1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown: March 28-April 3 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dear Internet:

Hi.  It's my Politics-Free issue of Tendown 21 - and I'm bursting, just bursting to tell you what's First this week - like I'm taking Tendown hot out of the oven and delivering a greasy slice to your waiting fingers, Last Week,  we discussed Barthes, David Frum, the health care bill, and Russell beginning his move against Boston Rob on Survivor - a move he completed this week, in what was just a tremendously booked angle.  If you watch graps but not Survivor, it's just error, as you got a chance to see some clean, old school booking this season.  The end of that feud, with Rob getting taken out this week, is the best thing from the past seven days.

First: RIP: Boston Rob

Boston Rob is a legendary heel; he has as deep a heel resume as is possible on reality television, having done two previous shots of Survivor, and Amazing Race, and his own series where he took up professional poker - in each incarnation, he was young, punky upstart scoundrel heel.  He ran the first All-Star season back in '04, including a terrific maneuver where he doublecrossed Lex by using their "real life" friendship to request that Lex protect Amber (the heretofore innocent ingenue who wound up, as Rob's valet, winning All-Stars and then marrying Rob, in what was reality tvs best booked relationship to that date).  Rob's doublecross of Lex should be studied (and probably is) by academics who analyze the unofficial structural boundaries set up in reality competition shows.  Rob's argument was "I lied - I'm Rob, that's what I do.  It's a game." But Lex's argument was that by invoking their "outside the game" relationship - that Rob had violated an unwritten rule, sort of like bunting to break up a no-hitter.  It is a debate so clearly burned in my mind that although I have not seen the clip even one additional time since its original airing 6 years ago, I can easily recall internalizing at the time that Rob and Lex were defining the parameters of reality competition - is there a line between the show and the real world?  That Rob would then marry his partner Amber (thereby making the jury decision between them meaningless, as they were the final 2 in that initial All-Stars season; Rob was enough of a heel at that point that the speculation that he had worked his way into a marriage with Amber just for the money was not entirely a joke) would further blur the lines, perhaps destroy the line, between show and life would be an amplification of that theme.  The element of the scripted reality show, as best understood by the Hills, that most interests me is not that "it's fake", that's almost as silly a criticism as calling wrestling fake - it's that real life, in a near Truman Show way, is being scripted.  Rob and Amber weren't told to align, weren't prompted to marry - but the conditions into which they were placed, the incentives that they were given (they got married on television) moved them to places their real lives otherwise would not have gone - and then when Spencer and Heidi get married years later as part of a storyline - sure, it's scripted - there's LC leaving as Kristin arrives - it's a storyline - but it was a wedding; Spencer and Heidi are actually married - their real lives and their lives on a script have no distinction, to the point that Heidi's crazy multiple plastic surgeries can be viewed as her attempt to always be in makeup.  Human Giant did a sketch where Paul Scheer was an actor on a Star Trek-like television series; he was an alien and had to go through hours of makeup each day - so he decided to have plastic surgery to always be in costume (the joke coming when the show was then quickly canceled so he was stuck in that face trying to get additional jobs).  That's Heidi Montag; she's more plastic than person now and her show is going off the air. 

Rob and Amber then became probably the most aggressively heel team to that date in the Amazing Race; a game which had different unofficial rules than Survivor, was seen by its players as more noble, less cutthroat - but they formed and broke alliances, and memorably stood apart from the rest of the competitors in not stopping to aid Greg and Brian upon seeing their traffic accident.  Rob here again was saying "everything is part of the game" in his definition of the parameters of competition - but the rest of the race teams disagreed, that a car accident was beyond the game and shouldn't be a determining factor.  There's probably a book somewhere about unofficial rules (The Unofficial Rulebook...or the Official/Unofficial Rulebook or the Official Book of Unofficial Rules) they really only come to the public consciousness whenever there's a baseball dispute or a golfer calls a penalty against himself, and sports talk radio gets a few days of apoplexy that such ideas exist - a caller will scream that "only the offiical rules should apply" as he's driving 50 mph in a 45 mph zone, certain (and correctly so) that he won't get pulled over, because, despite his breaking the letter of the law - he knows that unofficially, that's not how the law is really enforced.  The caller will not make the connection between those two concepts. 

