War II movies that everyone knows or has seen: The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan, The Great Escape, The Bridge On The River Kwai.

And then there is, from 1964, The Train. Starring Burt Lancaster as a French Resistance fighter and loosely based on a true story, it’s about the Nazis attempting to bring looted works of art to Germany and a French plot to subvert them. As director John Frankenheimer later noted, this is possibly the last action film to be made in black-and-white (you wouldn’t consider Schindler’s List an action film, would you?).

Highly recommended by MH’s film critics and possibly the second-best film with the word “train” in its title.


by John Walters

Big Bang Query

More than 100 are dead in Beirut and for once it had nothing to do with terrorism. Apparently storing nearly 3,000 metric tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse close to a fireworks facility at the nation’s largest port is not a good idea. Who knew?

Photos here show the before and after.

The deadly material arrived years ago via a Russian cargo ship because, of course.

Of Moose And Masks

MH’s Canadian correspondent, Moose, has become a mask fiend during the pandemic. She owns close to a dozen. Moose wants to remind everyone 1) to wear a mask and 2) that Canadia is better than the U.S.A. in every way except baseball.

The Big Game Comes Early!

Good news, Michigan fans: You won’t have to wait 12 months to lose to Ohio State this year. The Big Ten just released its revised, coronavirus-adaptive schedule and the Wolverines will visit Columbus on October 24. Before Halloween, even.

We, for reasons of weather, would welcome this date change becoming permanent. The post-Thanksgiving weekend is of course a bonanza of post-secondary education gridiron, so why not remove one contest and put it somewhere else?

Not All ’70s Family Pop Groups Were Talented

It’s a long way down from the magic of the Jackson 5 to the milk-fed stylings of the Osmonds, but it may be an even further plummet from the Osmonds to the DeFrancos. Here they are on the Jack Benny Show singing their big hit, “Heartbeat, It’s a Love Beat.” The year was 1973 and another Italian-American musician, Bruce Springsteen, could barely afford change for the toll at the Lincoln Tunnel.

The DeFrancos are Canadian, Moose.

They Have A Dream

The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, a franchise that is literally named after a Martin Luther King, Jr., speech, is practicing peaceful protest in the most dynamic way. When one of the team’s owner, billionaire Georgia Republican senator Kelly Loeffller, basically told the ladies to shut up and dribble, they countered with the above T-shirts.

Loeffler, 49, was not elected but appointed to the U.S. Senate by Georgia’s GOP governor after an incumbent announced his intention to resign for health reasons. She’s loaded and her husband is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and I can’t see why you’d think there’s a conflict of interest there.

When the WNBA announced they’d be putting “Black Lives Matter” on their courts, Loeffler wrote a note to the league complaining and asking that players have flags put on their uniforms instead. Loeffler is on record as adamantly opposing Black Lives Matter and is still more than a little upset that Ashley married that plain-jane Melanie instead of her.

Warnock, by the way, is Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse alum and doctor of theology, who is also a senior pastor in Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.


by John Walters

The Big Bangs Theory

In Monday’s New York Times, a wild story about another wondrous ’70s relic, Creem magazine. This was the other music magazine of the era, but the cooler one. Inside the pages of Creem, based out of Detroit (and for a year or two on a farm outside of Detroit where the entire staff lived…How Seventies!), rock aficionados found the words of Lester Bangs and other writers who coined terms such as “punk rock” and “heavy metal.”

(Lester Bangs)

A documentary is coming out soon. Our favorite part of the story was the revelation that sometimes the writers and editors got into fist fights. This should happen at every publication. Every one would be better off for it.

Don Vs. Swan

We haven’t watched the full Axios interview between President Trump and John Swan, but above are five of the wackier moments. Remember Constanza’s Law of Prevarication: It’s not a lie if you believe it, Jerry.

Dumb and Dumba

Before the Blackhawks played the Oilers on Saturday in a nationally televised game, Matt Dumba of the Minnesota North Stars walked out on the ice and said a few words about racism and Black Lives Matter. Then he knelt during the national anthem—and no one else did.

Two black NHL players, Darnell Nurse and Malcolm Subban, flanked Dumba and put a hand on his shoulder, but they did not kneel.

This item is not going where you think it’s going.

I’m fine with athletes kneeling during the national anthem. I’d probably do so. I’m just as fine with athletes standing during the national anthem. Earlier this week actually ran a headline that read “Leonard (the Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard, who’s white) Stands For National Anthem.” Granted, Leonard was an outlier here among NBA players, but this is news?

