1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, January 24-30 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear Internet,

Welcome to this, the 12th Issue of the Weekly Tendown, my look back at the very best cultural happenings of the past 7 days; Last Week, in BizarroDown, we discussed Citizens United, Velveeta Fudge, "Pants on the Ground", and the thrilling conclusion to my days as a member of the ownership society.  But this week we return to our flurry of unfettered optimism as we smackdown some Tendown!

First:  One vs. 140

There's no way anyone on the Left can honestly support Obama with anything more than wishful ambivalence; today,  Greenwald writes about how Obama's civil liberties record is to the right of Reagan's; in fact, the country whose policies toward "non military combatants" most resembles ours is Libya.  Further, Howard Zinn died this week; I wrote about it here; if there's one theme throughout Zinn's scholarship its that top-down leadership is the most overblown of all historical perspectives; if you want to look at the history of progressive movement in the United States - you don't look at Lincoln or FDR or LBJ - who you look at are popular movements agitating for change.  Power is not predisposed to relinquish itself; you don't get worker's rights legislation without radical unions; you don't get civil rights legislation without a civil rights movement; when people say "Why hasn't Obama done anything" - be it get troops out of Afghanistan or fight against the drug companies, or close Guantanamo - the response should be - who is making him?  The popular movement of 2009 which had social impact was the Teabag movement; and saying that it was backed by corporate money doesn't defeat the impact - the impact was it provided the narrative that still holds with huge numbers of the American people - that health care reform is somehow a scam, or unneeded, or too complicated, or unfair to those who already have insurance.  Had proponents of health care reform stormed town halls with equal numbers and force and volume as opponents - with stories of tragedy that result from our commodification of health care, that's what would have forced the issue into a different frame and given the Democrats predisposed to moving with the current a reason to push the legislation through. An unfortunate element of American political debate is we take as a strength our departure from the policies of the rest of the advanced world.  When Europe tries terrorist defendants in civilian criminal courts (the way we always have) it's viewed as demonstrating systemic strength; when Europe (and everyone else) treats health care as a public good, its viewed as analogous to police or fire protection or education - and instead of recognizing that the citizens in those nations aren't rallying en masse to make their countries' policies more like ours - we view our being out of step with the rest of the advanced world as a sign of their not measuring up to American standards.  We don't look at the vast disparity in scientific understanding, in understanding about our own history, in refusal to accept basic truths like evolution - between us and the rest of the advanced world as red flags signifying American decline - instead we look at even asking those questions, even suggesting that there might be ways that the United States can learn from the rest of the world as unpatriotic. 

So, I'm pessimistic is the point.

But on Friday, something pretty wonderful happened.  Obama met with the Republican caucus and stood (without a teleprompter, incidentally) and took live bullets from 140 Republicans ripping off the full run of right wing talking points; and he whipped their ass.  How do you know?  Because with 20 minutes left, Fox News cut away from the broadcast. 

140 Republicans firing live bullets at Obama - and with 20 minutes left Fox News cuts the feed.

How do you think it was going? 

On the record,  Republican Congressman Tom Cole said "he (Obama) did really well," off the record, a source told Luke Russert, "it was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that." Here's the reaction from The Atlantic:

He displayed a familiarity with Republican proposals that seemed to astonish those who asked questions of him. And at the end, Republicans rushed up to him, pens and photo cameras in hands, wanting autographs and pictures.

And from The Nation:

The President put on a clinic in public discourse, political argument, intellectual dexterity and moral courage. It was a reminder of what democracy could be if we engaged our opponents with substance, patience and civility rather than invectives, gamesmanship and boorishness.

For me, it was the most I've liked Obama - found myself "rooting" for him, ever.  It is his best possible light, and the Democrats should look to put him in that position more often.  Words are just words, particularly when they come from those in power, but Friday was a ray of light in a dark, frustrating stretch to be on the left.  Here's the Salon take.

That's the best thing that happened this week - after the jump - the rest of the Tendown!

RIP Howard Zinn

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn - American hero - died today. He was 87.  The smartest obit I've read is here.   Here's a tribute to Zinn from Democracy Now, which will also appear on the Tendown Sunday.  And here is the Nation from February 1

In recent days, he was asked his thoughts about Obama's first year.  Here they are:

I' ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama's rhetoric; I don't see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.

As far as disappointments, I wasn't terribly disappointed because I didn't expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that's hardly any different from a Republican--as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there's no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people--and that's been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama's no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.

I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That's the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presumably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes president, and he's not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as "suspected terrorists." They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he's not advancing the cause of constitutional rights very far. And then he's gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he's continued the policy of sending suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.

I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president--unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.

Royal Rumble 2010 Preview/Best Royal Rumble Matches Ever/I Create Words

4 times a year, I preview WWE PPVs; this is done as part of a two decade wrestleationship that you can read about here.  Yes, I just coined the word wrestleationship. Friendship largely built around a shared appreciation for wrestling.  Wrestleationship.  Which is not as good as the word brojob that I've also coined in recent weeks.  A brojob is when, in the company of men, say in prison or a frat house, one man will service another when there are no women around who are so inclined.  The men involved don't view it as a homosexual act, it's just something that happens between bros and isn't spoken of again.  I'll leave that to the reader to decide if the men are kidding themselves.  I pass no judgment, I'm just a linguist.  I can't think of a single appropriate piece of wordplay I might offer to characterize the caliber of my linguistic skills.

Brojob. You're welcome, internet. People get uncomfortable when I use it in conversation:

Publix Cashier:  $87.17 is your total.  You saved eleven dollars.
Me: Hey, you've gotten a brojob, right?  Maybe in the corner by the Entenmann's? This guy knows what I'm talkin' about!  This guy definitely knows what I'm talkin' about!

But enough of that.  The Royal Rumble is Sunday.  From Atlanta, I think.

1. RAW Title: Sheamus v. Randy Orton
-This is the lineal WWF Title.  When we last left off at Survivor Series, Cena was the Champ, in the midst of his 5th profoundly mediocre run.  He kept at Survivor Series in the 3 way with Hunter and Shawn.  But he lost the strap at the December PPV in a gimmick match to a newcomer Sheamus.  Yes, they spell it with the h.  If it were a half dozen years ago, it would probably also end with a z.

I know you don't know who this is.  Sheamus is getting the monster heel push, old school - new heel comes into the territory, beats everyone and takes their stuff.  He's extra pasty white with red hair and an unfortunate facial hair configuration.  It's a good look; he stands out instantly from everyone else, despite having a completely generic WWE sanctioned wrestling style.  It's been a good push - they put him over Cena clean, he doesn't back down to anyone (except Mark Cuban) it's a good way to build a new guy.  They've done far more right with Sheamus than wrong. 

Except they picked the wrong guy, I mean, there's nothing either particularly good or bad to say about his in ring work yet; he's just a guy, apparently chosen because he and HHH work out together on the road.  He doesn't suck though, there's nothing inherently wrong with him - just that you could have given this same push to a better guy, and now you can't.  Had they decided to give Bryan Danielson the rocketship push (I'd have settled for Swagger, but there's nothing inherent about Danielson, even in a WWE world, that should mean he's in Florida while Sheamus has the strap) the matches would all be better, the promos would be better, and it would generate the type of interweb buzz that matters on some level. 