But a few years have passed since the Amazing Race and Rob's subsequent attempt to be a poker playing heel; on this all star Survivor season he was paired against a new school heel, Russell, a man who poured out the water from camp - coined the phrase "dumbass girl alliance" and even, in this All Star season, took the dastardly step of attempting to hide Rob's Red Sox cap (sort of the equivalent of taking a luchadore's mask) and a very clear generational difference was set up this season that served to turn Rob babyface.  Whereas the newer players were inclined to jake the "survival" portion of the game in favor of strategizing, Rob was the pillar of camp; Rob was the leader at challenges; Rob carried the tribe on his back - all the while being drawn closer to a confrontation with Russell. 

Last week, as I wrote about in Tendown 20; Russell deftly outmaneuvered Rob, protecting his ally Parvati (I can't see a scenario where she'd ever get a jury vote after having won the Fans v. Favorites season, but if Parvati Shallow, who joins the Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the "come on, that's not a real name; these are professional wrestling names like Jack Swagger or Jay Lethal" club wins again - she steps into the reality competition Pantheon with Evil Dr. Will) at the expense of Rob's ally Tyson - and this week, Russell leveraged the "loyalty" demonstrated by his move to get another old school heel Jeri Manthey (and there could be another discussion about the Jeri/Parvati dynamic as a shadow of the Rob/Russell dynamic, except with sex as the additional element; and Colby/James may have been booked to complete the old school/new school triology had James not blown out his knee) to flip, joining Russell's alliance and sending Rob home.

It was a supersmart episode in what has been a really good season of Survivor; in a week of well booked wrestling angles (to be discussed later in the Tendown) the best of them featured no wrestling at all.

After the jump, the rest of the Tendown.

1. Look at this.

Last night, my lady type friend and I had Domino's pizza and watched Cougar Town.  Both of which are better than you think, although the pizza is largely chosen because of proximity and affordability; one of the benefits of the complete collapse of the American economy is corporate pizza has gotten ridiculously cheap; at this point they're largely paying you to add toppings (the new Papa Johns slogan: Please Order Our New Italian Sausage, For the Love of God, We've Got Mortgages Too).

And Cougar Town, despite the low rent show name, is just funny.

This is the box in which it came, note the American idol tie-in; I'm uncertain to whom the sillhouette is supposed to belong, let's say it's Tim Urban.

The reason for the photograph (that is, in fact, my thumb in the lower right; it is a masculine thumb, deserving of praise and adulation) is that, as my lady type friend discovered upon close inspection:

The singer on the Domino's box has six fingers.

It's true for both hands - there are a total of a dozen fingers on that Domino's box.  It's the modern version of that Billy Ripken baseball card (google it).  If this is some attempt by a Domino's whistleblower to connect their much advertised new and improved crust/sauce to possible birth defects, you heard it here first.

I take no credit for this discovery; it was my friend's - I'm more consumer than investigator.

2. Ben and Jerry's Flourless Chocolate Cake
Earlier in the week, we stumbled upon a new flavor of Ben and Jerrys, flourless chocolate cake. 

It is, I am prepared to say, my favorite flavor of Ben and Jerrys.  Here is the balance of the top ten:

2. Chunky Monkey
3. Brownie Batter
4. Chocolate Fudge Brownie
5. Mission to Marziapan
6. Pumpkin Cheesecake
7. Chocolate Macadamia Nut
8. Americone Dream
9. Birthday Cake
10.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Oh, by the way, this week I read this piece ; studies on rats have shown that high calorie food impacts the brain the same way as heroin or cocaine.  I'm on the junk.  I've been saying this for years.

3. Memento

Something else I've been saying for years, could they make Memento today?

I loved Memento and thought about it twice this week - first, with an episode of Solitary (I still have 3 to go, don't tell me who won, please) in which the contestants wrote all over themselves, then the April Fool's episide of Around the Horn, where Woody Paige killed Jay Mariotti and stole his suit and sportscar

That did not happen, although I would support it; instead, they did a backwards episode. 

Here's why you couldn't make Memento today - no one would buy the absence of camera phones.  Sure, there were enough easily accessible recording devices then to make no need for Guy Pearce to write on himself and take easily destroyed Polaroids, but the conclusion of the film leads us to believe that Pearce didn't want to know the truth; he intentionally chose ways to forget as opposed to remember - but in 2010, an audience would not, I don't believe, go the whole way with him, through the length of the film - with their smart phones at the ready, and believe the conceit.  When my lady type friend says "there are six fingers on this pizza box" I immediately take a picture, saving it to my phone's memory - then email it to myself, placing it on my hard drive - and then upload it to this blog, which is a (albeit somewhat hyperrealized) account of my life, something that, if I couldn't make new memories, I'd be able to access.  I can google myself in a way that Sammy Jankis could not. 

