Category Archives: Musings

Has Gary Parrish Been in a Coma Since 2014?

Tuesday morning, on Geoff Calkins’ radio show, Gary Parrish continued his assault on both the University of Memphis Men’s Basketball program and history itself.

To hear Parrish discuss the state of Memphis basketball, one would have to assume the man fell asleep in 2014 and woke up yesterday.

Accordingly, Someone should tell Gary Parrish that Mayweather beat Pacquiao.

Also, let him know that the Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage legal and that Donald Trump performed surprisingly well in the GOP primaries in advance of the 2016 Presidential election.

And someone should definitely catch Parrish up on the condition of the Tiger Basketball program from 2014 to 2016.

While answering a question about the Tigers’ non-conference home schedule, Parrish initially took the opportunity to diverge into a disparaging riff on the Tigers’ roster – for those loyal listeners who missed the exact same discussion Monday afternoon.

After that, he proceeded to paint a picture of Memphis Basketball attendance that would make a revisionist historian blush:

“There are people who want to be there and feel like they should be there who have forever been there who I think are going to start to disappear simply because, what is fun about watching a bad basketball team lose over and over again?”

So, according to Parrish, there is a subsection of Memphis Tiger fans who have forever been there, but now they’re going to disappear.

In the immortal words of Clay Davis, sheeeeeeeit. 

Gary Parrish wants you to believe that declining attendance at Tiger basketball games is a new trend ushered in by Tubby Smith in the past year.

Apparently, Calkins didn’t feel like reminding Parrish about Fred Blose.

Fred Blose, for those who don’t recall, was the fan profiled in Calkins’ somewhat infamous column entitled: “What happens when Memphis Tigers fans give up?”

The column appeared in January of 2015 and chronicled the “cratering” attendance at Memphis Basketball games.

That’s right. January of 2015

More evidence that apparently Parrish wasn’t paying much attention to Tiger Basketball in 2015.

A few weeks ago it became clear he has either forgotten or never internalized that 7th place AAC finish, those 15 losses, and that rash of transfers amidst a 2-year absence from postseason.

Now Parrish seems to have forgotten about the ongoing civic obsession with declining attendance at Tiger basketball games over Josh Pastner’s final 2 seasons.

Here’s a refresher from June of 2016, courtesy of Parrish’s former employer – the Commercial Appeal:

“Memphis averaged 12,028 in announced home attendance for 2015-16, a 13.6-percent decrease from 2014-15 (when it ranked 21st nationally at 13,915) and a 25.4-percent decrease from 2013-14 (when it ranked 10th nationally at 16,121).

But those numbers don’t accurately reflect what was clearly a massive drop-off in home attendance last year during former Tigers coach Josh Pastner’s final season. Memphis needed a late-season push from fans just to keep its average turnstile count for the season above 6,000.”

So the facts are this:

  1. Tiger basketball attendance dropped precipitously over a multi-year period earlier this decade and has never recovered.
  2. Gary Parrish wants you to believe that next year’s low attendance will be the beginning of that trend.

Parrish isn’t stupid and I can’t imagine he’d be deliberately misleading, so I’ll be generous and assume his memory and judgement are momentarily clouded by animus and the need to fill air-time.

But that actually wasn’t the worst part of Parrish’s appearance on Tuesday.

The worst was this musing:

“We’ve reached a point where I don’t understand why a single person, like honestly anybody, would go to a University of Memphis basketball game over a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game.”

Tigers vs. Grizzlies. The tiredest of all tired Memphis sports topics. Also the most unnecessarily toxic.

I won’t delve too deeply into the host of possible reasons one might attend a College Basketball game, some of which Calkins immediately alluded to – being a lifelong fan of a program, being an alumnus, having an emotional connection to the program, it being a less expensive form of sports entertainment, distaste for the professional game, etc….

Instead, I’ll just openly wonder why this guy is trying to drive a wedge between the Grizzlies and the Tigers.

It’s not like we haven’t heard this bullshit before.

We certainly heard it in late 2015 – when Parrish’s buddy Josh Pastner dropped a home game to Texas-Arlington. And again later that season when the Tigers fell at home to East Carolina.

Someone should tell Parrish about those performances – he seems to have missed them entirely.

Musing: 10 Bothersome Things

Occasionally, in this space, we muse.

We have mused about Facebook, and about Girl Scout Cookies.

We once mused about Panda Express, and later about Super Bowl Parties.

Today, we muse about (absurdly) random bothersome things, some large and incredibly serious, some small and trivial.

Let the musings begin…

Proceed to the route. Sometimes when I ask the lady in my iPhone for directions to a place, she tells me to proceed to the route. Here’s the thing: if I knew where the route was, I wouldn’t be asking for help. It’s preposterous. Surely we can do better. And by “we” I mean the lady inside my iPhone.

Surely, she can do better.

Share size candy bags. Let’s be honest, nobody shares these things. I know I don’t. “Share size” candy bags are about one thing, and one thing only: gluttony. “Share size” candy means that when I’m finished, instead of wanting slightly more, I want slightly to puke. This is evil marketing.

Share size candy bags can go straight back to the fiery hell from which they came.

It’s called “share size,” but everyone knows that’s total bullshit.

The Opioid Epidemic. Shifting gears to a more serious topic, the opioid epidemic is a real bummer. Statistics reveal that 91 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdoses, but the actual number is way higher. American cities are being ravaged, and the companies that purport to be part of the solution might be part of the problem.

Congress is getting involved, which likely means nothing useful will happen.

Transitioning now to more esoteric bothersome things….

The Concept of Maintenance. I’m not good at routine maintenance. In fact, I suck at it. I don’t like brushing my dog’s teeth, keeping the lawn mower clean, meditating, or going to the Doctor. Without proper maintenance, shit breaks down. This is a problem. This isn’t exactly a contemporary musing, but rather a timeless condition that has yet to be solved. Nevertheless, it made the list.

My dog’s breath is rancid, by the way.

Moving on.

Emotions. Apparently stoicism is a thing, but I wasn’t blessed with the capacity for it. Stoicism is the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint. According to the internet, an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

I am not indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

Also…

Housing Prices. For all the talk about the terrible economy, housing prices in Memphis, TN continue to soar. I always seem to (unconsciously) time the housing market poorly.

Devolution of Political Discourse. New data from Wakefield Research found that one in 10 couples, married and not, have ended their relationships in a battle over political differences. For younger millennials, it’s 22 percent. And nearly one in three Americans said that political clashes over Trump have “had a negative impact on their relationship,” said a recent report. Obviously this problem has intensified as the sources of news consumption have proliferated. Whatever the cause, it kind of sucks.

Liberals. Just kidding! Not going there.

Trendy Concept Restaurants. Earlier this week I ordered take out online from a trendy concept restaurant. Ordering and paying was extremely easy. But when I showed up 20 minutes later and told someone behind the counter that I had ordered online, he looked surprised to learn that they even had an online ordering feature. Nobody in the actual restaurant actually knew about my order.

Also, the food wasn’t good.

But the name and branding were trendy!

Negativity. Negativity is the worst, this list notwithstanding.

Perhaps soon we’ll muse about good things.

Perhaps.

 

 

 

Super Bowl Party Manifesto

Super Bowl parties are quickly heading the way of New Year’s Eve in popular culture, obligatory national celebrations that are hackneyed and overrated. But what are you gonna do, sit at home?

No.

So because you’re inevitably going to attend or host a Super Bowl party, here are some essential guidelines to follow in order to maximize your experience.

Tips for hosting a good Super Bowl party:

Plan according to the amount of space you have. I’m not here to judge – a good Super Bowl party can be held in a tiny apartment or a mansion. That being said, if you have one TV and six seats don’t invite 30 people. I don’t want to have to hold my pee til halftime worried my seat is going to get snaked as soon as I get up. By the same token, if you have six TV rooms and a media room with twelve reclining movie theater seats don’t have four people at your party, it’s depressing.

Don’t mess up the food situation. This is not the sole responsibility of the host, but you should provide a good base. Three or four solid offerings, let’s say a cheese and cracker spread with minimum three types of cheese, some type of meat, could be chicken wings, could be pulled pork sandwiches, could be meatballs, doesn’t really matter. Then one lighter fare type item, maybe a vegetable spread with dips, something to make people feel slightly less glutinous. Then, coordinate with your guests to make sure there’s not a ton of overlap. You can’t have Susie and Natalie both bringing their famous buffalo chicken dip. Things could get ugly if one dish gets all the love.

Offer your guests some kind of gambling opportunity. Squares are pretty much the go-to, easiest thing here.  Make sure you collect up front though, the drunker and fuller your guests get the more likely they are to ghost early and leave you short.

Diversify according to interest level. If you have the space, have at least two rooms for viewing: one for serious “watchers” of the game and another for more casual observers and chatters. If I’ve got way more money on the game than I should, I really don’t wanna hear about Steve’s cross-fit routines or Lily’s kid’s summer plans.

Tips for guests:

Speaking of kids, uhh, can we keep them to a minimum? Kids are great, especially if they belong to you, but this isn’t a birthday party with a moon bounce. This is a disgusting bloated American holiday where we celebrate violence, brain damage, gambling, intoxication and overindulgence. Hire a babysitter.

Please, enough already with evaluating every commercial. This is the nadir of the Super Bowl Party. Invariably some time around the middle of the second quarter someone will say, “Gee is it me or are the commercials just not as good this year?” I guess fifteen years ago the Super Bowl was the only time of year advertising agencies really tried, and therefore some Super Bowl commercials really stood out. But now they try all year round, so we can stop giving a shit about Super Bowl commercials, okay? YouTube them the next day if you really care, but spare the rest of us.

Other Do’s and Don’ts:

Do make fun of every dumb thing Phil Simms says.

Do not party hop, pick one and stick to it.

Do bring something, but don’t half ass it and bring a bag of chips or ice, unless specifically requested to.

Don’t bring booze and then take home what’s left.

If you’re at a majority fan of one team party and you’re rooting for the other team, keep it to yourself, don’t be obnoxious.