Orton's still the top heel in the company; there's no real program here, Orton won a match to get this match.  It could lead to a face turn, if they decide to go that way - but that would require one of the DX guys to go heel to avoid all the top guys on the RAW side being babyfaces.  I think more likely they'll put Sheamus over, perhaps with one of Orton's guys (young Rhodes and DiBiase) costing him the match.  Maybe we get Orton/DiBiase at Mania. There's no reason to think this will be either good or bad.  Like most WWE matches.  Like a quarter pounder with cheese, it's not really that most WWE matches are good or bad - they just taste like WWE.

2. Smackdown Title: Undertaker v. Rey Mysterio
-They put out a DVD last year claiming this was the lineal NWA/WCW title; I like the idea of that even though there's not really much of a throughline. When we last left off the 'Taker was the champ, and this is still that run.  He took the belt in October and has maintained it, despite what perhaps could be a career ending back issue - and certainly appears to be a back issue that will end his ability to work on a consistent level.  Rey's also working hurt here, he has a knee that needs surgery and apparently is waiting until post-Mania to shut it down.  Summer has become a popular off-season for the veterans.  At Survivor Series, the Taker kept in the 3 way over Jericho and the Show. 

Rey's in a program with Batista, who turned (he's a much better heel character) - Rey went over Batista to get this shot; he will lose and given the injuries, it will probably be short.  I would guess Batista interferes, maybe postmatch, to attack both guys.  They're gonna do Shawn/Undertaker again at Mania this year; most people consider it WWE Match of the Year (I do not) from 2009.  That and Vince/Bret looks like your double main event, with the title matches a notch below in importance. Undertaker keeps here, maybe loses to Batista at the Feb PPV.  Maybe Batista defends against Cena at Mania.

3. ECW Title: Christian v. Ezekial Jackson
-Christian's been ECW Champ since last summer; he was in an elimination tag at Survivor Series, on the other side was Regal - they remain in that feud - Jackson is part of Regal's stable, I guess you'd call him a protegee - Jackson is a jacked up bodyguard type who, as of yet, hasn't shown any wrestling ability.  Jackson won a battle royal (which is a term that apparently has been banned) to get this shot.  Probably Jackson goes over clean; Christian's been terrific, good every single week both in promos and the ring - he and Regal have had multiple good TV matches, unsurprisingly.  My Top 100 Wrestlers in the World will be posted next week, they'll both be on it.  Won't help Christian here, probably he loses and it happens fast. 

4. Women
-There's a women's title match.  It doesn't matter. 

5. Royal Rumble Match
25 Participants Named So Far:

Past Winners:

Past Participants:

First Timers:

I don't think there's much chance for a new winner.  There's a pretty bright line between the past winners and everyone else in terms of current standing in the company.  I'd bet on Hunter - Hunter wins and takes on Sheamus.  Maybe DX winds up being the last 2 guys. 

Match quality does not look promising for the 2010 Royal Rumble.  I'd assume the below list stays intact another year.

10 Best Matches in Royal Rumble History:
1. Angle v. Benoit ('03)
2. HHH v. Cactus ('00)
3. Jericho v. Benoit ('01)
4. 2004 Rumble Match (Benoit)
5. Bret v. Diesel ('95)
6. 1992 Rumble Match (Flair)
7. Quebecers v. Bret/Owen ('94)
8. Rockers v. Orient Express ('91)
9. Hardys v. Dudleys ('00)
10. HBK v. HHH ('04)

And here's some general listmaking:

Past Winners:
2009 - Randy Orton #8

2008 - John Cena #30

2007 - Undertaker #30

2006 - Rey Mysterio #2

2005 - Batista #28

2004 - Chris Benoit #1

2003 - Brock Lesnar #29

2002 - Triple H #22

2001 - Steve Austin #27

2000 - The Rock #24

1999 - Mr. McMahon #2

1998 - Steve Austin #24

1997 - Steve Austin #5

1996 - Shawn Michaels #18

1995 - Shawn Michaels #1

1994 - Bret Hart #27, Lex Luger #24

1993 - Yokozuna #27

1992 - Ric Flair #3

1991 - Hulk Hogan #24

1990 - Hulk Hogan #25

1989 - Big John Studd #27

1988 - Jim Duggan #13

Most Eliminations (career): Austin (36).  Kane is 3 behind, Shawn 5.
Most Eliminations (match): Kane (11, '01)
Most Rumbles: Kane (14)
Most Combined Rumble Minutes (HHH, Shawn is 21 minutes behind)
Longest Rumble Performance (Rey - 2006, 3 others have also gone over an hour)
First Entered, every year:
2009 - Rey Mysterio

2008 - Undertaker

2007 - Ric Flair

2006 - Triple H

2005 - Eddie Guerrero

2004 - Chris Benoit

2003 - Shawn Michaels

2002 - Rikishi

2001 - Jeff Hardy

2000 - D'Lo Brown

1999 - Steve Austin

1998 - Cactus Jack

1997 - Crush

1996 - Triple H

1995 - Shawn Michaels

1994 - Scott Steiner

1993 - Ric Flair

1992 - British Bulldog

1991 - Bret Hart

1990 - Ted DiBiase

1989 - Ax

1988 - Bret Hart

Second Entered Every Year:
2009 - John Morrison

2008 - Shawn Michaels

2007 - Finlay

2006 - Rey Mysterio

2005 - Chris Benoit

2004 - Randy Orton

2003 - Chris Jericho

2002 - Goldust

2001 - Bull Buchanan

2000 - Grandmaster Sexay

1999 - Mr. McMahon

1998 - Chainsaw Charlie

1997 - Ahmed Johnson

1996 - Henry Godwinn

1995 - British Bulldog

1994 - Samu

1993 - Bob Backlund

1992 - Ted DiBiase

1991 - Dino Bravo

1990 - Koko B. Ware

1989 - Smash

1988 - Tito Santana

That's your Rumble Preview.  My Top 100 Wrestlers will absolutely, positively be posted next week - I will start rolling out the build to Counterfactual Mania 25 over at as soon as I can; I'll put up the preview for WM 26 when it becomes timely; Tendown appears every Sunday right here in this spot; and I'm almost always willing to write about a wrestling match, as I see, well, all of them.

TBOR Athlete of the Month, January 2010 (Plus The 1990 Athlete of the Year)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peyton Manning.
Runners-Up: Chris Johnson, Kurt Warner, Derrelle Revis

Manning is the first of what will be 12 contenders for the 2010 TBOR Athlete of the Year.

There was no Blog of Revelation in 1990 - but there was an Athlete of the Year.  I think the way I'll roll out the archives is to attach them to these monthly posts.

Here was 1990.  Runners-up for each month are in the parenthetical.  Some of these choices will be poor; in my own defense, access to information and good analysis was limited back in the dark ages and I would assume I limited myself to games actually observed and what I was able to snatch from The Sporting News.  For comparison, I'll include the AP Male Athlete of the Year as well.