4. Fortunately, When I Do, I Won't Be Looking For This Name
An Alabama couple named their son Crimson Tide.  The playground beatings are about 9 years from commencing.

5. WWE Fans = Democrats?
I'm going politics free in this issue, but there was a study released this week that professional sports fans tend to self identify as Republicans. This is not a surprise, sports are authoritarian as opposed to egalitarian;  sports put an undue emphasis on the importance of leadership and coaching as opposed to the work on the field; owner-coach-team leaders/stars-rank and file is a hierarchy sports fans prefer, complaining, in fact, whenever someone seems to step out of line; from a sociological perspective; the ways in which white sports owners/commissioners/coaches from above make behavioral judgments and punishments about black athletes below - while white fans from outside scrutinize those behaviors is hard to overlook. Or it could be as was written about in the Washington Times this week "real men" are "shunning" the Democrats.

What most Democratic whiners don't understand — and what some of their betters understand very well — is that people get mad when they're ignored and punished by consequences imposed on them. Barack Obama understands it, and is contemptuous of the backlash, as anyone knows who saw the curl of his lip and heard the disdain in his voice when he celebrated the signing of Obamacare.

The Democrats know they have shoved an unwanted and despised health care "reform" down the throats of Americans, and they understand that arrogance, like elections, sometimes invites consequences. Once upon a time the liberal establishment — now the terrified whiners — didn't have to worry about consequences, since it had silenced the great unwashed. But the unwashed have found their voice, and they're not giving it up.

But this isn't about that, this about another element of the study - that WWE fans are largely Democrats.

This is going to come as a surprise to Vince McMahon (although that WWE fans are the least likely to vote will not) as he has historically booked in a way to reinforce conservative stereoptypes of Blacks, women, and gays - and any overt political discussion in WWE programming has a conservative bent (jingoistic, pro-corporate, anti-regulation - Matt Striker's called Obama a socialist on a broadcast).  I would assume its a socio-economic matter; wrestling fans are disproportionately from lower economic strata, and also disproportionately made up of racial minorities (for a few years, Smackdown was the most popular TV show for Hispanic audiences).  What isn't surprising is that WWE has disdain for their fans; when it comes to wrestling, my politics is workrate, and its those politics to which Vince has the most antipathy. 

6. But This Was a Pretty Good Week
As anticipated, Shawn Michaels lost his retirement match this week.

 I went 4 stars on Shawn/Undertaker at WM 26 (Meltzer went 4 3/4, because famous guys get extra points apparently - I've already updated my List of every 4 star WWE/WWF match ever.).  It was the best match at 26; I also went 3 1/2 on MITB (the worst of the MITB matches and that might be a quarter star too fat) 3 1/4 on Edge/Jericho (Meltzer, crazily, went 4 stars) my sense of it was it was a 15 minute match planned to go 20, and instead of it becoming a 15 minute match, they just did the first 15 minutes of the original 20 minute match and went home; and 3 stars on Hunter/Sheamus, a match that I (curiously given my dislike of Hunter's work) liked more than did most.

None of those will be on my match of the year list, but I did see two more candidates this week that will be; the December NOAH title switch from Go to Suguira was 4 1/2 stars, as was last month's Marufuji/Kanemoto match.  The file I on which I have that match came without sound, which led me to the following character thought which  will eventually find a way to work into the Counterfactual (I wrote Wrestlemania Silver this week; read if you are inclined) - a heel who demands silence from the fans when he wrestles.  He says he's like a golfer or a chess player or a brain surgeon- his craft is very delicate and he needs quiet.  He has a manager or a valet who holds up a "quiet please" sign.  This way, no matter what happens, he can claim he's getting the right reaction.  If the fans boo - well, that's what a heel wants (and he can demand greater quiet, refusing to wrestle until he gets more quiet, which will lead to more boos) and if they're quiet - well, that's what he's asking them to do; he could stop the match and thank them for their respectful silence. 