Finally, do invite me to your party, I’m non judgmental and a great time.

Tiger Basketball YouTube gems (ETSU, 1991)

Tuesday night’s win over Temple aside, we’re in the middle of another garbage Josh Pastner season.

All the hallmarks are present.

Compete hard but lose against a few really good teams, thus engendering some excitement? Check.

Disappointing efforts and eventual losses to inferior competition? Check.

Inconsistent execution and strange, sudden changes to the rotation? Check.

Disciplinary issues and suspicious injuries and illnesses? Check.

Cliched recycled answers in post game interviews? Check.

Because we are in the middle of another basically depressing season, I thought we should take a look at some YouTube gems and find an exciting Tiger game from the past.

Shout-out to @roll1697 for pointing out  a 1991 match-up between Memphis (Memphis State) and East Tennessee State University. Now, I should note that this particular season was not necessarily a more successful one than the current campaign. The Tigers finished only 17-15 and 7-7 in the Metro Conference. Luckily for Larry Finch, Penny Hardaway would show up the next year to extend his tenure several years.  Nevertheless, this game was extremely entertaining and well played.

Here are just a few reasons for you to watch this game on YouTube.

  1. There are two incredible individual performances in this game. Keith “Mister” Jennings was a 5’7 point guard for ETSU who was absolutely electric. Jennings made seemingly every play in this game, either with incredible passes or great shot making. He is a great, forgotten college basketball player. On the Memphis side, Elliot Perry was a one man team for Memphis State. He made something like 13 shots in a row down the stretch. I had forgotten how much of a shoot first guard he was. I’m not sure I saw him make a play for a teammate the whole game but that was quite alright because he got serious buckets. I believe both players ended up with 40 + points.
  2. This was a very well played and entertaining game. The pace was absolutely frenetic. There were very few half court possessions, but also very few turnovers and tons of great shot making – especially by ETSU, who was on fire for much of the game.
  3. The Tigers made a great, late second half comeback after trailing the whole game by double digits. It seemed like every time Memphis State made a run, ETSU had an answer. Memphis finally broke through late in the second half and the Coliseum crowd was LIT. I had forgotten how bonkers that place could get.
  4. The announcers are a gem. The YouTube video is of an ETSU feed, so it’s their local announcing team. They are homers, but not comically so. The color analyst has a thick southern accent and employs many amusing colloquialisms. These dudes became pretty apoplectic during the Memphis run. Let’s just say they didn’t like that the refs swallowed their whistles – it’s pretty amusing. They had a point, the refs seemed totally intimidated by the crowd. They also consistently refer to Jennings as either “Mister” or “The Mister” which I thoroughly enjoyed.  At one point they come back from the break and the camera is focused on an attractive woman in the crowd and the guy says, “There are a lot of pretty women in Memphis, Tennessee and that’s one of them.” Brent Musburger would be proud.

Looking back 25 years, here are some other random thoughts about this classic game:

    1. Billy Smith was absolute garbage in this game. I have no idea why he got so many minutes. He reminded me of a right handed K.J. Lawson in that he has absolutely no conscience and shoots the ball every time he touches it.
    2. College basketball seemed like more fun back then. Maybe it was just this game but the up and down, frenetic nature of the game was refreshing. There wasn’t much coaching interference, aka a bunch of timeouts to draw up plays that don’t work, etc. This was high level, skillful and entertaining, something that teams like Kansas and Kentucky (and a few others) can deliver, but that we don’t see consistently enough from CBB. Obviously some of that has to do with the fact that in this game the two best players were both Seniors.
    3. The 3pt point line wasn’t as big of a deal back then. ETSU actually took a bunch of 3’s but Memphis State attempted very few. There were also 3 lines on the court, a college one, international and an NBA line. It was a bit of an eye-sore.
    4. Todd Mundt was not terrible. I had forgotten that. I think I confuse him with Brett Mundt who was, in fact, terrible.

In summary, if you clicked on this article you’re probably kinda bored anyways, so go ahead and commit to the 1:15 it will take you to watch this classic College Basketball game. The video in part 1 starts off pretty rough but it improves.

 

Democrats Toying With Hillary (Again)

It can’t be happening again, can it?

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President in 2008 and again in 2016, is on her heels.

This time, by a 74-year old Jewish guy from Brooklyn named Bernie.

Oh, and Bernie just happens to be a Democratic Socialist.

So it makes perfect sense that he’s now running neck and neck with Clinton in Iowa, and ahead of her in New Hampshire – the first 2 states in which votes will be cast next month.

Or not.

8 years ago, everyone assumed that the Democrats would nominate Clinton and that she’d easily defeat whomever the GOP put forth to carry on the legacy of the Bush presidency. A legacy that had been torched, tattered, repudiated and torched again.

In 2008 the GOP had no shot. Hillary was going to be the first woman President….until Barack Obama came along.

That’s right, Barack Obama. The neophyte, mixed race politician with a Kenyan father and non-traditional name. Surely, such a bold candidate couldn’t beat Clinton – the uber successful Senator and wife of a popular, once-in-a-lifetime President politician.

But then he did (beat Clinton), even though it made no sense. After all, she was objectively more qualified.

Well, it made a little sense. Obama had Hope and Change and the fun logo and the youthful supporters and it was a movement and sure why not?

And don’t feel bad for Hillary, the Democrats said, we’ll let her do it next time.

Except now it’s next time and the Democrats don’t appear to be letting Hillary do it.

They appear to be lining up behind Sanders. Did I mention that he’s a Democratic Socialist who is proposing trillions in new spending including tuition-free college for all, and true universal healthcare?

Just checking.

Because once again the Democrats are discarding Hillary and it’s kind of hard to watch, regardless of how you feel about Hillary Clinton. Even if you hate Hillary, you have to admit it’s weird to watch what the Democrats are doing.

It’s like Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football.

Lucy is the Democrats, Charlie Brown is Hillary and I think you get the point.

It’s like that backup girlfriend or boyfriend that you think, someday we’ll date. Sure, we’re friends now, but one day we’ll hook up. One day the timing will be right. Except it never happens. Even though they are counting on it, they’re looking forward to it, they’re planning on it, they’re obsessed with it and you’ve promised it.

But it never happens.

It’s uncomfortable.

Do you know why it never happens? Because you don’t really want it to happen, that’s why. You just want to pretend it’s going to happen.

You don’t actually want it to happen.

For all their talk about how she has the depth of experience (Champion for Healthcare in the 1990’s, Senator from New York in the 2000’s, Secretary of State most recently), for all their talk about how between her and Bill Clinton, she was the one with the drive, the ambition, the killer instinct, the intellect – for all that talk – it appears Democrats just don’t like Hillary Clinton.

And don’t tell me it’s because she’s a stiff campaigner. So what? John Kerry was stiffer than an Iowa Spruce Tree in February and the Democrats nominated him for President over Howard Dean in 2004.

Dean was perhaps the least stiff candidate of all time.

And don’t tell me that it’s because she’s cozy with Wall Street, either. Barack Obama’s administration has presided over the implementation of Dodd-Frank, a financial reform bill widely considered to be feckless. Nevertheless, Democrats (judging from my Facebook wall) still see Obama as a cross between FDR / JFK and President Josiah Bartlett from The West Wing. 

They like the guy.

So Democrats probably need to stop lying to themselves about what makes Hillary unpalatable and just admit the fact that they don’t like her and that they don’t want her to be President.

They need to face that fact, because it’s starting to appear to be unquestionably true.

Is there a latent sexism in the country that doesn’t show up in polls (because it’s latent and nobody would admit it)?

Perhaps.

All of this is going to make the next few months very interesting. Perhaps there’s going to be a quick change in feeling and the Democrats will unite behind Hillary. For this to happen, current momentum will have to be reversed.  Maybe it will.

Otherwise this election is about to get very awkward.

 

Definitely Not a ‘Best of’ List

Best of lists are everywhere this time of year, for obvious reasons.

One, it’s a logical time to talk about what happened during the calendar year. Two, and more importantly, it makes for an easy column.

Hell, now we have whole websites that do nothing but listicles. I, of course, would never be so unoriginal.

So without further ado I bring you my Favorite Things of 2015!

(Way different than a best of list).

My favorite sports moments of 2015:

RJ Hunter three pointer to beat Baylor.  This shot was March Madness at it’s best. Underdog Georgia State pulls off a miracle, beating Baylor in the opening round of the tourney after being down 12 with 3 minutes to play. Georgia State goes on a 13-0 run, capped off by a deeeep three from RJ Hunter while his dad, the head coach, is on the sideline. His dad had injured himself in the conference tourney celebrating, so he was sitting on a stool during the game due to a torn achilles. As the shot went in his dad literally fell off the stool. A perfect sports moment.

I’m not much of a baseball fan but the Bautista bat flip was awesome. A player coming up clutch in the biggest moment of the season and defiantly flipping his bat. It actually made me care about baseball for a few minutes. Plus it pissed off baseball curmudgeons who hate any expressions of joy on a baseball field.

The Arkansas 4th and 25 miracle. This one holds a special place in my heart as it led to Alabama getting a berth in the SEC Championship Game and subsequently the College Football Playoff. Though this play stands on it’s own, it is a play I have never seen in 30-something years of watching football. It’s indescribable. Even watching it for the 100th time I can’t really believe it happened. Just watch.

My favorite albums of 2015:

I don’t consume a ton of music during the year, maybe two albums a month or so. I prefer to find things I really like and wear them out as opposed to mowing through a ton of albums. My favorite album, the one I was the most obsessed with for the longest time was definitely Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Many of these songs could have existed just as great short stories. Incredible, hilarious, insightful and odd lyrics all pulled off with a deadpan delivery that will scratch itself into your soul. Great classic rock-y hooks and punk energy. I love every track on the album though the first one is probably my favorite.