Athlete of the Year: Joe Montana (AP-Montana)
January: Joe Montana (PT Willis, Mario Lemieux, Jerry Rice)
February: Buster Douglas (Mark O'Meara, Derrike Cope, Lionel Simmons)
March: Bo Kimble (Akeem Olajuwon, Susan Butcher, Stacey Augmon)
April: Nick Faldo (Mark Langston, Barry Larkin, Dave Stewart)
May: Michael Jordan (Craig Perret, Cecil Fielder, Jari Kurri)
June: Monica Seles (Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Hale Irwin)
July: Greg Lemond (Martina Navratilova, Betsy King, Nolan Ryan)
August: Leroy Burrell (Alex Cole, David Justice, Jose Maria Olazabel)
September: Ty Detmer (Pete Sampras, Howard Griffith, Bob Welch)
October: Billy Hatcher (Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Evander Holyfield)
November:  David Klingler (Derrick Thomas, Bernard King, Larry Bird)
December: Warren Moon (Mike Tyson, Kenny Anderson, Charles Barkley)

Unrelated - a spending freeze won't create jobs.  And if what we'd like to do is reduce the deficit, I have a couple of ongoing wars in the middle east I could suggest come to an end. 

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: BizarroDown January 17-23, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear Internet,

This is Issue 11 of the Weekly Tendown, my look at the best cultural happenings of the previous 7 days; Last Week, I talked about Late Night Wars 2.0, a four year old named Tater Tot kicked out of public school due to the length of his hair, a guy collecting Jerry Maguire VHS tapes, and Marvin Harrison, Colt-faced killa. 

This week....well, here's the thing.

I've had a crappy week.  And in truth, I'm a bit of a misanthrope.  I don't like people, places, or things.  Nouns, basically.  I'm not a fan of nouns.  I'm fat, old, and grumpy and these characteristics could have been applied to me since I was eight years old.  So that I went 10 weeks writing a Sunday blog centered around all the really superkeen things that happened over the week previous represents a burst of optimism that I would probably credit to pharmaceutic, if, in fact, I was taking anything (you holding?  who's holding?).

So this week, we flip the script ('cause like every 39 year old white guy I use hip hop lingo from 2002 in my attempt to stay culturally relevant) and offer for you the very worst things that happened over the past seven days.

It's Bizarro Tendown.  BizarroDown!

First:  The End of the Republic

So, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week to eliminate a huge chunk of the limits on the ability of corporations to make campaign contributions. Olbermann, a little hyperbolically, compared the decision to Dred Scott.  The music of Olbermann's comment is going to drown out the lyrics; in the way that you really can't compare a current action to the Holocaust, slavery is just a club modern day political commentators need to leave in their bags.  But the point shouldn't be lost - there's a good argument that Dred Scott was correctly decided, meaning that as strictly an academic matter of legal interpretation, one could construct a Constitutional reading without too much trouble that would support the Court's conclusion that slaves (current or former or future) were definitionally without legal standing; the tragedy was less the intellectual bankruptcy of that analysis and more that the United States couldn't exist as a political structure going forward with that analysis as the law of the land.  A reasonable argument to make to Chief Justice Taney would have been "you might be right as a matter of law - or at least, you're not demonstrably wrong, but if we decide that your analysis is correct, the country is going to break in two."

Which it did.

This week, the Court in Citizens United invalidated (and left open to further invalidation) a huge percentage of the legislative scheme which stems the flow of corporate money into elections as impermissible restrictions on free speech.  I would have been a dissenting vote in Dred Scott and would have been in the dissent this week as well - but there's a colorable reading of the Constitution that supports the decision.  In the pantheon of "you guys are just making this shit up" - Citizens United isn't Bush v. Gore.

What it leads to is a destructive result.  It makes the most powerful more powerful. 

Why do we go to war?  We go to war because war is profitable and corporations for whom war is profitable are able to generate ideologies to support those wars.  We moved from WWII seamlessly into the Cold War (beginning with the dropping of the Atomic Bombs in 1945) and shut up talk about a "peace dividend" (remember that?  remember the "what will we do with all the money we won't need to spend on the military now?") by invading Iraq 10 months after the Berlin Wall fell.  Two decades later - we're still there - permanently in the Middle East, with our Biblical verse stamped rifles trained on Muslim kids, wondering how it is they could possibly hate us. 

Why don't we have health care reform?  Because in 2009 the insurance and pharmaceutical industries spent 1.4 million dollars a day fighting health care reform.  When corporations control mainstream media - and a television "news" network promotes the most conservative elements of our society as "real America" and many Americans, trained for a quarter century to believe that social programs are their enemy believe that the America they've been taught to revere is under attack - what we're left with is a disinclination to vote our own best interests.  There is no sickness in our political thought so contaminating as the belief that what's best for corporate America is what's best for America.  The business of America is business Cal Coolidge once said.  We all sold our souls to the company store. 

And this decision hands the wealthiest corporations the most power.  It is a victory for Goliath.  And I believe that to be harmful.  Not Dred Scott harmful because corporations had virtually unchecked power a week ago so the qualitative difference between the world we're about to enter and the world we're leaving behind isn't as enormous as Olbermann posits.  But harmful.  And activist - oh, my god - please don't let the right make that "these liberal activist judges" argument again.  Citizens United was a decision which overturned precedent and made invalid decades of federal legislation - that doesn't make it a bad legal decision; activism, despite what you've been taught, is not inherently a bad thing - it means an unelected Court is substituting its judgment for the settled judgment of representatives accountable to the American people.  That's part of our Constitutional framework.  It shouldn't be taken lightly, but it's how the Court works and when Republicans pretend its not they are absolutely lying to you. 

It may not have been a "bad" decision on the merits.  And its harm may not reach that of Dred Scott.  But the power of "regular Americans" to impact government policy took a terrific beating this week, and the town hall outrage was nonexistent.

That was the worst thing that happened this week.  After the jump - the rest of BizarroDown.

The Conference Championships

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I'll revisit this at week's end, but my pick at the top of the playoffs was chalk for the SB; Colts/Saints, and I'm still there and fairly confident.  I catch a break from a rooting standpoint; I'll be solidly in the Jets/Saints camps this weekend and as long as I get one of them (and avoid the NFL dream matchup of Manning/Favre) I'll be able to watch the Super Bowl (I'd watch regardless, but I'd rather not have to root for the Colts). 

I split against the number in both rounds of the playoffs - and split, remarkably, against the number picking every game during the regular season.  Right now...right now I'm inclined to take Colts and give the 7 1/2 and take the Vikes plus the 3 1/2.  I won't do either, as mentioned, it's error to play these games.  It's also error because (here's where I make do some actual smart guy prognostication) the numbers are both going up a half point before kick.  If you want to take the Colts, you need to get them now, today, 'cause that number's gonna be 8, maybe 8 1/2 by Sunday.  If you made me, I'd give the 7 1/2, although I'd buy a half point, but I don't want the game at 8 (that's why I'm posting this Tuesday).

I like the Saints outright, but don't want to give more than the home team field goal - so at 3 1/2 I'm taking the Vikes.  But I'll edit this come Saturday to reflect the new number (I'm talking to future me - here's where you'll put the edit Sunday morning -edit, as of midday Friday that Colts number is now 8, fortunately I'm in at 7 1/2, the Saints are still holding at 3 1/2 - I'm inclined to think the Colts are going to win...say 21-6, meaning they're still the play even if you didn't read this back on Tuesday) because it's going to 4, and I'd rather take Minnesota there.

