IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Monday, September 16

Starting Five

1. Money Can’t Buy Me Love

Walt’s “I just lost my brother-in-law AND $69 million” face.

“You’re the smartest guy I ever met, and you’re too stupid to see: he made up his mind 10 minutes ago.”

An unforgettable closing line by Hank Schrader, to his nefarious brother-in-law, Walter White, as Hank stares down the barrel of a gun and at his own mortality in last night’s episode of “Breaking Bald.”

The first 15 minutes of last night’s installment was as good as television gets.

Hank’s courage. Uncle Jack’s sneering heartlessness and his Machiavellian brilliance (“So that’s what got this party started”). Walt’s light-switch transition from anguish to mendacity with Jesse. Todd’s sociopathic quick-thinking, in which only moments after stating “Sorry for your loss” (I laughed), he realizes that Pinkman has far more value to him alive (Jesse Pinkman is the new Gimp; even the cord is similar).

Fan boys extolled the entire episode, and I understand why, but for me it peaked out there in the high desert. The final turn of the screw was the DEA agents being buried in the very same grave that had been the resting place for Walt’s $80 million, which was the material prize for all the evil Walter had committed in the name of providing for his family.

“Roll out the barrel/We’ll have a barrel of fun/Roll out the barr-elll…”

And the fallout is that Walter loses his brother-in-law, loses in fact his entire family (when Skyler asks, “Did you kill Hank?”, notice how Walter replies, “I tried to save him” instead of saying, “No.” Because deep down he knows that, though he did not pull the trigger, he did kill Hank). Loses his identity. At least Tony Soprano likely took one in the back of the head while surrounded by the family he loves and a classic Journey tune playing in the background.

One minor quibble from a former Land of Enchantment resident: That final day is one long day. It begins with Walter White at the A-1 Car Wash (“Have an A-1 day!”). I thought it might have begun earlier, at Andrea’s home, but our anti-hero is wearing a different shirt there than the one he wears at the car wash.

So, let’s assume it begins at the car wash.

Then Walter drives out to the high desert, most likely north of Albuquerque and toward the location of the hidden cash at the site of the GPS coordinates, which in real-life is the location of Albuquerque Studios, where much of the series was shot.

Then there’s the showdown with Hank and Gomez.

Then Hank phones Marie.

Then Uncle Jack and his posse arrive.

Then the shootout, Hank’s murder, and the aftermath.

Then they must excavate the $80 million using nothing but hand shovels. That’s a Snickers “Not Going Anywhere for Awhile?” moment.

Then Walter runs out of gas and rolls $11 million in a barrel across a desert.

Then Walter finds a pickup truck to purchase.

Then Walter drives back to Albuquerque.

Then Skyler, Walt, Jr., and Holly arrive home.

Then the White family has its own meltdown.

Then Walter kidnaps Holly and drives away, and as Skyler chases after him on their street, we still have daylight.

That’s one heck of a long day, is all I’m saying.

2. Johnny B. Great

6-4, 290-pound Jeoffrey Pagan was not only unable to sack Manziel on this play, but Johnny tossed up a prayer that an Aggie teammate caught for a first down.

After No. 1 Alabama outscored Texas A&M 49-42 to win the most highly anticipated matchup of the 2013 CFB season — a classic that lived up to all the hype — our friend Chris Huston, alias “The Heisman Pundit”, tweeted, “We go through this exercise every year. Folks, there will never be another two-time Heisman winner.”

Not so fast, my friend. What did Manziel do, other than fail to lead his team to victory (important to note here that he does not play defense), to eliminate himself from the Heisman race? Against arguably the most dominant defense in the land, Johnny Cash threw for a career-high 464 yards and five touchdown passes (and, yes, 2 INTs, neither of which were his fault) while rushing for 98 yards.

That’s 562 yards of total offense. Or, the most yards in total offense in SEC history when playing against a fellow SEC school. Only once has any one SEC player accounted for more yards in a game against anyone, and that player was named Johnny Manziel, and the opponent was Louisiana Tech, which is not exactly the Crimson Tide.

Toss in Manziel’s miraculous plays –his 95-yard TD pass to Mike Evans, who himself was Heismanesque, or the sack he avoided in the second quarter that led to a ridiculous jump-ball completion –shades of Eli Manning-to-David-Tyree — and I’m only more impressed with what a TOTAL GAMER Manziel is.

As’s Stewart Mandel wrote this morning, “Saturday’s classic served to remind me why Manziel is the best player in college football…Roll (Tide? my add) your eyes if you wish. Choose to fixate on his two interceptions (one in the end zone, one on a deflected pass turned pick-six) if you must. But the player who racked up 562 yards of total offense against the nation’s most renowned defense on Saturday certainly didn’t fall off this Heisman voter’s ballot. If anything, he moved back up to No. 1.”

Amen, Stew. Amen.

3. We’re Even Outsourcing Our Miss America Now?*

Immediately after winning, Nina  asked Neal to change her Wikipedia page.

On the same night that I finally finished reading a 932-page epic novel that is set in Mumbai (“Shantaram”, one of the most unforgettable books I’ve ever come across), a young lady of Indian descent wins the Miss America pageant. Congratulations to Nina Davuluri, who is 24 and actually from Syracuse, N.Y.

I’ll remind you that Miss America, once THE brand name in beauty pageants, is now Barbie to Miss USA’s American Girl.

It’s only too bad that 1) the pageant did not conclude with an over-the-top Bollywood-style production number and 2) ABC’s Lara Spencer was involved with it in any way.

*I’m sure someone is offended.

4. SI Versus Stillwater: So Much Wrong. Where to Begin?

Back in black: Okie State took out its frustrations on SI and Thayer Evans with a 59-3 win against Lamar.

I vented a lot of my thoughts on Twitter in the wee hours of Monday a.m. Kyle Porter of did the yeoman’s work of compiling that rant into one blog entry. Still, I’ll enumerate my gripes here:

A) You roll out a five-part series on corruption in college football, specifically at Oklahoma State, in the week before the most hotly anticipated college football contest of the season (see No. 2) between two other schools? Who’s the genius behind that timing?

B) Your stated premise, in your “Overview”, was this: “How does a Division I program make such a large leap in such a short time? SI dispatched senior writers George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans to begin searching for the answer.”

They must still be searching. Yes, they have anecdotal evidence of players being given grades they didn’t deserve (funny, though, how no one can remember the name of a professor), of $500 handshakes, of hostesses perhaps having sex with recruits, etc. But they have no evidence that any of this translated to more success on the gridiron. Moreover, they provide no proof that there was an institutional decision to make any of these transgressions part of a concerted effort.

Oklahoma State alumnus and billionaire T. Boone Pickens has given the athletic department hundreds of millions of dollars in the past dozen years, and those donations have directly led to OSU upgrading its facilities so that they are on par with any school’s in the nation. Pickens and his boosterism were mentioned, I believe, once during the five-part series plus the overview (I’m not sure Eskimo Joe’s was noted even once, which is a crime). That’s like the old Jack Haley line of how Michael Jordan and he combined to score 57 points against the Knicks (Update: My buddy Mike an NBA g1uru, notes that it was Hot Rod Hundley, the Bob Uecker of basketball,  who originated this line, noting that he and Elgin Baylor once combined to score 71 points in a game –Baylor scored  69, you see).

C) You could just as easily have gone after Oregon, SI, which has made a more rapid ascent and which, like OSU, has been the beneficiary of a billionaire alum. But, then you might offend Phil Knight and hence be risking Nike ad dollars.

D) So can I assume that this is also how Stanford, which went 1-11 in 2006 and had seven consecutive losing seasons between 2002-2008, improved so quickly?

Evans: Definitely not hung over here. Definitely not.

E) Thayer Evans might want to learn another adjective besides “laughable.” His appearance with Maggie Gray, complete with Heat Miser coif, was embarrassing both for him and for SI. A major journalistic enterprise is now promoting realpolitik interviews between staffers? If this were an actual interview, and if Gray were actually pursuing journalism, she might have asked Evans follow-up questions to his self-serving responses. She never did. She might have asked him if subjects knew they were being recorded, or what he told them he was speaking to them about, or if they even realized they were participating in on-the-record interviews. An interview need not be a sterile environment, but Evans certainly appears to have deferred to the lowest common denominator in terms of his standards and practices.

Holder: A former OSU golf coach who took a nothing program and turned it into a national golf power. Must’ve been the sex and the money.

F) Finally, I met Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder once, in the summer of 2011, when I wrote for The Daily. We had a planned meeting in his office, and this was at the height of the Texas A&M wants to bolt drama. As our interview began, a highly prominent man phoned Holder about the situation. Holder had never met me before, but he spoke freely and candidly to the man on the other line. He did not shoo me out of the office. I heard things I should not have heard and when he was done, he simply said something to the effect of, “I could’ve kicked you out of the office but didn’t. I hope you’ll pay me the same respect.”

Maybe if I were a more ambitious reporter, a more zealous reporter, I would’ve burned Holder. Instead, I respected the respect that he paid me. We had a terrific interview and I found him highly intelligent, likeable and even self-effacing. He seemed like a very decent man.

Is he naïve? Hardly. Have I spent enough time around him to know what he does and does not know about what SI alleged? No. But he seemed like a stand-up guy. I can’t say the same for some of the people whom I know very well who make the big decisions at SI these days.

There are two problems, IMO, with how editorial decisions were made in vetting this story from within the Time-Life Building. First of all, a veil of secrecy cloaks the most important stories that SI attempts to break, such as the Jason Collins piece, so that even editors whose names appear very high on the masthead have no more knowledge of them before the magazine closes than you or I do.

The old SI editors’ meetings –which took place on Thursday mornings (the SI work week is Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday; I know! Sweet, eh?) and Sunday afternoons — were forums for discussion and dissent. Yes, personalities emerged (Michael Bevans was going to shoot off a few F-bombs and sardonic comments under his breath, while  Jack McCallum was going to ease the tension with a well-timed quip) but so did intelligent debate. Perhaps if more of SI’s editors knew what the magazine was planning to do regarding Oklahoma State, a voice of reason might have emerged from the pack.

Which leads to the second flaw in the system: A very few people are privy to playing a role in IMPORTANT stories, and you know what? The best way to no longer be part of that exclusive club is to be a voice of dissent. Do I know this first-hand from the Collins story and/or the OSU story? No, but I have known the current managing editor for two-plus decades and, trust me, I know him well. This fiasco was inevitable.

High-level editors at SI have mortgages to pay and kids to send off to college. They must, as Hank Schrader failed to do, tread lightly. I have neither –nor do I work at SI, a magazine I care greatly about and always have– so I can afford to be candid. Even if it makes me a pariah.

5. The Annotated Newsroom

In which we decipher and un-encrypt –is that even a term?– the latest episode’s pop culture references and/or best lines.

Fun with Sam and Jane. Waterston and Fonda in one of last night’s best scenes.

1. “Schadenfreude is easily found.”

Taylor sums up the pay-back Will and ACN are feeling from the right wing in the wake of the Genoa debacle. As you know “schadenfreude” is a German word that translates to “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.” As a character from the brilliant Broadway musical “Avenue Q” once said after having the term defined for her, “MY, that is German.”

2. “I want to get the Allman Brothers back together.”

One of a few marijuana references Leona Lansing makes in a scene with Charlie Skinner. Yes, they’re a notorious weed-friendly band, but I would have gone with The Grateful Dead or, better yet since they’re frontman is still alive, Phish. But if Leona had said, “I want to get Phish back together” it might have confused some viewers phonetically.

3. “It’s like I led them to Cape Fear.”

Charlie laments his poor stewardship of the Genoa fiasco. Cape Fear was a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum (which was remade in 1991 with Nick Nolte in Peck’s attorney role and Robert DeNiro as Mitchum’s vengeful, sinister ex-con) in which Peck shepherds his family to the titular spot, a real spit of land in North Carolina, hoping to keep them from danger only to lead them directly into that danger.