The best thing from the whole week however was Shawn's retirement speech the following night; the best wrestling retirement promo I've ever seen by a good amount.  I am not inclined to believe anything Shawn Michaels ever says (in his recent shoot interview Jim Cornette said something approximating, "most wrestlers  I know who 'find Jesus' do so because they can't find any real people who like them") but I totally bought into the whole thing.  He'll be back, of course, but I don't know if he knows that yet. 

From a wider perspective, were one writing a book say thirteen years from now like this:

is that Bret and Shawn remain married; all these years later, they had their last matches at the same Wrestlemania, and then did farewell promos (referencing each other) the same night.  I sort of expect them to renew their feud as a worked proxy fight until one of them drops. 

7. Arrogance
There was a word used in that Washington Times piece that the right likes to attach to Obama - arrogant (google Obama + arrogant, you'll find 2 million hits); it's encoded racism/anti-intellectualism; white people dislike black people who display confidence - if its downtown confidence, say of a young African-American, it's called cockiness or swagger; think of the way a black athlete is typed - but if it's uptown confidence, say of a "constitutional law professor" then it's haughtiness, it's uppity - look at this very popular right wing site; the column is a right wing reaction to Olbermann's calling them out for this type of encoding - read it, and read the comments; it's impossible to get away from the types of criticisms (which would seem mutually exclusive) offered at Obama by the right are racially typed - what do you hear about Obama, either that he's arrogant - always talking down to us in his professor's voice, thinking he knows more than we do - or that he's dumb, an Affirmative Action hire, only able to survive because of his teleprompter). 

The Masters is this week; I heard a caller on a local sports talk program (apparently a regular, as he was received warmly) saying he needed to see a "humble" Tiger this week - that was the word he threw in maybe a half dozen times in a two minute call - he didn't want to see that fist pumping after a put - Tiger should just put his head down and go to the next hole.

And that's a collision of a couple of ideas from this week's Tendown; golf, like baseball, like Survivor, has unwritten rules - it could be that what this caller is saying is Woods's demonstrative nature, while not illegal, obviously, violates those unwritten rules.  Or what he could be saying is "there's one black guy in the whole sport - and not only does he win - he walks around all arrogant, like he knows he's great."

Or it could be that one of the reasons for that sort of golf etiquette, where it's a sport with "quiet please" signs held up for the gallery and they are expected to comply, is that because it's historically been an upperclass haven - it's a Republican sport, after all (its fans as Republican as NASCAR fans; showing what had been a successful elctoral mixture of the corporate conservatives and the culture conservatives - the right wing monied class and the guns/guns/gays group) and part of that involves an exclusion of blacks - the golf course as segregated as the upper reaches of the federal government.

When I see Tiger Woods, I don't see Terrell Owens.  When I see Barack Obama, I don't see Malcolm X.  But you don't have to poke too hard to see the anger - the rage that spills out over Obama (and, to a lesser, sports based extent, Tiger) to see there are those who do - who cannot stand this photo:

But this photo never bothered anyone:

It's hard to be on the same side with those people.  Obama's governing like Clinton, but many on the left (me too) are pushed to defend him aggressively out of an emotional reaction toward the racist right. 

And I'm gonna root like hell for Tiger Woods this week. 

8. Baseball!!
College hoops ends this coming week (both my smart bracket and fun bracket had Duke in the final game; I assume they'll win but I will join my underdog loving sports bretheren in rooting full on for Butler) more importantly for me is the start of baseball season; my pre-season picks are there.  I'm taking Phillies/Red Sox; to my eyes the Rays and Yanks are the other 2 of the 4 best teams in baseball.  I've got my bat-less Giants at 81-81; we have two TV games this week (I'm not buying the TV package, given what will probably be my midseason move; this will be challenging for me; I like to watch my ballclub every day, it gives me the brief illusion that I've somehow worked my way back to Northern California, even if, given my schedule, I wind up watching most games on DVR at 6 in the morning.  I may reconsider the purchase) Astros on Monday and Braves on Friday.

