What if We Did Away With Endings?

True Backlash.

True Backlash.

What’s the ending?  This has to be up there among the most terrifying puzzles for any writer.  You can create great characters, great suspense, themes, imagery, and comedy, but you’ve still got to put a bow on the damn thing.  The better the build, the better people expect the ending to be.  And yet, how many endings do we actually enjoy?  From TV shows, to books, to movies, how often do you really say, “That ending blew me away.”  

The first time I remember ending backlash was with the Sopranos.  I didn’t watch the Sopranos while it was actually on, and am still not anything close to a superfan, but I watched that finale while it unfolded, because it was a cultural phenomenon.  Like I said, I’m not a big enough fan to critique the ending, but when millions of people think their cable went out–you’re probably going to have a problem.  We live in a world where people get angry about these things.  Maybe only virtually, and on superficial levels, but the angst is palpable.  

The latest reviled ending came from HBO’s True Detective.  True Detective started as a show without much buzz, gained some steam when a very good-looking woman chose to remove her shirt and then rode the Matthew McConaughey Oscar train to the front of the public conscience.  As it turned out, True Detective was the worst kind of show for ending haters, because it was analyzed into dust.  Obsessives with time on their hands and bones to make, expounded theories, found connections and symbols a casual viewer would overlook and created a list of questions the show never had any hope of answering.  

So, when the show ended last night with Hart and Cohle getting a man, not necessarily THE MAN, and then kind of stumbling into the darkness as each other’s crutch, it set off waves of internet anger.  WHO IS THE YELLOW KING? What about Maggie’s parents?  WHERE WAS THE TWIST?  The ending, especially the last 15 minutes was anti-climatic, but I don’t know how it wouldn’t have been.  The show was called True Detective, not Choose Your Own Voodoo Adventure.  

This isn’t to say I loved the ending, or that I felt especially sated with how things played out.  In truth I was a bit underwhelmed, underwhelmed with the boat interrogation right up through the climax at “Carcosa.”  I saw it coming, though.  The greatness, if you want to call it that, of this show was in the buildup.  It was the dialog, the interplay between Harrelson and McConaughey.  The best part of this show was always going to be the pursuit, not the collar. And, that’s why I think I would have been better off not watching the final episode, or at least turning it off after that bullet connected with Errol’s dome.  

In contrast to True Detective the recent end of another rabidly followed show, Breaking Bad, was much more well-received.  Unlike True Detective, Breaking Bad didn’t have a lot of open questions left at the end.  It was a final season that spent a lot of time answering the question, “Who is going to survive this?”  By the finale, not many characters were left standing, a real twist seemed impossible.  And, Breaking Bad did us the favor of tying up many of the loose ends, if not all of them.  So, it was a good finale in the sense it didn’t leave unanswered questions, but is that how we really rate things?  

There seems to have been a movement toward the open-ended ending.  Years back, I don’t remember watching many movies and thinking, “wait that’s it?”  Now, every third movie I watch I’m a little surprised to see the credits roll. And, with books it’s even worse.  I expect newer books I read now to just gently fade into the middle.  No big lesson, surprise or twist.  A lot of books are glimpses into a world and then suddenly someone turns the lights off.  

At first I thought this was terrible.  I want my neat ending.  But, I’m thinking that neat might actually be boring and not that satisfying anyway.  Has any comedy movie ever been made where the final twenty minutes are the funniest? Think of your favorite comedy and then ask yourself whether you liked the first half or the second half better.  I think we have been conditioned to want the great ending.  Many movies I’d list among my favorites have very satisfying endings.  Shawshank Redemption.  Scent of a Woman.  An array of sports movies, but maybe we should look at these as the exception.  

I say all this knowing that I’d never skip out on the finale of a show I actively watch.  Mad Men is eventually going to end and that ending will be a cloudy mess of innuendo at best and I’ll probably hate it, but I’m going to watch.  What I really want is to watch the first few seasons in perpetuity.  That’s the world I want to peek in on.  I’d rather watch 75 episodes from the 60s than watch someone try to piece together what SHOULD happen with Don Draper and Company in the 70s.  

It makes me think a bit of The Simpsons, because even though that show has been running for decades now and I don’t know a soul that has watched it in ten years, part of the reason why it was so good in the beginning was because it wasn’t going anywhere.  The characters were static and each episode was just a look into their world.  It definitely has kept the show going as well, because I don’t think Bart at 35 years old holds an audience, but even on an animated series that’s been running for twenty-five seasons, I’m sure there are still a FEW people out there who are expecting a certain ending for The Simpsons when it finally ends, if it ever ends.  

I just wonder if they shouldn’t be, or if we shouldn’t be so demanding of our endings.

Alternate Viewing Guide: Thanksgiving Edition.

In Case You Are Sick of Football AND The Godfather Trilogy.

In Case You Are Sick of Football AND The Godfather Trilogy.

Certain people feel obligated to watch football on Thanksgiving.  Maybe it is some high school rivalry game they’ve been to for the last 30 years, maybe it’s the NFL, but football has branded itself with Thanksgiving.  So, you’ll probably end up watching a bit even if you think football is dumb and “don’t really get the rules.”  Of course, not all Thanksgiving football slates are made equal, and this year feels especially repulsive.  Green Bay at Detroit should have been the game of the day, but with no Aaron Rodgers, it loses a lot of its appeal.  It still might be the best contest, though, as Dallas/Oakland should be ugly and Baltimore/Pittsburgh is about two years past its expiration date.  I strongly encourage you to follow the advice below if can’t stomach another second of football.  For the sake of originality, I will not list the Godfather this year.  Just know that it’s going to be on.  Probably all day.

12:00-1:00 PM–The National Dog Show, NBC

As you probably read I went to this event a couple of weeks back and now is your chance to not see me on television. Despite my offer, I was not asked to sit-in as a guest commentator.  Starting at 12:30, football is going to be on for about 10 straight hours, so this will get you in the proper, competitive frame of mind.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Dr. Phil, OWN.  Dr. Phil is the absolute worst.

1:00-2:00 PM–Wild Russia, Animal Planet

Judging by the description, this is an hour of watching Polar Bears.  If you need more enticement than that, you are probably dead inside.  If all animals were able to domesticated, and could live comfortably, and you know…not accidentally maul you to death, a polar bear would be in my top-5 of animals to just have “around.”

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, E!  I’m not above reality TV, but I’m above this.