4. “I’m not really sure Elizabeth Windsor is the world’s greatest mom.”

Numbers 2-5 here are all from the same chat between Charlie and Leona, and why don’t these two crazy kids hook up, too? I mean, if Will and Mac can and Don and Sloan can, why not this duo? Anyway,  it’s a reference to the queen of England, who even at age 87 refuses to abdicate the throne in order that her 64 year-old son, Prince Charles, may have her job.

Leona’s right, you know.

5. Sidney Falco…Joe Gillis…Walter Knapp…Archibald McRaven

All aliases used by Don, we soon learn, to bid against himself in order to purchase Sloane’s book during a Hurricane Sandy auction. All I gotta say is, “Wow!” cuz Sandy happened on a Monday — eight days before the election –and already ACN had held an auction. Who do they think they are? Brian Williams?

Sidney Falco was the character portrayed by Tony Curtis in “The Sweet Smell of Success”, while Joe Gillis was William Holden’s character in “Sunset Bouelvard.” Both movies are film noir classics and neither character meets a happy end. Hmm.

6. “Do we really have to slow down for these people?”

Don asks the question every one of us who is in favor of tort reform asks: Why do we need a label attached to a box containing an iron warning us not to iron our clothes while wearing them? Hooray, Darwinism.

7. “Chris Christie, the media…”

A reference to the New Jersey governor welcoming President Obama when he visited the Jersey shore in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, just days before the presidential elections. Cynics saw it as grandstanding while POTUS was in a no-win situation. If he doesn’t visit, he doesn’t care. If he does, then he’s shamelessly courting votes. Christie, a Republican, chose not to be cynical and was excoriated by some on the right for praising Obama just days, hours, before the votes were cast.

8. “ACN is able to project that Barack Obama will be living in government housing for the next four years…”

A hilarious line from Will McAvoy, and one I doubt any actual news anchor would have used. You see, because the president is African-American, so of course he’d expect the government to take care of him. Except that, as president, his housing is paid for by the government. Yes, I know that you got that. You don’t iron your clothes while wearing them.

9. Jedediah Purdy, “For Common Things”

From what I can gather, it’s a book about decency over greatness. Purdy, you should know, is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard who later earned a law degree from Yale and currently teaches at Duke Law School. You can pick up the phone and call him or even email him today if you like. He must have loved the plug that Aaron Sorkin gave him last night, mentioning him and his book twice.

10. “Let My Love Open the Door”

Sorkin, for the second time this season, chooses to close the show with a song penned by Pete Townshend of The Who. Earlier he went with “You Better You Bet” by The Who. Now it’s a Pete Townshend solo love song, which is a classic, although he uses a cover by the Texas-based Christian rock band Luminate. And Sorkin is not the first to use it for dramatic effect. Here’s Steve Carrell and Dane Cook (I know) performing a heartbreaking acoustic version (you have to watch to the end…the very end), surprisingly moving, in the film “Dan In Real Life.”



IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Friday, September 13

Starting Five

1. Steve Hymon, who was part of a team of reporters from the Los Angeles Times that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Tim Crothers, who teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina and who last year was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Profile Writing, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Josh Elliott, who now brightens your weekday mornings on ABC, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Jeff Bradley, for years a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine (and the brother of soccer coach Bob Bradley), was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Current editor of the Time Inc. Sports Group Paul Fichtenbaum, SI managing editor Christian Stone, executive editor L. Jon Wertheim, assistant managing editors Stephen Cannella  and Hank Hersch, senior editors Richard Demak, Mark Bechtel, Trisha Lucey Blackmar, Stefanie Kaufman, Kostya Kennedy and Richard O’Brien were SI fact-checkers…

(Deep breath)

…senior writers Kelli Anderson, Lars Anderson, Seth Davis, Austin Murphy (although his combination of apathetic fact-checking and formidable writing talent made this a brief tour of duty), Alan Shipnuck and Grant Wahl were fact-checkers. As were associate editors Mark Beech and Elizabeth Newman.

Staff writer Brian Cazeneuve, who is a walking Wallechinsky (the heretofore last word in Olympic facts and history), was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

USA Today’s Kelly Whiteside was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Cameron Morfit, a wonderfully gifted golf writer, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Teddy Greenstein, who is even more affable than I am (correction: than I used to be) and who is now a big-shot college football writer for  the Chicago Tribune, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Jeff Pearlman, who writes best-selling sports books and the F-word a lot on his blog, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.


Dave Gabel, the coordinating producer for (basically, he runs the show) and a man who once hit a ball over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Mark McClusky, who now runs, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Ashley Fox, who now covers the NFL for ESPN, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Julian Rubinstein, who has since written “The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber”, a highly acclaimed international best-seller that Borders named its “Original Voices” Non-Fiction Book of the Year in 2004, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.


Loren Mooney, who went on to become the editor in chief of Bicycling magazine, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Paul Gutierrez, who now covers the Oakland Raiders for and is NOT president of the Jeff Pearlman Fan Club, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Amy Nutt, who won a Pulitzer Prize last year for the Newark Star-Ledger and whose business card at SI had a typo so that it read “Any Nutt” (I still have one of those cards), was a Sports Illustrated reporter.

As was Shelley Smith, who now reports on-air for ESPN and has done so for nearly two decades.

Candace Murphy, who is awesome, who grew up in Alaska and attended Yale and who appeared in Faces in the Crowd and is now married to KNBR morning show host Brian Murphy, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Candy Sue: Murphy

Michael Jaffe, who would go on to pen “Dance Real Slow”, a poignant novel with an unforgettable first line — “Calvin eats dirt” — that was later turned into a Vince Vaughn-Joey Lauren Adams film titled “A Cool, Dry Place”, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Chad Millman, who is the editor-in-chief of ESPN the Magazine, was a Sports Illustrated fact checker. As were ESPN the mag college football editor J.B. Morris and tremendously talented ESPN senior writer David Fleming.

Lisa Twyman Bessone, who went on to work at Outside magazine and now lives in Santa Fe, was a Sports illustrated fact-checker.

Armen Keteyian, whose new book “The System” is the latest to expose college football’s rancid underbelly, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Ivan Maisel, who covers college football in that inimitable Alabama drawl, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Steve Rushin, who is easily the most talented writer I’ve yet bold-faced here, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

Alexander Wolff, who was sharp enough to recognize Rushin’s talent when the latter was a senior at Marquette, and who went on to become the mag’s poet laureate of college hoops and is now the president of the Vermont Frost Heaves, a semi-pro hoops team, was a Sports Illustrated fact-checker.

As was I. “John Walters, a Sports Emmy-award winning waiter…”

(I survey all those names, realize I’m the one waiting tables and writing a free blog, and know that God has a sense of humor.)

All of us inhabited The Bullpen, as we referred to the reporters group. All of us, or most of us, aspired to become writers and/or editors at SI. It was the ESPN of that era. Most of the aforementioned names were my friends (I’ve attended the weddings of at least five of these people and took trips to Europe with three others) and many remain so.

But here’s the thing. I arrived at SI at a time when, with only a weekly magazine to concern itself with, the publication employed anywhere from 12 to 15 fact checkers, or “reporters”, as we were known, in order to be sure that every line in that rag was accurate. I fact-checked (and wrote) Faces In The Crowd. I mean, we even fact-checked THAT.

We even fact-checked the cover. The reporter who checked this was canned (notice Boog’s shoe).

Today, with its multiple platforms of the magazine, the website, the MMQB website, and various commemorative publications, Sports Illustrated employs TWO fact checkers. Two. Kelvin Bias, whom I  have known forever and is a likeable figure –although a person who admittedly would tell you that he is far more interested in being a filmmaker than he is in fact-checking sports stories– and Rebecca Shore, whom I do not know.

I have not asked anyone at SI how they vetted the five-part, Oklahoma State series co-authored by George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans. A story that has been shredded, at least to a degree, by both ESPN’s Brett McMurphy –a friend and former AOL colleague of mine whom, it should be noted, is a proud Oklahoma State alumnus — and

It would not surprise me one bit to learn that former chief of reporters Stefanie Kaufman, who is the most meticulous, anal (in a good way) person I have ever met, had been assigned to this detail, a task that is far below her pay-grade, but she’s the best they have. That’s just a guess on my part.

Let me tell you, briefly (or not so briefly), how we would fact-check stories at SI in the pre-internet age. The fresh-baked copy would arrive on your desk and then you would use every possible means –phone calls, books and previous magazine stories that our SI librarians had clipped and put into clip files categorized by name or team, or newspaper articles, etc. — to corroborate the facts.

Google had not yet happened.

The extended feature that would appear at the back of the magazine, which might run as long as 12 pages, was known as “The Bonus.” If you, or you and one other reporter, were assigned The Bonus to check, you might have as much as two weeks to fact-check it.

(An aside: the most dangerous writer to fact-check, in terms of his being loose with the facts? And all of the bold-faced names above know this: Rick Reilly. We all loved him. We all loathed fact-checking him.)

I once had two weeks to check a 1990 bonus entitled “Smart Guy Football”, about the game being played at Swarthmore and similar schools. I got every fact correct, but at the last moment one of our copy readers added a note about former University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins, who had abolished football at the prestigious institution, writing, “Hutchins was fat.”

This was pre-internet, kids. I had about 15 minutes to find a photo of a man who had died 13 years earlier. I couldn’t, but the editor loved the note, so it stayed in the story.

Guess what? Robert Maynard Hutchins was NOT fat.

Hutchins, left. Not obese. Not obese at all.

I almost got fired over that. And that was just one error in a story that was a surfeit of arcane facts and anecdotes –again, all pre-Google. I was nearly tripped up at the end by a copy reader who was trying to be facetious. But hadn’t bothered to tell me.

So fact-checking is not easy, even when a magazine devotes as many resources as possible to doing so. Which is not what magazines such as SI can afford to do today.

There were two levels of fact-checks: black checks, which were sort of a “We think it’s true, now we just need more corroboration” (e.g. a newspaper article) and red checks. When you struck your red pencil through a sentence –and you literally did this, and I mean the pre-2013 version of “literally”, by the way — you were verifying its authenticity. Yes, “Steve Garvey” is spelled S-T-E-V-E G-A-R-V-E-Y. I have it here on his baseball card; oh, and his mom verified it.

(Quick anecdote: former SI fact checker Roger Rubin, now with the New York Daily News, once phoned Joe Paterno after midnight on a Sunday night/Monday a.m. to red-check what type of car he drove. Paterno verified it. Or at least Sue did).

Get to the point, John.

First, SI used to employ far more people to fact-check stories than it currently does, which leads me to believe that said stories were much more finely combed through than they are today. The stories were read by lawyers, no matter how fluffy or controversial (the stories; not the lawyers), and if a lawyer had a question, he or she would phone. I imagine the lawyers nit-picked this Oklahoma State piece like vultures on a zebra carcass.

Second, the job was formerly a gateway to greatness, relatively speaking (after all, when all is said and done, we remain nothing more than sports writers; it’s not as if we can fix a sink). As the roster above suggests, highly talented and ambitious twenty-somethings landed those jobs.

I have no idea how carefully SI fact-checked the Oklahoma State piece, nor how many people or how much time was devoted to fact-checking it. I do know that the culture of fact-checking at SI has become much more of a “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” approach. Writers are expected to fact-check much more of their material before submitting it. But… the last person who should fact-check a story written by John Walters is….John Walters.

The problem with a piece such as the Oklahoma State series is that all it takes is a few errors, even if they are meaningless ones about a wrong year, to erode that story’s credibility. And that has two negative effects: 1) the public chooses to dismiss the story out of hand and 2) if SI is taken to court for libel, every factual error is one more nail in the coffin.

Another anecdote. In the spring of 1994, SI sent me to Jacksonville to write a piece on Charlie Ward, who was then trying to make it in the NBA by playing on a summer league team. After I arrived, senior editor Steve Robinson phoned and said, “We got a tip that there’s a veterinarian in Jacksonville who gave FSU players no-show summer jobs.”