The author of this Deadspin piece, Sam Fels, calls out the NHL players and everyone for not kneeling. Fels represents that wing of sports media that I refer to as the Intolerant Tolerant. HE decides what social justice is and HE decides what is acceptable and unacceptable and if you don’t agree with him, then you’re part of the problem (this is also the “nice white people are to blame” syndrome).

Here’s Fels:

The NHL will hide behind “not getting political” but racism isn’t political. It’s decency. Either you recognize everyone’s rights, needs, and wants, or you’re an asshole. It’s pretty simple. 

That’s fine, Sam. But if I don’t kneel for the national anthem, that means I don’t recognize everyone’s rights? Who decided that? You? One of my rights, and I’m part of everyone, is the choice to stand or kneel during the anthem.

But I guess you and other SJWs decide what my rights are. That doesn’t seem right.

Maroon 3

Three mariners were marooned on Micronesia, an island so tiny it has “micro” in its name. So they did what characters in movies do when not talking to a volleyball—they inscribed a giant “SOS” in the sand. And it worked.

The fishermen’s boat had run out of fuel and drifted more than 100 miles off-course but they were lucky enough to find an island. If only Lost could have begun and ended so quickly.

Man On The Run

Another great piece from The New York Times, this one from their Sunday magazine, on Behrouz Boochani. He fled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, exposed off-shore detention camps of Australia (!), and all while bearing an uncanny resemblance to Jesus and/or Daniel Day Lewis (and who is to say who’s a better paragon of perfection?).


by John Walters

Going, Going, Gone

Here’s the next Yankee legend.

D.J. LeMahieu had just tied the score in the 8th inning doing what he does better than anyone in baseball—stroking an opposite-field base hit—when Aaron Judge strode to the plate. Judge, the 6’7″ 280-pound right-fielder, the “Supernatural,” had already hit a home run earlier. It had been his fifth in as many games.

Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes got behind in the count, put a “cement-mixer” out over the plate, and Judge smoked a no-doubter 460 feet into the left-center bleachers. Judge now has six home runs in eight games for the 7-1 Yankees. A-Rod actually said as it left the park, “Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Aaron Judge!”

Not quite yet. But he has the potential. At $8.5 million this season, he may be the best deal in all of baseball. He may earn as much as $35 million next season.

By the way, the wonderful thing about watching a Yankee home game this season is that it really doesn’t look much different to the home viewer, behind the plate, in terms of the number of fans.

Missing, Missing, Gone*

*The judges will also accept “OF Goes AWOL” and “Bat’s All, Folks!”

New York Mets outfielder Yoenis “A Cespedes For The Rest Of Us” Cespedes simply did not show up for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves. Then it was announced that he’d decided to opt out the remainder of the 2020 season for “Covid-19 related reasons” or “Would you risk your health to play for the Mets?”

Is this the beginning of a trend?

Rule No. 7

In which we remind you that every baseball game affords the viewer/attendee the opportunity to witness something that’s never happened before

A few wild nuggets from baseball’s first 10 days:

–After three games not a single team had a 3-0 record. That had not happened since 1954.

–Through this many games—admittedly a small sample size—the average number of strikeouts per game has been 18. That’s the most in baseball history. Also, runs are up (as are home runs). Baseball is more and more a pitcher-batter showcase. Fielders have never been so extraneous.

–Detroit Tiger rookie reliever Tyler Alexander whiffed nine straight Cincinnati Reds yesterday. That ties an American League record, held by former Tiger tosser Doug Fister. Only former New York Met Tom Seaver, a.k.a. “Tom Terrific,” who once struck out 10 batters in a row, has compiled a longer list of consecutive K victims in one game (10).

By the way, Alexander’s streak ended when he plunked Red batter Mike Moustakas on a 1-2 pitch. Ouch.

–The Tigers lost the game and the other game they played the Reds in the twin bill. Both games only went 7 innings. That’s the first twin bill in which both games lasted only 7 innings since 1912.

–Something we mused about watching the final two innings of the Red Sox-Yankees game last night: Umpires must be the only ones who are happy about the current situation. They get to call an entire game each day without hearing, “You suck!”

No One Is Clean Here

If you have not read the Pac-12 football players’ letter of demands that was published in The Players Tribune over the weekend, here it is. They make a few good points and they also make some points that had me summoning the wisdom of Rebecca DeMornay in Risky Business

“Go to school, Joel. Go learn something.”