So, there you go.  Obviously I'm going to split.  Hopefully you go against me in the right direction. (edit, hey, I won 'em both.  So there's that.  I will probably pick the Colts to win and cover 44, but I'll be rooting for the Saints).

Tendown on Sunday.  Two wrestling blogs next week - my top 100 wrestlers in the world is ready to go - and I'll do a Royal Rumble preview.  I didn't get to watch any puro in the past couple of weeks, so I'm behind; I will try to jam my way through the end of 2009 before I get too far in the weeds.

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, January 10-16, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Welcome to issue 10 of the Weekly Tendown, your overview of the best cultural happenings of the past seven days; Last Week, I discussed Better off Ted, strategic defaults, Goodluck Jonathan, and the return of the Hit Man, Bret Hart.  What....what do you suppose we'll talk about this week...

First: I'm With Coco

I'm not going to run counter to conventional hipster wisdom on Late Night Wars the Sequel.  It's been a blast and should remain so at least for the next week before NBC pays Conan to go away; its reductionist, but I could probably be well defined by the following: I really enjoy it when things happen; except when they're happening to me.  I'm about a decade, hell maybe two, too old - I swallow whole as much up to the minute information as I can get and let the newsy juices drip down my chin; I am well constituted for a universe in which my pants vibrate whenever AP has a breaking story. 

All of the late night shows felt like must see television last week, A couple of dozen clips are here. ('cept for Letterman, who isn't on Hulu, and that's too bad as his stuff has been excellent) and thats largely why this merits the top spot on the Tendown; as I've said before I like my television unpredictable (which is the main reason why the old Letterman show worked, it felt jagged) and from Letterman calling Jay "big jaw" to Leno responding with intern blasts to Conan foresquarely saying he's been screwed by Leno and NBC to Kimmel (in the single best spot of the week) burying Jay on Leno's own show - it was a good week.

On the merits - your job doesn't love you is the takeaway from this.  Five years ago Conan's deal was up and NBC kept him around by promising him Johnny's old show (and that's...that's the comedy takeaway from this - the thing you have to dig to find is from that letter Conan wrote this week, Conan wrote he wouldn't take part in the "destruction" of The Tonight Show - ostensibly what he was referring to was the proposal to move it to midnight after Jay went on at 11:30 - but really he was saying what comics have said about Jay for years - that Jay destroyed the Tonight Show; Jay Leno used to be funny but gave that up to pander for ratings - and despite what Triple H would have you believe, the guy with the most eyeballs on him isn't necessarily a critical success; Home Improvement and Two and a Half Men did very well commercially, but at no point did anyone outside of the production of those shows think of them as anything but pablum - we understand that the American public's artistic palate can run dumb, so dumb is what we are fed.  But Johnny's show "mattered" in that way that institutions sometimes do, which is why all the sturm and drang when Dave got moved aside in favor of Jay 17 years ago.   And now it barely matters at all, which is one of the reasons for the anger in some of blowback Jay's faced this week; Rosie O'Donnell on her radio show talked about being angry at Leno since '95; Patton Oswald compared Jay to Nixon on a podcast.  Conan doesn't just want the 11:30 slot - he wants the Tonight Show, and when he says he won't take part in its destruction, he's saying the Tonight Show as a comedy brand has been devalued by Leno even with its financial success) and when the time came to do that, instead of sending Jay on his way, NBC decided to stick him at 10:00. 

That cut Conan off at that knees, both ensuring a low rated lead in for local news (NBC knew Leno would lose badly at 10, but it was a cheap enough show to produce that it made some financial sense) which would mean a low rated lead in for Conan - but also it meant that Conan was still positioned as the number two show behind Leno.  And if The Tonight Show is the number two show on NBC, it's not really the Tonight Show anymore. 

Conan's spent the past 17 years working at a company that, this week, has an executive call him "chicken hearted and gutless".  If you're Conan, and you feel as if you've been a good company man for 17 years - earning critical acclaim and youth buzz, single handedly keeping NBC late night culturally relevant when Leno was effectively hosting CSI: The Tonight Show, staying in that 12:30 spot for five extra years with the promise of The Tonight Show, not publically complaining when your company paired your move to 11:30 with the extraordinarily destructive decision to move Leno to 10 - to now have an executive, on the record with the New York Times say that you're the failure - that you're the one who couldn't deliver when called upon - the takeaway from that has to be your job will never love you.  It will pay you (and Conan's gonna get paid) but it won't love you. 

The rest of the Tendown after the jump.

The Greatest Non Hall of Famers Ever (the Bobby Grich All Stars)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Based on my rankings of the 200 greatest major league baseball players ever, here would be the best non Hall of Famers.  I'm only including those who are eligible for the HOF already but haven't gotten in.  So no Bonds/Clemens yet.  A year from now, when we're debating the next group (Bagwell's new next year, he's inexplicably avoided all the steroid talk, we'll see if that holds) consider these thoughts.

Advanced defensive metrics continue to evolve, enough that there was a piece on this week arguing that Jeter was now the second greatest SS ever (behind Wagner, obviously - ARod was considered a 3B, the argument was largely that Jeter had passed Ripken.  If you don't count ARod/Ripken/Yount/Banks given how much of their careers were at other spots, I still have Jeter 12th all time.  The difference is solely in defensive valuation) my working plan is to reconsider my list after the 2010 season, that will be the earliest I will get to it.  For now, I am entirely satisfied. 

Clemens and Bonds are in my top ten players ever; they are not eligible for the HOF yet.

Maddux is in my second ten.  ARod/Randy Johnson in my third.  Glavine/Thomas/Pedro/Pudge in my 4th.
Bagwell, Smoltz in my 5th.  But then....

2B Bobby Grich
-48th best player ever.  5th best second baseman ever.  As under appreciated as any major professional sport athlete ever.  And he's the reason why when sportswriters say "you know a Hall of Famer when you hear his name, he doesn't require thought" - they're wrong.  If sportswriters missed on a guy when he played because they were too locked into misguided ways of thinking about baseball, he will never get the level of attention he deserved.  Someone should write a great Bobby Grich book, or a book about Bobby Grich guys - guys who were hidden in plain sight - there was greatness and no one noticed.  There's really no dispute about the composition of the 4 best second basemen ever (Lajoie, Hornsby, Collins, Morgan), I can't think of anyone who makes an argument to the contrary, the only debate is over the order in which they should be ranked.

Griffey, Pujols, Rivera all come before...

SS Barry Larkin
-57th best player ever.  Behind Wagner/ARod/Ripken/Ozzie/Vaughan/Yount/Davis on my all time SS list.  If you want to rank ARod/Ripken/Yount at other positions, that would make Larkin 6th.  Yes, he should have gotten in this year.  Yes, he will get in. 

Manny's turn comes.  Then Lou Whitaker (62) who doesn't make the starting snub lineup because of Grich. Then Bill Dahlen (66) who is behind Larkin on the HOF snub list.  Palmeiro's spot comes up; he's never going in, so he'll be the first baseman on the all time snub team forever, probably.  But not yet, as he's not eligible. 