That was it. No name, no further leads. Just a Jacksonville-based vet.

Well, I found him. And I interviewed people who worked for him. At one point during the week –this is all true — a man identifying himself on the phone as former FSU star Leroy Butler called and warned me that people there knew how to find me, knew where I was staying.

The trail was hot. The veterinarian was named Richard Blankenship, and at last he agreed to sit down for a face-to-face interview. But I was only a writer-reporter (one step up from fact-checker), so SI sent down a senior writer (I’ll spare him here by not identifying him) to accompany me. It was Colonel Jessup, Joanne Galloway and Daniel Kaffee having breakfast outdoors in Cuba.

We sit down, turn on our tape recorders. The room is filled with tension. And the first thing the senior writer says is, “Your name is Lance Blankenship?”

Lance Blankenship had just retired from the Oakland A’s.

Dr. Blankenship laughed out loud (I laughed inside). In five words the senior writer had eroded our credibility. That’s all it takes.

Time (as opposed to Time, Inc.) will tell how seriously the sports cognoscenti and college football fans in general treat this Oklahoma State piece. But already there are too many holes in the bow of this ship. Moreover, one wonders just what Dohrmann and Evans told the former players they interviewed as to what their story’s angle was going to be. Did they mislead these players? If not, how did this piece remain such a secret for so long?

It’s a fascinating topic.

One day after SI’s expose on Oklahoma State was released, Yahoo! Sports released its own thorough investigation on SEC athletes, most notably former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, being funneled payments as players (belated congratulations on your 2012 national championship, Notre Dame!). What stands out about the piece is how meticulously it was reported: emails, text messages, bank statements. No one is going on The Sports Animal or any other radio show and ripping Yahoo! a new one. Why? Because it appears that Yahoo! conclusively made its case.

I don’t know that the same can be said for SI. And at the SI where I worked, in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was tremendous pressure to fact-check a story in time for its scheduled release date (thanks, Peter Carry). BUT, if as a reporter you had legitimate concerns about being able to verify that story, there were editors and others who had your back. Facts were paramount. People lost their jobs over such errors. And there was no sexy sexagenarian Jane Fonda publisher/owner who’d rescue you from unemployment when you told her that you’d lost the public’s trust by barking, “Get it back!”

Leona Lansing. If only media magnates like this existed in real life.

Rather, it was, “There’s the door.”

Magazines in 2013 simply cannot afford to devote the resources to fact-checking that they used to. On the other hand, they cannot afford to have their credibility undermined so swiftly when they endeavor to pursue transcendent investigative pieces. And it doesn’t help when a competing website releases a more highly praised investigative piece related to the same sport in the same week.

I’m sure everyone at SI will tell you that they fact-checked this story as thoroughly as any story we fact-checked in the 1990s. Perhaps that is true. What is also true is that the commitment to fact-checking, that culture, no longer permeates the halls of SI. They spend a lot less money on red pencils than they used to in the Time-Life Building. That’s just reality.

(2-5 to appear later)

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Thursday, 9/12

Starting Five

Cookoutateria double today, so this will be concise (“THANK GOD, Dubs!”)

1. O Captain, My Captain

Yankee trainers check on Jeter before shipping him off to Dr. James Andrews.

Derek Jeter, “The Captain”, is given the coup de grace to a forgettable and disjointed 2013 season. Officially, the Yankee shortstop made his first appearance on July 11, 2013 after battling back from last October’s broken ankle. Fittingly, No. 2 batted second and even more fittingly hit a dribbler down the 3rd-base line that went for a hit. I believe it was Stephen Douglas over at The Big Lead who sarcastically tweeted, “Clutch-esque.”

Of course, DJ soon went back on the DL. Let’s look at the timeline, shall we?

July 12: Yankees announce they’re shutting DJ down ’til after All-Star break. Later, retroactively put on DL.

July 28: DJ returns FROM the DL. (Swings at the first pitch, hits an opposite field run, cuz he’s THE CAPTAIN, damnit!)

August 5: DJ returns TO the DL.

August 26: DJ returns FROM the DL.

September 7: DJ plays his final game of the season, a loss –the Yanks’ third straight– to the Sawx.

DJ’s 2013 season: 17 games, 12 hits, a .190 batting average, and one home run. Although he did pass Eddie Collins to move into 10th place on the all-time hits list (3,316). You’re next, Paul Molitor (3,319).

May I remind you that it was only a year ago that Jeter, 39, led the American League in hits with 216. Does anyone really believe that Jeter will NOT return next season with a renewed desire to show the world that he’s not finished? And does anyone really believe that Jeter’s and Rivera’s last moment together on a baseball diamond –absent Old-Timer’s Day — was last Thursday, when Mo blew a two-outs, nobody on in the 9th save chance against the loathed Red Sox? Do you?

2. Doug and Carl

Doug Lesmerises

I’d like to point out two iconoclasts (one, you might say, is an Icahn-oclast) in this spot. The first is AP poll voter Doug Lesmerises, a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer whose AP ballot looks like this. If you didn’t hit the link, here are Doug’s top eight schools, in order:

1. Clemson 2. LSU 3. Alabama 4. Louisville 5. Oregon 6. Florida State 7. South Carolina 8. Washington

Doug’s ballot is definitely contrarian –three of those eight teams received their highest votes from him, while one of them, Bama, received its lowest vote. I applaud the original thinking, for the most part. Doug appears to be rewarding Clemson, LSU and Washington for having the highest quality wins (over preseason No. 5 Georgia,  No. 20 TCU, and No. 19 Boise State, espectively).

He appears to be rewarding Louisville and Oregon for having a pair of the most emphatic wins (so why is Wisconsin at No. 23?) and Florida State for looking so dominant at Pitt. And he is rewarding Alabama because, let’s face it, most of us believe that the Tide are the team to beat.

The vote I don’t understand? South Carolina at No. 7. Didn’t the Gamecocks just lost at Georgia last Saturday? And so why would Lesmerises put the Dawgs at No. 14, since they beat his No. 7 and only lost by three on the road to his No. 1 team? That one is indefensible.

Then again, our old friend Scott Wolf doesn’t even rank Wisconsin which, while patting around a pair of FCS bunnies in Madison for two weeks, has won by a combined score of 93-0.

You could argue that, if preseason polls are meaningless (as I do), then why reward teams for beating highly ranked preseason squads? Okay, good point. But that’s a bit of a Catch-22 (in related news, I’ve just dropped that book in the rankings down to Catch-24).

Per Medium Happy editorial policy, all photos of Carl Icahn are replaced by a pic of a Baywatch babe (here, Gena Lee Nolin). You’re welcome.

And then there’s billionaire investor Carl Icahn, whose cheerleading for Apple makes you wonder if his surname should be spelled i-C-a-h-n? Last month Icahn tweeted that he had a huge position in Apple stock after conversing with CEO Tim Cook, and the price fireworked up from $465 to $500 in about two days. After Apple’s disappointing unveiling of its new Bling-Bling Colors iPhone on Tuesday, the price plummeted back to about $465. So what does Carl do? He tells everyone tha he cannot wait to buy more.

Apple, by the way, has become the Nicholas Cage of stocks. Where once it could do no wrong (“Raising Arizona”, “Moonstruck”, “Leaving Las Vegas”), now it has become a caricature of itself.

Of course, the question you should be asking yourself is: Who does Carl Icahn have in his top five? Icahn, by the way, attended Princeton and then dropped out of NYU medical school after two years (“There’s hope for you yet, Russell”)

3. A’s(s) Kicking

Bill Miller’s call was…incendiary.

The Oakland A’s posted a “0” in the top of the fourth inning last night in Minnesota. The only problem for the Twins is that the A’s posted a “1” in front of that “0”. Oakland scored 10 runs in the fourth as they walloped the Twins at Target Field, 18-3. Every A’s starter had at least one hit, one run and one RBI.

The funny part is that a line drive off the bat of Jed Lowrie during the fourth inning was initially ruled foul as umpire Bill Miller (who’s come a long way of his profile of Stillwater in Rolling Stone [“It’s a think piece”]…although Stillwater is a lovely riverside town not too far from the Twin Cities… but I digress) danced out of the way of it. That call was overturned, Lowrie was awarded a two-run double, and the monster frame was extended.

The following A’s batter, Brandon Moss, hit a foul ball also in Miller’s direction. When Miller signaled foul, the Twin fans gave a sarcastic cheer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: Minnesotans are the best (“The BEST, Jerry!”)

4. Fast For His, Or Anyone’s, Age

Rees’ed Lightning….anyone? No? Okay.

This past weekend Martin Rees, 60, a retired steelworker from Port Talbot, Wales, completed the Cardiff 10K in 32:48. That’s a world record for the 60-plu crowd. When you consider that Rees ran 5:16 miles to achieve the feat, he’s that rare harrier who can run his age (only a handful of 40 year-olds, for example, have ever run a four-minute mile).

Rees now holds 37 world records in age-group categories ranging from the age of 45 and up at various distances. That number suits him, since Rees only began running at the age of 37.

I’d always thought that Gareth Bale or Reg Mellor was the most impressive Welsh athlete of all time. Rees gives both a run for their money. And you don’t want to run against Rees, now do you?

(The Mellor link is WELL worth it; if I ever teach a journalism class, that’s the first story we read).

5. “Faces”

Foxygen. If they played at Bonnaroo, would you see them under the Foxygen tent? (I got nothing this a.m.).

My quasi-adopted son, A.J. (I showed you a painting of his a week or two ago) also dabbles in film production. Boiling Point Films, check it out. Anyway, he and a couple of friends recently decided to spend a day in a basement with a super expensive camera and a talented young director, Austin Kearns, who wrote and directed what you are about to see.(Great tune. Very Liverpool-ish, reminiscent of The La’s ).

No one contracted them to do this, no one paid them.

The video is for the song “Faces” by Foxygen, and they did the entire thing at their own expense. There’s a lot of talent –and ambition –going on here. And even the folks at noticed. (p.s. the referee is a former cookoutateria employee while the Asian man is a current one).


Stevie Nicks: Bella Donna. Chicago Sky: Delle Donne (Reeeeeeeeeaccccch)

Back in the WNBA, Elena Delle Donne takes her defender off the dribble in the final seconds to crush the game-winner. When has Chicago ever had a basketball player who could do that? It’s official: Delle Donne, who is 3rd in the WNBA in scoring, was the smart choice to be the top overall pick in last spring’s WNBA draft.


Remote Patrol

New York Jets at New England Patriots

NFL Network 8 p.m.

Geno: the arrow, for now, is pointing up.

It’s like this: If rookie quarterback Geno Smith leads the Jest to a win in his first visit to Foxboro, Adam Schefter’s head will explode, leaving filaments of thick black hair strewn across Interstate 84 and pieces of brain matter will be found as far away as Stars Hollow. He won’t –will he –but this is how legends are born. So tune in.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Wednesday, September 11

Starting Five

1. Ola, Brazil!

Donovan’s insurance goal in the 78th minute was not sponsored by GEICO, Progressive or All-State.

The United States officially qualifies for the 2014 World Cup with a Dos a cero” (2-0) defeat of Mexico in Columbus (and a subsequent 2-2 draw between Honduras and Panama). The Yanks have now defeated Tricolores by that identical score in this identical city in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013. All World Cup qualifiers.

Mexico, for its part, blamed its masseur for being unable to stop a header by Eddie Johnson in the 48th minute and another goal by Landon Donovan in the 78th minute. Mexico’s keeper’s name, by the way, is Jesus Corona, which was actually Anthony Wiener’s back-up choice for his sexting alias.

If you want to win friends and garner newfound approbation amongst your “football” friends, here are the nicknames for national teams globally.

Fans in Columbus remained long after the match’s end to help the U.S. celebrate its berth in World Cup 2014.