2:00-3:00 PM–Cliffhanger, Sundance

Of all of the implausible roles that Sly Stallone played (Rambo, Rocky, Demolition Man) and of all the ridiculous things those characters pulled off, I’m not sure that there is anything more ridiculous than Sylvester Stallone: Rock Climber.  Just an amazingly horrible and watchable film.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Top 100 House Party Songs Part 9, Fuse.  You’d probably be lost if you missed the first 8 parts.

3:00-4:00 PM–Family Feud, Game Show Network

I’m assuming this is classic Feud and not Steve Harvey Feud.  If you don’t see Richard Dawson, turn back to Cliffhanger.  Dawson was a perverted master.  He’ll kiss you, ON THE MOUTH, at any moment.  Let it happen.  Also, the Feud is great for sporadic attention spans and audience participation.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Star Trek Next Generation, BBC.  I’d love to hear a defense of any Star Trek vehicle.  Just kidding.

4:00-5:00 PM–Property Brothers, HGTV

Who doesn’t love the property brothers?  I’m sure this show is a total scam, but it feels like the show to get on, because they get you a good deal on a house and then they renovate the damn thing for you.  All you have to do is waffle on a few decisions and act exasperated a few times.  Sign me up.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Beverly Hills, 90210, Soap.  Not on the Pilgrims’ Day.

5:00-6:00 PM–The World Series Of Poker, ESPN

Dinner should be over, people should be getting sleepy and/or tipsy, it’s the perfect time get the juices flowing for some games of chance.  It isn’t a holiday without some cutthroat family game time.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Sponge Bob Squarepants, Nick.  Isn’t everyone’s kid watching this crap on their iPads at this point?  Free up the TV.

6:00-7:00 PM–Pawn Stars, History

You just won all that money off your family, how about a Civil War belt buckle to complete your collection.  I’ve been through a Pawn Stars phase, a Storage Wars phase, an American Pickers phase and a Duck Dynasty phase.  Pawn Stars seems to have the longest shelf life.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch: The Andy Griffith Show, TV Land.  Your parents will defend Andy Griffith like you’ll defend Seinfeld in 20 years.

7:00-8:00 PM–Con Air, Random Cinemax.

I took a bit of a shot at Stallone earlier, of course some of Nic Cage’s roles make Sly look like Daniel Day Lewis. There’s plenty to love here, from the ridiculous premise, to the horrible Cage accent, but Thanksgiving is a time for nostalgia.  Remember when Nic Cage was a movie star?  Remember when you saw horsebleep like this in the theater?

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Reba, CMT.  I’m mostly against genre crossover.  Singers sing/actors act, etc.

8:00-9:00 PM–Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, ABC.

You know, unless you don’t love America.

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch: Billy Madison, IFC.  Someone’s got to say it–Billy Madison isn’t funny anymore.  Sorry.

9:00-10:00 PM–Friday Night Lights, ESPN Classic.

I think I would actually rather watch this movie (for the 9th or 10th time) than the Steelers and Ravens play live. Even though I know that Mojo isn’t going to get in on that last drive against Dallas Carter, part of me thinks this could be the year?

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch:  Glee, Fox.  People that like Glee don’t even like Glee anymore, right?

***

Ok, that takes you to 10 pm.  At that point you should be pulling down the covers and calling it a night.  Or having a conversation with your granny, or eating your 22nd piece of pie–just no more TV.  We’ll see you Friday, Happy Thanksgiving.

Jean Short Open 2013–I Lost the Belt.

Your New Champions.

Your New Champions.

What can you say about the JSO that hasn’t already been said?  It’s pure sporting spectacle.  But in the past couple of years, we’ve also realized that it may be the most evenly matched golf contest in all the land.  It took 20 holes to decide the historic 2012 version, and this year it seemed like extra holes were possible again until Stars & Stripes up there made the putt of his loving life on the 18th green.  It was a well-deserved and emotional win, especially for Haas, who takes ownership of the championship belt buckle for the 1st time.  You could say he was born to wear it, and his general intoxication–with life, with Coors Light, with the result–on the 18th green made it hard for the losing team to feel too bad about themselves.  But, it still stings.  The accessories closet is a bit barren.  Speaking of which…

Second Place (of Two).

Second Place (of Two).

Before we get into the rundown (I think I’ll do hole-by-hole this year), it’s important to note that Pickering is in uncommonly bad shape.  You really should never, ever go play that golf course.  It’s not in “HAHA bad shape,” it’s borderline unplayable. The rumor that “The Pick,” is about to be shutdown was denied in the clubhouse, but the course conditions could lead you to believe otherwise.  Scary day for the JSO, and a sad day for those with deep-rooted feelings of Chester County golf nostalgia.

1st Hole–The first hole is a spot for ceremonial pictures, we usually get our weirdest looks as well.  The course was certainly more crowded this year.  More eyes took in the show.  A single college player asked us right before we went off, “Mind if I go ahead–you guys look…pretty serious.”  Fire away young man!  Team 3PT/Rando would win the 1st when Stars and Stripes 3 putted from about 12 feet.  Not foreshadowing.

2nd Hole–The 2nd Hole is closest to the pin/furthest to the pin must drink a beer.  The winning team drank, there was another 3-putt, this one for a halve and we moved to the 3rd tee still 1-up.

3rd Hole–Three is where the modified shamble really takes hold.  Haas hit the green in “1″ and proceeded to make birdie to square the match.  Walking off the green I said, “We’ve got a horserace with 15 holes to go.”  I was dead-on.

4th Hole–I panic when i realize I haven’t put on any sunscreen and I’m playing golf without a hat on for the first time in maybe 30 years.  That’s just an aside.  But, on the 4th hole we try to get a perfect shot of everyone at impact on the tee.  This has never worked.  Until…

245 Right Down the Middle.

245 Right Down the Middle.

5th Hole–I think we halved the 4th?  It’s not important.  The 5th hole is long drive/short drive drinks a beer.  The 5th is also where Haas hit a car last year (on the bounce/no injuries), but at 375 yards, dead downhill–you don’t want to leave the driver in the bag.  Everyone missed safely left off the tee.  Then Haas’ shot from the left rough went sailing toward the street. I calmly said, “That’s over the road.”  The ball then hit the street about 2 inches from a car.  We lost the hole–I probably 3 putted.

6th Hole–Putters only Par-3.  Sounds fun, and it is.  At almost 200 yards, it’s a long putt.  Rando lasered one down there to about 40 yards and we easily made four from there.  Cakewalk city.  Back to all square.

7th Hole–High water mark for Team Rando/3PT.  After a big drive I coaxed in a 40 foot birdie putt which set off a wild celebration on the green.  Rando, “Was that the longest putt you’ve ever made.”  Me:  “No.  Maybe.”