3B Edgar Martinez
With a career of virtually no defensive value, Edgar Martinez is still a hall of famer (74th best player ever). And right behind him

LF Tim Raines
-Raines is the 75th best baseball player ever.  Grich is off the ballot, but Larkin/Edgar/Raines should have gotten in last week.

Mussina is in the next group - I'm betting he doesn't get in, so he will become the best pitcher never to make it if that's the case.  Rose is next (79th) I assume he goes in one day even though he's ineligble currently so not on this list.  Then come Thome and Rolen, who will both be fence candidates (Thome gets in eventually if everyone decides he was clean, Rolen probably doesn't).  Then comes Sheffield, Trammell (89th), and Chipper.  Sheff probably does not get in, Chipper does.  Trammell and Whitaker maybe get in from the veteran's committee one day. 

Robin Ventura (91) will never come close.  Then comes Schilling, who will probably get in.  Then Santo (97) who the Vets committee will put in.  Then Biggio, who I think probably has to wait for the veteran's committee. 

P Bert Blyleven
I like Blyleven less than other performance analysts (102 overall, 28th best pitcher ever) but he's still a Hall of Famer and the best eligible pitcher never to make it.  Probably he gets in next year.

Robby Alomar (104) is next.  Then Piazza, who makes it if the writers give him a pass on the steroids.  Kevin Brown is next and has no chance.  Then Kent - who probably makes it eventually.  Edmonds is next, I don't see him getting in.   

1B Mark McGwire
(118).  He'll lose his spot on the all-snub team to Raffy when he becomes eligible, but Mac's a HOF'er, sure. 

Vlad's next, he probably makes it.  Then Trevor Hoffman...that will be curious...I don't know honestly, I'm gonna say he gets in.  Jack Glasscock (130) should have the HOF plaque that draws the most giggles from the Cooperstown tourists.  Dick Allen, completely coincidentally (138) is next on the list of snubs.  Bobby Abreu comes next, he won't make it.  John Olerud and Willie Randolph (143, 144) should (but won't, obviously) both just make the HOF slipping right over the border.  Bernie Williams isn't eligible yet, but once he becomes eligible he'll be snubbed. 

C Joe Torre
(147 overall). 

Then Wes Ferrell, (150) who was better than his brother Rick, who is in the HOF.  Then Jeter, who will be in almost unanimously.  Then the no-chance guys: Saberhagen (153), Stan Hack (155) another snubbed Cub 3b.  Then Darrell Evans (156) Only a few left, my HOF cut off is coming soon.  Keith Hernandez (159) makes it, so does Bucky Walters (160) and Graig Nettles (162).  Jorge Posada should get in, I don't know if he does or not. 

That's it.  Carlos Beltran has more he needs to do.  As do Tejada and Helton and if somehow Andruw Jones could find one more big spurt (and Brian Giles too) they'd be worth discussing.  All the other active players are further off the pace (or should be considered such, Santana's gonna make it; watch Berkman and Oswalt.) 

So - that means I have 24 HOF Eligibles who should be in the HOF:

Grich, Larkin, Whitaker, Dahlen, Martinez, Raines, Trammell, Ventura, Santo, Blyleven, Alomar, McGwire, Glassock, Allen, Olerud, Randolph, Torre, Ferrell, Saberhagen, Hack, Evans, Hernandez, Walters, Nettles

24 men.  (yes, I could find 24 current non deserving HOF'ers to swap out in their place if that's the game we're playing) who deserve to be in Cooperstown.

Round 2 - NFL Playoff Picks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


In Rnd One, I split, I had Dallas, but lost with GB (fun game) and had the Jets but lost with NE.

The game I've switched here from my opening playoff picks is Dallas/Minnesota - I had the Vikes going to the NFC Title game originally, but now I'm moving to Dallas. 

As for the numbers - Dallas is getting 2 1/2, so obviously that's a number I like.  The Saints are giving 7, if you could get that a half point cheaper I'd feel okay about laying the wood.  The Colts are giving 6 1/5, if you could get another half point then the Ravens start to look really attractive.  The Jets are getting 7 if I had to play that game, I'd take them. 

(edit - I feel the same way about all 4 games upon additional reflection, but now a little more confidently, you might be able to get the Cowboys plus a full 3 without buying a half point, and that would be good for you to do - I like the Saints, even without buying the half point; the Ravens are fine with me at 6 1/2 - and you don't need completion to like the Jets getting 7, you can play it and feel okay). 

The big sports story of the week for me is USC, and that will find its way into Tendown; I don't have it in me to rehash my steroid thoughts with McGwire's admission this week, except to say that the bucket of self righteousness carried around by the American sportswriter is bottomless.  For years, what they say is "why can't someone who hasn't been caught red handed admit to what he did and apologize."
Well, that happened this week and McGwire got eviscerated.  And it was less that anyone disputed him on the facts "you took more than you are saying" - the anger was about meaning - McGwire said steroids helped him recover but not hit a baseball; the reaction to that wasn't "premium athletes tend to be a little delusional about their own abilities; wasn't Roy Jones knocked out a couple of weeks ago" instead it was, "this is a lie, everything is a lie, lie, lie, lie."

What sportswriters want to hear is for McGwire to accept in whole their interpretation of steroids (one which isn't supported by evidence, and one with which I don't agree) that steroids = everything is fraudulent.  They want to hear "none of it was real, all of my home runs should be taken away as they were all due to demonic drugs."

McGwire's not saying that isn't a lie - it's a disagreement with the shallow analysis of mainstream commentators. 

We love our pound of flesh; we can't wait to hear Tiger ask for our forgiveness so we can refuse it to him.  Me, I'd rather him say he owes his family but the rest of us can go screw ourselves.  The celebrity perp walk has become our new national pastime.

Misplaced Anger

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This is Brian Williams from last night's NBC News ripping Mark McGwire.

Here's the quote:

Good evening. Because this is a family broadcast, we probably can't say what we'd like to about the news today that Mark McGwire—the home run hitter, the family favorite from the St. Louis Cardinals—stopped lying today and admitted that he did it while on steroids. For those of us who were raising young baseball fans and baseball players who looked up to Mark McGwire, that summer of ‘98 was magical stuff, as he and Sammy Sosa vied back and forth for the title of Single Season Home Run King. He didn't tell the truth to Congress or to his fans until finally, formally coming clean today. He's been unable to get into the Hall of Fame and, apparently—even for him—the shame here was too much.

Have you ever heard Brian Williams or any other network news anchor use that type of language: "stopped lying today" and "shame" when describing anything?

-Americans misled about Weapons of Mass Destruction?
-The shift of wealth over the past decade from the working and middle classes to the very wealthiest?

There isn't a political issue that isn't couched in "there are arguments on both sides" regardless of the merits of those arguments.  We have watched the erosion of our civil liberties, the erosion of our natural environment, the erosion of our nation's infrastructure, the erosion of any moral standing we might have had following 9-11 - we are still in the middle of an incredible economic collapse; Americans are dying every month because of a lack of health insurance; 25% of all mortgages are underwater - we have watched as, on multiple fronts, we have crept closer and closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock -

And this is where Brian Williams decides to show some outrage.  This is who should feel shame: 

Mark McGwire. 