My other favorite album of 2015 is Vince Staples, Summertime 06. The title makes it sound like a fun record of summer beach jams. Not so much. Vince is pretty dark. I like how he’s just as interested in setting a mood as he is showing you how great of a rapper he is. It’s several tracks in before Staples really lets loose on some lyrics. I still probably slightly prefer his 2014 release Hell Can Wait but this album continued to grow on me the past few months. Here’s my favorite track.

Favorite TV shows of 2015:

There’s an insane amount of good tv these days so I’m bound to forget ten or so shows I loved, but these are the ones that came to the top of my head.

Fargo: This show is on virtually every best-of-2015 list, and for good reason. It was damn near perfect. The first season of this show was really good but this season just hit every mark. Incredible ensemble cast, pristine writing and servicing of the whole cast, great plotting and pacing. The whole thing could be taught as a masterclass on television.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: I will watch pretty much anything that Tina Fey is involved in. This show is both reminiscent of 30 Rock but also totally original. The reminiscent part is the joke density and absurdity. I always thought 30 Rock had the best joke writers in the world and they appear to now all be working on Kimmy Schmidt.  Ellie Kemper as Kimmy brought a different energy than 30 Rock, a relentlessly, foolishly positive attitude that was infectious. Also, I had the Pinot Noir song stuck in my head for a solid month.

Broad City: This show isn’t for everyone but it cracked me up. I love that the main characters actually like each other and their friendship is the main relationship of the show. I also love that they are sex positive and talk about things you generally think of as the domain of men on tv, e.g., bathroom, sex and drug humor. It’s kind of the anti-Sex and the City. It seems like these could actually be real people really living in New York.

Rick and Morty: I love pretty much everything Dan Harmon does. This show is no exception, hilarious sci-fi adventures led by a filthy irresponsible genius sociopath and his kinda dim grandson. The show can pretty much do whatever it wants in a given episode, which is great because it can borrow from every great sci fi idea ever. But much like Harmon did with Community, he grounds the absurd scenarios with an emotional center so that you actually care about the characters. My favorite episode was ‘Get Schwifty’, about an intergalactic American Idol type competition.

Favorite Book of 2015:

People read? I guess so. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was one my favorite book of the year. A flu like virus wipes out 90 percent of the world’s population, then the story jumps forward 20 years and follows a group of survivors who have formed a traveling Shakespeare troupe. The story yo yos between their story and the story of an actor who died on stage the night the epidemic broke out. The book is low on apocalypse terror but there’s a great mystery to keep you turning pages. It’s well plotted and it’s filled with little ruminations and insights about civilization, culture, nostalgia and performance.

Favorite Movie of 2015:

I didn’t see a ton of movies in 2015 but my favorite was Sicario. It’s really a theater experience though, not sure it would translate on the small screen. The intensity, the score, the subverting of expectations, the incredible performances by the three leads, the tense atmosphere, incredible cinematography and the way it was shot made it really tense and enjoyable.

Favorite Meals of 2015:

I could probably name a top 50 or so here but I’ll just mention two. One was at Lotus of Siam in Vegas.  I had lunch there in June and this is probably my favorite restaurant in the country. It’s gotten pretty popular these days but it still delivers the goods. Incredible Thai food, and pretty much everything here is great.  We had Papaya salad, Northern larb, Thai red chili dip, Issan style beef jerky, and Tom Yum. If you like Thai food and are ever in Vegas, Lotus is a must.  http://lotusofsiamlv.com/

The other was at Bayona in New Orleans. There’s no beating the food in New Orleans and Bayona is a standout in a city full of great dining options. I had the crispy smoked quail salad and the veal sweetbreads. If you’re a little iffy on sweetbreads this would be the ideal spot to give ’em a try. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Every bite at this place is perfection, and it’s in a great location in the quarter.

Take it easy on Referees

For as long as I have been watching sports, people have been complaining about officiating.

They have also been complaining about coaches, players and analysts. Complaining goes hand in hand with being a sports fan. But of all of those who have had scorn heaped upon them, the vitriol for officials and referees stands apart and above.

It seems for as long as there have been sports people have thought referees have been doing a bad job. From this, I can only draw the conclusion that it’s really hard to officiate sports at the highest levels.

Why are we so hard on officials? Everyone makes mistakes all the time in sports, but when it’s the refs who blow something it’s an outrage and something has to be done and we have to re write the rule books, etc.

Coaches who are paid exponentially more than officials screw up every single week. Whether it’s a game plan mistake or the more obvious and seemingly ever present game management blunders, every week these millionaires do something that defies belief.

Just this past week the Cowboys got the ball with a minute and change on Washington’s 10 yard line, in a tie game. The obvious game theory appropriate move was to kill the clock and kick a 99 percent field goal, leaving Washington 10 seconds and virtually zero win percentage. But instead Dallas scored with a minute left and Washington had time to come back and tie the game.

I’m not saying people didn’t criticize Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett for this – but it didn’t come close to reaching the level of derision heaped upon, say, the officials who screwed up the off sides call in the Clemson vs North Carolina game.

Players screw up all the time as well. Failure is a pretty big part of any sport and even the best of the best fail regularly. Some players are great, some are good, some are average, and some are terrible (relative to their competition). Why should it be any different for referees? Why do we expect them to be perfect automatons?

We employ selection bias as well.

You will often see a referee make an incredible call in real time where say a player just got a second toe dragged down before going out of bounds. A play that you had no idea which way it was going in real time, and they nailed it.  That play goes down the memory hole.

But when a ref blows a call that we all see so clearly in super slo mo replay, we lose our minds. That ref is either dirty or incompetent!

Maybe he is, either one is a possibility, but it’s also possible that when super fast strong and large athletes are moving at high speeds it’s easy to miss a call.

There is also the obvious bias of fandom.  Every call against your team is terrible, every call for your team is great.  Two fans can watch the same game and both come away convinced their team was screwed by the refs.

I think i know why it is that officials are so closely scrutinized by fans. Basically the job of a referee is to watch. Hey, that’s what we do!

Most of us can’t really fathom playing a sport professionally, or coaching, but just watching them play? How hard is that?

I think this is the root of most of the contempt for referees. We feel like we could do their job and do it better. We are spurred on in this belief by most play by play and color analysts who also apparently think they can do a better job than most refs because they treat most of the game as a forum for them to discuss whether they think every single call was right or wrong.

In recent years TV networks have employed expert referee consultants, who even with the benefit of multiple replays, manage to only be right about half the time or so.
Again, all this information suggests the job of officiating high level sports is incredibly difficult.  That is not to suggest we shouldn’t be looking at ways of improving officiating, whether it be through recruiting and training methods, salary, accountability, rule tweaks, transparency, etc, but maybe the next time a terrible pass interference is called we should just all shrug our shoulders and say, “Welp, that’s ok boss, you’ll get em next time.”

 

Everybody Cheats

Cheating is a central facet of sports.  Your team cheats, your rival cheats, the team you think is the greatest of all time cheated.

Cheating and sports go together like banana and chocolate.

The pertinent question though is, do you care? Is your enjoyment of sports tied to an ideal of fair competition and honest sportsmanship? If it is and you still love sports, you’re burying your head in the sand.

Let’s look at some historic teams…

The John Wooden UCLA Bruins. One of the, if not the most dominant dynasties of all time. A shadowy figure named Sam Gilbert was the bag man for the Bruins. Whether or not you believe that John Wooden had no knowledge of what Gilbert was up to or didn’t want to know is irrelevant. There is no real disagreement about what he did.  Do you care? Does this ruin the Wooden legacy for you? Or are these just college rules that are stupid to begin with and players should get paid anyways?

Jim Boeheim got nailed last year, Jim Calhoun had his issues, John Calipari, well I doubt I need to elaborate on his doings.

How about College football? Surely Notre Dame, that hallowed institution, does things differently? Ehhh, not so much. We can do one of these for every team. My favorite team is Alabama, who have had a long history of excellence and cheating.

But that’s college athletics, everyone knows that’s a wild west atmosphere of corruption and silly rules and unpaid labor and handlers exploiting kids and coaches desperate to win and keep million dollar jobs. Surely in the professional ranks, where there is no pretense of amateurism, these issues don’t exist. Uhh, guess again. The best team of the last 15 years has an incredible record of various types of cheating.

In Baseball, cheating is an ingrained part of the sport as much as “Unwritten Rules” are. Pine tar, corked bats, vaseline, scuffed balls, amphetamines, PEDs, etc. Baseball even has the ignominious distinction of a team throwing a World Series. The Cardinal Way now includes hacking another team’s database.

Does it matter?

Barry Bonds was the best before he cheated, was the best after he cheated. Same for Clemens. If the guy across from you cheats, are you going to take the high road when millions of dollars are at stake?

The sport of cycling is basically built on cheating. It turns out it’s impossible to ride a bike really fast for 100‘s of miles up and down hills without using PED’s.

Track and Field is riddled with doping scandals, as are many other Olympic sports.

I haven’t even mentioned soccer, mostly because I don’t know that much about it but I do know that FIFA is considered to be the most corrupt sporting organization in the world.

Marathoners have snuck into the race at the end and acted like they were racing the whole time.

People even pretended to be handicapped to win in the Special Olympics.

The sport of Boxing is basically synonymous with shady dealings and fixed fights.

In Tennis, they start early.

Cheating is as old as sports are, I’m sure they were cheating at the first Olympics in Greece.

This list doesn’t even include corruption inside a sport independent of teams or players. How many times has an official been slipped some money to shade calls one way or another? How many Donaghys are out there?

Why should sports be any different? They cheat on Wall Street, they cheat at Enron, they cheat in Government, they cheat in Banking.

Anywhere there is money to be made there will be people and institutions willing to cheat to get it.  Sports are in a way just a reflection of societal values, they don’t stand apart from them.

Cheaters win, and win big.

 

 

The NFL is Boring

NFL football is boring.

The NFL is stale, it’s safe, it’s monochromatic, everyone is .500 and everyone is hurt. Take away the fact that you either root for a specific team, your fantasy team, your daily fantasy teams, your point spread bets, your survivor pools, your picks pools, and try and assess the game in an objective detached way. The product is kinda meh. How many truly exciting games have there been this season? Can you name five?