8th Hole–Let’s just say we followed up that putt with the quote, “I think that’s the worst shot I’ve ever seen Gross hit.”  It was also my first “negative one” for a truly horrible shot.  Pretty embarrassing.  In my defense, it’s not that easy to play golf in suspenders.  Of course, Haas was in overalls.   We lose the hole–back to all square.

9th Hole–Don’t really remember.  We halved it.  Just a race to get to the clubhouse at this point, get some calories back in the system.  Non-liquid calories, that is.

10th Hole–Reverse Shamble.  Playing from the worst ball, both teams have to re-tee after hitting the ball out of play.  From the JSO approved drop zone, I hit one to 4 feet, then miss the putt.  We’re still tied.  I’m starting to think about missed opportunities?  No, still confident.

11th Hole–We lose control of the JSO thanks to another bogey from the middle of the fairway.  Somewhere around this point, Stars & Stripes finds the zone, the perfect BAL?  Whatever it is, he starts playing steady performer to Haas’ erratic greatness.

12th Hole–One down, Rando and I both miss the green from 60? 50? 38 yards?  And, we begin arguing with each other.  I’m not sure about what.  Who was playing worse?  I think I said, “My partner can’t hit a chip shot.”  Then he said, “Whose drive got us down there?”  Then we were fine.  Somehow the hole was halved.

13th Hole–We get back to even after the winners can’t locate either of their tee shots.

14 Hole–We go right back to one behind thanks to a 7 (net 4 birdie) from Haas.  This included two swings and misses, the 1st of which was rewarded a (-1) great shot point.  It may be of note that at this point, Haas’ posture has started to noticeably change.  He’s really getting down there with his ball at this point.  Getting personal….

Not Textbook, but Effective.

Not Textbook, but Effective.

15th Hole–One club only.  Last year on this hole I made a par with just my 7-iron.  For some reason I switch to 8-iron this year, but still manage to hit the green in 2 shots.  We have a decided edge until Stars & Bars knocks one in for the halve from about 12 feet with his something-iron.  Is there destiny involved in this?  Still one down.

16th Hole–Beer Par.  Haas is the only player who has ever successfully tried or completed a beer par (three beers) on the Par 3 sixteenth hole.  But, as we drove to the tee, both teams plotted their strategy.  Not willing to go dormie two, we decided we at least needed to threaten Beer Par.  Somehow I got nominated for this.  I actually got off to a good start before Rando knocked it to about 10 feet with his damn driver from 145.  Shot of the Day!  I scaled off of beer par, Haas completed it easily and the hole was tied in threes.

17th Hole–Down one, I decide it’s time to put a tee through the cap of a water bottle and hit off that.  There is some discussion over whether this is wise, considering the situation, but it feels like the only thing to do.  17 is pretty generous off the tee, an embarrassing, short par-5 and we managed to get one down there and win the hole.  ALL SQUARE.

*Unfortunately I was not able to upload the video of this shot, or any of our other fine videos.  I will work on that.

18th Hole–Here we go.  For the record, I still feel like we’re going to win, but there is no hard evidence to support that feeling.  Eighteen, contrary to some other holes at Pickering is ALMOST a real hole.  It’s probably 400 yards.  A bit uphill.  Both teams were fine off the tee, but true to the day’s form, Rando and I both missed the green while Stars and Stripes connected.  No offense, but this was one of the 13 most unlikely GIRs in golf history.  This is what we were up against.  So, I go up there and chip to about 20 feet (terrible).  Rando’s in his pocket, because remember–he can’t chip at all and it looks like Kev, there I said it, his name is Kev has two comfortable putts for the win.  Until he rolls the first one 12 FEET PAST.  New life?  Nope, he calmly drained it.  Everyone fought back tears.  I took off the belt and another JSO was in the books…

Few More Shots…

From The Payne Stewart Denim Collection.

From The Payne Stewart Denim Collection.

Textbook Ball Position

Textbook Ball Position

I Wonder How the Crops Are Doing?

I Wonder How the Crops Are Doing?

How Long is the the Perfect TV Series?

Say Goodbye to The Office (Finally?)

Say Goodbye to The Office (Finally?)

Tonight is the last episode of The Office.  In its second year without Steve Carell, the show (never the most watched) has become an afterthought.  But when things end, people always take notice and tend to reflect on the good times.  Personally, I still enjoy an occasional episode of the show, but I acknowledge that it is a shell of its former self.  When the series debuted, with the famous “Diversity Day,” episode, it wasn’t like anything we’d seen on American television.  Forget that it was an almost carbon copy of the British episode.  This was way before anyone in the States gave a bleep about British TV.  The overwhelming feeling I had when I watched the show at the beginning was it made me uncomfortable.  You wanted to look away, or turn the channel at some of the jokes, but it certainly produced a reaction.  Of course, it eventually become cool to watch The Office, precisely for that reason.  It wasn’t your typical sitcom.  

But nine years can really dull your edge.  Especially when the inherent drama has all been resolved.  Jim and Pam are together.  Michael is off in Colorado.  Even Creed is becoming more normal.  There’s no question that The Office overstayed its welcome, almost every successful show does, but the question is, how long is too long?  How long is not long enough?  This fall, we’ll see the return of Arrested Development–a show that many people would say ended far too early.  But you could debate that, considering the show never got passable ratings.  

So, I’m going to try to figure out the perfect number of years.  A sampling…

TWO YEARS–TOO SHORT.  Example:  Party Down.  

Party Down was an amazing show.  Too bad it only lasted two seasons and a robust 20 episodes.  Part of the problem?  It was on Starz.  The show may still be on the air if it had started on HBO, but its cancellation has allowed Adam Scott to move on to Parks & Rec, Jane Lynch to Glee, and Lizzy Caplan to any number of things.  More proof that it ended to early?  A movie version is allegedly being written.  

FIVE YEARS–TOO SHORT.  Example: The Wire.  

The Wire churned out sixty episodes.  Which isn’t a ton, but if you consider that each episode was usually a solid hour, you’re talking about the viewing equivalent of about 150 episodes of a sitcom.  What The Wire was able to do was to keep introducing new characters and story lines.  For the most part, any episode of The Wire could have been the last one for your favorite character.  While some people might say that they’d happily watch 12 seasons of The Wire, I think they got it almost right.  

NINE YEARS– TOO LONG.  Example: Seinfeld.  

I guess you know a series went on to long when they produce a finale like Seinfeld.  Does anyone like this finale?  It has some value, but to me it was always like they just ran out of ideas.  I will still watch a Seinfeld in syndication–unless it’s the finale.  It’s not a terrible episode, but you just feel like a show that good should have ended better.  Or at least it should have ended sooner.  

