Made some history recently when I finally sampled the MEGA STUF Oreo. It was the Golden Oreo variety, and it was special. It was everything a Vienna Finger should be. Back when we first touched on the level of STUF, I said that MEGA STUF was probably my limit. Well, these Oreos go down so smooth, that I’d be willing, if Nabisco was willing, to try a MAGNA STUF, or even SUMMA STUF. I may have to go out and try the chocolate MEGA STUF before they disappear from the shelves. It baffles me in this day of gourmet cupcakes and obscenely ornate flavor profiles that something like the Oreo can still dominate, but they do. It’s kind of like how you keep coming back to the mailbag.
Q: Do you think reviewers, people who critique food, movies, books, etc., ever feel bad about what they write? Obviously, they must remain credible to be a reviewer, but is there any conscience involved? Grant Stevens, Executive Chef, “Universally Panned Pizza,” Pottstown, PA.
A: Are you kidding me? I think most reviewers probably love a good take down. The profession comes with a built-in superiority complex, so you must remember that they think they are doing FAVORS. You, the reader, are better off knowing their opinion and the poor chef, or writer is also better off, because now they can forget their silly dreams and GET ON WITH THEIR LIVES. Of course, the truth is anyone can be a reviewer. Have you seen Yelp, or Urbanspoon, or any other website? They’re chock-a-block with people who think they are experts. Most online reviews are either glowing or scathing. No middle ground, and what that reveals is an agenda. The professional reviewers have an agenda too, they’re just better at disguising the ulterior motives. But, do you want to know why reviews and professional reviewers still exist? It’s because people are always dying for someone to agree with them. They want their own taste validated. So, if you go to some restaurant and despise the CHEESE PLATE, you want to know that other people are out there who also hate that dish. When you see that scathing review, you pat yourself on the back. I KNEW I was right.
Q: I’m reading a story this morning about how John Beilein, head coach at Michigan, cuts his own lawn and edits his own game tapes. I remember a story from way back lauding Tiger Woods for ironing his own pants–or something. Using the Tiger example, we’ve pretty much proved this isn’t a great indicator or character, right? Noah Starch, Trenton, NJ.
A: Sports media is always trying to create a balance between deification and humanization. On the playing field, the athletes, the stars, are god-like. They do things we cannot imagine. It’s myth making. But, off the field, it’s important to realize that these athletes, coaches, personalities are just like us–the fan. We want to identify with them on a human level, because we can’t identify with them on an athletic level. Some of these stories can turn out quite well and can be very interesting, but they often require an actual angle or some genuine research. What happened here is John Beilein’s team made the Final Four, so we’re in a rush to get things on paper. Humble coaching beginnings? Cuts his own grass? GOLD. In terms of whether this is an actual indication of character? Like you said, there are probably too many examples to the contrary to make such a ridiculous claim. What do I think? Famous people who still DO THEIR CHORES could be humble, but they are equally likely to be control freaks. Tiger probably ironed his own pants because he was very PARTICULAR about how they looked. He didn’t want to sacrifice even a tiny bit of control over his appearance. What Tiger didn’t know is that back in the day no one in their right mind would have ever taken any credit for his look–Tiger was the last skinny guy in the World to switch over to flat front pants. But, I’m not here to turn this into a discussion on pleats. My feeling on Beilein is that he’s probably an OK guy, who also happens to have a fit if is grass cutting pattern is even the slightest bit off.
Q: Can you believe licorice (the hard stuff, black licorice) was actually considered a candy flavor or whatever you would call it? Surely if licorice was invented today it would never taste like licorice? Red Vines, Detroit, MI
A: Black licorice is the stuff of childhood nightmares. Is there a monster in the closet? Probably not, but I’m quite certain I will shriek in horror if I accidentally ingest a black Jujy Fruit at a movie. The taste is so powerful. You have to eat about 30 regular Jujy’s just to get your taste buds back to square one. They don’t even include the licorice flavor anymore do they? DO THEY? I’m not sure, but anyone who has ever lived has reached for a box of Jujy’s and found only the black pieces sticking to the walls at the bottom. SO SAD. I think back in the day people had much less rigid standards about what they’d chew. I honestly think if it was more socially acceptable people may have just started gnawing away on bones like your common retriever. What were the other options? A PIECE OF STRAW? I assume that tastes like nothing, so the switch to licorice must have been a real eye-opener. This tastes terrible, but at least it TASTES. Or maybe it was an appetite suppressant? Not enough corn pone to go around the table? Have a piece of licorice–it’ll turn your stomach until morning. But the novelty of chewing has worn off, we need tasty treats, the black licorice is only around for the die-hards and emotionally disturbed.