2. “C-A-…Gimme a Minute…May I Phone Terry Bradshaw?” * 


In the wake of Sports Illustrated’s first installment of its five-part series, “The Dirty Game”, co-authored by Thayer Evans and George Dohrmann, Evans’ former colleague Jason Whitlock appears as a guest on a radio show and launches an ad hominem attack on him. No, better, Whitlock launches a Will Leitch-on-Darren Rovell-style “This guy, and I don’t mean this personally, is the worst human who ever lived” attack on Evans, noting that “…He’s simpleminded. He’s a hack that can’t write. This isn’t personal, I promise. I have no reason to dislike Thayer Evans personally, and I don’t. But I’ve read enough of his work this guy isn’t qualified for this job…”

The former-and-now-once-again ESPN columnist also alleged that Evans is unable to spell “fat”, um, I mean “cat.” (See, that was a cheap shot).

Whitlock went so far as to say “there’s no way I’ll read this”, which is an intelligent thing for a journalist (who earns high six figures) to say when assessing the work of a fellow journalist. It seems that if you are going to attack Evans’ credibility in a public forum –and I stood next to Thayer at a pre-Fiesta Bowl press conference in 2011 when former Oklahoma State wide receiver  Justin Blackmon literally refused to shake his hand or acknowledge him — then you’d better be prepared to provide at least one or two examples of his unprofessional or unethical journalistic behavior. If you cannot, or are unwilling to, maybe you keep your thoughts to yourself. Otherwise, you may sound like a blowhard.

(Whitlock wisely chose not to attack Dohrmann. Dude’s won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism, after all.)

If Whitlock has evidence that SI’s investigation is flawed, he should bring it. Until then, his lips are in proper position here.

Of course, maybe Whitlock showed his hand before he even got to discussing Thayer.

 “I’m tired of people pointing out how corrupt participants are in a system that has been proven to be corrupt,” Whitlock told “The Sports Animal”. “The NCAA amateur system is corrupt, so we should not be surprised that there is corruption among the participants. I would like to see more of the focus on the NCAA…”

Whether or not you agree with Whitlock, does that mean you simply place your head in the sand when a report such as this one surfaces?

Curiously enough, Doug Gottlieb penned an interesting and introspective contrarian piece yesterday that, coming from a former scholar-athlete, opened a few eyes yesterday. It was aimed at the Johnny Football Drama, but it may as well have landed in Stillwater, too.

* Bully for you if you caught the Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson reference in the hed.

3. Passing Questions From Saturday Night

Wentworth: Every dog does have his day…

First, I hate to be the guy to spoil a Fat Guy Touchdown, but why wasn’t Fresno State penalized for having an ineligible receiver downfield on Austin Wentworth’s hook-and-lateral TD versus Cal Poly (Oh, and why do you run this play versus Cal Poly?)? Wentworth lined up at offensive tackle and there was a split end on his side of the field –you line that guy up at flanker, one yard behind the line of scrimmage, and this is not an issue –rendering him ineligible. I guess you can make the argument that he ran parallel to the line of scrimmage before the ball was thrown, but if you look at the video, that’s highly disputable. I’d say he was downfield by more than one yard when the football was thrown. Your thoughts?

Tuitt makes the most acrobatic coach by an Irish gridder thus far in the 2013 season.

Second, my buddy Dean asked a valid question about Devin Gardner’s pick-six in the end zone by Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt. Did the referees ever toss a flag for intentional grounding? My reply was that there was no reason to do so, since someone (Tuitt) caught the football. Dean’s answer was, What if the replay booth had determined that the pass by Gardner, who was not outside the tackles and who clearly threw the ball to avoid a safety, had NOT been caught by Tuitt? Would it have been an incompletion? Or would it have been a safety? If the refs did not throw a flag –and the only ref seen in the video clearly does not — they cannot penalize Gardner post facto, can they? Again, your thoughts, please…

And, yes, future generations will read that No. 98 threw a pass that was intercepted by No. 7 and simply assume that it was a typo.

4. “Cheap Grace”

Give ’em hell, Colonel. Or at least wisdom.

Good morning. Yes, it is the 12th anniversary of 9/11. It is also the day after President Obama delivered a national address attempting to foster support in Congress for a strike against Syria (a punitive strike? a surgical strike? Oh, a targeted strike) in response to its chemical weapons attack on its own people.

Anyway, I thought I’d turn you on to this compelling conversation (brought to my attention by a Twitter follower) between Phil Donahue and retired U.S. colonel Andrew Bacevich. A graduate of West Point and a Vietnam veteran, Bacevich served in the U.S. Army for 23 years…and had a son die while serving in Iraq. If you bother to click the link, PLEASE either stay to the end or fast forward to the 29:00 mark, where Bacevich introduces the term “cheap grace.”

The idea is that sporting events –and other aspects of American life, but certainly sports more so– provide a venue for contrived means in which to say that we support our troops without us ever doing anything more than cheering on the idea. There’s no actual sacrifice involved, just a feel-good moment that happens to coincide with us spending money to attend a sporting event. Exploitation plus manipulation equals self-delusion.

The Tillman Tunnel.

It’s why a Pat Tillman Tunnel beneath the stands at Sun Devil Stadium makes me pause. Particularly when Arizona State coach Todd Graham — who never met, never knew Tillman — says that Pat Tillman did things “the Sun Devil way.” This is a football program that less than a decade ago had one former player murder another. Was that the Sun Devil way, too? Of course not.

There’s a fine line between paying tribute to someone and appropriating his ideals as your own, and using said appropriation to promote yourself. If Todd Graham has been profoundly moved by the life of Pat Tillman –he has reportedly immersed himself in Tillman biographies, etc. –that is fantastic. But wrapping yourself in Tillman’s glory is a little like wrapping yourself in the flag: you have to earn it before you do so, don’t you?

Again, your thoughts?

5. Clint Bowyer: From Spinout to Spin City


Last Saturday night in prime time you would find Notre Dame-Michigan on ESPN and a NASCAR race from Richmond on ABC. And so it’s even worse that auto racing embarrassed itself on such a national stage.

Late in the Federated Auto Parts 400, driver Clint Bowyer appeared to intentionally spin out. That’s what the ESPN analysts thought. That’s what the in-car video appears to show.

By spinning out and causing a caution flag to appear –here are the Chase Cup consequences and nitty gritty — Bowyer would be able to manipulate the outcome of the race and, because this was the final “regular season” race of the NASCAR season, eliminate Jeff Gordon from making the postseason (i.e., the Chase Cup).

Moments after the accident, two of ESPN’s top NASCAR analystsat the track came right out and said that in their opinions, Boywer intentionally spun out. And these weren’t two jokers. These were NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace and legendary crew chief Ray Evernham.

Yesterday Bowyer visited Bristol and was interviewed twice. This might have had a little to do with the fact that ESPN will televise the upcoming 10 races of the Chase Cup (sort of NASCAR’s playoffs) beginning this weekend and it wanted to address the issue of the sport’s integrity In Bowyer’s first interview, with former driver Ricky Craven, Bowyer was asked whether the fact that he phoned Ryan Newman –who was prevented from winning the race due to the spinout and hence did not qualify for the Chase Cup — to apologize was an admission of guilt.

“Let’s not dig too much into this,” Bowyer replied.

Bowyer later sat with Sage Steele (one of three current or former female Steeles in the ESPN talent cadre) and was asked once more if he had intentionally spun out.

“No,” Bowyer said.

Nobody who knows racing believes Bowyer, though. And Bowyer would be just the foot soldier in this skulduggery if indeed that’s what happened. The real villain is Michael Waltrip, who heads up Waltrip Racing, for whom Bowyer drives. Talk about a dirty game.


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Tuesday, September 10

Starting Five


1. The Medium Happy Big Eight

A reminder: I go strictly off performance on the field. That’s why the Badgers are here…for now.

De’Anthony Thomas. If you can see the back of his jersey, it’s already too late.


1. Oregon (2-0) The Ducks invaded Virginia on Saturday while their former guru invaded Washington, D.C., last night. Both migrations were a success. Consider that Oregon is No. 2 nationally in rushing offense without Lache Seastrunk –now lighting it up for Baylor –and without anyone higher individually than 20th (De’Anthony Thomas). Next up: Tennessee

2. Clemson (2-0) Dabo and orange kitties still have the season’s highest quality dubya (W, over UGA) and held serve last week versus an FCS. Next up: Bye

3. Alabama (1-0) The Tide are an 8.5 favorite on the road versus Johnny F. Football. Somebody knows somefin’… Next up: If you have to ask.

4. Louisville (2-0) Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals have outscored opponents 79-7 through the first three quarters. Next up: at Kentucky

5. Stanford (1-0) When someone compared the Cardinal to an SEC squad and coach David Shaw replied, “That’s not necessarily… a compliment…” Awesome. Next up: at Army.

6. Texas A&M (2-0) JFF is actually averaging 70 fewer passing yards per game than Tommy Rees. Next up: Roll Tide.

7. Ohio State (2-0) Still have questions about the Buckeyes, but some should be answered when they trek to Cal to face the nation’s leading passer, freshman Jared Goff (465 ypg).

8. Wisconsin (2-0) Sure, Bucky has played no one, but at the moment (at the moment!) the Badgers are outscoring opponents 46.5 to 0. Next up: at Arizona State.

2. 54 Shots

“They call you…the Spaniard.”

I still can’t believe that Rafael Nadal, the speedy Spaniard, would ever be involved in a rally that lasted 54 shots. That’s like Oregon needing fourth down. It was the longest rally of this year’s U.S. Open. Kudos to the CBS shot-by-shot peeps for not interrupting it with verbiage.

Nadal won his 13th Grand Slam title last night with a four-set victory at the U.S. Open over Novak Djokovic….in a match that began on CBS at 5 p.m. local time. Maybe the U.S. Open needs to move the men’s championship to Tuesday night so as not to run up against the first Monday night of NFL season? Anyway, Rafa, just 27, is now just four behind Roger Federer for the most Grand Slam singles titles in men’s history (17) and only one behind Pete Sampras (14) for second place. He should catch both men at this pace. Only Djokovic can challenge him when Rafa is at his blazing best.

3. Pardon, Masseur!

Brazilian Masseur: Take that, Texas A&M and your 12th Man!

Shout-out, kudos, bravo, what have you to “Olbermann” for featuring the masseur from the Brazilian soccer squad Aparecidence as his “Worst Person” last night. In a Brazilian Serie D quarterfinal clash, the aforementioned squad was tied with home team Tupi, 2-2, late in the match. The hosts broke past the goalkeeper to take what should have been an uncontested shot on goal, but the masseur, who had snuck onto the pitch moments earlier, stepped in front of the goal and blocked not one but two shots.

(By the way, Tom Coughlin just offered the masseur a tryout at running back; way to avoid tackles)

Incredibly, the visitors were not penalized for this malfeasance. The score stood and, because Aparecidence were the visitors, they advanced to the quarterfinal (this is why they ABSOLUTELY need replay in Brazilian Serie D soccer!).

More incredibly, at least to me, is that the masseur blocked both shots without using his hands. It’s as if he thought, Well, sure, it’s fine if I just sneak onto the pitch and interfere with the outcome of a contest, but using my hands?!? No, only the keeper may do that.

NASCAR’s Clint Bowyer sees absolutely nothing wrong with what the masseur did.

4. Storm Chasers: Massive Sh$#storm Descends On Stillwater, Oklahoma

“And the horse they rode in on…” They’ll be circling the wagons at OSU after this SI report.

Part 1 of Sports Illustrated’s five-part series on skulduggery and corruption at Oklahoma State, “Inside the Dirty Game” commenced this a.m. Not that anyone is surprised, it’s just that SI actually brings details and dollar figures. The magazine focuses on the Cowboys because the program went from a have-not (in the years after Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, and maybe someone should inquire as to why they chose the former Oklahoma A&M) to a perennial power, and that just doesn’t happen in college football without a little…juicing.

