1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown November 15-21 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This is episode two of our new weekly feature here at TBOR - The Tendown!  Last week, you read about Mad Men, strawberry pancakes, my selection of Jon Stewart as Entertainer of the Decade, the best North American wrestling match of 2009, and many, many more.

So - what's the best thing that happened this week...


If Only There Were a Horrible Name That I Could Call You That Would Make You As Angry As I Am...

I've been excessively excited about the Seinfeld reunion all year, and it's not really because all 4 actors will be at the same place at the same time, that doesn't give me the feelings - it's because the Seinfeld story continues - Jerry's the sperm donor for Elaine's daughter; George invented the I-Toilet app then invested all his money with Bernie Madoff; hey look - it's Bania!  Bania!  And that would be good enough - but what Sunday's penultimate episode of this season of Curb (question, is the word penultimate overly used, and if it's overly used is that by pretentious writers who want the reader to know that they know the definition of the world penultimate?) the best thing that happened last week were Larry David's gigantic balls.

Larry David's fearless in the way that only someone with go away money can be; so on the episode of Curb likely to draw more attention than any other in show history, he not only undertakes an attempt to rehabilitate Michael Richards ("it's been 3 years, don't hurt me"), but covers whatever offense might be taken to that with a show long joke about a 9 year old girl's "pussy."

(Hey, that's gonna lead to an unsettling new google search that will now find me.  Welcome devotees of child porn!  I got nothin' for you, but if you also enjoy leftist rants and the german suplex, stick around).

Larry David isn't going to earn another dollar by saying Michael Richards doesn't need to be Jimmy the Greeked, but he does what he wants.  Very, Very early in my life (uncomfortably so) I recognized very clearly, in maybe what is the only fully realized thought I've ever had that seemingly hit me from nowhere, my only real epiphany - that there were many times in life where you don't have a choice, that you need to toe the line or the cost will simply be too great - and my goal would be to make those times as few in number as I could get away with.  I wanted a life where I did what I wanted.  I don't know if that's made for good choices more often than rule following would have, and I am not necessarily advocating the Jividen plan as a way to success.  But I tried.

Larry David clearly gets to do that now.  He does what he wants.  I'm looking forward to tonight.

After the jump....The Ten Next Best Things that happened this week (get it, first and ten?  Huh?  Huh?)

And Ten...
1. The 4th and Two
-Maybe you heard, Bill Belichick went for it on 4th and 2 last Sunday night. 

Why did I like that so much?  Well, immediately I liked it because it failed.  I'm a sports fan.  I'm not a New England Patriots fan.  That means, given their level of success, that I hate the New England Patriots and enjoy it when they fail.  Also, it means that given the opportunity, I will take measures, some intellectually dishonest, to discredit the success that they have achieved, saying somehow that it did not happen.  I'm a sports fan, this is what we are. 

The second reason I liked it is the same reason I admired Larry David's jokes from earlier in the same evening - giant balls.  No one goes for it in that situation (which will be an element of the third reason I liked this call so much); if the Patriots punt and the Colts drive down to beat them - the story will be about (1) how do you stop Peyton Manning and (2) the Patriots need to fix the defense.  Either way, "Bill Belichick has jumped the shark" would not be one of the primary talking points. 

He knew that obviously.  Knew that by going for it - he was risking embarrassing himself.  That's a hard risk for a man of stature to take.  Giant balls. 

And the reason I wound up liking it is because it gave me a chance for one of my favorite conversations.  I've begun starting some of my courses by asking the lyrical question "Are We Stupid" - and my reference is to the body of 21st century scholarship discussing if we are getting dumber as a people (that's American people; you know, God's chosen people).  If we are, I'd suggest one of the reasons can be found in our willingness to disregard evidence (in fact, to discount evidence - to say the evidence does not matter) and instead "go with our gut."  David Broder in the Washington Post explicitly did that this week in an Afghanistan piece, saying that Obama needed to make a decision "no matter what the facts are." 

Regarding 4th and 2 the facts are these, the percentages were with Belichick; his call made the Patriots more likely to win.  Not by a lot - it's a point on which reasonable minds can differ (unlike the goddamn bunting which I wrote about back in September).  But that wasn't the response to 4th and 2 - the response to 4th and 2 was it was the dumbest decision ever made - and it was (quoting Bill Simmons, who I like but dude sure is wrong a helluva lot - Charlie Pierce killed him dead in a great Deadspin review of his new hoops book) "inane" to make any argument that it wasn't (see, it's not just musty sportswriters who like to embrace their know-nothingness; it's hip to be wrong in the 21st century).  Whether it's war, health care, global warming, or the unwillingness of the San Francisco Giants management to recognize that you win baseball games by not making outs (sorry) look for the numbers of times in public life you hear some variation of "hey, you tell your facts to shut up. Fact ass."