Unbelievable.  Unbelievable.  To future historians, let me suggest to you that as you look back at the early days of the 21st century, that your theme be the insanely misplaced priorities of those who held the megaphones.  While our country was in decade long freefall what we shouted about was steroids.

2010 NBA All-Star Ballot

Monday, January 11, 2010

We're just about at the halfway mark in the NBA season - here are my choices for the All-Star teams:

C Duncan                             
F  Nowitzki                                          
F Anthony                                               
G  Nash                                             
G Bryant 
G Roy
G Paul
G Williams
F Randolph
F Durant
F Landry
C Stoudemire

C Howard
F Bosh
F James (MVP)
G Rondo
G Wade
C Lopez
C Lee
F Smith
F Iguodala
F Wallace
F Pierce
G Johnson

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, January 3-9 2010.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This is Issue 9 of the Weekly Tendown, my weekly look at the very best cultural happenings from the past 7 days; Last Week, I discussed Captain Kangaroo, the G Spot, Helicopter Dads, the Hot/Crazy Scale, and my favorite pretend Jay-Z lyric "you gotta be a baller to marry your stepdaughter"  What - what do you suppose we'll look at this week...

First:  Red on Red Crime.
My midweek blog this week offered my picks for the NFL playoffs and a discussion about how, as a fan of a team which does not make the playoffs, I root based on who I least dislike.  When I'm left with a game between, say, the Cowboys against the Favres, I really can't muster up even the energy to watch in an unlimited channel universe.  Right now, for example, Dallas is thumping the Eagles (meaning I'll have gone 2-0 today after my midday switch from Bengals to Jets) but I'm listening to this week's Adam Carolla podcasts and starting the Tendown; Carolla's good at this; I've forgotten with whom he was talking a few weeks ago, but he confessed to getting aroused when roughhousing with his young son - it was just from the friction, he wasn't looking to get handcuffed from the makeshift studio, but that's a helluva thing to admit; in previous incarnations of this blog I cut a little deeper into my life than do I now (art's tricky - you can write a terribly personal love song without fear that it will impact your professional life, but I've decided that blog posts really have to have compatible sensibilities to my professorial persona; work's a role no different than is this - but it's the one that feeds the bulldog, and I ain't got the energy to learn another trade) but I would never have cut to the bone like Carolla just to tell a joke. 

The reason I'm not watching the game is, when it's two teams I actively dislike, other than injuries (joke, he wishes he didn't have to add parenthetically) I've got nothing to root for (Mike Silver on KNBR this week tossed the Mike Vick to the Niners back up the flagpole; I wrote about this in the last offseason; there is no circumstance, not a move to Los Angeles, not setting fire to jersey #16 in midfield, not another dozen losing seasons which could cause me to renounce my Niner fanship - unless we sign Mike Vick.  Then I am out until he is gone and it will be the single most significant breakup of my life.)

But this week saw multiple outbursts of Republican on Republican violence and I ate up every bit of it.  Simple Jack went on his radio show and said phone calls from the birthers were "the dumbest thing I ever heard" and even suggested they might be Obama plants.  That got teabagger blowback, including by Alan Keyes who said Beck has "little or no understanding of the profound issues of principle" that motivate the whackos.  Which must have been quite a blow to Simple Jack, given how he's devoted so much of the past 36 months to misunderstanding American history and it's only now anyone finally notices.

That was the opening act - the middle was RNC Chair Michael Steele releasing a book, apparently without the knowledge of any top Republican leaders.  Steele was said to be devoting excessive time to promoting himself as opposed to the Party - Steele was criticized for taking fees to deliver speeches - Steele then said the Republicans couldn't take back the House in the midterm elections and wasn't sure if Republican candidates were ready to lead.  Steele's book takes shots at both Bush 43 and 41; and scores of staffers leaked all week the heated exchanges between the various Republican heavy hitters over Steele's suitability to continue as Chair.. 

The main event is on 60 Minutes this evening, when John McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt will say that Sarah Palin's disinclination to prepare for her debate with Joe Biden led to a simplfication of her prep to avoid a "debacle" and presumably other Sarah Palin is only occasionally acquainted with the truth stories.

This doesn't even get to the 2009 Republicans v. 2002 Republicans from this week as the heads predictably opened their faces to rip Obama for waiting 3 days to discuss the Underpants Bomber when Bush's 6 day wait to talk about the Shoe Bomber went without criticism.  Or that the current trial in the criminal courts system emboldens our enemies, giving them a platform to spew hateful rhetoric - but the similar domestic terrorist trials held over the previous decade demonstrated America's strength and its principles.  Here's America's Mayor, who this week also said that the United States wasn't a victim of domestic terrorist attacks under Bush (continuing a weird right wing meme that's sprouted up in recent weeks, Dana Perino and Mary Matalin also said something similar).  It's interesting that it just goes accepted that Bush is wholly without blame for 9-11 occuring on his watch; Matalin actually said the Bush Administration "inherited" 9-11; had President Gore gotten a brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the US" in a Counterfactual Bush v. Gore goes 5-4 the other way universe, I assume the Democrats would not be as successful in claiming a lack of blame.

It's just schadenfreude.  Nothing here will salvage the value of my South Florida townhouse (David Corn this week predicted that a full 50% of US mortgages will be underwater by the end of 2011) and I don't mistake the red states cannibalizing themselves for positive electoral news.  But it's fun.  And daddy likes to have his fun. 

That's the best thing that happened this week - after the Jump - the Rest of the Tendown!

2009-10 NFL Playoff Predictions

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I finished dead at .500 picking every NFL game of the season against the number; do with that what you will as you approach these thoughts.

Week One Winners:
AFC: New England, NY (that's a change, upon further review.  Kick isn't for a few hours)
NFC: Dallas, Green Bay

Week Two Winners:
AFC: Indianapolis, San Diego
NFC: New Orleans, Minnesota

Conference Titles:
AFC: Indianapolis over San Diego
NFC: New Orleans over Minnesota

Super Bowl 44:
Indianapolis over New Orleans

As for the lines this week, you shouldn't play any of them.  Really, if you want to invest, invest in season long win totals, not specific games and really not playoff games.  The Packers are getting a point and I think they win outright, so if you must.  I've now jumped on the Jets and they're getting a field goal. 

I picked the Chargers in pre-season (which you can find around here someplace) so if they win, I'll claim a victory there also (double dip!  good times). 

Who am I rooting for - the way I do this really is, as a 49er fan, is to work backwards from whom I'd least like to see win.  Hateraid is sports fans' fuel. 

12. Philadelphia - this is a marked change for me, I've always thought of the Eagles as the team I least disliked in the entire NFC, but as you could find elsewhere on this page, I now root against them each week as they employ (and laud) Mike Vick.  Let that be a warning to the rest of the league - Vick's gonna go somewhere else next year - and then I'll root against you too. 

11. Minnesota - Favre.  I can't recall the last time I actively rooted for Brett Favre.  Perhaps never. 

10. Dallas - It's the Cowboys.  Who could root for the Cowboys?  Have I ever, in a single instance, ever rooted for the Dallas Cowboys?  It would be like rooting for your boss or a minister who dislikes dancing.