Three questions:

–Will SI’s report lead to NCAA sanctions against the Cowboys or does all of this heat and chaos have no effect if the witnesses are unwilling to talk to the 2A?

–Will Mike Gundy challenge Thayer Evans and George Dohrmann to “Take on me, I’m a man, I’m 47!” or will he just ignore this one?
— Shouldn’t the next stop be Oxford, Miss., where Hugh Freeze assembled the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for a program that has never even sniffed the SEC Championship Game?

Oddly enough, Oklahoma State will now likely take a page from rival Oklahoma’s playbook. It’s the Sooners (Boomer Schooner, to be precise) who are known for circling the wagons.

5. Bus Plunges 660 (!) Feet off Cliff in Guatemala

In which Rule No. 1 (“Gravity always wins”) is in full effect. At least 43 people died, though miraculously, many lived, after the bus plunged the equivalent of two football fields into a deep ravine. Reports say that the bus, designed to hold 54 passengers, may have been carrying as many as 90.

Remote Patrol

USA vs Mexico

ESPN 8 p.m.

World Cup qualifier from Columbus. Watch it, or the terrorists win.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Monday, September 9

Starting Five

1. We Are Marshall…Mathers

Motor City native Eminem, hip-hop’s great white hope, visits Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit in the ESPN booth during halftime of Michigan’s 41-30 defeat of Notre Dame. Brent, 74, appeared much more into it than Herbie, 44, at one point even asking Mr. Mathers about the 4.5-point spread in the following day’s Vikings-Lions game. As our friend at Sports Illustrated, Stewart Mandel, tweeted, “BRENT MUSBURGER TALKING BETTING LINES WITH EMINEM MY LIFE IS COMPLETE.”

My quibble –and yes, I always seem to have one — is that if Brent asked Eminem how long it takes to shoot a music video, then obviously his longtime man in the booth, George Hill, failed to adequately prep Brent for this exchange. Questions Brent could’ve/should’ve asked:

Who shot Biggie?

So this Devin Gardner…isn’t he f’shizzle?

If you could trade moms with LeBron James, would you?

Anyway, here’s Richard Deitsch on how the interview came about (it’s called cross-promotion) and note well that Slim Shady was simply messing with everyone during the interview, taking on the persona of his character.

And to think Jack White didn’t even go to college

Honestly, though, I feel that ESPN missed an opportunity. The real Detroit-raised musician who should appear either at halftime of a game in Ann Arbor or on the set of College Game Day is Jack White, front man for the dearly defunct White Stripes. His band’s signature tune, “Seven Nation Army”, has in the past decade become the de facto fight song of nearly every student section in America, including Michigan’s.

2. Cougar Town

Cox almost got the score of the BYU-Texas game correct.

The Cougars of BYU embarrassed Mack Brown and the No. 15 Longhorns, 41-20, in Provo.

The Cougars of Washington State humiliated Lane Kiffin and No. 25 USC, 10-7, in Los Angeles.

Both Brown, who led Texas to the 2005 national championship by beating USC in the BCS NCG –a game that was deservedly hyped and more than lived up to it…I’m glad I was there as Vince Young sprinted past me and into the arms of colleague Austin Murphy moments after crossing the goal line — and Kiffin are gone. Not officially. But Saturday night featured atrocities that neither coach will overcome.

Texas, with its array of four- and five-star recruits, surrendered a school-record 550 yards rushing, most of them to a pair of dudes named Taysom Hill (the pride of Pocatello, a QB, rushed for 259) and Jamaal Williams (182). Asked immediately after the game if defensive coordinator Manny Diaz would be coaching next week, Brown actually replied, “I’ll have to look at the tape.”

South by Southworst is the direction Texas is heading under Mack…

There it is, folks: A vote of diffidence.

Not surprisingly, the following day Brown canned Diaz, an erstwhile production assistant at ESPN, who was always an outlier as a hire.

Brown fired Diaz because he cannot fire himself. Well, he can but he won’t. Mack Brown is simply too fond of Mack Brown to do that.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Trojans threw for an anemic total of 54 yards and one touchdown (alas, that touchdown was a pick-six for Washington State) in a feckless 10-7 defeat to the unranked Cougars. Granted, USC is without two of its top tailbacks, Silas Redd and DJ Morgan, but the quarterback combo of Max Wittek and Cody Kessler was horrible. Five-star true freshman Max Browne is waiting in the wings, but he never saw the field. Is he THAT unprepared or is Kiffin saving him?

We know that Matt Barkley is tough to replace. However, you’re Lane Kiffin, supposed quarterback guru. You coach in the midst of arguably the most fertile soil for prep quarterbacks in the country. You’ve had eight months to groom a successor. Oh, and if all else fails, quarterback guru George Whitfield is apparently doing your job better than you are one county south. So, figure it out.

“We obviously weren’t well prepared on offense,” said Kiffin after the loss.

No. And that’s your job (curiously, USC actually leads the nation in rushing defense [Texas is 123rd out of 125] and is No. 7 overall; so I sense some coming friction between the two units).

And you can just imagine when Lane arrived home in Manhattan Beach early Sunday morning. There’s Layla with a map of the USA spread out on the kitchen table, saying, “I am NEVER moving to Starkville! Daddy was right; I should have married one of the Stoops brothers.”

Dig it: There are about eight schools that traditionally are heads and shoulders above the rest and should never come close to being mediocre. In no particular order they are Texas, USC, Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Ohio State.

That’s it. That’s college football’s Bel Air. Other schools approach this summit (Florida, Georgia, Penn State), but that’s the elite eight. Two of them are currently residing outside the Top 25 and have been average for more than a year. I know that USC is dealing with sanctions (its own fault, by the way), but that’s no excuse for Saturday night’s performance. For all the perfromances since mid-October of last season, in fact.

Mack and Lane are gone. Now it’s just a matter of when.

3. Actually, the Bucs Stopped There

Pittsburgh is sliding alright…

Maybe we should call them the Pittsburgh Pyrites, as in “fool’s gold?” Last Thursday Sports Illustrated placed the Bucs on their cover in tribute to a once-proud small-market franchise finally, after a two-decade dormancy, returning to relevance. Pittsburgh was 81-57. As Yinzers know, Pittsburgh’s last non-losing season was in 1992 (96-66).

So what happens? The Pirates have lost four straight since that cover appeared. The SI Cover Jinx lives. Long live the jinx.

4. Breaking Bald: Walter White Cries “Uncle!”

So am I to make of this that “The Newsroom” stole Vince Gilligan’s wasteland pose idea?


This final half-season of “Breaking Bald” has played out like the final table at The World Series of Poker. The pretenders have been eliminated and now it’s just the dudes with the deepest chip stacks seeing who will be the first to call a bluff or go all-in.

Kudos to Hank for going all-in with a pair of threes last night. He’s got shinola on his brother-in-law, but concocts a scheme to A) get Ewell to talk and then, using what he’s learned B) flush Walt out. Brilliant, and I never knew that Hank had it in him. Better yet that he beat Walt at his own game, since Walt had just attempted to flush out Jesse “He’s like family to me” Pinkman.

SPOILER ALERT: So not only does Walt lead Hank and Jesse to the buried treasure on an Indian reservation (actually, out there we refer to them as “pueblos”, Vince Gilligan; I spent one of the best years of my life living right in that ‘hood), but as he speeds there he unintentionally confesses to the murders that he has committed.

It’s time for Walt to fold, and so he does.

Except that Hank may have slow-played this hand just a littttttttle bit too long –did you really need to call the wife? — and here comes Todd’s uncle over the top with a pair of fours. Which in this hand, is just enough.

Fascinating final half hour last night, and as anyone who watched knows, it’s not over. Why did Walt’s uncle and his Neo-Nazi pals instigate a shootout when their prized meth-cook lies helpless in a car between them and their intended targets? I dunno, I’ve never stared down the barrel of a gun. But we’re in Custer’s Last Stand range now. Not all of them are getting back to the Duke City.

Anyway,  last night it all came down to a perverse interpretation of the wisdom of “All The President’s Men”: follow the money.

5. The Annotated Newsroom: Election Night, Part 1

Would this make Jim or Neil the Jesse Pinkman character? Or is it Mac?

In which we enumerate and expound upon the manifold pop culture and other references in the previous night’s episode of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO dramedy. I must say that my favorite scene involved Mac and Slumdog, particularly when she asks if he was being sarcastic with that “geopolitical reference to colonialism” and he replies that he wasn’t. Watch the camera catch his eyes look away. That’s subtle, but intended for our benefit. Of course he was being sarcastic. More below.

1. “There is no bright side, Father Flanagan!”

Charlie Salinger is making a reference to “Boys Town”, the 1938 film classic that starred Spencer Tracy as real-life eternal optimist priest Fr. Edward Flanagan. Our protagonist headed up a real-life Omaha-based orphanage for underprivileged lads before the advent of Molly and meth.

2. “Did you want to look like Joey Heatherton with that haircut?”

Word is that Joey was a singer, though I can’t recall any of the tunes.

Maggie Jordan is now the world’s largest transmitter of passive-aggressive behavior and at this moment she takes a jab from her ex-boyfriend, Don, who compares her spiked ‘do to that of the Sixties sex goddess. I think I’ve mentioned Joey Heatherton on this blog before. If you were alive in the Sixties and early Seventies, she was unforgettable. I’m sorry, Marcia Gay Harden, but Joey Heatherton, now THERE was “liquid sex.”

3. “King George forgave America in less time…”

Mac notes to Will that a long-dead monarch from her homeland, King George III, got over the colonies sleeping with France faster than Will has with her sleeping with her ex-boyfriend. But did the U.S. lie to him?

4. “It’s like an orgy with college football on TV and a sale of Christian Louboutin…”

Well, the college football is all about Will (I like him even more now), while Christian Louboutin is a reference to a French shoe and handbag designer. I had to look that one up.

5. “John Milton, Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, E.M. Forster…”

Cambridge. This institution and its centuries-old rival, Oxford, are proof that Harvard and Yale are just posers.

Mac, upset that Wikipedia has erroneously identified her as the former president of the Oxford Union when she was in fact the president of Cambridge Union, begins name-dropping Cambridge alums (Oh yeah, Mac? Knute Rockne, George Wendt, Nicholas Sparks and a character from “Lost”, so there…). Anyway, you’ve got the dude who wrote “Paradise Lost” (Milton) and the dude who begat the Theory of Evolution (Darwin), for beginners. My favorite moment is when Will sounds annoyed at the name-dropping and asks, “They teach you that at Oxford?”

The University of Cambridge, by the way, was founded in 1209. The University of Oxford was founded earlier. No one can agree on an exact date, but it appears that the ink on the Magna Charta was still drying when they  did so.

5. “47%”

A reference to Mitt Romney’s infamous quote: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement.”

6. The Mac-Slumdog Exchange.

Slumdog, a.k.a. Neal, a.k.a. Dev Patel, is my favorite character on the show. I love his mannerism of scratching the back of his head when he is flummoxed as he sits there and thinks, I left Mumbai to be the smartest person in a newsroom of people who have no clue how to live their personal lives much less handle pressure? Now I know how Apu felt when dealing with Homer Simpson.

Anyway, last night Mac, who is English, loses sight of the ball during election night as she becomes obsessed with correcting the error on her Wikipedia page, and she enlists Slumdog, who is of Indian heritage, to fix it for her. The following exchange ensues:

Dev Patel kills it weekly in Aaron Sorkin’s universe.

Slumdog: “I know how you feel.”

Mac: “I don’t think you do. Because no one’s out there saying you were president of the Oxford Union when you were president of the Cambridge Union, the greatest debating society in the history of the (Not Safe For Phyllis word) kingdom, and that kingdom’s been around a long time.”

Slumdog: “Don’t I know it.”

Mac: “I don’t even know if that was a sarcastic geopolitical reference to colonialism or not.”

Slumdog: “It wasn’t.” (but it was)

(a few more lines, then…)

Mac: “Ruling India was wrong.”