2. Tim Lincecum
-And then, even as 4th and 2 was being thrown around - we got to have that discussion again.

Tim Lincecum won his second consecutive Cy Young (yay!) - and the story became that a new generation of sportswriters (specifically Keith Law and Will Carroll) using confusing words like metric instead of just picking the pitcher for the best team who had the most wins, had robbed the St. Louis Cardinals out of their rightful award (for either Wainright or Carpenter).  This was a terrific happening; first of all, Seabiscuit is one of my guys (although, much like Michael Phelps, he missed the opportunity to give this speech):

It's a great honor to win my second consecutive Cy Young Award; many of you know I was recently arrested for carrying a small amount of marijuana and will pay a minor fine of a couple hundred dollars.  Most athletes in this situation will say this was a terrible mistake that my family and I will overcome, and that I apologize to my fans and the kids.  Instead of that, I'll say what anyone with even a tiny brain who thinks that evolution is a myth and the way our of our catastrophic economy is to reduce regulation on business knows is true - I'm a helluva pitcher, one of the best in the world and except for baseball being a monopoly that artificially supresses the salaries of young players, I'd already be set financially for my life and for the next couple of generations of Lincecums.  And I can do that while smoking pot.  I don't mean literally - I don't bring out a blunt to the mound and just start puffing away - but even during the season, a long, torturous season that usually involves my pitching really well and my offense utterly unable to hit the ball at an adult level of proficiency - occasionally I will smoke marijuana.  As will many of my teammates.  As will a huge percentage of athletes.  Because one can be a high level professional athlete and still smoke marijuana.  The level of difference between this practice and drinking or taking prescription medication or anything else which would be more acceptable is not sufficient to justify, in any formulation, the difference in legal treatment.  Grow up.

And it was good secondly because the bankruptcy of traditional sports analysis "what do you mean it's not all about winning games?" could again be revealed.  Me, I wouldn't have voted for Lincecum - in fact, neither he or any of the Cardinals made my top 3 (I took Dan Haren) but that's my reading of the advanced metrics; again, reasonable minds can differ.  Most sports analysis however is not reasonable.  Most sports analysis is limited to "that's the way we always do it - we say the same dumb thing that we said yesterday, which was the same dumb thing the writers we read as kids said."

Mostly though, it's Tim Lincecum winning a Cy Young Award.  Which is nice. 

3. But No One Has Bigger Balls Than This 10 Year Old Boy.

Will Phillips, a 10 year old boy in Arkansas, refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because it's a lie.

Specifically, that the United States does not have justice for all given the unequal treatment that gay people receive under the law (you know gays still can't adopt kids in Florida, right?). 

I talk about the Pledge of Allegiance in my government course as an example of political socialization; for all the discussion on the right this year about Obama "indoctrinating" schoolchildren with a speech; real indoctrination is found in systematized compulsory uncritical acceptance of the values of the state - the government, through the public school system and an understanding of the pressure of teachers and peers, demands that American children give their allegiance to a piece of cloth - to acknowledge the existence of God - and to say the United States has achieved freedom, liberty, and justice for all. 

I've said it.  As a kid, I said it every time I was asked to say it.  I never once believed it.  Sometimes I believed more of it than others, but I've never believed it was true.  I was a relatively headstrong kid (by the time I was 10, I had the aforementioned "do what you want when you can" epiphany) but I always said it.  Sometimes more quietly than others, but I obeyed.  I obeyed.  I obeyed and spoke words I did not believe to be true.  Out of fear.  Out of a need to comply.  Out of a fundamental tendency embedded in our brains to follow the herd - because it is easier to be wrong and be in a group than be right and stand alone.

I am 39 years old.  Most of my those years, I have not joined the mass of men in living a life of quiet desparation.  Few who know me would call me a shrinking violet.  My life is one not only of an engagement in thoughts - but of asking students to be engaged in theirs. 

I have never had one moment as brave as ten year old Will Phillips.  It is unlikely I ever will.  Good for you, sir. 