A few of the demands make plenty of sense to us and in fact are things we’ve advocated in print for years, such as…

Six-year athletic scholarships to foster undergraduate and graduate degree completion.”


End performance/academic bonuses.”

On the other hand, demands such as this one…

“Larry Scott, administrators, and coaches to voluntarily and drastically reduce excessive pay” are rather naive. If you demand that they do this, it isn’t quite voluntary, is it?

Here’s what rankles us most: In a story titled #WeAreUnited, The Players Tribune never bothered to address how many of the more than 1,000 Pac-12 scholarship football players signed off on this list of grievances/demands. It was almost enough to compel me to jump back on Twitter.

And here’s the other thing: when the founders of this nation penned a similar letter to King George in 1776, they individually signed off on it. By doing so, these men literally put their lives at risk for having committed treason. Not a single player’s name appears at the bottom of this letter. Not one.

No one is blameless here. The players properly address that college football has become a gridiron industrial complex in which they are the infantry and everyone else (the institutions, the outside contractors) are getting rich. The schools are at fault for basically Joel Goodson’ing it: turning their homes into a whorehouse for the weekend and then being upset when Guido the Killer Pimp conspires with the workers to take their cut.

But the players are also somewhat to blame. First, for not signing their names to this. Second, because let’s face it: high school players do not sign scholarships in order to become pro athletes or to earn business degrees. Those are ancillary reasons, yes, but let’s be honest about this: the young man signing that football scholarship almost wholly identifies himself as an elite football player.

This is his identity. This is what provides him self-esteem. To be offered the chance to continue in this identity for four more years, where potential glory and babes await, well, that’s likely the best offer he has. The chance to not have to re-make his identity, at least for another four or five years, that’s a seductive offer for most anyone, much less an 18 year-old.

So let’s quit with the “We’re being exploited” crap. No one forced you to sign that scholarship. No one is forcing you to stay. Just because the owners of the company are profiting disproportionately as compared to you, well, welcome to the working week. They are also offering you something no one else can, and they know that you want that. You could never just start up a minor league of football and replicate the tradition, the aura of college football. It would take decades and even then it wouldn’t approach it.

So if you’re really serious about making changes, sign your names. And sit out if your demands are not met. Be willing to walk away and be known as “that big dude in my sociology class.” Otherwise, to me, it’s an empty gesture.

Okay, Ozark

(The final scene from Season 2)

I wouldn’t say I hate-watched the first two seasons of Ozark, but I often felt as I watched like penning a letter to Vince Gilligan and thanking him… and telling him that he made Breaking Bad look much easier to pull off than it is.

Much of the first two seasons of Ozark was bad Breaking Bad, from the fact that everyone gets away with murder (I realize the sheriff is compromised, but is there any way everyone gets away with murders even the most vapid dancer at Lickety Splitz could solve?) to the fact that too many people die too conveniently to all the redneck shenanigans that never seem to lead anywhere.

But I stuck around and now I’ve devoured the first three episodes of Season 3. The show has taken a quantum leap. The primary reason: the game of cat-and-mouse, of Spy vs. Spy, taking place between Marty and Wendy Byrde. They are no longer Byrdes of a feather, and this has ratcheted up the tension.

I was a little tired of Jacob Snell and the show runners obviously deduced that Darlene was the stronger character. The producers lost Rip Torn (DNP, Death) but felt as if they needed to toss another fly into the ointment so they produced Wendy’s troubled but charming brother, who only happens to be built like a pro athlete and soon will be partnering (one way or another) with the show’s best character, Ruth.

Season 3 has already had some magnificent scenes, from Ruth’s roofdeck run-in with Frank Cosgrove, Jr. to the “Time For Me To Fly” montage at the end of Episode 3. We loved when the dentist told Wendy that Branson isn’t just “country,” that they’d seen Molly Hatchet open up for .38 Special. You have to understand that Ozark’s executive producer and lead writer is Chris Mundy, a former senior writer at Rolling Stone (we met him at a party once, 23 years ago; we were already a fan of his writing then). That line was totally him.

So Ozark has pulled out of its tailspin. And Laura Linney has become even more mercenary and complicit than Skyler White ever was. In fact, she’s sort of become the show’s villainess. Also, I’m not sorry to see less of Charles Wilkes. Never bought that dude as that character.