TEN YEARS–TOO LONG.  Example: Two and a Half Men.

Can I admit that I watched and (kind of) liked this show in the beginning?  I might lose the last of my seven readers with that statement.  I don’t know, when the show started Charlie Sheen was less crazy, the kid was chubbier–it wasn’t bad.  But Two and a Half Men has violated a major rule.  You can’t change the cast.  As soon as you replace a character–TOO LONG.  There are plenty of examples:  Three’s Company, Fresh Prince, Roseanne.  It just tells the audience, “We’re milking this.”  

As I go through a list of shows, it seems like many died in that 8-10 year range and most were past their prime.  The Cosby Show?  Was Theo even in the last season?  Was Cockroach?  It may have been all Olivia.  I just watched the 1st season of Cheers (Great), but that went on for 11 seasons.  NO.  Are you a Friends man?  10 years.  Too long.  

So, my conclusion is this.  The perfect length for a TV show is six or seven years.  I guess I’ll decide after Mad Men season 7 next year.  Oh my god, there are only about 20 Mad Men left.  The horror.  

 

Filling the NFL Void: Lessons From the New York Times Best Seller List

You Don't Need John Nash to Find The Pattern.

You Don’t Need John Nash to Find The Pattern.

I mentioned this in my post-Super Bowl comment, but it seems like a predominate theme of the last few days has been, “Life ends the day after the Super Bowl.”  It makes some sense from a sports fans’ perspective.  February can feel like a black hole.  Unless you like regular season action in the LESSER sports, we’re months away from some real drama.  I don’t really subscribe to this theory.  Am I less of an NFL fan than others?  Less of a man?  Maybe, but after that 4.5 hour game on Sunday, I’m OK with the NFL heading into its off-season.  But it is a long time until April, when we’ll get the Masters, the Final Four, and the start of baseball season.  What to do in the meantime?

One of my thoughts is that I could actually spend less time glued to the television.  I won’t, but I also could read a few more books.  My problem?  Where do you find a good book to read these days?  Is there a website that rates books for people who actually read?  There should be an “APP” where you type in twenty books you like and it spits out another twenty that you probably would enjoy.  Would that be so hard person who invented Pandora?

In the absence of book Pandora, at least until someone kindly tells me that it does exist, I thought I would check out the New York Times Bestseller List.  Surely there are some good books to found there, right?  RIGHT?  Let’s see:

#1: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

My Initial Reaction:  Oh god, NO.  I knew people bought these books, especially when they are turned into movies, but number one?  In moments of weakness I can understand watching a Nicholas Sparks movie, but I don’t understand reading the books.

Key Line From the Amazon Summary:  “In the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.”

Chances I’ll read this book:  0%

The Best Selling Formula at Work:  Love stories about pretty people.  The masses love to read about people who are good looking, are rich, live in exotic locales, etc.  Want to write a book about an ugly person with some issues?  Better make it a memoir.

#3: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My Initial Reaction:  I was expecting Gone Girl to be #1.  It’s hot.  I was given the book as a hand me down and its a boilerplate best seller.  Perfect plane reading.

Key Line From the Amazon Summary:  “One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong.”  Unputdownable?

Chances I’ll read this book:  100%.  Already read it.

The Best Selling Formula at Work:  Create a question.  In this case, the question is, did this guy murder his wife?  Reading the book then becomes an exercise is answering this question.  In addition to that, this type of book provides you with a chance to be “right.”  Something everyone loves.  Very satisfying to read a book and be able to say, “I knew it!”

#s 5, 8, 9: Various Fifty Shades of Awful Grey by E.L. James.  

My Initial Reaction:  Of course this is a trilogy.  And, is E.L. James some type of hat tip to J.K. Rowling.  Do initials sell more books?

Key Line From the Amazon Summary:  “Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.”  Also, 4-EVA.

Chances I’ll read this book: 1%

The Best Selling Formula at Work:  Make pants tingle.  Never underestimate the naughtiness of the masses.  These books are the Snackwells cookie phenomenon.  At first glance it’s like, look at that monster eating all those cookies…then you realize, OH, THEY’RE SNACKWELLS–CARRY ON.  Poorly written erotica?  All good if it’s on the best seller list.

#6: Suspect by Robert Crais.

My Initial Reaction:  Sometimes I think about titling a piece of work and I have no idea what I would call it, it can be agonizing.  You want to be so damn creative.  Then, you see something like Suspect and realize that after you crank out a few bestsellers you can call a book whatever you want.  Book #4.  People won’t care.

Key Line From Amazon Summary:  “Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED, her PTSD is as bad as Scott’s.”

Chances I’ll read this book:  14%

Best Selling Formula at Work:  Add a dog.  Dog lovers can sustain your career.  Adding a dog is always smart, making the dog the narrator is even smarter.  Cat narrator:  Poison.

#11 The Racketeer by John Grisham.  

My Initial Reaction:  Someone tell John Grisham it’s OK to stop writing.  His next book is going to be called The Noun.  Shouldn’t he have gotten the hint when they stopped turning his books into movies?

Key Line From the Amazon Summary:  “Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.”  Does any of this seem familiar?  YES.

Chances I’ll read this book:  3% (airport emergency?)

Best Selling Formula at Work:  Name recognition.  If my legal name was John Grisham, would it be legal for me to publish books under that name?

Alternate Viewing Guide — Thanksgiving.

“Franklin & Marshall”–Everyone Who’s Never Been to Lancaster.

It’s that special time of the holiday season.  It’s time for the alternate TV viewing guide.  Thanksgiving is about football, but more than that it’s about having the television on AT ALL TIMES.  You don’t necessarily have to be watching, but when you get a bunch of relatives around, and the conversation starts to get a bit awkward?  It’s nice for your grandfather to be able to point at the old tube and say, “How ‘Bout That Romo Fella?”  But, in case you are anti-football, or if your fantasy season is already over–here are some other viewing options.  I’m trying not to be too repetitive, so if you’re looking for a dog show, or a Godfather marathon, trust that you can find one.  

12:00-1:00 pm–Breaking Amish on TLC

Breaking Amish follows five Amish youngsters as they head to New York City.  The cast ultimately has to decide if they want to remain Amish or forgo that lifestyle and become, “English.”  This is what Amish people call everyone who isn’t Amish.  That fact alone provides plenty of amusement along with lines like, “What’s a Bachelor Party?”  And to set the record straight, the Amish live in Lancaster County, not the city of Lancaster, which is where F&M is located.  