Slumdog: “Well, it’s a little la–”

Mac: “I know!”

Remote Patrol

Iggles at Redskins; Texans at Chargers

ESPN 6:55 p.m.


Shouldn’t a guy named Watt be playing for the team named Chargers?

Of course the WWL must hype RG3 versus Chip Kelly’s Hyperloop offense, but I’m looking forward to seeing Houston’s J.J. Watt, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, in the nightcap from San Diego.


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Friday, September 6

Starting Five

1. Peyton, Denver: Hot, Hot, Hot.

John Elway wore 7; Peyton Manning threw 7…TD passes.

The Mile High City tied a114 year-old  mercury record for the month of September, hitting 97 degrees earlier in the afternoon. Then Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning went out and became the first player since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to toss seven touchdown passes in a game, which ties the NFL record. The last player to do so? Joe Kapp of the Minnesota Vikings in 1969.

The others?

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants, 1962.

George Blanda, Houston Oilers, 1961.

Adrian Burk, Philadelphia Eagles, 1954.

Sid Luckman, Chicago Bears, 1943.

You may recognize the names Kapp, Tittle, Blanda and Luckman. Three are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as Manning one day will be, while Kapp is an eccentric figure whom Sports Illustrated once labeled in a cover story “The Toughest Chicano” (take that, Aaron Hernandez).

Burk is not in the Hall of Fame, but he’s worth learning about. Upon retirement he became an attorney and an NFL referee. Burk actually worked the game in which Kapp threw seven TD passes. More memorably, he was the back judge for the Oakland Raiders-Pittsburgh Steelers 1972 playoff game, the unforgettable Immaculate Reception game. Burk was the first referee to signal Touchdown as Harris crossed the goal line.

Burk (63) trailing Franco, as is Phil Villapiano of the Raiders.

And now you know…the rest of the story. I’m Paul Harvey, good day.

2. Hello Kitties

Scarier than Godzilla? A Japanese island overrun by furry, helplessly cute kitties! Cat-astrophic.

Interesting piece in The Daily Beast about Tashirojima, an island off the coast of Japan ( itself an island) where kitty cats outnumber people by a four to one ratio. This is also the case in many apartments in Manhattan, but hey, who wants to write that piece? My favorite part of the story is that only one of the island’s 100 humans is below the age of 45, so let the old cat lady stereotypes commence.

Look at it from the kitties’ perspective, though. Tashirojima is a fishing village (yum!) where dogs reportedly are banned. This is cat heaven.

3. Not Feeling Minnesota

Marge Gunderson of “Fargo”, which DOES take place in Minnesota, even though the titular city is in North Dakota.

So Katie Heaney of authors a piece titled “The 29 Most Minnesotan Things That Ever Happened” but there’s brushback after a savvy Minneapolis weekly reveals that many of the items in her piece did not actually take place in Minnesota. We reached out to Miss Heaney –yes, actual first-hand reportage here on MH, which may be a first– and to her credit she replied promptly and politely (now THAT is Minnesotan).  “We did add a correction!” Heaney tweeted. ” I implied images were representative but should have made that clearer in subtitle originally.”

The heck do ya mean?

4. A Second Cat Item? Seriously?!? WTF (Way Toomany Felines)!

Comin’ for a caiman.


When the more popular blogs find this, I know they’ll run it immediately, so I thought I’d take it now. A spectacular photo journal of a jaguar attacking a caiman in Brazil. I took this from The Huffington Post, which took it from, which is a very cool site. You have to wonder if the photographer, Justin Black, who founded, ever stopped to think, How safe am I if that jaguar was able to sneak up on a caiman?

5. Why SI Was Wrong

Notre Dame-Michigan, the beginning.

Two days ago Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Rosenberg posted a story, in advance of tomorrow night’s prime-time Notre Dame-Michigan contest, titled “Michigan-Notre Dame Rivalry Was Always About the Money.” In the piece, which is factually accurate, Rosenberg attests that the rivalry was born, circa 1978, because both schools were looking to increase revenue. Twice in the piece Rosenberg, a Detroit-based writer, notes as an aside that Notre Dame and Michigan had pre-1978 history. He points out that they hadn’t played for years due to a feud dating back to the time of Fielding Yost, Fritz Crisler (both Michigan men) and Knute Rockne, and that they’d played nine times between 1887 and 1909.

Of course, this is like me writing a summary of Michael Jackson’s career and noting that “he’d done some decent things musically before the release of ‘Thriller’.” It’s like discussing the fact that Sylvester Stallone has written a movie that will be released this fall (he has, actually) and noting as an aside that Stallone has “dabbled in screen-writing before.” Um, that would be Rocky. In short, Are you F’ing kidding me, Mr. Rosenberg and Sports Illustrated?

Worse, yesterday Rosenberg’s colleague at SI, Pete Thamel, one of the nation’s most respected college sports reporters and writers (at least until last fall’s Manti Te’o debacle), tweeted, “The great @Rosenberg_Mike gives us the real story behind ND-Michigan. Great history weaved in here.”

I don’t mind if Joe Tailgate gets it wrong, or fails to understand a story in context. I do mind, though, when a pair of SI senior writers do, because the net effect is that a myth is promulgated.

Michigan-Notre Dame was not always about the money. It was always about the hegemony.

Was Rosenberg’s story factually incorrect? No.

But to understand the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry from 1978 is to purely not understand it or why it so shaped not just both school’s futures, but the entirety of college football.

To begin: To live well is to eat well, and to eat well is to eat Italian. Similarly, to understand America is to know college football, and to know college football is to know Notre Dame (KNOW, not “love”). If you cannot get on board with that, stop reading: I can’t help you.

Notre Dame’s first football game –in fact its first three– were all against Michigan, all defeats. The inaugural contest, played on Thanksgiving morning, 1887, was an 8-0 loss. The two played twice in 1888 before the Irish finally broke through and beat Harvard Prep School (Ill.) for the first win in program history.

Notre Dame and Michigan would meet eight times between 1887 and 1908, with Michigan winning all eight times by a combined score of 121-16. To be fair to the South Bend-based school (not yet known as the Fighting Irish), they did a number on Northwestern Law School (20-0), Illinois Cycling Club (18-2), Highland Views (82-0), St. Viator (60-0), Kirksville Osteopath (28-0) and Physicians and Surgeons (88-0) during this same period.

Then, in 1909, Notre Dame beat Michigan, 11-2, and Wolverine coach Fielding Yost said, “Waaaaaaait a minute.”

Fielding Yost

Now, understand, Yost was not used to losing. Between 1901-1905 Michigan went 55-1-1, including a 49-0 demolition of Stanford in the inaugural Rose Bowl in 1902.

The two schools would not play again until the midst of World War II, meeting twice, in 1942 and 1943 (each side won once). Then, except for some highly secretive games that were only televised in upstate New York, apparently, the two schools would not meet until 1978. Which is where Mr. Rosenberg’s narrative begins.

The story of how they did NOT meet and how that altered the entire landscape of college football, THAT is the essence of the rivalry.

As briefly as possible: Yost did not appreciate an upstart program from a private, Catholic institution in his own backyard. Further, he felt that (you’re going to laugh) there might be some recruiting improprieties taking place under the noses of the Holy Cross fathers in South Bend. Not only did Michigan refuse to play the Irish but the Wolverines, the most powerful school in the Western Conference, issued a fatwah of sorts against Notre Dame, urging all member schools not to play them.

And nobody did. In 1915, an era of train travel, Notre Dame’s road games took place in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska (Nebraska and Creighton), West Point, NY (Army), and Austin and Houston, Texas (Texas and Rice). Omaha was the closet road trip. Note well: no games versus current Big Ten schools.

When Yost issued his fatwah, Notre Dame had to make a choice: downsize and become, basically, Marquette (a school the Irish played almost annually at the time) or dream big. Most of the priests wanted to do the former, but coach Jesse Harper –in my mind THE single most influential name in the school’s gridiron history, bigger even than Rockne, who played for him– implored them to do the latter. As a result, Notre Dame took to barnstorming.

(By the way, if you’re noticing a parallel between Notre Dame in the 1910s and Miami in the 1980s, bully for you. Highly similar, which is what made the whole “Catholics vs. Convicts” rivalry so ironic.)

Jesse Harper, during his playing days at the University of Chicago

That the Irish adopted the Pat Hill model (or is it vice-versa) of playing anyone, anywhere, any time is only part of the tale. The other two parts? One, they won. And two, they did it largely with Italian and Irish immigrants at a time when A) those people only dreamt of sending their own sons to college and B) the greatest wave of immigration in U.S. history was taking place.

Thus, a phenomenon was born, and Knute Rockne was the ultimate P.T. Barnum-like character to be the face of it. It didn’t hurt that Grantland Rice –after whom a website would later be named — mythologized the school and its gridders a la Beano Cook.

And thus, in the Golden Age of American Sports, the 1920s, the only thing as big as Babe Ruth and boxing was Notre Dame football. Whereas most of college football was regionally based, and biased –as remains the case today –Notre Dame transcended geography or regional distinction –as remains the case today.

None of that happens if Yost takes his beating like a big boy and maintains the series with Notre Dame post-1909.

THAT, and most importantly that, is the essence of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry. It irreversibly shaped Notre Dame, which in turn irreversibly shaped college football.

Among major football powers, Michigan and Notre Dame are Nos. 1 and 2 all-time in winning percentage (.734 and .733) and Nos. 1 and 3 all-time in overall victories (903 and 865; the Irish trail Texas by two). That alone should make Notre Dame and Michigan a sight to behold when they meet in the Big House tomorrow night –a stadium, by the way, whose design Knute Rockne chose to shamelessly copy as his model for the construction of the current Notre Dame Stadium.

1986, Lou Holtz’s first game at Notre Dame, and one of the classics in this series. The winning QB? Jim Harbaugh.

But to base a story on the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry from 1978 on is to blatantly misinform your readership.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for Pete Thamel to tweet a link of this out to his followers.

Note well: This information is not due to my diligence. This is largely the work of Murray Sperber, whose “Shake Down The Thunder” is a thorough and unvarnished look at the rise of Notre Dame football. And, by the way, it is not a homer’s guide. Sperber’s portrait of Rockne, et al, is sober and often unflattering.

 Remote Patrol

Soccer: USA at Costa Rica

beIN Sport, 8 p.m.

I don’t understand either why ESPN or Fox Sports or even NBC Sports Network doesn’t have this World Cup qualifier from San Jose, Costa Rica, an authentic grudge match. The U.S. has never won in Costa Rica, while Los Ticos is still furious over last March’s Mile High mayhem in which the game was played in the midst of a blizzard. My, have we come a long way in six months, haven’t we, Denver? How big is this game? Keith Olbermann made it his lead story last night, noting that Costa Rica failed to supply the Yankees with balls with which to practice. Tune in — if you can find it.


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Thursday, September 5

Starting Five

1. The Tillman Tunnel

The last incorruptible man…

If you click on this link, you will see what Arizona State’s football players will see when they gather in the tunnel beneath the south end zone seats at Sun Devil Stadium before each home game this season (including tonight’s opponent, FCS school Sacramento State, which has actually beaten two Pac-12 foes in the past two seasons).

That’s Pat Tillman, of course, and it’s always difficult to navigate the tightrope between honoring the former Sun Devil/Arizona Cardinal and exploiting his memory. This is tastefully and respectfully done, obviously. That said, there is no athlete in the modern era who was more immune to celebrity and its trappings than Tillman, a pro who rode his mountain bike to practice (not just at training camp) and who, when once asked why fans should come out and support a middling Cardinal team during a TV interview, replied, “They shouldn’t. Until we start winning.”

Pat Tillman: America’s best.