Looking forward to the rest of Season 3. Where Marty Byrde will be “Riding The Storm Out.”


by John Walters

The following is a recent announcement I posted for my class at Arizona State. Since we are a sports class, I felt that we needed a team name so earlier in the course I dubbed us the Hippos. Hence the hippo reference.

Random Hippo: “This course isn’t completely awful, but I really wish Professor Walters would drop some practical knowledge on us. Something we’ll actually use in life.”

Alrighty then. Let’s talk about the vigorish, or as it is better known among gamblers, “the vig.”

Now, a fair number of you are laughing at this. You’re saying, “Everyone knows what the vig is, Professor Walters.” And yet I’m willing to wager (versus those of you who know what a vig is), that a greater number of you have no idea what the vig is.

The vig, as every gambler knows, is the house’s 10%.

This is how actual sports gambling works. If you bet $100 on a game and win, you win $100 (thus, you get your $100 stake back plus $100 more). However, if you bet $100 on a game and lose, you lose $110. That 10% is why sports gambling, on a long-term basis, is a sucker’s bet.

If you win 50% of the action (i.e., the games you wager on), you will be down 10% of the total amount that you have wagered. That assumes you wager the same amount on every bet, which almost no one does, but we’ll get to that later.

The vig is the reason that bookies are by and large wealthier than gamblers. The vig is why reformed gamblers become bookies. They realize being a bookie is the only sure bet.

Vigorish, by the way, is a Yiddish slang word that means “gains, or winnings.”

If you’re simply playing the Squares game at a Super Bowl party or making a friendly bet because you’re from Buffalo and your pal is from Boston and the Bills are playing the Pats, that’s all fine. No worries.

Sports books, however, or gambling sites, prey on people like many of you, though. Here’s our factors that make you such easy prey:

1) They know that a lot of sports fans are incredibly passionate about the games and not a few of them think they know more than the average Joe about sports (most addicted gamblers have higher IQs).

2) The appeal of easy money is extremely seductive.

3) Betting (and someone who bets is a “bettor,” not a “better”) literally creates a chemical rush. The anxiety is its own high and bettors will tell you that just plain cheering for your favorite team will not approach the feeling you have when you have money on the game. That rush is addictive, just like alcohol or painkillers, etc.

4) Finally, the spread.

Let’s talk about the spread. If the Chiefs are hosting the Lions and the only issue is who will win, most of us are going to be smart enough to bet on the Chiefs. And we will win. But that is not how sports gambling works. Either you bet the spread or the money line (we wont’ worry about the money line here). The spread is a given number of points that the bookies decide a favorite must win by.

Thus, for our Lions at Chiefs game, let’s say the spread is minus-18 for the Chiefs. This means that the Chiefs must win by 19 points for your bet on the Chiefs to pay off. You can bet on the Lions and if they lose 34-17 you win.

This is what is very important for you to understand about bookies: they don’t care who wins. All they care about is that just as much money is bet on the Lions as is bet on the Chiefs. The spread is how that happens. Vegas attempts to calibrate at what point the spread must be for just as much money to be bet on the Lions covering the spread (losing by less than 18) as the Chiefs (winning by more than 18).

Why is that? Because of the vigorish! If $5 million is bet on the Lions and $5 million is wagered on the Chiefs, the bookie winds up making a $500,000 profit. Why? Because he paid out $5 million in winnings but he made $5,500,000 off the losers (their bets + 10%).

I’m friends with Chris Fallica (oooh, look at Prof Walters with the name drop), better-known as Bear to you ESPN college football fans. Last season, for my weekly college football column for The Athletic, I asked Bear to track his weekly “Bear’s Picks” over the course of the entire season. Understand, Bear makes very good money as ESPN’s college football betting guru, that he peers at stats and other information all week long before making his three weekly picks.

At season’s end, if I remember correctly, Bear had won 51% of his games. In order simply to break even as a gambler (again, assuming you bet the same amount on every game, which no one does), you’d need to win 52.5% of your bets.

The bookies know. The vig is what makes them rich. Not being able to decide which team will win. They always want equal amounts of money bet on either team (and if too much money is bet on one team, they’ll adjust the spread for those who have not yet made bets).

Finally, many of you have been to Las Vegas. Or Reno. You’ve seen a roulette table. You’ve wondered, what if I just kept putting my chips on Red or Black, on Even or Odd. Surely I’ve got a 50% chance here to win, no?