Week 12 may have contained two such contests (New England v. Denver, Pittsburgh v. Seattle), but it’s hard to recall others and it doesn’t change the reality that the NFL’s product has grown tedious.

Football is the game we know the least about. Each team has dozens, if not hundreds, of plays, different formations, different options off those formations and plays depending on the different situations, on each side of the ball.

On TV we get to see about 30 percent of the action on the field. We’re screaming at the quarterback to throw the ball when the pocket is collapsing but we have no idea if anyone is open. Unless you are someone who really studies the all 22’s each week or has a background in football it’s hard to have an opinion more sophisticated than, “We need to run the ball more,” or “We need to air it out!”  That’s why everyone harps on game management mistakes, because it’s one of the things we can actually evaluate. As opposed to how the right guard is grading out on run blocking assignments.

All that to say, I’m sure NFL offenses are quite varied, but by the time the product gets to the field on Sundays it all basically looks the same. You either have a great quarterback and can move the ball or you have an average one and are mediocre or you have a terrible one and you suck. That’s obviously a simplification but it’s not that far off.

Contrast that to college football. Obviously the players are not as good, they aren’t even close to as good. But the product is so much better. First off, there’s tremendous variety. There’s the spread attacks in all their myriad forms.  There’s option teams, there’s pro style, there’s run first teams. There are teams that try and beat you with pure deception, there are teams that try and beat you with pure speed. There’s so much innovation in college football that by the time you see something go mainstream (read-option, pistol) there are five new philosophies percolating in the mid major levels.  It’s like hip hop dances, by the time you’ve heard of them they are already lame.

There is also just so much insanity on the field, such a variance in results. Double digit underdogs regularly win games they have no business winning because it’s hard to predict what 18-22 year olds are gonna do on a given day.  And the crowds are ferocious, the atmosphere on game day in many college towns is unparalleled by anything in the NFL. That doesn’t mean every college game is going to be great. Often it’s an incoherent mess, but that’s part of the fun. You don’t know what you’re gonna get. College football is psychedelic rock, you might get transported to another dimension or you might watch some guy noodle around aimlessly and sing tone deaf lyrics for four hours. You just don’t know.

The NFL is smooth jazz, corporate, safe, boring.

In college, the coaches might actually have personalities and make the game more colorful.  A few of em might even have the balls to go for it on 4th and 2 on the opponents 45 yard line occasionally.  In the NFL you got Rex Ryan and 31 boring middle managers spouting empty cliches after every game.

Sure, the NFL will be good again in the playoffs, when the stakes are ratcheted up and all the mediocre and below teams (well, except for the three or four of those that get into the playoffs) have been dispatched and the good teams battle it out. But college football is nuts from day one, and stays that way till the end.

The NFL is America’s favorite sport by a wide margin, but I wonder how much of that relies on fantasy, betting pools, gambling on games, etc.  Impossible to know, but i know what I see on Sunday is often about as interesting as the Electric Slide.

 

Nobody is the Greatest Ever. #unpopularopinions

It’s the classic bar conversation, the most pure of sports arguments. Who is the greatest ever, the GOAT?

In basketball it’s some combination of Jordan, Lebron, Magic, Bird, Russell, Kareem, Chamberlain, Robertson, Kobe.

In football it’s Montana, Elway, Manning, Brady, Rice, Sanders, Taylor, White.

In baseball it’s….ah who cares, it’s baseball.

I’m sure there’s a hockey version too but my hockey knowledge is limited to players featured in NHL 94 Sega Genesis.

Regardless, finally we can put this issue to bed as I have the definitive answer.

No one.

There’s no such thing as the greatest ever, it doesn’t exist. There are great players, there might be greatest player of his era, but there is no such thing as the greatest of all time.

There are a litany of reasons this is the case.

First off, in the case of the major sports, they are all team sports, and although we’ve come a long way with advanced metrics there’s really no way to measure the way an individual and his team mesh as opposed to how he theoretically would have meshed with another group of teammates, and coaches.

Different eras had different levels of competition. Sometimes this was just attributable to luck, like being in the Western conference rather than the Eastern. Sometimes it was due to the advent of free agency or expansion diluting the competition. Sometimes it was just due to when transcendent players happened to be born.

Another factor is rule changes. You obviously can’t compare the stats of today’s NFL Quarterbacks to those of the past as rule changes have made racking up gaudy stats infinitely easier. There have also been massive advancements in sports medicine, training regimens, diet, exercise, etc.  There’s also tremendous luck and variance in results, but that’s a topic for another time.

Even in the sports most amenable to these debates, namely Tennis and Boxing, the true head to head, one on one sports, it’s difficult to assess. Federer vs Sampras in their primes? Djokovic vs Borg? One guy was using a wood racket, who the hell knows how they would have fared if they were in the same era.  Watch Chris Evert lollipop the ball around and think oh god Serena would murder her, but it’s impossible to really know what would have happened if one were transported to the era of the other.

In Boxing there’s many of the same issues, plus there are weight classes, that’s why they have to invent the “pound for pound” title, as if there’s any way to really assess that.  Honestly, if these guys couldn’t come to a consensus how are we supposed to?

The root of this age old debate, the enduring nature of it, is generally just, the guy who i loved in my particular era was the best and better than this new guy that you people love, or this old guy you geezers keep talking about. 

How on earth is someone supposed to have an intelligent conversation about whether Bill Russell was better than Lebron, when 80 percent of us have literally never seen one game Bill Russell played?

Comparing players in the same era is a fraught enough task. Unless they played the same position and were the same type of player, (think maybe Kobe vs Dwayne Wade) then you’re just making stuff up.

But to compare players to guys you never actually saw play? Why?

How bout the next time this debate sparks up you just say something really boring like, Gee i dunno, both players were pretty great, one had  more skill in this area the other a tad more in this area, blah blah blah.  This probably wont get you a PTI spinoff show but it will make a lot more sense.

I saved the best for last. The ultimate fake trump card in these debates. RINGZZZ.  Jordan’s got six, end of discussion.  Brady has 4, end of discussion.

Except it’s not because Russell’s got 11, and Bradshaw has 4 too, and Eli has 2 and Peyton has 1. But you’ll tell me no see that’s different because…..and whatever you say next it doesn’t matter because you’re just making my point for me.

There is no definitive metric, there is no trump card, there are just opinions soaked in personal bias and nostalgia. There’s no such thing as the Greatest of All Time.

13 Thoughts on Friday the 13th

  • Well, Tiger Basketball season is about to tip off – and this blog is still here. So now I’m going to type some words.
  • Just got word that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is out at the end of the year. There are already a lot of great openings that perhaps don’t make sense for Memphis’ head football coach, Justin Fuente. Miami’s culture just doesn’t seem like a fit with Fuente’s style. Southern Cal is considered too good to pass up and while there’s probably truth to that, Fuente isn’t a west coast kind of guy. Does he really want to follow Spurrier at South Carolina or Beamer at VT? For one reason or another, I’m just not sure these, albeit attractive openings, make complete sense for Fuente.
  • On the other hand, Missouri makes sense. Former Memphis Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom is on staff and former Associate AD Wren Baker is part of the administration. Missouri is an SEC job now, and right in the heart of Fuente’s known geographic footprint. Though the SEC is tough, Missouri did win the east in 2 of its first 3 years. I think this is a good job and I think it would probably interest Fuente.
  • I haven’t written much since last basketball season ended. A day job and other responsibilities / distractions got in the way.  This blog is still a nebulous enterprise, but the recent addition of Scott Hirsch as a contributing writer has me reinvigorated – for at least the present moment.  Check out Scott’s piece on why you are stupid.
  • I’m glad I wasn’t trying to write about the Tigers’ 8-1 (so far) football season – because I’m at a loss for words about it. I’m obviously enjoying the hell out of it and though it would have been great to keep the undefeated season going, having been a Tiger football fan for 30 years instills some perspective.
  • So the proper perspective is this: no matter how the next month unfolds, this season has been a clear turning point season for the Memphis football program. Memphis is now (perhaps along with a few others) a clear leader among so called “Group of 5” athletic programs. That’s worth something in the world of conference realignment.
  • On the other hand, Memphis has always seemed a little late to the party and perhaps this is no different. Conference realignment will surely happen again – but in light of recent events at the University of Missouri and in light of the overall instability of the amateur model and in light of the potential downfall of the sports TV model – the future of college athletics has never been murkier.
  • Despite all the uncertainty and upheaval anticipated in college athletics – Memphis is well positioned for future success based on the fact that they finally have a well put-together, successful football program. That wasn’t the case 4 years ago – and it wasn’t clear that it would ever be.
  • The ultimate optimism is that even if Fuente leaves, he’ll leave behind a program that will continue moving forward – a la Boise State after Dan Hawkins (the first coach to have major success there) left.

Now, on to basketball:

  • This is kind of a fun scenario: coach on the hot seat, low expectations, fly under the radar type of stuff. Of course, it only stays fun if the team surpasses said expectations, the coach re-emerges as a legitimate entity and the team shows up on various radars. Obviously, that’s the scenario Josh Pastner seems to be counting on.
  • If I’m looking for a reason to be optimistic (I am), I recall the stretch of basketball at the end of last season without Austin Nichols. Even without their leading scorer (Nichols) the Tigers played some inspired basketball at times- including during a late season win at Gampel Pavillion (UConn). Add McDonalds All American Dedric Lawson to the mix and maybe you’ve got something.
  • I don’t, on the other hand, take much from the quotes about how team chemistry has improved. This is a story that gets sold every year and I simply won’t believe it until I see it. Memphis basketball teams under Josh Pastner have never appeared to have terrific chemistry, even though some of his teams have won alot of games. I attribute this to over-coaching, so we’ll see if this group can play a loose yet determined brand of basketball. It would be a surprise.
  • If I’m looking for reasons to be pessimistic – I look no further than the fact that more than 1/2 of the roster has never played major college basketball before – and several of those pieces were after thoughts in recruiting. Add to that the fact that the returnees are a group that missed the post-season entirely and there’s just not great reason to believe that this is an NCAA tournament team.