1:00-2:00 pm–Encino Man on Comedy Central.

The first time I saw Encino Man I couldn’t stop laughing.  I haven’t seen it since.  Deep down I think I know that I saw it at the perfect time in my life.  I was perfectly into the nineties.  I was perfectly immature.  We’re talking about a movie that features Pauly Shore in a starring role.  Could I go back, watch it, and deal with the fact that I once found it hysterical?  Is it still funny?  Maybe I find out Thursday.  

2:00-3:00 pm–Friday Night Lights on ESPN Classic.

I know what you’re thinking, NO FOOTBALL!  This is a compromise, though.  You’ll get to see some great football from Dillon High (East or West depending on the season), but you’ll also get wrapped up in some real drama.  Still waiting for the spin-off that stars Riggins and Buddy Garrity, but in the meantime maybe you can compare the coaching skills of Eric Taylor to Andy Reid.  

3:00-4:00 pm–American Pickers on The History Channel.

You learn a lot about people watching American Pickers.  Why do people spend thousands of dollars on old gas station signs?  Why do some people never throw anything out?  There are questions too.  Should I be monitoring my relative’s attics for hidden gems and overcrowding?  Is there a barn around here I can rummage through?  American Pickers usually has a few good laughs and is like a baby step if you aren’t ready for a full-on episode of Hoarders.  

4:00-5:00 pm–Bad Santa on Comedy Central.  

Yes.  A couple of years back I put Bad Santa at #2 on my all-time list of Christmas movies.  A lot of the magic of this film could be lost in the Comedy Central edit, but it’s still worth a shot.  Actually, maybe it’s a good test, is this movie funny or just profane?  I’m going to lean toward the former.  And, I’m contractually obligated to mention my favorite line every time I mention the movie.  “Sh*t in one hand and wish in the other.  See which fills up first.”

5:00-6:00 pm–Bacon Paradise 2 on Travel.

I really like bacon, but what I’ve found out in the last couple years as food and cooking shows explode is that there are people who like bacon more than I do.  THEY LOVE IT.  I like bacon at breakfast, on top of a burger, but a lot of people are going the extra mile.  On this episode of Bacon Paradise, they explore bacon lasagna, bacon brownies and something called a 5-lb bacon bomb.  Looks like we dodged the pork shortage!

6:00-7:00 pm–Hatfields and McCoys on History.   

It’s Kevin Costner.  And, that guy from Twister!  But we’re talking about the most watched cable show of ALL-TIME.  Is that an impressive stat?  I don’t know.  What better show to watch on Thanksgiving than one about a feud between two families?  This will bring the whole room together.  Then you can storm across the street and invade your neighbor’s living room.  Whatever happens, happens.  

7:00-8:00 pm–Punkin Chunkin 2012 on Science.  

I did not know what Punkin Chunkin was a few years ago, but I now know that it’s a competition to see how far you can launch a pumpkin.  The contraptions are homemade by everyone from rednecks to engineers to redneck engineers and it’s a real celebration of America’s obsession with spectacle.  Or, our need to drink and get rid of excess pumpkins?  I’m thinking maybe you have a 1/2 rotten jack-o-lantern still lying around?  Launch that bitch.  

8:00-9:00 pm–Meet the Parents on Bravo. 

How much do sequels tarnish the originals?  By the time “Little Fockers,” came out did we forget how good Meet the Parents was?  It’s such a quotable movie.  And I think there are still people who do that eyes on you thing, which is a bit embarrassing, but speaks to the lasting power of this film.  Jinxy Cat, Jinxy Cat, Where Are You?  I Love You.  

9:00-10:100 pm–Glee on Fox.

I feel like for the non-football crowd, this is what we’ve been building toward all day.  OMG, did you know there’s a Thanksgiving episode of Glee?  Do people still watch Glee?  I don’t even know.  Does anyone graduate from this high school?  Again, no clue.  But, I think it’s important to end the day on a festive note.  Maybe some people dancing around in pilgrim shoes singing Adam Sandler’s Thanksgiving song?  Maybe?  Probably not.

All right, that’s it.  Consider yourself guided.  There is no reason to be up past 10 pm unless you are already at Wal-Mart, in which case, I’d suggest getting it together.  

 

Phillies Welcome Bryce Harper/Nats to Town.

Prefers Boos to Batteries.

Bryce Harper likes the boos.  He’s just the kind of guy who gets a laugh at such things, probably because he’s been getting taunted his entire life.  I’m not sure he’d know how to play baseball any other way.  In anticipation of this series, Harper commented that he hoped he would get booed.  Then he spun the Philly sports fan historical wheel of shame and added that he hoped the fans wouldn’t throw batteries.  After Harper was drilled by Cole Hamels and the city worked itself into a frenzy, I said it would be better to just ignore Bryce Harper.  Why give him what he wants when it has a great chance of spiraling out of control and embarrassing the city once again?

Harper is going to get booed, though.  It will be at full throat.  I don’t have a problem with booing in general, but I’d prefer there be a better reason than “he’s a d**che.”  Putting aside the fact that he’s having admirable success for a 19-year old, Harper is still hitting just .244 with 2 homers.  Those aren’t numbers that should cause you to boo an opposing player.  And Harper has never really done anything to the Phillies.  At least J.D. refused to sign here before we pelted him with debris. At least Scott Rolen celebrated leaving town like it was a governor’s pardon.  At least Chipper Jones spent almost 20 years beating down the Phillies with big hits.  Harper hasn’t done any of that, but he’ll get an earful the entire series, mostly because Philly fans probably feel some sort of obligation to their own reputation.

Running in harmony with the desire to boo Harper will be the necessity to win the series.  You get a lot less satisfaction with your jeers if the team loses 2 out of 3 again.  Bean balls and creative signage don’t show up in the standings.  As I mentioned Friday, the Phillies are treading into some dangerous waters.  After a nice victory to start the Red Sox series, Phillies’ starters were clubbed for six homers over the next two days and they dropped the series to Boston.  Joe Blanton’s trade value took a hit.  Cliff Lee took a loss he couldn’t quite blame on the offense, and the Phillies were back to .500 with Washington/St. Louis and New York on deck.