No. Those two green numbers at the top of the roulette table (0 and 00) change the odds from 50/50 to 47.5/47.5/5.

And that 5% might not mean much for one roll of the roulette wheel. But over the course of a year, and millions of rolls in any single casino, that is why casinos look like they do and your 2004 Mazda looks like it does.

The house always wins. Long-term. The odds are in their favor.

Have fun betting on sports, or in Vegas. Just remember that it’s a diversion, not an occupation.


MISSING: Blog Commenter

NAME (or alias): Susie B.

Identifying traits: Prone to polemics about Republicans, Sweet Pea, the University of Maryland, paywalls and growing up in the 1940s. Owns a drawer-ful of Amazon stock and anxiously looks forward to the day it will reach “hundred-bagger” status. Likely unarmed, but still dangerous. If spotted, do not approach. Contact authorities.


by John Walters

Wednesdays in July are TCM’s “Feel Good Films” night, hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, when the premium cable TV channel unleashes its best (if not epic) material. Tonight is the final of five July Wednesdays in 2020, and there’s no holding back (all times Eastern):

6:30 p.m.

Viva Las Vegas (1968) with Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret: What’s it about? Who cares? Elvis sings and Ann dances. What else do you want?

8 p.m.

The Thin Man (1934), with William Powell and Myrna Loy: The original wise-cracking, crime-solving, martini-guzzling couple. A film that launched a genre, and still no one has done it better than these two.

9:45 p.m.

Guys and Dolls (1955) with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando: Sinatra wanted Brando’s role of Sky Masterson (originated on Broadway by Robert Alda, Alan’s pop) and was unhappy about finishing second the entire production. Still, one of the better musicals.

12:30 a.m.

The Lady Eve (1941) with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. Stanwyck was Hollywood’s original smart dame and as for Fonda’s gullible bachelor, this is a role that his best friend, Jimmy Stewart, could have played in his sleep. A comedy about a gold digger who gets her comeuppance and comes back for more.

2:15 am.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) with Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane. A black comedy about a young married comedy, a body underneath the window seat, and a bizarre set of in-laws.

4:15 a.m.

Some Like It Hot (1959) with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. This may be the perfect comic film. The plot never drags and it’s sublime from the opening moments in wintry Chicago to the final scene in a getaway motor boat. Tony Curtis plays three characters, essentially, and is credible as each. Deserved the Oscar for this.


by Wendell Barnhouse

Stick to sports.
To Your Veteran Scribe’s recollection, that phrase made its debut around the time of Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police violence against blacks. The NFL quarterback’ssilent and peaceful method was to kneel during the National Anthem. It was a strategy suggested by U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer.

This story made national news headlines and created a problem for sports journalists and those who work in sports media (those professions are not synonymous). Writing about the Kaepernick controversy required mixing The Real World into the fantasy world of grown men playing a game. There was no Switzerland on this issue. Every story leaned one way or the other, even if it was a 51-49% split.

The Kaepernick controversy also came during The Time of Trump (“Get that son of a bitch off the field”) There would be no rational discussions, no thoughtful debates. The Twitter Rage Machine was at full power.

Kaepernick (and his Black Panther afro) was“disrespecting the flag, the National Anthem, our troops, our Constitution, our American
Way of Life.” Or, Kaepernick was “taking a stance for what he believes, expressing his First Amendment rights, pointing out that blacks are far more likely to experience police violence and death.”

Journalists who wrote or talked about Kaepernick got the “stick to sports” advice, which usually included a series of fck yous.

The idea of sports being walled off from The Real World, placed in its own box, has never been more stupid than during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a century since the United States faced this type of crisis and unless you’ve been assigned to the International Space Station, you’re aware that the response of the Trump administration has been a complete and abject failure.

Not only has there been a failure of leadership, but too many citizens have treated the “inconvenience” of sheltering in place (for a few weeks) or wearing a protective mask (for a few minutes) as an infringement on their rights and freedoms. Discovering a vaccine for COVID-19 tops the medical research list. Curing stupidity would be No. 2.
(Spoiler alert: It doesn’t have a cure.)

Ever since mid-March when the pandemic interrupted the wide, wide world of sports, those who write about sports and those who are fans have been jonesing for the return of athletic competition. With the all-American sport of football just over a month away, the jonesing has turned to desperation. (The sweet irony is that the college football
season is in doubt because of states in the football-mad South being helmed by Republican governors who re-opened their states too early to please Herr Trump.)