 

Sports are Dumb

As we enter the 2015-16 season, remember this: being a fan is silly and sports are dumb.

Now, if you’ve found your way to this site you’re probably a sports fan, and you’re likely a Memphis Tigers fan, so you may find these statements offensive. That’s not my intent. I’m a sports fan, I’m a Memphis Tigers fan. But lets level with each other. Sports are absurd, the rules are arbitrary, and the stakes are made up.

You might counter with an argument about fostering teamwork and learning leadership and becoming part of something greater than yourself, blah blah blah. Sports are distraction, they are entertainment, they are here to make you forget about the daily realities. Being a fan is even crazier, you invest time, emotion and money into people you dont know playing a made up game against other people you dont know. The only real excuse for being a fan of a team is that you were brainwashed into being one at a young age. I hate Tennessee because i was born to people who hated Tennessee.(good, clear thinking people).

Fandom offers you membership into a tribe, a society of people united in a common cause.  But if you’ve been a fan long enough, a real fan, one who invests in a team with no guarantee of reaping dividends, then you’ve no doubt been in a situation where you’ve been devastated by a loss your team incurred. Real emotional devastation.

In a car after the 2008 championship game someone remarked to the rest of us that it felt like a family member had just died, and we all solemnly nodded our heads in assent. What?? What lunacy is this, it’s just a damn game, played by people who dont care about you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, Derrick Rose dont care about you.  So why do we do it? For the high of winning? Perhaps. It’s a great feeling when you invest and are rewarded for your investment, you stand tall and puff your chest out, you’re part of the thing, you revel in the glory.  Maybe it’s cause we love to gamble, the ball is tipped and for the next two hours you don’t know if you’re gonna end up happy or sad, there’s a thrill in that limbo not often found in the drudgery of every day life.

A lot of people have checked out emotionally on the Tigers for this year, and who can blame em? Morale is low, players are jumping ship, recruiting is in the tank, the coach has lost the city, the team is overshadowed by the successful pro franchise, the college game is largely unsightly until the three weeks of March Madness.

But if you’re still out there, living and dying with every win and loss this season, remember this: sports are dumb, being a fan is silly. But thats ok, not everything you do has to make sense, and maybe sports operates outside of the logical universe, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be rewarded with a magical season. (but you probably wont:))

On Film: Revisiting 1999’s American Beauty

I watched American Beauty tonight. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it since the 1999 release, but it had been a while.

It’s hard to fathom that 16 years have passed since the film, which won Best Picture, originally debuted.

American Beauty has aged well.

The characters and their various unhappy struggles are timeless. The overall theme – people struggling to wake up and tell the truth as opposed to merely fitting in and striving for success – still resonates.

That’s probably not an adequate description of the theme, but whatever the theme, it still resonates.

Personally, the strangest thing that’s happened over the 16 years since the film was released is that I’ve gone from identifying with the film’s teenagers (Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, and Mena Suvari) to identifying with the adults – Spacey’s character in particular.

I was 21 in 1999, I’m 37 now.

Spacey’s character, who also narrates the film, is brilliant. He begins with this powerful setup:

Lester Burnham: My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course, I don’t know that yet, and in a way, I’m dead already. Look at me, jerking off in the shower. This will be the highlight of my day. It’s all downhill from here. That’s my wife Carolyn. See the way the handle on those pruning shears match her gardening clogs? That’s not an accident. That’s our neighbor, Jim, and that’s his lover, Jim. Man, I get exhausted just watching her. She wasn’t always like this. She used to be happy. We used to be happy. My daughter, Jane. Only child. Janie’s a pretty typical teenager – angry, insecure, confused. I wish I could tell her that’s all going to pass, but I don’t want to lie to her. Both my wife and daughter think I’m this gigantic loser. And they’re right. I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn’t always feel this — sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.

What struck me tonight is that Burnham’s awakening – which is seemingly in progress as the film opens – is almost entirely driven by sexual frustration. This is intellectually honest. At 21 I thought the opening scene in the shower was a hilarious throwaway, now I realize the sadness and truth of it – and it’s still funny because it’s true.

Burnham’s entire motivation is summed up in an epic moment of dialogue between he and Suvari’s character – who at a minimum represents feminine beauty and youth:

Lester Burnham: So, are you gonna tell me? What do you want?

Angela Hayes: I don’t know. 

Lester Burnham: You don’t know?

Angela Hayes: What do you want?

Lester Burnham: Are you kidding? I want you. I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. 

Angela Hayes: You don’t think I’m ordinary?

Lester Burnham: You couldn’t be ordinary if you tried.

Angela Hayes: Thank you. I don’t think there’s anything worse than being ordinary.

I love this dialogue. I love it so much.

Spacey and Suvari's interchange in American Beauty is just perfect.
Years of self help and analysis can be summed up almost entirely in this one simple image from ‘American Beauty’

First of all, the way Burnham asks the question: So, are you gonna tell me? What do you want? Almost as if he’s asking her to divulge a secret, the secret of what women want. She doesn’t know. She just wants to feel special, not ordinary.

It’s perfect.

So it doesn’t glorify the feminine, but it doesn’t say much for Burnham either. At least not until that point.

Even as he was waking up to the fact that his life was fraudulent, that he was unhappy and that he had wasted many years – Burnham was still driven significantly by his passion for Suvari’s character. Multiple fantasy sequences, and the above exchange, make that perfectly clear.

When Burnham realizes that Suvari’s character is, in reality, a deeply insecure  and inexperienced young woman – his fantasy suddenly dies and he’s left to merely comfort her emotionally. Then, as he discovers his daughter is happy, he realizes he’s truly happy. Then, he dies.

It’s all very symbolic. And awesome.

In 1999 I thought of Burnham as pathetic and slightly perverted. Now, I see him as driven and waking up – first to the reality that his life is worthless, then to the reality that his sexual pursuit (Suvari) isn’t what he thought it was and won’t do for him what he hoped – existentially speaking. And in that moment, he becomes happy.

The other characters – Carolyn Burnham (Annette Benning), Thora Birch (Jane Burnham), Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) and Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) are all fascinating as well. Even Peter Gallagher (Buddy Kane) and Allison Janney (Barbara Fitts) add a lot. Each embodies a struggle common to American society as much today as in 1999. From Benning’s relentless materialism to Birch’s teenage need for authenticity and attention to Cooper’s internalized homophobia, the emotion of the film is gripping.

If you haven’t seen this flick in a while, you might want to revisit it.

If you’ve never seen it – I highly recommend you do.

Exclusive Report: Tagalongs >>>>>>> Thin Mints

My mom loved Thin Mints.

Especially frozen Thin Mints – she’d eat them by the sleeve.

With milk.

With Diet Coke.

With whatever.

She’d order 10, 20, 30 boxes. Green boxes. Thin Mints.

Given her bulk order tendencies, the mint-flavored cookie with a chocolaty coating was a staple in our home from February to not as long as you might think because we went through Thin Mints expeditiously in that house.

Consequently, I can put down some Thin Mints.

This guy just ate 2 sleeves of Thin Mints and might need to seek medical attention.
This guy just ate 2 sleeves of Thin Mints and will likely need to seek medical attention.

I’ve had Thin Mint stomach aches.  A Thin Mint stomach ache is characterized by acute abdominal pain accompanied by a wafer-esque minty aroma exuding from the digestive system.

So I basically grew up thinking Thin Mints were the best Girl Scout cookie.

Thin Mints are soooo good. I love Thin Mints. OH MY GOD THE THIN MINTS ARE HERE!!!! Don’t hog all the Thin Mints. Blah blah blah.

In retrospect, I can now see that this Thin Mint worship was at best misguided and at worst the moral equivalent of childhood religious indoctrination.

I was brainwashed into thinking Thin Mints were the best Girl Scout Cookie.

Not true.


Please don’t misunderstand me. Thin Mints are OK. They’re decent. They’re edible. There’s nothing wrong with Thin Mints, per se.

Actually, I take that back. There is one thing wrong with Thin Mints:

The mint part.

I really don’t need or want mint in my cookie.

I want mint in my toothpaste.

I want mint in my air freshener.

I want mint in my breath mint (see how that works?)

Obscured by their popularity is the fact that Thin Mints kind of suck.
Obscured by their popularity is the fact that Thin Mints kind of suck.

But I never really wanted mint in my chocolate cookie.

I just accepted it.

Thin Mints are the highest selling Girl Scout Cookie – accounting for 25% of overall sales.

Still, they’re overrated.

Do you know why they’re overrated? I’ll tell you why.

Tagalongs.

That’s why.


Holy shit – Tagalongs.

Now that – is a serious cookie.

The Tagalong is a man’s cookie. It’s a woman’s cookie.

The Tagalong is a hermaphrodite’s cookie.

What I’m trying to say is The Tagalong is a good cookie. A very good cookie.

The Tagalong is a crispy vanilla cookie layered with peanut butter and covered with a chocolaty coating.

In other words The Tagalong is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but instead of being a peanut butter cup, it’s a cookie. And instead of having a normal day you’re having the best day of your entire life.

That’s what the Tagalong is all about. The best day of your entire life. 

Goodbye kind of gross mint. Hello peanut butter and bliss.

This is the Tagalong - it's like the Thin MInt except really good instead of merely edible.
This is the Tagalong – it’s like the Thin MInt except really good instead of merely edible.

Today I literally gave away 2 entire boxes of Tagalongs. You know why? Of course you know why. Because if I hadn’t given them away I would have eaten both boxes in one sitting.

Why?

Because Tagalongs. 

That’s why.

If you’re still sticking to the idea that Thin Mints are the best cookie – please stop.

In fact, I’m even willing to say that the Trefoils cookie is better than the Thin Mint.

Trefoils are clearly not as good as the Tagalong – but they’re better than the Thin Mint.