4. People of New York, You're Getting Raped by Your Government, Raped.
-Simple Jack brought out the rape metaphor this week to make a...what do you call it when someone strings thoughts together in some sort of coherent...a point, yeah, Simple Jack was trying to make a point.  He failed, the best he could do was say that taxation = rape.  It was on radio, so I'm unaware if he had a crude drawing on his chalkboard to demonstrate.  Media Matters noted that this was not an isolated incident, when they're not doctoring video footage (Fox got caught again this week - again! - using video footage from one event, saying it's from another - and doing so as part of a "see how many people are flocking to this current happening" storyline - that's two weeks in a row; thanks for helping the Tendown, Fox) the right wing media really likes to engage in rape fantasies (and some bondage and discipline, which maybe we'll hear about at the KSM trial - maybe some light water sports too).  That was joined this week by the discussion from the right (this is from Sarah Palin, who professes in her new book, did you hear she "wrote" a book, not to believe in evolution and that the way out of our economic catastrophe is to reduce regulation on business) that the nonbinding mammogram guidelines (wait until you're 50) were evidence of the coming death panels, as the evil Obama government is already rationing care in the hopes that...I know...traditionally not Democratic voters at all...will get cancer in their 40s.

Global warming's a scam to make Al Gore money.  Obama is trying to give women cancer.  And Republicans are constantly being raped.  Oh - and Carrie Prejean, you know, whose reign as Miss Whatever was unconscionably cut short by the liberal conspiracy - apparently has 8 sex tapes.  Which is 7 more than Kim Kardashian, who, while largely mindless and annoying, never once blamed the liberal media for not getting the role of the neighbor on The Big Bang Theory. 8 sex tapes!  Helluva week, conservatives.

5. Threemendous II  
The best wrestling show this year you've never heard of happened in July - it was from PWG in southern California - Threemendous II; four 4 star matches including a 4 1/2 star Hero/Ryan main event.  If you don't watch PWG consider adding it to your graps diet.  It was a better show than the terrific TNA PPV from Sunday, Turning Point - which had a 4 3/4 star main event, a 3 way with Joe/AJ/Daniels.  Last week, I said the Shingo/Davey match from the second DGUSA show was the best North American match of the year, this match was every bit its equal.  And there was a free 4 star TV match this week - Bryan Danielson's last ROH TV match, against Roderick Strong.  So much good graps this week. 

6. The Counterfactual
-And what I particularly liked this week is the next chapter of my wrestling counterfactual, as I posted Survivor Series 2008.  Gun to my head - if you ask me the accomplishment of which I'm most proud, it's the wrestling counterfactual.  It's a niche within a niche within a niche - the target audience is largely just limited to people who live in my house who have my name - but I couldn't love it more. 

7. Last Words
This week I read George Carlin's posthumous book release, Last Words.  It was okay, but what I liked was getting new information (oh, like this - on Bill Simmons's podcast with Super Dave Funkhauser, I learned that John Wooden thinks that Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player he ever saw.  Knowledge!) What I learned from Carlin's last book is that Roger Ailes, who would go on to run the evil empire of Fox News, was Mike Douglas's producer.  I don't know what to do with that, but I found it interesting.

8. You're Just Wrong About the Beards
-This week, I finally got around to watching the full multi-disc release of the entire run of the State.  Kerri's favorite sketch was Porcupine Racetrack, which was always mine.  I wanted to make out with Kerri back in 1995; I'd like to think it was only distance which prevented that.  I like to think a lot of things. 

One of the new thoughts I've had is that Kirk and I could have made it as sketch comedians.  20 years ago, we started a sketch comedy troupe in undergrad - we didn't know it at the time, but the State was similarly beginning at NYU.  When they got their MTV show - and really at most points subsequent - we'd track their careers with at least a partial thought that the members of the State were living the best version of our lives.  Dammit Kevin Allison!  You stole my dream!

We've gone round and round on this - I think I'm currently here - that were Kirk and I at the bottom talent end of a college comedy troupe - the weakest performers and (far, far, far more importantly) the greenest writers, I think we could have learned how to do sketch at a high level.  We were bright and determined and complemented each other well, but didn't have any idea what we were doing and never really learned.  I can be funny, and I see a path not taken where I could have been funny for a living. 

9. And that Led Me To This
The commentary tracks led me to this 13 year old article discussing why the State died.  Everything does, by the way. 

10. Publix Cures Death
Mostly things die from germs.  But in an area Publix restroom is a substance that purports to "kill all germs."

That should get more publicity I thought.  Probably, it's being kept from the public by Obama.

That's week 2 of the Tendown.  I'll be back next time...if there is a next time...

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