I recognize my NFC options are dwindling.  Goddamn Eagles screwed me with this Vick thing. 

9. New England - The current evil empire; this is strictly sports fan hateration, I only dislike them for their success (Favre I dislike for the same reason that Kirk Hiner Hates Madonna, which you can also find somewhere on this page - and Dallas is the single smarmiest sports franchise in North American history).

8. Indianapolis - which, since I'm picking them to win the thing, isn't ideal.  Again, hateration, I'd rather Manning didn't win another title.  It's a tide I cannot stop, but Manning will probably retire as the consensus choice for best QB ever and one more SB is probably all he'd need to get there. 

7. Arizona - only because they're in my division and I don't personally care for Warner.  If he were to get knocked out and Leinart were to play, I'd root for Leinart as would all good Trojans. 

6. Green Bay - the stick it to Favre factor weighs in their favor, but I've got lots of years of irritation at the Packer fans being framed as all that is good and with the NFL.  And somehow the Lambeau leap is just good clean fun but every other touchdown celebration is an affront to decency. 

5. San Diego - I wrote a piece about political contributions by NFL teams a few months ago - the Chargers dwarf the rest of the league, and have been overwhelmingly right wing in their donations. 

4. Baltimore - the Ray Lewis stuff gets a little exhausting, it's overly messianic for my taste.

3. New Orleans - the economic impact to the poor and working class will be way overblown, what Katrina allowed New Orleans to do was gentrify.

2. New York - I enjoy when the New York teams who don't usually do well, do well (like the Knicks, for example, I'd like to see LeBron go to the Knicks, that would be fun to me) and Sanchez (although clearly being over his head this year) is one of my guys.

So - the team I'm rooting for to win Super Bowl 44...

1. Cincinnati.
-they've got multiple Trojans, I like Ochocinco's act, they've never won before, and a weird Super Bowl run would mean clips of their previous SB losses, which were, of course, to my Niners. 

Go Bengals.

My College Bowl Lock.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If you followed my college football picks this season, you'll know that for the bulk of the year I had really incredible success, and was perfect in making my "lock of the week" pick for the first two months of the season.

I stumbled down the stretch, but still finished 19 games over .500 overall and strongly over in my weekly locks. 

I picked every bowl game this year, including some totals - I'm only 1 over .500 going into tonights game; I picked the under and Alabama giving 4 tomorrow night.

But tonight is my lock of bowl season.  Central Michigan -3 over Troy (it's up to 3 1/2 now). 

I like it a lot, if I were on a bigger roll, I'd really be incredibly confident.  My numbers aren't locked in though, clearly, and it's fair to question my call here. 

Nonethless - it's the biggest play of bowl season.  Good luck.

Which Was the Dumber Tiger Woods Comment?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So, on Sunday, Brit Hume said this:

"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," said Hume. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of redemption and forgiveness offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger is, 'Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world"

This was startling, and by that I mean, I was startled - it seemed almost as if Brit Hume was casting out bait in a Borat/Bruno/Colbert type of way - to actually say on Fox News (fair and balanced) that Tiger Woods should convert his religion as..I guess...a get out of jail free pass for the infidelity to his just seems bizarre on every possible level (including the following (1) this is a weird year, with the Sanford/Ensign/Pickering sex scandals that hit very publically Christian politicians to prop that religion above others as the path to marital redemption, and (2) the new Fox News defense to being nothing more than a Republican water carrier {as opposed to the old defense which was it was just tellin' the truth} is that while the commentators in the evening may have ideological bents, the straight newsmen are no different than any other network.) 

Hume then went on O'Reilly and said this:

Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs...

...if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through in his — in his being, and he would know it, above all. And he would feel the extraordinary blessing that that would be. And — and it would shine because he is so prominent. It would be — it would be a shining light, and I think it would be a — it would be a magnificent thing to witness... speak the name, Jesus Christ, and I don’t — and I don’t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose. And — and it has always been thus. It is explosive.

That's been offered today - that it's not Brit Hume who was expressing some type of religious bigotry by saying "Tiger needs to dump that zero Buddha and get with a hero Jesus" it's the response which is bigoted - that the negative reaction to his comments is a sign of Christian persecution (a completely fraudulent right wing meme).

This, of course, is easily disproven. What would the reaction be had a newsperson of Brit Hume's profile seriously said that any one of the high profile Christians in sex scandals should convert to Buddhism?  That he should leave Christianity, as it doesn't offer a sufficient path to redemption and become a Buddhist.  That it would not just be good for him, but for all of us to watch as a lesson, that it would be a remarkable thing to witness.

And then - after that newsman said "leave Jesus, that's your way out of this" - that he (and the other Buddhists) would seriously respond to the criticism of him with "there you go again with your anti-Buddhist rhetoric."

This of course would require there was a Buddhist news broadcaster as prominent as Hume - and then a talk show as prominent as O'Reilly's where that Buddhist news broadcaster could then go the following night to reaffirm his comments.  And a host of friendly bloggers and commentators who would then chime in to agree with that Buddhist broadcaster.  The ridiculousness of that scenario highlights the ridiculousness of the anti-Christian complaints.  We don't live in a country where not-Jesus has remotely the same platform as Jesus; the default position is a Christian worldview.  Me - I'm not interested in either religion or any of their competitors; it's a war of foods I do not eat. 

But I don't want to hear Brit Hume say if "Mark Sanford would renounce Jesus and admit there is no god it would be a powerful message of redemption.  If he would just recognize the truth of atheism he would make a remarkable recovery and be a powerful example to the world."

I mean, I would like to hear it - 'cause that would be bananas (and Brit Hume's very last day on television) and I like it when things go all weird on my tv, but I wouldn't agree with it.  Tiger Woods didn't sleep around because he's Buddhist (by the way, Tiger Woods is Buddhist?...really?) and Mark Sanford didn't "hike the Appalachian Trail" because he's a Christian.

Or maybe they did.  But how the hell do I know? 

And that's, I guess, my real message here tonight, both about Hume and about Buzz Bissinger (the second Tiger Woods comment, which I'll get to in a moment). 

Brit Hume suggested that another adult change his religion.

Who does that? 

Would you ever say to someone you did not know who was a member of one religion that he should switch in time of crisis?

What would happen if someone did that to you?  How would Brit Hume respond if someone said (on TV, no less) that he should renounce Jesus for Buddhism?  Why does Brit Hume care to what god Tiger Woods prays?  Who tells someone else to change religions?  When did that become okay to do on the news?

And then this happened.  Four year old pics of a jacked Tiger Woods hit the stands in Vanity Fair, along with a Buzz Bissinger piece where he called Tiger a "sex addict". 

That's not the comment to which I'm referring.  On ESPN's Outside the Lines today, Bissinger said, this is "the biggest fall ever by a celebrity" and "a lot of us feel betrayed" and "I don't think anyone ever imagined a guy like this doing what he did."