I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking:

Gee Jay, I realize you have a different opinion but I really love the Thin Mints. You’re just stating your opinion and it is subjective. Some people don’t like peanut butter. Some people like mint. You’re being ridiculous. To each his / her own.

Well, I respectfully disagree. In the matter of the Thin Mint vs. The Tagalong I don’t think there’s room for personal preference.

For years, the shoe was on the other foot.

Everyone just insisted the Thin Mint was the best.

Well now the tables have turned.

The Tagalong is the best Girl Scout cookie. Deal with it.


(Edit / Update: Some people have responded to this with mention of Samoas. Samoas have coconut in them. Coconut is disgusting. Therefore Samoas are disgusting.)

November 25th, 2015 | Rocky VII, aka “Creed” to Debut

Well, well, well…lookie what we have here.

Details for the Rocky spin-off, Creed, are beginning to emerge.

The synopsis:

“Adonis Johnson (Actor Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born.  Still, there’s no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa.

“Once in the City of Brotherly Love, Adonis tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer.  Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo—the fierce rival who became his closest friend.  Agreeing to take him on, Rocky trains the young fighter, even as the former champ is battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring.

“With Rocky in his corner, it isn’t long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title… but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?”

Sounds good.

Count me in for opening night.

Vince, from Friday Night Lights is all grown up and starring in the new Rocky-ish project. Also, I miss Coach Taylor badly.
Vince, from Friday Night Lights is all grown up and starring in the new Rocky-ish project. Also, I miss Coach Taylor badly.

It should be noted that Michael B. Jordan played memorable characters in two of the better TV dramas of the past 15 years. He starred as ‘Wallace’ in HBO’s dramatic hit series The Wire, and played star quarterback ‘Vince Howard’ on Friday Night Lights (NBC).

Side note: I really miss Friday Night Lights – especially Coach Taylor.

Coach Taylor is the kind of father nobody’s ever had.

Coach Taylor is the kind of man you dream about being when you dream about being a perfect man.

Coach Taylor is the salt of the earth’s inner core (assuming the inner core is extremely salty).

Anyway – back to Creed. 

Owen Williams over at Empire Online opined that this project feels more like Rocky VII, and less like the spin-off that Stallone has insisted it is going to be.

And that’s a problem because……….?

It’s not a problem.

Rocky VII totally works.

As far as I’m concerned they can make as many Rocky films as they want to.

I’ll watch them all.

Perhaps the final scene of the final movie can be Sylvester Stallone’s actual, real life, death rattle.

I’d buy a ticket.

Play Burning Heart in the background and I think it would make for a terrific scene.

Filming has already begun on this spin-off, er, sequel.

Other cast information, according to Williams:

Tessa Thompson (Selma) is Adonis’ musician love interest Bianca; Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable) is Apollo’s widow Mary Anne Creed; and Brit boxer Tony Bellew is another boxing champ and Adonis’ rival, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan.

No word yet on possible appearances by Clubber Lang’s or Drago’s offspring.

Speaking of Burning Heart, and Apollo dying – here you go (note this video is not the actual placement of this song in Rocky IV – it’s a re-edit):

10 Reasons I Quit Trivia Crack

A few months ago I noticed a friend playing a trivia game on his phone. He solicited my help with the sports questions – which felt good.

He then explained the basics of Trivia Crack to me, in particular the feature that it links to Facebook and allows friends to compete against one another.

I subtly thought it seemed like a good opportunity to show everyone – myself included – how brilliant I am.

Wrong.

So wrong.

I hate Trivia Crack.

I suck at Trivia Crack.

I quit Trivia Crack. 

Here are 10 reasons:

What a shit-eating grin this dude has, huh?
What a shit-eating grin this dude has, huh?

1. The Logo. The Trivia Crack logo guy (left) is a total creep. He has a creepy huge smirk and a creepy pointy head. Plus he’s the first creepy thing I see when I open the app and feel that initial pang of sinking fear in my stomach which is really just my gut telling me: You’re about to get humiliated by your friends and reminded of your own ignorance. Get ready.

2. Not everything is a sports question. Unfortunately for me, there are 5 categories other than sports in Trivia Crack.

Art, Science, Entertainment, History and Geography. 

This variety of non-sports categories works to my disadvantage. Two weeks ago I thought I was pretty smart. Now I realize that beyond sports, and bits of post WWII history – I have about as much stored knowledge as my dog.

3. Sports questions that aren’t sports.

Dear whomever wrote these questions,

Here is a partial list of activities that aren’t really sports – so please stop including them in the sports category: NASCAR, Cricket, anything to do with the Olympics, Baton Twirling, Cycling, Cockfighting, Alpine Skiing. Quidditch. – Thanks. 

Nothing is more frustrating than missing a “sports” question because it’s not really a sports question. I’m not saying some of these things don’t require athleticism, I’m just saying I hate Trivia Crack and I’m never playing it again.

That’s all I’m saying.

(FYI – for example, Football and Basketball are sports, Pickleball is not.)

4. It’s a conspiracy. Allow me to ask one more question about these categories. Who picked them? Who decided art was even important?

The NEA?

Obama?

The left-wing media elite? 

Look, I’m not saying art isn’t important. I like paintings and poetry as much as the next guy, but why is art a more relevant category than, say, Politics or Laws of the United States or Modern Memphis Tiger Basketball or Movie Quotes from Comedies of the 1990’s or Memphis Tiger Basketball Point Guards in the Modern Era? I think we can all agree these category selections are tilted towards people that aren’t me.

Also, can’t art and entertainment be one category? Call it art. 

Also, how about combining geography and science? Call it geography & science.

Works for me.

Sleeping through high school did not set me up to be successful at Trivia Crack.
Sleeping through high school did not set me up to be successful at Trivia Crack.

5. I slept through high school. Trivia Crack has brought me face to face with the fact that for the first 30 years of my life – despite being enrolled in various academic institutions – I learned and retained almost nothing. I do possess a mild intellectual curiosity, but for many years it either wasn’t there or was buried under things like sleep deprivation, exhaustion, just-wanting-to-get-a-C, I’m going to sit here and pretend to listen while reading the sports page, or I’m going to mentally go row by row in this class-room and rank the girls in my head instead of listening to this woman talk about photosynthesis. 

What I’m saying is that learning wasn’t my first priority.

6. The man is keeping me down. Trivia Crack has been downloaded 130m times – and apparently the creators decided to allow their users to buy their way to prosperity. Trivia Crack offers the option of buying advantages such as extra time, the ability to skip questions, eliminate choices, etc… I wasn’t willing to do this. And since I regularly got my ass kicked during my two week stay on Trivia Crack, I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone who beat me did buy advantages. If they tell me otherwise I’m going to choose not to believe them.

7. I feel guilty about cheating. When it got to the point that cheating became a real option, I knew I had to get off of Trivia Crack quickly. There I was, about to lose to someone I really didn’t want to lose to – and my computer was right in front of me – and… 

Why not just see if I can look up the answer in time?

Oh my God am I really about to cheat in Trivia Crack?

Holy crap I’m a pathetic cheating loser.

So yea, I’m going with the theory that other people are cheating too because I can’t be the only person depraved enough to consider it.

This is my dog, Cajun. He knows as much about science, geography, entertainment and art as I do.
This is my dog, Cajun. He knows as much about science, geography, entertainment and art as I do.

8. I don’t like stupid movies. I’m not saying I’m too cultured, or too sophisticated or too whatever to succeed at Trivia Crack. I’m really not. What I am saying is that in a key moment – aka trying to prevent myself from being humiliated –  I got a question about an actor named Clark Gregg. Clark Gregg?

This brings me to my next point.

9. Who is Clark Gregg? I didn’t know the answer to this, apparently because I don’t like comic books. According to the internet, Clark Gregg is best known for his work in The Avengers (2012), Iron Man (2008) and Thor (2011) – all movies adapted from Marvel comics. As in comic books.

Look I’m sure this comic book business is good stuff, but it’s just not my bag. In that sense it’s a lot like science, geography, entertainment, art and much of history. Basically what I’m saying is the totality of human knowledge is pretty much outside my zone of interest.

10. Complete random selection. The Trivia Crack wheel spins in a seemingly random fashion – but like an electronic slot machine you assume there’s pre-determined selection of outcomes. In other words, in Trivia Crack you count on an equal distribution of questions from the various categories. You probably shouldn’t count on it. The other day I got 38,353,000 science questions in a row. Each one about the periodic table or microbiology. I missed them all. I cried.

Apparently there’s some way to exercise greater control over category selection – but I learned that tonight when I was researching this post – 14 hours after I quit the game after multiple consecutive humiliating losses.

So for those reasons, I’m done with Trivia Crack. 

I’m still willing to help other people with sports questions though – but preferably just those having to do with football, basketball and maybe a little baseball – specifically from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Special Report: Panda Express, WAT?

Their attitudes on homosexuality aside, Chick fil A is essentially known for delicious chicken. If I go to my neighborhood Chick fil A – I’m about to eat some tasty chicken.

I rarely go to Burger King – but when I do – I often get a cheeseburger.

At Taco bell, I get tacos.

You see my point.

Not only are the names of these fast food restaurants logical, they’re intuitive.

Taco Bell = Tacos.

Burger King = Burgers.

Chick fil A = Chick(ens).

Simple. Understandable.

So perhaps you can understand my confusion today, the first time I noticed a free standing, fast-food restaurant named Panda Express.

Just in case you can’t imagine what I was thinking, I’ll tell you.

I was thinking: WAT


Pandas are an endangered species, according to Wikipedia:

The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Species. There are about 1,600 left in the wild. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.

There are only 1900 Pandas left in the world.

There are almost as many Panda Express restaurants.

According to our research (Looking up Panda Express on Wikipedia), Panda Express has close to 1,700 restaurants, located in 47 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. As the company does not offer franchises, all units are company-owned.

One would have to assume that a fast food restaurant with this logo would serve Panda Burgers and possibly a Panda Salad.
One would have to assume that a fast food restaurant with this logo would serve Panda Burgers and possibly a Panda Salad.