The post-mortem accolades and tributes that have come Tillman’s way since his tragic death by friendly fire on April 22, 2004 (his uniform numbers were 42 and 40 and he died on a date that is 4/22/2004, FWIW) are almost all well-intentioned. But do yourself a favor and watch the fierce, haunting and heartbreaking documentary, The Tillman StoryJust to gain a better understanding of how Tillman’s family is a little raw concerning the hagiography of their son. Of how even the circumstances of his death became a source of propaganda designed to glorify the institution he served (the U.S. Army) when instead it should have been issuing an apology.

The best tribute anyone can give Pat Tillman? Strive to model your character after his. It was never about the uniforms Tillman wore (ASU, NFL, US Army). It was always about the traits he possessed.

2. Do You Believe in Mile High Miracles? YESSS!


Run through the ball, Rahim. Don’t turn your back. Aw, sheesh. Next time, then.

There is not –although perhaps there should be? — a chalk outline of Denver Bronco Rahim Moore sprawled on the 20-yard line at Sports Authority Field, the spot where he feel while feebly attempting to defend the last-minute, 70-yard touchdown pass from Baltimore Raven QB Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones (and don’t think we forgot about you either, Tony Carter). That’s where the Broncos’ Super Bowl-destined season met an untimely death.

Jones’  TD tied the AFC divisional playoff contest and then the Broncos lost in the second overtime. What ever became of Baltimore? Oh yeah, they won the Super Bowl.

Baltimore and Denver return to the scene of the crime in tonight’s NFL season kickoff.

Al’s mug shot










Speaking of true crime, tune in to see if NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels mentions that not one but two Broncos front-office staffers, director of player personnel Matt Russell and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert (neither do we…know what the difference in jobs is) were suspended over the summer after receiving DUIs. See, that would be…kinda….awkward….since Michaels was arrested for the same offense last April.

3. “I Never Worked On The School Newspaper”

Two Post staffers listen to Bezos’ “I am reality” speech. Seriously, they all still dress this way.


Okay, who said that? Rob Parker or Jeff Bezos (Answer, C: All of the Above).

The founder, who recently purchased The Washington Post, met his minions yesterday and informed them that while he still believes in them and their publication, they may want to put those autographed first-edition copies of “All The President’s Men” away. ““What has been happening over the last few years can’t continue to happen. All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you’re Woolworth’s (Please, Jeff, we prefer “Five and Dime”). The number one rule has to be: Don’t be boring.”

Bezos (the bald guy…no, not that one…the one standing) gazes at WaPo’s 2012 balance sheet, stifles a chuckle.

Hey, Jeff, that’s our Number 3 rule, after “Gravity Always Wins” and “Vegas Always Knows.” But we agree. You should be reading us!


4. Carlos in Danger?

“Are you talkin’ to me? Are you TALKIN’ to me!?!” Oops. Wrong NYC racial stereotype.

New York City mayoral candidate Carlos Danger (“Danger!”), a.k.a., Anthony Wiener, goes nose to nose with a yarmulke-wearing heckler inside a Brooklyn bakery. The heckler, Stan Kessler, chided Wiener for being “married to an arab” and called the Democratic candidate “a real scumbag.” Wiener stopped texting long enough to retort, “It takes one to know one, jackass.”

This was not, I repeat NOT, a scene from the next Woody Allen film.

Oh, yeah. Happy Rosh Hashana, everybody.

5. Johnny Manziel Is Not…Grounded

Honestly, I couldn’t find a photo image of Manziel cover, so I just went with last Heisman winner to make cover of Time.

JFF appears on his second magazine cover in the past month in which his feet are not touching the ground, and why should they be? He’s walking on sunshine at this stage. Time magazine puts Johnny Football on its cover with the line “IT’S TIME TO PAY COLLEGE ATHLETES” while not paying Johnny Football for the use of his likeness. Heyyyy! That’s exploitation!

Granted, NCAA rules prohibit them from doing so, but Time and other mags rarely pay people to be on their covers.


Taylor Lewan will take on both Tuitt and perhaps Irish Chocolate (Louis Nix) on Sat nite.

Andy Staples at, a college football voice worth listening to, gives his post-Week 1 Power Rankings. He has Notre Dame at No. 6 and FSU at No. 7. Talk about a quarterback disparity. I should mention that JFF and Jadeveon Clowney play in the same conference but will not meet this season unless A$M and South Carolina make it to the SEC championship game, which is possible. However, Michigan OT Taylor Lewan and Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt, who are on SI’s and Phil Steele’s preaseason first-team All-American squads, will meet this Saturday.

Also, the next time someone asks Brian Kelly if Notre Dame-Michigan is an historic rivalry, he should play them this clip.



Howard Bryant speaks about pitch counts with Keith Olbermann, who in less than a fortnight has staked his claim to being the smartest sports voice to appear nightly on television. Somewhere Bob Costas is howling for NBCSports Net to give him a nightly show.


Grierson & Leitch –who are not, it should be noted, licensed and fully vetted film reviewers — give us 16 fall films about which to be excited. Let’s see, at about $13 per film here in Manhattan, that’s a cool $208. Anyway, there’s a film starring Matthew McConaughey in which he plays a bizarre character who lives outside the normal constructs of society and has a Texas twang. Everybody, now: Strettttttttch.

The film garnering the most buzz is “Gravity”, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. If you’re scoring at home, science geeks, Bullock now has a forces of nature trilogy (not including her film, “Forces of Nature”, by the way), of “Speed”, “Heat” and “Gravity.”  (thanks to loyal MH reader Greg Auman for the assist).


 The Medium Happy Man-and Non-Man Crush List

(If I’ve Missed Anyone, Please Remind Me)

1. Gareth Bale

2. Matt Harvey

3. Deborah Hersman

And to think that haters claim that she is rather “plane-looking”.

4. John Oliver

5. Yasiel Puig

Remote Patrol

Ravens at Broncos

NBC 8 p.m.

Your phone ain’t for callin’, your phone’s for footballin’…

Baltimore must replace Ray Lewis and NBC must replace Faith Hill. Denver QB Peyton Manning probably prefers you to watch Football On Your Phone. DVR advice: Also at 8 p.m. it’s the 1979 cult classic, “The Warriors.” “Warriors, come out to play-ay!” If you’ve never seen it, it’s a MUST. Stick around for the classic closing credits with the perfect Joe Walsh song to accompany it.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Wednesday, September 4

Starting Five

1. Burning Man Overboard

“We should make s’mores!”


Firefighters in the Black Rock Desert, 100 miles north of Reno, report that they have this year’s Burning Man Festival 100% contained. The week-long arts festival concluded on Labor Day with the incineration, in effigy, of a spaceship. If you are still jonesing to get your pyre on, the Zozobra Festival takes place tomorrow night in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And if you cannot make it there, find the original version of “The Wicker Man” on Netflix and fast forward to the film’s final five minutes.

Zozobra: There’s a reason Santa Fe is known as “The City Different.”

2. Really, AP and USA Today Voters, Really?!?

It’s only Week 2, after all, and the voters will improve –I hope — but somehow Ohio State earned No. 1 votes (four overall) in both polls following their desultory defeat of Buffalo. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 3 in the AP poll and No. 2 in the USA Today, ahead of Clemson, which defeated a talented Georgia team in the opening weekend’s best game.

Items and Thoughts:

–Clemson (4/5) should be No. 1 or No. 2 after scoring the weekend’s lone victory by a team over a Top 10 opponent, with no other data available to voters outside their preconceived prejudices of how good or bad teams should be this season. Likewise, Louisville (8/8) is a deserving Top 5 squad and Washington (20/23), again, after destroying a Top 25 Boise State squad in Week 1, deserves a top 10 berth.

–Oregon destroys a nobody FSC team by 63 points and is rewarded with 2/3 rankings. No. 5 Georgia travels to a hostile atmosphere, witnesses “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” (click on that; so cool; and consider how many cameras it took ABC to pull that off), and comes up just short, and drops to 11/12. And you wonder why we cannot get coaches and ADs to agree to more of these types of games. Voters who dropped the Dawgs but bark about FCS matchups are the people who piss upstream and then whine about the quality of the potable water.

Andy Staples of SI and Charles Davis of Fox, two college football minds that I respect as much as anyone’s, placed Notre Dame higher than anyone else, No. 6 and 8, respectively. I didn’t see a Top 10 team last Saturday, but they did. What do they know that I don’t (do me a favor and don’t answer that; why kill your entire day?)?

–Scott Wolf does not have USC in his Top 25. Someone check his vitals.

Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals are focused. Just check his eyes.

–My Top 10, and again, I go on one week of performances and nothing else:

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Oregon

4. Stanford (You have to put the 0-0 Cardinal somewhere)

5. Louisville

6. Florida State

7. Texas A&M

8. LSU

9. Georgia

10. Washington

U-Dub returned to its renovated stadium and blew out the boys from Boise, 38-6.

— Favorite AP voter of Week 2? Doug Lesmerises. I’m not in complete accord with the Cleveland Plain Dealer writer’s vote, but I do like that he put Clemson No. 1, LSU No. 2, Louisville No. 4 and Washington No. 6. Lesmerises voted based on performance, not preconception.

Chris Fowler put Louisville at No. 14.

Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette has Ohio State at No. 1 (you lost me right there), South Carolina at No. 3, Florida four spots above Florida State, and Arizona State (which has yet to play) at No. 17.

To reiterate, I’m more than happy to shuffle the deck after Week 2. Maybe Ohio State looks more impressive and leaps past U-Dub, Louisville, FSU, etc. But if I’m a voter, I don’t know how you base your vote on anything besides what you witnessed (or DVR’ed off “College Football Final”) and with just a one-game sample for most everyone, I’m confoozed by some of the ballots.

3. It Sucks To Be Chris Sale

The South side southpaw is foiled again.

There are four hurlers in the American League who have an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP that is below 1.10. Max Scherzer, who lost last night because the Tigers did not support him with the standard six runs, is 19-2. Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish, of the Mariners and Rangers, respectively, are both 12-6. And then there’s the White Sox’ lanky southpaw, Chris Sale, who is having a career year (2.97, 1.06) except for his 10-12 record. Last night Sale departed Yankee Stadium with a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th, the lone run being unearned. There were Yankee runners on second and third. Not long after the Yankees led 6-4 and Sale earned a No Decision.

Meanwhile, New York’s win puts them 10 games above .500 for the first time since June and now has them just two games back in the wild card race. The Bronx is awake.

4. The Boss is Back

Oliver now becomes John Doe.


Jon Stewart returned to The Daily Show last night after a three-month hiatus absence sabbatical boondoggle and of course the writers had to conjure some memorable means to commemorate the return of the scepter to the ruler. After doing the Carlos Danger chair dance with interim host Jon Oliver, Stewart tackled the Syrian crisis. “Oh, right, we have to bomb Syria because we’re in the seventh grade…Why does holding back look like weakness?” Feel free to disagree, but it is refreshing to hear a contrarian voice.

(In related news, Jason Jones and Samantha Bee dined at the cookoutateria last night. As is our habit with celebrities, we did not poke at them.)

5. Nontroversy Alert

This vintage pic of Yasmine Bleeth instead of one of fiftysomething coaches Brian Kelly or Rex Ryan. You’re welcome.

Jameis Winston said that he’d have gone to Texas if only they’d winked in his direction, sending a slew of reporters to talk to his high school coaches and Longhorn magister Mack Brown.

Brian Kelly opens his Tuesday noon press conference with “This (Notre Dame-Michigan) is a great and historic rivalry…so let’s dispense with the nonsense”, thus extinguishing a budding nontroversy that began on Sunday when he referred to it as a great “regional matchup.”

Joe Girardi wants to be sure that Mariano Rivera, he of the 40 saves and 2.12 ERA, is sure he wants to retire. This story won’t die until Mo is spotted laying in a hammock in Panama next March.

Rex Ryan sojourns to Clemson to watch his son, who is on the Tiger roster, suit up for the season-opener, as opposed to staying back in Florham Park, N.J., on the final day of cuts. Yo, that’s the turk’s job, anyway. It’s the lead story on “Olbermann”, though. T-Rex has been the lead topic twice thus far on the program, which puts him in the lead.