The first quote is just hyperbole, he doesn't really mean it - unless Tiger cut off the heads of his wife and her waiter friend over the holidays, probably we can locate a greater fall if we search our memory banks.  And the third quote is just naive, which wouldn't be a word I'd otherwise ascribe to Bissinger, who seems as if he's seen the world a couple of times - but megarich, megafamous, good looking young athlete has lots of extra-marital sex has always been a dog bites man story until this very second; claiming surprise is baffling to me.

It's that second quote - the second quote that brings to my mind the same emotion as the Hume comment.

Who thinks that?

What man feels "betrayed" about who another man has sex with?  Men - male adult readers of these words right now, can you consider if you've ever felt anything close to "betrayed" by with whom another man, in an action totally unrelated to you, had sex?

If Tiger's your dad - I get it.  If you are close with Tiger's wife - I get it.  But other than that - I mean, I can't think of any circumstance where who any man had sex with would be a betrayal of me.  It is as far from something I'd ever consider as saying Tiger should convert his religion. 

I also understand there's a bit of a gender thing in play - women are reacting strongly to Tiger and I think part of the response is a comment on what I've been talking about since the story broke.

My initial reaction (still my reaction) is "men are only as faithful as their options."  Tiger's only unusual in how many options he had.

I think one of the reasons for the strength of the female reaction to Tiger is "it shouldn't be that way - this is something that shouldn't be accepted - we shouldn't just wink at infidelity - this is part of male privilege that assumes that women are the spoils of victory, a prize to be distributed among powerful men."

And - okay.  Okay, I don't disagree.  I make no claim that Tiger's behaved well, just that his behavior isn't unusual given his position.  If you want to say that he should still be condemned for that behavior, okay.  I don't share the outrage, but okay.  I understand the position that women believe powerful men have gotten away with too much historically and this is a turning of the cultural wheel which is overdue.  I do, I get that.  I'm a feminist.  I listen to Ani DiFranco.  I am not a pretty girl either. That is not what I'm down. 

But for another man, an adult man, presumably without a Tiger poster on his wall, to say he was "betrayed" by Tiger having sex - it is so thoroughly outside of my emotional makeup that I have a difficult time processing it.

I don't want to be overly alarmist, but 21st century celebrity is a bit of a doom machine.  Tiger's car crash was before Thanksgiving.  It's January 5 and we are still right here.  Tiger, who we still haven't seen, is somewhere watching it all bleed away; he has to be astonished at the circumstance in which he finds himself.

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: Dec 27 2009-Jan 2 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is Issue 8 of the Weekly Tendown, my weekly wrapup of all the best cultural achievements from the past 7 days.  Last Week, I talked about Dwight Clark, the war on Christmas, John Peter Zenger and the Bad Girls Club.  What....what do you suppose we'll cover this week?

First:  Helicopter Dads and the Hot/Crazy Scale.

The year ended with two great sports stories - Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittendon apparently pulled guns on each other in the Washington Wizards locker room; which is a great old-school NBA move.  Somewhere, Quintin Dailey is complaining that there was no tmzsports when he was in the league, "There was this one time that me and Ennis Whatley pulled a train on this bartender from Princess Cruises.  Dude didn't know what hit him."  That's the thing about the new media trafficking in sports gossip; for years, we used to say "How could Babe Ruth (for example) play now?"  Hard to spend as much hooker time as the Babe did in full view of the writers and still be framed in heroic terms.  But what the Tiger Woods coverage forces us to ask is "How could Michael Jordan (for example) play now?"  Tiger didn't invent big league philandering; the best thing that ever happened to #23 is he had Bonds/Woods to take all the juice/strange flak.  If Jordan were two decades younger with the same "If I could be like Mike" heat, the gambling and the women and the (come on, let's get serious) PED use would have turned his life into Lindsay Lohan's.  The coke and upskirt pics and lesbianism would have been a curious addition to MJ's wikipedia entry. 

And - now former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach (who you can see here giving advice on where a young college man should go on a first date) locked Craig James's kid in a shed. 

Craig James, if you're unaware, was Eric Dickerson's other half at SMU a quarter-century ago (their nickname, DickerJames, didn't exactly have the staying power of Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside) and has spent the bulk of his adult life talking about college football on TV.  I don't know, in 2009, how many college football players are locked in sheds, but probably picking the kid of a guy who works for ESPN to so discipline was error.  It's been fun watching the ESPN heads go after Leach, a rare (maybe singular) case of their siding with a college football player over a coach in a he said/he said dispute (the Michigan players offseason Rich Rodriguez complaints come to mind). Those gymnastics aren't what puts this on the Tendown though - the unfurling of my favorite phrase of the week - helicopter dad - to refer to James, is why this is on Tendown (a helicopter dad is a father of a college athlete who flies in for practice to give his unwanted advice to the coaches). 

Mike Leach has always been a bit of a whack job (a few months ago he blamed his players "fat girlfriends" for their lethargic play) but that's what you like from your sports figures, a little color.  Give me Mike Leach over Bob Stoops any day.  Give me Agent Zero jacking Javaris Crittendon during a TV timeout over an unpaid dominoes bet over Jordan Farmar passing to Kobe any day. 

(Kobe's a good guy to remember if you've decided Tiger can't ever get past this bimbo eruption.  A checkbook can get your good name back.)

But Leach was successful, certainly in the context of Texas Tech history - and if you're successful, you get to be a whack job. 

There was an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney unveiled the hot/crazy scale.  To wit:

You can date a crazy girl, if she's hot enough. 
If she's just a little crazy, she just has to be an ordinary level of hot.
The crazier she gets, the hotter she has to be to compensate. 
If she's off the chart crazy, she needs to be Scarlett Johansson. 
But even then, some girls are too crazy to date.  You'll put up with Britney until she shaves her head and attacks your car with the umbrella.  Then you move on down the road. 

You knew that already, of course - and you also know you can plug in other variables into the hot/crazy scale and run a similar cost/benefit analysis.  HIMYM is good like that; in a Yadda Yadda Yadda or "not that there's anything wrong with that"  type of way, they've done bits which would catch the cultural zeitgeist if it were a more popular show (and, like Tiger, HIMYM is a victim of the Aughts, in HIMYMs case, it's the fragmentation of the culture - if it's 15 years ago, it gets to be Friends and Cobie Smulders becomes Jennifer Aniston {why can't she find love?  So sad.} but it's not then, it's now, and you don't need to watch a funny enough sitcom with pretty people, you've got eleven hundred channels and can download three different versions of Avatar to your phone). 

One way to apply the hot/crazy scale is at work.  You can be a pain in the ass and get away with it if you're good enough - whereas the guy next to you might only occasionally step out of line but still winds up in the crosshairs because he isn't worth putting up with.  Leach clearly rubbed up against Administration in a weird way for a few years, but he was hot enough that they put up with it.  He has a salary dispute, says a few weird things - that's okay, you're not thrilled with it but check out his ass! 

Then he locks Craig James's kid in a shed.  And now you tell him you think you should take a little break.  You're really focused on your career right now.  It's not him, it's you.  (We're about to find out how hot CBS and Hanes underwear finds Charlie Sheen, 'cause if Tiger Woods, one of the most famous men in the world, bleeds away endorsements for sex - what will happen to Charlie after threatening to kill another woman?)

That's the best thing that happened this week.  After the Jump - the rest of the Tendown!

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