It’s my opinion that the Phils need to still be operating at or around .500 on June 12th.  That day will end a run of 20 straight games against winning teams.  It’s also a day where we might know when/if Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be back.  It’s a stretch that looks a whole lot tougher now that the season has started.  No one expected the Mets, Orioles or Dodgers to be where they are.  Even the Nats are out-pacing some optimistic projections.  So how can the Phillies get through this stretch and be in the neighborhood of 31-31, especially since it starts with one of those “Kendrick Games,”–Kendrick vs. Gio Gonzalez?  He are five Phillies who face the most heat in the next three weeks…

1.  Roy Halladay–I said last week that Halladay has been the Phillies’ 3rd best starter this year.  He’s sitting at 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA.  He’s yet to throw a complete game, and the closest we’ve seen to vintage Halladay was his Opening Day gem against Pittsburgh.  By this time in 2010, Halladay had 4 complete games and two shutouts.  During this stretch, it’d be nice to see Roy bail the Phils out once or twice with a complete game win–not the kind of “good enough” performance he used to win in Chicago.

2.  Jimmy Rollins–Rollins appears to be RBI phobic.  He has 7 RBI in 166 at-bats.  If that sounds impossible…it’s close.  Hector Luna has 5 RBI in 12 at-bats.  And, Rollins has had plenty of chances.  He’s invented new ways to not score the guy from 3rd.  J-Roll’s .229 with no production isn’t cutting it.  Ruiz isn’t going to hit .360 all year.

3.  John Mayberry Jr.–This may sound odd, but the Phillies are really missing Laynce Nix.  Nix was hitting .320 with some production when he injured his calf and his at-bats have fallen to Mayberry and Ty Wigginton.  Wigginton hasn’t been good since the calendar turned to May and you wonder if he’s got a nagging injury.  Mayberry has shown a little life lately.  His production is key for the bottom part of the order.

4.  Antonio Bastardo–The Phillies have blown several games this season and they’ll play plenty of close games in the next three weeks.  With the opposing pitchers they’ll face, it’ll be hard not to.  The Phils have to piece together a way to get to Papelbon.  I’ve heard the bullpen been called “Crap to Pap.”  I saw that at Beerleaguer, not sure if they invented it.  Bastardo is the most promising as a potential 8th inning guy.

5.  Freddy Galvis–Galvis, of the timely hit and inexplicable 19 RBI (3rd on the team) must avoid a prolonged cold streak like the one he faced at the start of the year and then again in early May.

***

Other Weekend Happenings…

1.  A true Triple Crown Contender.  I’ll Have Another took the Preakness (Home of Kegasus) to set up a meaningful Belmont Stakes in 3 weeks.  There hasn’t been a Triple Crown Winner since 1978, so people suffering this drought are almost as frustrated as Flyers’ fans.  Because I would never jinx an animal, my official position is I’ll Have Another has no shot.  None.

2.  Jason Dufner is the hottest golfer on the planet.  He won for the 2nd time in 3 weeks and it forces parity on the PGA Tour to the forefront.  A couple of months ago Rory was going to win every event he entered (and maybe some he didn’t), but Dufner and his obvious skill level are just proof that you can throw 30 or 40 names in a hat at the beginning of the week and take your pick.  The PGA Tour has become the NHL playoffs.

3.  The Phillies, and specifically Ruben Amaro, had a shady weekend in terms of fan and media relations.  First, they kicked a Phillies beat reporter out of the stadium in Clearwater because Ryan Howard’s workouts are off-limits.  Then a story was published linking cortisone injections to Achilles tendon tears (Howard had a cortisone shot last September).  Amaro quickly went into damage control mode, claiming the Phillies value the health of their players above all else.  Considering Howard’s contract, you’d have to hope that was the case, but the Phillies’ desire to control the information continues to make them look disingenuous.  Restricting access and creating a cocoon can backfire.  Just ask Tiger Woods.

4.  New worst Rick Reilly column ever written.  I think a million people quit golf because of this attempt at hilarity.

5.  Mad Men is lighting the fuse for what should be a tremendous final three episodes.  Cliffhanger isn’t the right word for Mad Men, but there’s two big questions left in this season.  Are Don and Joan going to hookup?  And, how is the pursuit of Jaguar and Lane’s embezzlement going to pan out?  Don and Joan has always been off-limits for me, where would you go from there?  It looks like they’re going to take it right up to the edge, though.  Can’t believe we’re three episodes away from it being gone again.

Rivera, The Flyers and Your Derby Lock.

All The Debutantes Will Wait for Brady to set the ’12 Hat Trends.

Closer down.  This was the most depressing scene surrounding a blown knee since Bob Huggins spooned Da’Sean Butler in the NCAA Tournament a couple of years back.  Mariano Rivera, who’s famous for his BP shagging, took a misstep near the warning track in Kansas City last night and tore his ACL.  Rivera was chasing a ball off the bat of Jayson Nix, known in these parts as “The Other Nix,” and had to be carted off the field in what quickly became a somber scene.  Rivera’s meeting with the press following the announcement of the torn ACL was even more depressing, an emotional Rivera openly wondering whether he’d ever pitch again.

For a player already contemplating retirement in the near future,  the prospect of facing a long and rigorous rehab when you’ve been remarkably healthy your whole career has to be a daunting.  Part of Rivera’s legend is his apparent invulnerability to age and injury, and disbelief was a popular theme running through many of the reaction interviews.  I have a feeling that once the injury sinks in, Rivera will attempt to return to the mound.  If not for a full season, at least to dictate his ending on his own terms.

There’s certainly nothing to add to the legacy.  I think back to the beginning of Rivera’s career when he was setting up and the universal belief was that we were watching the closer in waiting.  I think about how many closers in waiting completely fizzle.  The failure rate is high, the average career length for those who succeed is short.  Rivera proved to be the ultimate outlier in both cases.  His post-season success and consistency proved a challenge to even the most cynical of stat-heads who discount the closer position.

Perhaps we will see Rivera’s true value now that he will miss the remainder of 2012.  The Yankees have candidates to replace him, but their readiness could be questioned.  David Robertson, whose stats are Rivera-like, sounded like he was talking himself out of the job when interviewed last night.  Whether that’s him being overly deferential to Rivera, or if he really would be overwhelmed by replacing a Hall of Famer, we won’t know until he’s given the opportunity.  The other option would appear to be Rafael Soriano, who has the closing experience, but has been far less dominant than Robertson.

Closers remind me a bit of running backs sometimes, because I think you can often replace an average one, but at the same time there’s no substitute for the truly elite.  It’s not all about getting the last three outs, it’s about the whole team playing with confidence because of the inevitability of the ninth inning.  The problem for the Yankees is that the loss of Rivera weakens what was the strength of their staff.  The top-7 ERAs on staff belong to relievers.  The starting pitching in the 3-5 slots has been shoddy–at best.  The Yankees are scoring some runs, but not enough to erase the starting pitching problems–now they need to find a new closer.