Many Panda Express units are found in: casinos, shopping malls, toll plazas, supermarkets, airports, train stations, strip malls, theme parks, stadiums and college campuses. It is the USA’s largest American-Chinese restaurant business.

Guam. 

Side note about Guam: Did you know Guam is the largest island in Micronesia?

Side note about Micronesia: Have you ever heard of Micronesia?

Side note about Guam and Micronesia: Did you know Guam was captured by Japan hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor?  For 2.5 years according to our research (looking up Guam on Wikipedia), the people of Guam were subjected to forced labor, torture, beheadings, and rape.

Happy ending to that last, grim, side note: Guam was recaptured by US troops on July 21, 1944.


OK, I have something to admit. I didn’t really think that Panda Express served Panda meat. But for a split second I was disoriented (no pun intended, but thoroughly enjoyed).

Orient. Ed. Get it?

Anyway, you know someone does. Someone does think that Panda Express serves Panda meat.

At least a dozen people do.

Maybe 100.

Maybe 1000.

How many do you think?

I was very confused when I saw a free standing Panda Express Restaurant for the first time.

I’ve seen dozens of Panda Express restaurants – and never really given the name any thought. I’m sure I’ve even eaten at dozens, but I don’t really know.

Why do I not know? Good question. I think the answer is because I’ve been mostly to the aforementioned Panda Express restaurants in airports, train stations, and malls.

In other words, I’ve eaten at Panda Express without making the conscious decision to do so. Involuntary eating. It happens. Especially at airports, malls, casinos and train stations.

These are places – airports, malls, casinos and train stations – when reality, and rules of nutrition, are suspended. These are places – airports, malls, casinos and train stations – where the thinking mind literally goes on hiatus, a sober blackout, where raw instinct takes over.

These are places – airports, malls, casinos and train stations – where the seductive properties of Orange Beef, General Tso’s Chicken and Shrimp Fried Rice anesthetize whatever portion of the mind that is supposed ask questions like:

(a) What is this meal going to do to my intestinal functioning?

(b) How many weeks has that rice been under those heat lamps?

(c) Wait a minute, do they serve Panda meat here? 

So there’s literally zero effective thinking going on at 95% of the Panda Expresses out there.

But today, I saw a free standing Panda express in Memphis, TN – on Winchester Road. It was a game-changer.

Today, it struck me. For a split second I thought – what the f#ck is that? A Panda Express?

There was cognitive dissonance. Clearly, it was a fast food joint – but, what, wait, Pandas, no, what, wait. Oh OK. I get it.

Look, I’m not here to tell the fine folks at Panda Folks how to sell Mandarin Chicken or Cashew Beef or Egg Rolls. They clearly know how to do that. In 2014, The Panda Restaurant Group had annual sales of over $2 billion and close to 25,000 employees. So these cats (pun not originally intended, but still enjoyed. cats. Chinese food, etc…) know a thing or two about Szechuan chicken.

I’m not here to tell these folks they’re doing something wrong.

In fact, I’m not here to really do anything except point out the fact that there’s probably a few people driving by the Panda Express on Winchester right now and thinking to themselves:

Nah, I’m going to go ahead just stick with burgers tonight.” 

For some reason, that makes me happy.

 

80’s Movies, Artificial Intelligence & Early Retirement

A few days ago I mused about the challenges of navigating the Facebook culture for a 37 year old closeted-insane person.

Today, I’d like to take that conversation a step further by discussing flesh eating robots.

I’m not a science fiction guy. Growing up, I didn’t watch Star Wars or The Terminator.  It wasn’t until 2014 that I watched The Matrix. 

Jack be limbo, Jack be quick. Jack go unda limbo stick. All around the limbo clock. Hey, let's do the limbo rock.
Jack be limbo, Jack be quick.
Jack go unda limbo stick. I never got the appeal of the Matrix. 

I could never understand how a Keanu Reeves movie, whose popular images appeared to suggest was about Karate, or the limbo, had everyone so enamored.

Less specifically, science fiction was just too science and too fiction for me. I took a hard pass.

For me and television – it was all comedy or sports. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, The Toy, Stripes, Bill Murray.

That kind of stuff, was the stuff.

Sometimes my sister seized the remote control and I was forced to watch the occasional romantic comedy. I’m not embarrassed to admit I grew to enjoy films of the romcom genre.

Chances Are, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Cybill Shepherd was perhaps my favorite 80’s romcom.  In that particular picture, Robert Downey Jr. is reincarnated and starts dating Mary Stuart Masterson (hot) – whom he eventually realizes is his all-grown-up daughter from his previous life. He then pursues Shepherd – Masterson’s mother and his former true-love.

Hilarity and Peter Cetera / Cher songs ensue.

Factoid: This guy was in every movie ever filmed between 1986-1991.
Factoid: This guy was in every movie ever filmed between 1986-1991.

I recently thought of Chances Are because when Robert Downey, Jr. visits the afterlife – he runs into ubiquitous 80’s character actor Joe Grifasi. Grifasi is an administrator in the afterlife, and he’s typing on something that resembles a celestial Ipad, even though Ipads wouldn’t be officially released for another 20+ years.

All that to say this:

(1) That Peter Cetera / Cher song is really good.

(2) What used to be the future is now the present, i.e. Ipads (if not celestial) are here.

Which brings me, in what surely could have been a smoother transition, to the concept of technological singularity.

Technological singularity is a concept straight out of the future. I hadn’t heard of this concept until last night, until I read this article on a concept called Artificial Intelligence (AI) (it’s actually a series of articles so here’s part 1).

Anyway those links are to 2 long articles on AI. AI, in a simple version, is the basic alarm clock. In a slightly more complex version AI is a driver-less car and in a way-more-complex version it generates scenarios beyond anyone’s capacity to fully understand the ramifications of.

Rather than try to explain what the articles said – I’ll just share this one image (below) from the text and encourage you to read the links if you’re interested.

Basically the articles and the image are suggesting that over the next 20-30 years we are likely to see as much progress in human existence (technological and otherwise) as we saw in the previous 100-200 years.

This explains where we might be in the course of human history. Courtesy waitbutwhy.com.
This explains where we might be in the course of human history. Courtesy waitbutwhy.com.

According to Wikipedia, Technological Singularity:

Is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization in an event called the singularity. Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is an occurrence beyond which events may become unpredictable, unfavorable, or even unfathomable.

Let me be clear – I’m not of the belief that flesh hungry robots are going to kill the human species – though that’s clearly a possibility that educated people entertain. Nevertheless – I’m not afraid of that. Life has always scared me more than death anyway.

How I’m going to die scares me a little, but again, that’s part of life – not death.

If my death is ultimately caused by flesh eating human robots – In some ways I’d consider it an honor.

Hey, I lived long enough that when I was a kid Ipads were part of a futuristic movie with the guy from Brewster’s Millions and an awesome Cher / Peter Cetera song, and now, as an adult, I’m being eaten alive by a flesh eating robot.

That would be quite a lifetime.


Please don’t think I’m some sort of science fiction conspiracy freak.

I might be, but please don’t think that. I’m not ready for that image.

My point – one of them anyway – is that I have read enough about The Internet of Things (IOT) and Google X to be open minded to the idea that humanity is on the precipice of some major, mind blowing alterations in our way of life.

Of course, there’s no real point dwelling on it. We’ll be there when we get there if we get there. Right now, we’re here.

Besides, there, the articles on AI make clear, can’t even be comprehended.

Look, it would be really cool if robots were cheap and smart enough to obviate the need for me to have a job – and for that technology to emerge before my savings account gets depleted 10% further – i.e. around April.

So that’s probably not going to happen.

And I’m not really part of that solution, anyway. After all, I’ve always been terrible at science and math. My only real skill in academia was writing papers loaded with bullshit. Blogging foreshadowed. But there were no blogs in 1989 – just imaginary celestial Ipads.

The reason any of this futuristic-science stuff has my attention, is attributable to something I read in another field of study. Last year, I came across a quote from a German-born American mathematician and electrical engineer named Charles P. Steinmetz (1865-1923). Apparently Steinmetz did a lot of the work leading to the development of the electric motor.

Nice work on that electric motor Steinmetz. I wrote an article on staring at women’s asses – so I’m not sweating it.

Anyway, for whatever reason, Steinmetz was quoted in Paramahansa Yogananda’s classic Autobiography of a Yogi. That book, which according to Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Steve Jobs directed be handed out to each attendee of the memorial service following his 2011 death, was published in 1946 and tells the life story of a young man born in Gorakhpur, India. The young man eschewed traditional studies in favor of more “spiritual” practices (meditation, prayer, etc..) and dedicated his life to spiritual pursuits. He eventually became a U.S. based monk (Yogananda) with notoriety in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He met with Ghandi, Calvin Coolidge and many others.

Anyway – Steinmetz (the electrical engineer) was once asked what line of research, in his opinion, would see the greatest development in the future (he was actually asked about the next 50 years, so it’s possible his timing was off or that he answered the question indirectly). His answer:

I think the greatest discovery will be made along spiritual lines. Here is a force which history clearly teaches has been the greatest power in the development of men. Yet we have merely been playing with it and have never seriously studied it as we have the physical forces. Someday people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in making men and women creative and powerful. Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of God and prayer and the spiritual forces which as yet have hardly been scratched. When this day comes, the world will see more advancement in one generation than it has seen in the past four.

What intrigues me is that Steinmetz, an electrical engineer, in a book promoted by the greatest technology inventor of our time, is basically saying similar things about the exponential nature of coming human advancement as these AI futuristic scientists. Both Steinmetz and the AI folks acknowledge that the extreme scenarios of AI project the emergence of some type of all knowing power.

That’s heavy stuff. And fun to talk about – but I’m here. Now.

I need an affordable robot more intelligent than me in the next 6-8 weeks. (Photo courtesy of Wired,com).
I need an affordable robot more intelligent than me in the next 6-8 weeks. (Photo courtesy of Wired,com).