I had my 3 fantasy drafts last weekend.  Here's how my teams currently stack up (23 starters, 6 backups, 5x5 10 teams per league) as the season starts:

AL Only
C Napoli, Laird
1B Wigginton (I'm trying to deal into an upgrade)
2B Zobrist, Valbuena, Nix
SS Cabrera (the Cleveland version) Betancourt, C Izturis
3B Bautista, Aybar (he's my 29th guy)
OF Cameron, Crawford, Hunter, Pierre, Snider, Ankiel, Burrell, Cust (who got sent down yesterday)
P Beckett, Lester, Duchscherer, Lewis, Scherzer, Wilson, Bedard, Hellickson, Soria, Francisco

NL Only
C YMolina, Barajas, Hundley
1B Gonzalez
2B Uggla, Kennedy
SS Ramirez, Renteria, Guzman, Hairston
3B Cantu
OF Bourn, Gomez, Ross, Werth, CYoung, Dickerson, Harris
P Haren, Harang, Lohse, Myers, Sanchez, Dotel, Medlen, Romo, Wagner, Gregerson, Clippard

C Weiters, Napoli
1B Texieira, Swisher, Konerko
2B Uggla, Cano
SS Furcal, Theriot
3B Cantu, Peralta
OF Bourn, Cruz, Sizemore, Span, Werth, Bruce, DeJesus, Snider
P Halladay, Haren, Duchscherer, Scherzer, Hughes, Lilly, Dotel, Francisco, Soriano, Perez

9. I Read the Books
I read a half dozen books this week (this was my week in between quarters - it used to be two weeks; I catch a huge break and have two weeks at the end of June, most likely, in which to move the separate houses in which my lady type friend and I now live into a third, different house, where we will be cohabitating.  The two of us and our combined 5 pets.  The search for said house continued, without much success, this week.  But I also was able to get my reading in, which I've found vital to do for the generation of ideas in between quarters - the best book I read this week was this -

It's a look at the '94-5 Seattle Supersonics; specifically the relationship between the white fans/media and the black players, which reveals that, as everyone defiantly proclaims matters to be outside of race - the more its clear that its race is constant subtext.

Even better than that is this site on television tropes.  Like for example:  Covered In Kisses:

So - look at Mickey's face and tell me what's happened?

If you know that (1) he's been laden with female affection and (2) it's supposed to be gently funny -when you see a character with exaggerated lipstick imprints on his face - you don't need to know anything else - you instantly understand both of those two concepts - they exist wholly in your head without any analysis needed.

That's what a trope is.  You're welcome. 

10. And, of course, Bowersox~

I'm not gonna out anyone, but I believe Bowersox~ to be gay.

Howard Stern this week outed Jamie Foxx; he didn't say "Jamie Foxx is gay" but if you're a regular Stern listener you know the insider idiom; Foxx had apparently criticized Stern over his Gabourey Sidibe comments - and Howard responded essentially by saying "if I want to come after you, I will" with accompanying insider only references that would lead inescapably to the conlusion that Foxx is gay, but Howard won't out him.  Saying which, of course, outed him, at least to the narrow band of Stern listeners who understand what it was Howard was saying.  It was interesting radio, and it slipped away without much notice. 

But that's why you read Tendown.  I catch the week in my palm like the pebble. 

You're welcome.

See you next time...if there is a next time...

Your pal,



Mark said...

Where do you reckon Russell ranks in the list of all-time Survivor players? I'm thinking 3rd. He's far too antagonistic to be above Brian Heidik or Yul Kwon. 4th and 5th probably go to Hatch and Cesternino.

I feel bad about that being an all-male top 5, btw. No need to say it.

Jim said...

Yul was a good player.

Um, hmmm, okay - you like Brian a little more than I (I get it, I just don't know if he'd make my top 5) I'd have Boston Rob in that Russell, Rob C category - you know who is a good player is JT; he won his first season basically playing Colby's game - good ole' boy, nice to everyone, helpful at camp and challenges - trustworthy - and this season is playing the sneaky, strategic game - if he can go to the end playing two different games, he's a top 5 player.

And if Parvati wins again, with her only attribute being she can get...anyone, really, to want to sleep with her, she's my number 2.

But Hatch is number one for the same reason the ladder match from X is still my top Mania match - context. Hatch created the idea of the alliance; I don't think it's "common sense" at all to think that the way you should play this game should be to align with others and play the people; I would guess that the dominant thought everyone had on that season one shoot was "what are we supposed to do here - there's nothing to do - how do you play the game" - Hatch's game is still the game; in fact, more broadly, because Hatch's game wasn't just strategically good - but because it makes for the best television - it propels the genre. Mark Burnett should give Hatch the million bucks again just out of his good graces.

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