***

The Flyers dropped game three in overtime last night.  A bit of a strange affair, and certainly enough to start bringing back some painful feelings from the past.  There were times when the Flyers looked good last night, but there were far too many stretches where the Devils carried the play and the sequence of events that led to the game-winner for Jersey simply cannot happen.  To me it looks like the Flyers haven’t fully adjusted from playing Pittsburgh.  The Pens were willing to run and gun with the Flyers, but the Devils are a far more aggressive team on defense and the penalty kill.  The Flyers can’t sit back and wait for the goals to start flooding in, they need to make some adjustments.  It’s been a close series, and it’s far from over, but the game Sunday night will be huge and could end up determining how Flyers fans judge this season.

***

Bit of pitching mismatch down in Washington tonight.  Kyle Kendrick, whose ceiling resides in the 6IP, 3ER neighborhood takes on Stephen Strasburg, who throws really, really hard and possesses a microscopic ERA.  Strasburg suffered his injury against the Phillies in 2010, so I don’t think they’ve seen much of the phenom aside from that abbreviated outing.  Of course, most games involving these teams this season have been pitching dominated.  The Nats have scored 15 fewer runs than the Phillies.  Did you think such a thing was possible?  The Phils are actually 6-3 and averaging over 5 per game in their last nine.  It’s drug them to the middle of the NL in runs scored.  Rare air.  If they can keep that up against Washington’s glitzy starters, it should bode well for them winning the series.  Keep in mind, this is also the weekend where the Nationals were trying to keep Philly fans out of their park, so be sure to tune in and see how unsuccessful that was.

***

Ok, no more fluff and filler.  We need a Derby winner.  Here’s a complete preview of the Derby Field from someone who has watched a horse race this year–or at least I assume they have.  Also includes photos, so you can pick which horse is the prettiest.   You can’t underestimate the importance of the horse face test.  You might not think I’m qualified to pick a Derby winner, but the 20-horse field is pretty much a lottery.  Anything can happen.  Some uninformed tips…

1.  Never bet the favorite.  That eliminates Bodemeister, who is trying to become the first horse since the late 18 hundies to win the Derby without racing as 2-year old.  Is he named after Bode Miller?  I don’t know.  This also applies to the horse that emerged as the favorite last year when people were taking shots in the dark.  So, bad news for Union Rags.

2.  Beware Wordplay.  Horse naming is a tough racket, so puns and other plays on words run rampant.  Don’t be lured in by a horse like, “Daddy Nose Best.”  That’s awful.  But…

3.  At least show some effort.  Often times the owners will take an adjective and just manipulate that sumbitch.  For example, Optimizer.  That’s lazy.  One step above Beauterrific (not in the field).  Also lazy?  Random professions, forget about Gemologist.

Ok, who’s going to take this thing?  How about Hansen?  Look at the albino freight train…

Go Ahead and Wear White Before Memorial Day.

I don’t remember seeing many all white racehorses.  I’m taken by the novelty.  Plus, this will be the easiest horse in the field to pick out of the pack, and Hansen likes to run from the front, so you should at least have a few moments of hope if he happens to collapse down the stretch.  Hansen will be in post-position 14 and is currently sitting at 10:1.  Lock city.  I’ll take Dullahan and Creative Cause to round out an epic Trifecta box.  Nice box.

 

This Stuff Happened — 5/3/12

An Area Play.

There are bad calls and then there are the ones like the one Tim Welke made that’s pictured above.  This was an out according to Welke, who obviously went brain-dead for a few moments, or simply made the wrong signal?  Ever nod your head yes and say no at the same time?  Perhaps that’s what happened to Welke here, or else Todd Helton is master of illusion.  He is a crafty veteran.  Baseball has an odd relationship with its umpires.  From “area plays” to the old “the ball beat him there,” rationale that Wheels loves to wax about, getting an occasional play wrong has always been one of baseball’s quirks.  The question is, do you accept baseball in that form, or do you want instant replay.  Right now.  On everything.

I’ve read a good bit of commentary about this play, including the argument that an especially bad call doesn’t really help the cause for replay.  If the number of bad calls were steadily on the rise, or big games were being decided by bad calls, you’d have a better argument than pointing to this anomaly of ineptitude by Welke.  I am of the mind that I don’t really want instant replay reviews breaking up the flow of the game.  What I would like to see changed is umpires being able to ask for help on certain calls.  You’re telling me that the other umpires didn’t notice Helton a country mile off first?  A three second huddle probably could have fixed this, but a force out at first base is not allowed to be discussed.  Those are the type of rules that make no sense in baseball, not their insistence on maintaining the human element.

***

Roger Clemens is back in court.  I’m not even sure I know what he’s on trial for anymore, perjury?  I don’t want to dismiss the seriousness of perjury, but this isn’t a murder trial.  We’re talking about a baseball player using steroids and HGH.  I think it’s abundantly clear that the public has lost interest.  Even with Andy Pettitte slightly buckling under cross-examination, there seems to be no interest in Clemens’ 2nd trip to court.  The point, is much like the New Orleans bounty controversy, fans only care to a certain extent.  If you can rid the games of PEDs and bounties, most everyone would be in favor of that, but when it comes to handing down punishments, you lose your audience.  And, the people who are still paying attention often think the punishments are a bit harsh.  An entire year for Jonathan Vilma?

***

The Phillies lost an especially odd and frustrating game to the Braves last night, 15-13.  It had been decades since the Phillies scored 13 in a regular season loss and for me it brought to mind Game 4 of the 1993 World Series–only with much lower stakes.  I think a lot of people this morning are thinking, “Oh my God, Halladay.”  Roy was pretty dreadful after the first few innings yesterday, even if the Braves did bloop him a bit to death before McCann’s crushing blow.  More troubling was Roy looked to be halfway to the heat exhaustion he suffered last season in Chicago.  He insisted after the game he was all right, but then left the team to attend to a personal matter.  So, Halladay may have physically been fine, but perhaps he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is mentally.  I don’t really have time to worry about Halladay, but the bullpen is a major concern.  Brian Sanches.  Michael Schwimer.  Joe Savery.  We’re about 20% AAA these days. Is it any surprise the Phillies have trouble getting to Papelbon?  They’ve lost three games this year on the final at-bat with Papelbon still in the bullpen.  Something about that doesn’t add up.  The Phillies need to find a reliable set-up man aside from Chad Qualls, or begin to use Papelbon in a more non-conventional manner.