What’s now? Now is 1:44am and that alarm isn’t being pushed back. I haven’t even taken my shoes off yet or switched my laundry. I don’t have a human intelligence level robot. I need power. I have a Google Chromebook at 41% battery. None of my food or clothing or driving or dog-walking is yet automated. So I’m going to have to do all that shit tomorrow. Today.

There’s a lot more that I want to say – but something’s telling me not to. So for now I’ll leave you with that Cher / Peter Cetera song:

On Music – A Movie Script Beginning

Spencer Plan is a guest contributor to BBALLJONES.com on the topics of Music & EPL. You can follow him on Twitter @barsandkaps.


 

One has to drive an hour and a half north from Seattle to reach Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham, like many small towns, employs itself. A hospital, a school district and a university employ thousands. The university that resides in Bellingham is Western Washington University. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Western Washington, as it’s one of those schools where the in-state students make up over 90% of the enrollment. But Bellingham and Western Washington University fascinate me. Because from this small town and never-heard-of school came Death Cab For Cutie (DCFC).

Sportscasters frequently mention how Clayton Kershaw (Pitcher – LA Dodgers) and Matthew Stafford (Quarterback – Detroit Lions) grew up together and were on the same youth sports teams. They mention this as if it’s some great coincidence – that skilled youth athletes end up on the same team. Structurally and communistically, this is how sports are supposed to work. Get the good players on the same team to play teams that are just as good or better so that everyone improves. I’d be more surprised if Kershaw and Stafford weren’t on the same teams. They are obviously both great athletes who got noticed and joined teams with the best coaches and most motivated parents. The system worked.

What brought Gibbard and Walla together????
What brought Gibbard and Walla (pictured) together????

But how does it work with musicians in a band? How do the talented musicians find each other? Representatively, how did Benjamin Gibbard (Vocals – DCFC) and Chris Walla (Guitar – DCFC) find each other in a small, college-town in Washington. Now, not everyone will agree that these guys are talented or that their finding each other was a good thing. But let’s put that aside and acknowledge that DCFC is a commercial success and are known far beyond Bellingham.

DCFC started as a solo project by Gibbard. The first cassette, You Can Play These Songs with Chords, was all him. Gibbard could’ve kept going it alone, but he determined it best to add some bandmates. Enter Walla, Nick Harmer (Bass – DCFC) and a drummer who would ultimately be replaced. While Gibbard is the face and would likely have had success as a solo artist, his good fortune of Walla being at his college of 12,000 probably turns DCFC from hobby into career.

Walla’s value to DCFC goes beyond standard guitar player, he has produced most of their albums. While that inside-job might not seem impressive, take a look at this wiki page. He’s also produced for The Thermals, Nada Surf and Telekinesis; other artists appreciate his talents. And this guy just happened to be at the same small college as Gibbard.

I’m excited for the new DCFC album, but I’m concerned for their future. Walla retired from the band last year. Though he plays on the new album, he didn’t produce it and he won’t be touring with them. See them now, the writing may be on the walla.

On Facebook, Stalking, & Ralph Waldo Emerson

He’s all wrong for us, baby. I saw you beat that man like I never saw no man get beat before, and the man kept coming after you. Now we don’t need no man like that in our lives.
–Duke to Apollo, in Rocky II as they considered a rematch with Rocky Balboa.

Facebook and I have a toxic relationship and I’m the problem.

We first got together in 2009.

It was wrong from the beginning.

Facebook notifications - red icons with numbers inside - have the power to ruin my life.
Facebook notifications – red icons with numbers inside – produce a false sense of power dangerous to insane people.

Personal struggles – euphemism for manifested insanity – in my mid-20’s left me isolated from friends as I attempted to redefine myself – euphemism for futile avoidance of admitting insanity characterized by a surface level self-reorganization designed to convince people that I’ve changed. 

Facebook allowed me to introduce the new me to the world and derive a temporary sense of power from little red dots. For those of you not on Facebook, when someone likes a post or wants to be your friend or comments on something you posted, you are notified by the arrival of a little red dot on your Facebook page.

Perhaps they should change the little red dots to little tan crack rocks.

Though I’ve actually never smoked crack and am therefore somewhat hesitant to employ the metaphor, that’s essentially what the red dots are.

Side note: The new me was exactly the same as the old me, only this time in a different city doing below average, long form amateur improvisational comedy. Look at me! I’m creative! Oh, and the new me wore hip clothes from Urban Outfitters. Look at me! I’m in skinny jeans and an ironic Coco Puffs t-shirt!

Look at me, I’m writing a blog!

Not that there’s anything wrong with Urban Outfitters, per se.

Other side note: By the world, I mean approximately 200 people out of 7,125,000,000. In other words, an infinitesimally tiny sliver of the actual world.

Facebook allowed me to show 200 people how ironic my t-shirts are.
Facebook allowed me to show 200 people how ironic my t-shirts are thus inducing them to like me.

Another benefit / death trap of Facebook is that it allows a dangerously deep level of access to a pool of acquaintances. For a guy who has always been more comfortable finding a girlfriend / hostage / wife in the friend zone, Facebook is way better than Tinder.

I just disclosed a state secret.

Within a few weeks of joining Facebook, I was “dating” an old friend. Status change!!!

Within a year, we were “engaged.” Status change!!!

Within 2, we were “married.” Status change!!!

Within 5, we were “divorced.” Status change!!!

In the meantime, I had gotten off Facebook- then back on – and then off again.

A few weeks ago, I got back on Facebook for the 3rd time.

What the hell?


What possesses someone, other than a stalker, to get on Facebook 3 separate times?

Let me address the stalking thing real quick.

The guy in this picture appears to be a "full stalker" as opposed to someone with stalking tendencies.
The guy in this picture appears to be a “full stalker” as opposed to someone with stalking tendencies.

I’m not a full stalker. I do, however, have some stalking tendencies.

What’s the difference?

Mostly my own resistance to admitting I’m a stalker, but indulge me please.

For example, I’ll stalk someone’s Facebook page. Why not? That’s what it’s there for, right? But I don’t put spyware on their computers or anything. Full stalkers use spyware.

And I’ve even been known to do a nostalgic drive by an ex’s house. Which, after I typed that suddenly seemed creepier than when I did it. But it’s not like I waited in the bushes. Full stalkers wait in the bushes.

And OK, I’ve read some emails that weren’t addressed to me. But they were left open. It’s not like I hacked into the computer or anything. Full stalkers hack into the computer.

Subtle distinctions, perhaps. But nobody wants to be a stalker so please allow me to also point out that I’ve never  (a) tapped anyone’s phones, (b) waited in the shadows of a parking garage, (c) set up surveillance cameras or (d) boiled a bunny rabbit.

I’m capable of most of those things – but pride and good fortune have kept me safe thus far.

So again, other than being a full stalker, what would provoke someone to get off Facebook twice – and then back on again twice?

The first question – in my case – is actually pretty easy to answer.

Pathetic, deluded, fearful self-righteousness.

When I close my account I can announce to the world my moral superiority.  I am suddently off Facebook.

The unoriginal I’m off of Facebook Rant: Now hear this!  Facebook is purely ego. It’s a bunch of people seeking approval. Pathetic self aggrandizing. Transparent. Shallow. Disgusting. Makes me sick. People showing only the surface of their life to make themselves feel better about their pathetic desperate lives. Facebook is a bunch of judgmental, fake, amateur philosophers, amateur theologians, political pundits, relationship experts. ex wives and girlfriends, attention and intrigue seekers. Predators. 

But there’s a problem.

Back in the real, non Facebook world, I’m judgmental. I’m fake. I’m an amateur philosopher, an amateur theologian, an amateur political pundit. I’m a relationship expert, an ex, an attention and intrigue seeker. I’m a predator.

I make me sick.

I’m a pretty big hypocrite.

Getting off Facebook doesn’t change any of that. It doesn’t change who I really am.

Actually most of the time I’m on Facebook, I don’t fully show this side of myself. I don’t fully participate. I hold back. I’m more of a lurker. A tendency stalker.

Being a tendency stalker is perhaps the greatest facade of all.

So as an admitted amateur philosopher, allow me to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

If Ralph Waldo Emerson were alive he'd see right through my bullshit.
If Ralph Waldo Emerson were alive he’d see right through my bullshit.

So despite my protestations about the evils of Facebook (what I say), I always get back on Facebook (what I do).

Why? Why do I always get back on God Damned Facebook?

For all the wrong reasons, mostly. For the little red dots and the sense of power they produce. For self-aggrandizement (Read my new blog!). For predatory purposes (leads on the next status change – entering through the friend zone). For tendency stalking, a new term just coined to indicate stalking behavior that does not rise to the level of full stalking.

Oh – and did you know you actually have to have a Facebook account to sign up for Tinder?

So there’s that too.

But again, for friend-zone tendency stalkers, Facebook is better than Tinder.


I think I’ll stay on Facebook a while this time. My pride can’t stomach another obviously self-righteous quit. I can’t risk feeling compelled to jump in for the 4th time.

Maybe I’ll even quit lurking and let loose with a few dog pictures. Maybe I’ll “like” things without restraint and post some wise, philosophical text images that I pull off a Google search (like the images for this blog entry). Maybe I’ll make a political post about how both parties suck. That’ll show them. Maybe I’ll talk about my day. Maybe I’ll make a vague reference to some vague personal crisis that nobody cares about.

These are crack rocks, which studies may one day prove to be less addictive than Facebook red like dots.
These are crack rocks, which studies may one day prove to be less addictive than Facebook red like dots.

It’ll be worth it, if people genuinely like it!

I’ll certainly keep posting links to BBALLJONES.com – because after all, look at how creative I am!

But here’s the thing – maybe it’s all OK. Maybe it’s just 2015 and Facebook, which can certainly reveal egotism, can also deliver from that prison.

Maybe Facebook and I are settling into a better rhythm.

Maybe it can work out after all.


 

UPDATE: 10 minutes after posting this, nobody had liked it.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: After a few people started liking it, I felt guilty for manipulating them into liking it. So please only like it if you actually like it.