My one minor quibble with “Olbermann”, which I like very much: It’s Duane Reade-ing its audience. Duane Reade is a monopolistic pharmacy in NYC that almost compels its customers, who have few other choices, to purchase Duane Reade-supplied generic products as opposed to brands we prefer. Olbermann’s first guests thus far have been Jason Whitlock, Tony Kornheiser, Jeremy Schaap and Michael Smith (I must have missed one or two, but you get the point). All are bright, but all are also ESPN employees. KO has such a lively mind, I’d love to see him converse, engage, even spar against, minds who have not pledged fealty to the Worldwide Leader.


He’s Gone-ja

Beasley appears to have a chronic problem.

The Phoenix Suns put former No. 2 overall first pick Michael Beasley on the first Pineapple Express out of town. Which is a bummer, because I was looking forward to “Michael Beasley Bobble-Eyed Doll” night at US Airways Arena next season. The one franchise that should NOT seek to acquire The Beaz? Denver (“legal weed!”), where he’d redefine the meaning of “Rocky Mountain High.”

Here is what Beasley’s former boss with the Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn, once said about him: “”He’s a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me that he’s not smoking anymore, and I told him that I would trust him as long as that was the case.” Kahn was fined $50,000 for those comments, even though they were accurate. y,

Ariel Goes Aerial, With Fatal Effect

Death by hanging. See Rule No. 1 (“Gravity always wins.”)

Convicted Cleveland kidnapper, rapist and all-around monster Ariel Castro hanged himself in his jail cell last night. Castro had spent 119 days in captivity, which by my calculations (checking the math, carrying the zero) is a lot less than 10 years.


Passan The Buck

Yahoo! baseball columnist Jeff Passan tweets, “The Indians are 3 1/2 games back of a playoff spot and can’t even draw 10,000 vs. one of the teams they’re chasing. Straight embarrassing.”

And San Francisco-based pundit Ray Ratto retorts, “And who should be embarrassed specifically?”


Passan has hit upon one of my great pet peeves about sports writers: the writer who chides fans for not attending games in person.


1) Sports writers attend the games for free so, right there, shut up.

2) Sports writers should be aware, more than most, that PRO sports is a business. The charade that the Indians are OUR team just because we live in the Cleveland area is something that the owner and his minions sell us. And I expect them to. But why is a sports writer doing so?

3) It’s discretionary income, Jeff, the money we would use to purchase tickets. Do you chide people for not attending the ballet? Or for not seeing a film that was recently released?

4) As Steve Rushin once noted, the most underrated seat for any sporting event is my couch. The beer is colder and cheaper, there’s no parking fees, and I can hear the broadcasters. Besides, the odds of my being beaten into a coma as I make my way to my vehicle after the game decrease exponentially (while not entirely disappearing).

5) Passan’s father, Rich, has worked in the sports department of the Cleveland Plain Dealer for more than 40 years. So you can make the argument that he didn’t pay to see games, either, and hence blithely passed on that ignorance to his son. Or that he should’ve –and might’ve — passed on the accurate idea that scribes don’t harass fans for not spending their incomes to watch baseball games in person because, after all, how anyone chooses to spend the money they earn is their business..

“Bob’s Your Uncle”

If you’ve heard people use that slang phrase, which essentially translates to “It’s all good”, you may wonder whence its origin. If you in fact employ the word “whence.” Anyway, I’m reading a book about a dude who assisted the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s (back when we were on their side), and the etymology is revealed. Back in the 19th century when the British invaded Afghanistan, the Brit commander, Lord Frederick Roberts, was both well-respected and greatly loved by his men. It was avuncular. And so they shortened it from Lord Frederick Roberts to the cheerier “Bob” and men kne w that if they were under his command (“Bob’s your uncle”), they were in good hands. And so there you go (although Wikipedia provides a second possible origin).


David Frost died on Monday at the age of 74.  I never wanted to see a film based on a TV presenter interviewing a disgraced former U.S. president, but “Frost/Nixon” was compelling. And few films made in the past two decades have done a better job of capturing the spirit of the 1970s.

Remote Patrol

Good Will Hunting

CMT 8 p.m.

“How do you like them apples?” Matt Damon disses my former high school football teammate, Scott Winters.



Too many classic ’90s films to list here, but two of the very best are on this evening. This one and “Pulp Fiction” (AMC, 8 p.m.), whose script is simply genius. A cinephile friend once noted that “Pulp Fiction” takes every classic film noir set-up and then provides exactly what you don’t expect to happen. As for GWH, repeated viewings reward you with the standout performance, in a minor role, by Casey Affleck –and shouldn’t he play Robin in his big bro’s Batman movie?

May I recommend that you do a “Last Channel” special of “Good Will Hunting” complemented by the Tigers-Red Sox game from Fenway Pahk, on ESPN?

“Actually, it IS a gun…though I am happy to see you.”

Lastly, in case you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend you DVR “From Russia With Love” (Encore, 8 p.m.), the second (1963) and easily one of the two or three best James Bond films.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Tuesday, Sept. 3

Starting Five

Written entirely, as always, without a shark cage, but we don’t go around puffing out our chests about it.

1. Debutiful!

Be the first broker on your block to collect 1,000 Jameis Winston autographs.

Yesterday we mentioned Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, asking the rhetorical question, When has a dual-threat red-shirt freshman quarterback ever, I mean EVER, captured the country’s imagination? Last night the Seminole QB went full-blown Manziel, completing 25 of 27 passes (arguably 26) which, when you factor I that Winston was probably giving 110%, means that he completed more than 100% of his passes.

Anyway, the Noles pummeled Pitt (feel free to used “drubbed”), 41-13 as Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns and looked just so smooooooove doing so. Could he be this decade’s FSU QB with a W-surname to win the Heisman Trophy (Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke). What might have been, Peter Tom Willis (QB for Wide Right I).

I do like that Winston told Sam-No-Longer-Steele afterward that “this was just easy money to me.” I hope Johnny Reb heard that one live. Also, gotta love that during the game it was revealed that the one school Winston wanted to garner an offer from, but never did, was Texas: “If I’d gotten offered, I’d be going to Texas right now.”

So, if you’re scoring at home, Mack Brown wanted Johnny Manziel to play DB and had no interest in Winston, while he did offer Connor Brewer (who played at the same Arizona high school as Taylor Lewan and Davonte Neal), who has already left the program and enrolled at Arizona (Neal will also play in Tucson next season).

For the sake of “embrace debate”:

Johnny Manziel’s debut: 23-30, 178 yards, 0 TDs, 60 yards rushing, in a loss to No. 24 Florida

Jameis Winston’s debut: 25-27, 356 yards, 4 TDs, 25 yards rushing in a win against unranked Pitt.

Obviously, Manziel faced much stiffer competition.

2. The Old Woman and The Sea

Sally O’Malley was on hand to give Nyad, 64, a punch-and kick-and PUNCH! ovation.

“She always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as ‘el mar’ which is masculine.They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old woman always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.”  

Note: Ernest Hemingway wrote all of his stories without the use of spell-check or a shark cage.

My favorite Nyad nugget: She was expelled from Emory University after leaping from a fourth-floor dorm window with a parachute. I’m not sure I believe that one, Wikipedia.

3. The James Gang

Rogen and Ross, who sported Franco’s “Spring Breakers” look.

Let’s not tarry. Jonah Hill, Andy Samberg and Bill Hader, as an old Jew in a red track suit representing “Hollywood”, killed. Best lines from last night’s Comedy Central Roast of James Franco:

Nick Kroll: “A lot of people don’t know that Seth Rogen has a writing partner, Evan Goldberg. My question to you, Seth, is, What must HE look like if you’re the face of his operation?”

Jonah Hill: “Bill Hader was brilliant on SNL and when he left the show every single person was like, What are you doing? You’re never ever going to work again. And what does my man Bill do? Boom, he books a T-Mobile commercial. Who’s laughing now, Lorne Michaels? My man Bill is. If that thing goes national, we could be talking like 10, 15 grand. This guy’s cashing checks from the fourth largest mobile provider in the nation. I respect Bill because Sprint was coming after him hard, but he held out for that F-you T Mobile money.”

Jeffery Ross: “When Jonah’s agent told him that Quentin Tarantino wanted him to be in a spaghetti western, Jonah was like, ‘You had me at spaghetti.'”

Hader, as “Hollywood”, to Ross: “I’m like Enterprise rental car on Christmas, which is to say I don’t have a vehicle for you.”

Ross, on Franco hosting the Oscars: “You were a worse host than the AIDS monkey.”

Hill, on Sarah Silverman: “She’s fulfilled every little girl’s dream of growing up to become a 58 year-old stand-up comic with no romantic prospects. I salute you, Sarah. People say Sarah is hot for a comic. I disagree. I think she’s hot for someone her age. People say she can’t become a movie star at her age, but I disagree. It’s not impossible. It’s not like someone is asking her to give birth.”

The Roastee and the Lady

Ross, on Franco’s 91 year-old grandmother: “127 Hours is the amount of time she has left.”

Silverman, on Aziz Ansari: “I’ve been a huge supporter of Aziz’s for years now, and for only the price of a cup of coffee.”

Samberg: “James Franco, you’re so handsome. You remind me of the man who broke up my parents’ marriage.”

“Hollywood”, on Samberg’s new cop show, Brooklyn 9-9: “If I wanted to watch two Jews drive around and try to be funny, I’d watch Seinfeld’s webcast series.”

Natasha Leggero, to Samberg: “I’m looking forward to the sad, acoustic version of ‘Dick in a Box’, which will be played at Lorne Michaels’ open-casket funeral.” (Wow, that is cold).

Some others that did not make it to my keyboard.

4. Blonde Melon(s)

Who would you have put on the cover instead?


The periodical Vanity Fair, which is the only magazine on your newsstand named in honor of a 19th century British novel by William Makepeace Thackeray that even your high school English teacher did not require you to read unless you wanted to do so for extra credit, turns 100. And to celebrate it has glammed up another magazine’s cover girl to look like another era’s pin-up girl. Who’s going to be the first Detroit Tiger to place one of these in Justin Verlander’s locker?

5. Roger, Over and Out

Labored Day: Federer, a five-time U.S. Open champ, exits Queens.

Roger Federer, of whom for years there was no one bederer, falls in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open. The Swiss master fails to make a Grand Slam final in 2013, the first time that has happened since 2002. Federer, owner of 17 Grand Slam titles, made 43 unforced errors in a straight set loss and there is talk that, at age 32, time has passed him by. On the other hand, he’s half the age of Diana Nyad.


The OTHER Bridge Spanning San Francisco Bay

If you’ve never been to America’s most beautiful city, San Francisco, here’s the lowdown (and what is WRONG with you, by the way? Get there!). The Golden Gate Bridge connects the city to Marin County, the nation’s most prosperous county. The other bridge that never made the post cards likely receives more traffic, as it spans the bay between San Francisco and Oakland (there are other bridges farther south in the bay, but no one cares about them), is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (couldn’t they just have named it after a dead president or military hero?), which connects the two cities as well as a sparsely inhabited spit of land known as Treasure Island.

Anyway, yesterday the gleaming new $6.4 billion eastern span of the bridge opened to traffic, after a decade of construction delays. It’s still the second-prettiest bridge spanning San Francisco Bay, but it’s an improvement.

Remote Patrol

Hoping Stewart’s first guest is Jerry Dantana.

The Daily Show

Comedy Central 11 p.m.

After a three-month hiatus, Derek Jeter returns for the Yankees. Wait a minute, that’s the wrong press release. Yes, here it is. After a three-month hiatus, Jon Stewart returns to the anchor desk at The Daily Show. Stewart’s biggest problem is that John Oliver was a far superior substitute than Eduardo Nunez. Simply for the curiosity factor as to how Stewart pays homage to Oliver, it’s worth tuning in.