Your Veteran Scribe spent about 45 years writing about sports. I stuck to sports. Now, I’m sick of sports. Major-League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are at the re-starting gate and no doubt the NFL will move forward, come infection or high water. Fine. Whatever. Those are professional athletes represented by unions in leagues where there is enough money to test, test, test (and never mind there are regular folks who wait a week to 10 days to find out their test results).

For many, the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament remains surreal. In mid-March, the idea that the plague would still be plaguing and endanger the 2020 college football season was also … surreal. Reality sucks when you’re dealing with a disease that gives no f*cks about your sports calendar.

The so-called Power Five conferences (think of them the same way as the five Mafia families before Giuliani) are desperate to play games in the fall. They need the money (especially after losing the March Madness cash) from their television deals. No games mean no revenue.

The problem is COVID-19 cases have been rising instead of falling. The idea of having hundreds of thousands of college students on campus in a month is an invitation to further curving and not flattening the curve. It also would be bad optics to have college football players on campus and practicing without students also roaming the quad, the dorms and fraternity/sorority row.

Two conferences – the Big Ten and the Pac-12 – have announced they’ll play onlyleague games. And that illustrates the problem; college football is run by the conferences with no cohesive leadership for the sport. Other conferences are delaying any similar draconian measures as they whistle past the COVID-19 graveyard.

An alternative that has been floated is to play the 2020 college football season in the spring of 2021. Real spring football. That would be one way for the conferences to still access the TV revenue. That solution appears half-baked because of certain flaws.

The NFL Draft is in April. There’s a good chance that college players who are potential first-round picks would skip a spring season. In March, college football would be in direct conflict with March Madness, the
NCAA’s signature showcase. CBS is one of the networks that televise the
tournament, but it also carries Southeastern Conference football games.
 Would spring football be a full 12-game schedule? Would there be a playoff? A full slate of bowl games?

 The NCAA’s musty philosophy that it is a bastion of amateur sport would be
eviscerated. If 2021 eventually brings a return to normalcy, there would be
college football in the fall. Meaning players would be expected to play 20 to 24 games in a nine- to 10-month span – all because dear ol’ State U. needs to make payroll.

The University Interscholastic League, which oversees high school sports in Texas, this week announced its plan for football. The two biggest classifications will delay the start of the season until late September; the four smaller classes can start play as if nothing
unusual is happening. The theory is that those schools are in smaller, rural areas where COVID-19 is less of a danger. If that plan is carried out, the two biggest classification would have playoffs extending into January with the possibility of playoff games on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Friday Night Lights must not be dimmed.

That can be argued is a cynical view from an old curmudgeon. The argument is “You only get to be a high school senior once. … These kids have worked hard. … They shouldn’t lose the chance to play their sport. … What about the cheerleaders, band members, dance teams?”

Should there be empathy if there is no high school football in Texas (or other states)? Certainly. But I’d rather there be empathy for the 152,000 deaths (as of this writing). I’drather parents and educators explain the harsh reality that sh*t happens, life is hard and you have to deal with its twists and turns.

Those who have died from the disease would sure as hell be happy to be alive this fall and “suffer” without football.

Stick to sports? Right now, I’m sick of sports.


by John Walters

What Exactly Makes Him Honorable?

William Barr testified in front of a Congressional subcommittee yesterday and why watch because he’s a very smart lawyer and an extremely wicked man who’s not about to be candid about anything?

That said, this invective-launch from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) was precisely the wrong way to go about it. Instead of preaching, which is what she did, be Socratic. Ask short questions that demand short answers until Barr paints himself into a corner. Of course, he’s a shrewd guy and will probably anticipate the maneuver, but simply coming out of Round 1 and firing all your punches before he’s even had a chance to speak, well, that’s not the way to approach this, is it?

The Wisdom Of Minchin

We’ve posted Tim Minchin videos before and we’ll continue to do so because we love everything about him. The entire staff here at MH are Aussiephiles (from Olivia Newton-John to Crocodile Dundee to Darren Bennett to Nicole Kidman, no other continent puts out more quality humans per capita).

We’ll condense this speech for the lazy and or harried:

–On fame and wealth: “It’s not only lonley at the top but populated by unnecessary chairs.”