***

I’ve got some time-wasters for you if you’re interested on a dreary Thursday.  I’m usually not one to praise Grantland, they are shameless idea stealers after all, but the piece on a group of old sportswriters who were called “The Chipmunks,” is an interesting read.  I think Grantland is at it’s best when it takes some time and uses all the access it has to come up with something like this.  Anyone can write a snarky Mad Men episode review, but it takes some clout to put this together.

Along similar lines, Deadspin’s examination of the Sara Phillips controversy (scam? scandal?) is probably the best thing I’ve ever read on their site.  This is a couple of days old by now, but if you haven’t gotten the particulars, Sara Phillips was an internet personality that rose to some level of fame through the message boards at a sports gambling site called Covers.com.  She was eventually plucked from the boards to create her own content and made her way to ESPN’s Playbook Page, which is a new incarnation of their former Page 2.  It becomes interesting when you start to realize that ESPN may have hired Phillips without ever meeting her in person, and then she started to use her loose association with the company to defraud various bloggers/twitter handles/meme creators by promising them big dollars and a partnership with ESPN.  If you ever wanted to know how to hijack an extremely popular Twitter feed–check out the link.

 ***

Big Flyers game three tonight against Jersey in Newark.  What a shame the Devils don’t play at the Meadowlands anymore.  That feels like a more appropriate home for them.  Last night the Rangers won a game 3 in 3OTs, and those are the kind of games that people love to say turn a series.  I’m not sure if that’s accurate or just some cherry picking hindsight.  Regardless, you want to win those odd-numbered games.  Flyers Kitten?

Still The Beat Bang.

The Boondoggle Tank.

T.O., Have You Heard of the Condiment Revolver?

To make this post I’ve got to make a slightly embarrassing confession.  I watch the Shark Tank.  For those of you that rightfully and admirably have no idea what that is–it’s a reality show.  There are five very wealthy “sharks” (sometimes including Mark Cuban!) and they watch proposals from inventors, small business owners, etc. and decide whether or not to invest in the company.  It’s a great opportunity for the people coming on the show, because the exposure alone is worth possible millions for their business, but it’s usually a good opportunity for the “sharks” as well.  They, at least in theory, are good business people.  They’re in the position of power and they often squeeze sweetheart deals out of the people who actually created the product.  

Aside from enjoying the cocky sharks throwing money around, I like watching for the ideas.  Some are incredibly good and you know right away the person will be rich with or without the sharks.  But some are terrible.  The producers usually throw in one bomb a show and the investors tear them to shreds.  “Eighteen hundred in sales!  Get out of my sight!”  The crazy thing is, the people with the terrible ideas think they’re great ideas.  They leave with their held high.  I’m not going to give up, they say, and then they go borrow another 20-grand from an unsuspecting relative.  

My idea is to unite these people with a passion for horrible ideas with a group of investors who have a track record of making terrible, fortune eroding investments.  What class of people are famous for blowing large sums of money?  How about athletes?  Athletes these days are really the perfect target for fraud.  They come into a ton of money in a short period of time, they often don’t have much experience being wealthy or managing any type of wealth, but more than that they all are willing.  A lot of these guys want to do the right thing.  They want to invest.  They want to be smart and secure, but since they don’t really know what they’re doing, they throw money at anyone who says the word, “opportunity.”  This is how you hear of guys who made 9 figures in their career ending up broke.  Oh you wanted to build a condo complex in some Florida swamp?  I can’t believe that didn’t work out.  

Now, I know this show sounds a little dark.  Watching people lose money–what kind of person am I?  Well, the twist is, it’s not an actual show like Shark Tank.  It’s more of an intervention.  You get the four or five athletes together.  You get the people who have sunk their life savings into a horrible idea and you let them in a room together.  You watch them negotiate.  You watch the terrible decisions be made, but then right before the next Antoine Walker cuts the check you have someone charge out from backstage and stop the transaction.  The final step is you sit down the athlete and the person with the horrible idea with a legitimate financial advisor.  They tell the athlete to save their money, they tell the contestant to give up hope on his solar-powered dog trimmer and it’s a happy ending for all.  I think this is a pretty easy sell.  

***

Weekend Wrap-Up…

1.  We have a Bryce Harper Debut.  The Nats rushed Harper a bit because their LFs were hitting .087.  Can’t do much worse than that.  Harper looks pretty comfortable in the early going, and Washington’s division lead allows him to come up without huge expectations.  He’s just a young guy hitting 7th right now.  The Nats could eventually use some help on offense, though.  They’re just 5-5 in their last 10 and leaning heavily on that pitching staff.  The only sign that Harper is a little wide-eyed?  After Matt Kemp’s walk-off homer on Saturday, Harper rattled off Kemp’s stats to the letter.  “He’s hitting .440 with 11 jacks and 24 RBI,” Harper said.  Those were his exact numbers.  You’ll almost never see a baseball player do that.  They might know a guy’s stats, but they’d never ADMIT it.  Tough to play it cool when you sound like a Matt Kemp Roto owner in the clubhouse after the game, Bryce.  

2.  Flyers slipped by the Devils in OT.  I was at the Phillies game, so I missed most of the action, but I hear that the Flyers TOTALLY DOMINATED after some initial rust.  You can’t keep Briere down in the playoffs.  He’s either kicking pucks in illegally, or rifling shots from the point.  

3.  Derek Rose blew an ACL.  This is bad news for Heat-haters like myself, and I suppose the people in Chicago as well.  President Obama is probably crushed.  It won’t alter the series against the Sixers.  The Bulls could play any five guys and cruise, but it seems to really open up the East for the Heat.  What Miami did to New York over the weekend was…uncomfortable.  I kept waiting for someone on the Knicks roster to say, “No means no.”  Elsewhere in the NBA, the Grizz blew a 24 point lead in the 4th quarter.  That really shouldn’t be possible.  

4.   The Redskins were riding high with their selection of RG3 on the opening day of the draft.  Then, they took another QB prospect–Kirk Cousins.  Now, Cousins is a prospect in relation to RG3 like Miller 64 is a beer in relation to Sierra Nevada.  Still, though, I viewed this as Washington controlling their own image.  All this positive buzz from Griffin and they just said, “Whoa, whoa whoa. We’re still the Redskins.  We’ll still make terrible decisions at the drop of a hat.  Know that.”  The real test will be for the ‘Skins fan base.  If they even think of getting behind Cousins, they should all turn in their pig snouts and dresses.  

5. Historic episode for Roger Sterling on Mad Men last night.  The veteran ad-man was scuffling a bit this season, feeling a bit like a horse put out to pasture, but one week he’s taking some LSD and the next week he’s the Roger of old.  On fire.  I won’t ruin it any further, but Roger could be one more black-tie function away from regaining the upper hand in the accounts department.