–Tim’s three tips for aspiring artists (and people): 1) Get good, get really good at what you do, 2) Be authentic and 3) and the most important, Be kind.*

*If nothing else stick around to that part of the speech where Tim speaks about the importance of being kind, which leads us to our next item

There’s Both An “I’ and “Me” In America, Sadly

In a Tuesday Op-Ed for The New York Times, Paul Krugman made a wonderful point about the Cult of Trump that is so obvious that many of us missed it. That is, Trumpism and Trump GOP’ism isn’t about conservatism or patriotism or the Bill Of Rights or even capitalism. It’s much more basic than that.

What Trumpism is about, and what its supporters advocate, is selfishness. Taking care of themselves above all else. Krugman doesn’t even bring this into his column, but is there any better way to translate “America First?”

It’s the principle of the thing,” Krugman writes in “The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America.” “Many on the right are enraged at any suggestion that their actions should take other people’s welfare into account.”

Like wearing a mask. Or protecting the environment. Or not being permitted to own a greater arsenal of weapons than any Scandinavian nation’s military. Or not pointing guns at people who are marching past your house. Or obeying the rule of law when it’s your friend or accomplice who’s in jail.

The Cult of Trump is all about selfishness. And that selfishness exists because they either 1) have all they need and don’t want to have to think about anyone else (the Trump rich) or 2) they are poor and Trump has persuaded them that it’s someone else’s fault (China, Mexicans, you name it).

I hope most Americans are not selfish. But far too many are. And Trump let them know they had a right to be proud of it. I’d rather take Tim Minchin’s advice: be kind.

By the way, have you noticed how the president is quick to blame others if a situation falls into his lap that was not directly of his doing (e.g., China, the virus) but how he never acknowledges that most everything he has achieved in life (his fortune, his admission to Penn) was not of his doing? So if he is the beneficiary of fate, that’s never humbly acknowledged. But if fate derails him, all he does is whine.

And yet there are people who admire him. People who would not permit this behavior from their five year-old.

The Walking Deadspin

Deadspin is returning. Well, Deadspin still exists, but the people who were the meat-and-bones of the site, who all defected a year ago after editor Barry Petchesky was fired for basically not sticking to sports, are back with a site called DefectorMedia.

It launches in September and will have a subscription price of $8 per month. Most of the old gang are back. The problem, as we see it, is that Deadspin does not currently have a signature voice the way Will Leitch once was or what Drew Magary became. That would help them land subscriptions. We wish them luck.

Cotton Mouth

Middle-aged American white men. I mean, really, they’re the worst.

By now you’ve heard that Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton referred to slavery as “a necessary evil” (and, according to Bill O’Reilly, they were well-fed, so don’t forget that) and I mean, really, are you mansplaining slavery in the year 2020? Holy cats!

Cotton’s entire polemic began when he and other GOP senators felt threatened at the idea of The New York Times’ 1619 Project being taught in schools (paging the Scopes Monkey Trial on line 1). It’s funny how upset southern Republicans get over things such as facts and science, is it not?

What Cotton doesn’t understand, nor do his followers, is that by saying that slavery was a “necessary evil” he’s saying that the America we have today (and ain’t she grand, folks!) would not be as fruitful and formidable as it supposedly is (and definitely is for rich white folk such as Cotton and his boosters) without the free labor of blacks. And that’s true. But by saying that he’s implying that, hey, it was worth it.

It’s like one of those Westerns where the hero rides the horse to rescue the damsel and in so doing the horse literally dies of exhaustion, but we’re supposed to not mind because the damsel (whom we hear was a cheap floozy with a room up stairs at Jasper’s Saloon and Boarding House, if you know what we mean and you do) was saved. But you know what? No one bothered to ask the horse how he felt.

Except that here the horse isn’t a horse. It’s a fellow human being.

Hold up, hold up,” Trevor Noah said on Monday’s episode of The Daily Show. “So Senator Cotton thinks this curriculum is racially divisive? You know what’s really racially divisive? Slavery.”

Yup. But men such as Cotton don’t want to say that. Because the moment they admit that slavery was flat-out wrong, that it was one half of a ‘necessary evil,’ they’re worried that the next word they’ll hear is ‘reparations.’ And that’s one thing they want to deal with even less than the 1619 Project.

Trevor Noah makes one more excellent point in his video. Cotton is saying that this country could not have become what it was without slavery. Which is exactly what the 1619 Project is saying. So if they agree, what is Cotton so, excuse me, uppity about?

Could it be that in his version, Cotton thinks this mean that no one should be blamed? No one, you know, like white people? Because the ends justified the means?