Q: What would be better, shorter games or shorter seasons? You know, last night Houston beat Texas and it was a great scene but that probably won’t stop them from going 62-100. So, would a real short season make sense so that game really meant something? Or, would something like a 20 minute basketball game or hockey game be a better alteration? To compensate for the fan experience, every night could be a triple-header. Alexander Duckblind Derringer, New Orleans, LA
A: I get the logic behind this. If you’ve ever watched the end of a hockey, football, or basketball game you know that is the most exciting time. The intensity is higher. The sense of urgency is insane. For a long time I wondered, if NFL teams try so desperately to conserve clock at the end of the game, why do they waste it so freely for the 1st three quarters? I guess the answer is that while a few teams maximize their plays, going at that pace for a full 60 minutes wouldn’t be possible. You could say the same for the NHL’s nothing to lose overtime period. Exciting, but can guys keep up that level for 60 minutes? I see a few problems:
1. The triple-header thing wouldn’t work, because you’d end up with “1st games” that are just as boring as “1st halves.” If the hockey season is suddenly 246 mini-games long, that 2 points in game one of a triple header isn’t worth much. So, the games would actually have to last 20 minutes, which pretty much ruins the whole, “going to the game” experience.
2. Basketball would be brutal because of the fouling. The end of a basketball game can be exciting, but it can also be a tedious nightmare because of constant fouling out of desperation. So, 1/3 of your game could be spent watching people go to the line.
3. It’d be a bit too arbitrary for some people. If you give up a fluke goal in hockey in the 1st period, or if a guy runs back the opening kickoff, there is time to recover from those blunders. If NFL games were 20 minutes long, as soon as a team got a lead they’d be milking the clock and making things as boring as you remember in a 60 minute game. Sports are ideally designed for the better team (or player to win) and the length of the event is commensurate with that premise. You don’t see guys playing one set to decide Wimbledon or nine holes for the green jacket.
So, noble idea, but shortening the season is the real answer. I could have turned this into an argument for baseball not having a clock, but at 162 games they’ve got their own set of problems. Some baseball fans have already been worn out by 33-game Spring Training schedules.
Q: Which is mostly likely to cause an injury: your first time water skiing or snow skiing? Chet Ripley, Chicago, IL
A: Well, you are speaking to someone who does not participate in winter or water sports of any kind. I do not ski, I do not board, I do not “ride.” I do nothing you would ever see in any type of X-game. You have to know your limitations. Pretty much all of my athletic ability is focused from the waist up. Need me to catch something? NO PROBLEM. My longest hacky sack streak ever? 1 TOUCH. I remember the first time I ever attempted a skateboard. I was at a friend’s house. I was probably 8 or 9 years old. This kid wasn’t any good, but he could at least ride it in a straight line. I took one step on the thing and immediately fell. INSTANTANEOUSLY. Scraped the horsebleep out of my palm and that was all she wrote. I knew right there I would never try that again. Did you know there were wheels on the bottom of that thing? JAY-SUS. So, water skiing or snow skiing? I’m going to say snow skiing, because I think it’s easier to get yourself in more trouble. If you can’t water ski, from my understanding, it’s very hard to even stand up so you’d just immediately fall over before you got going fast or got yourself headed toward a rogue buoy. With snow skis, I feel like one wrong turn down a trail and you are headed into a forest. You can let go of the rope when you are water skiing. You can’t make a mountain stop going DOWNHILL. I’m certain I’d hurt myself on my first trip down a slope and I know this happens to people–so don’t try to change my mind.
Q: Who’s going to win the NCAA pool? And, any general thoughts on the tournament?
A: Every year when the tournament rolls around it feels like you are watching a “great” year or an “off” year. You completely forget a couple of weeks later which year it was, but in the moment there is a keen sense of whether or not you are being entertained ENOUGH. There have been some highlights this year (Dunk City, the Kansas/Michigan ending), but I think for the most part it’s been a bit of an off year. There have been multiple horrid shooting displays, Wichita State wasn’t our CHOSEN underdog, the other teams in the Final Four are from the major conferences, but don’t have a particular identity like Kentucky did last year. So, we’re left waiting to see if Louisville will get upset. Right now, I wouldn’t bet on it. As it happens, in the pool we are also just waiting to see if Louisville gets upset.
The Current Leader is “Grossy Stop It Bakery” which is a team that I sponsored in the name of my bakery–which doesn’t exist. I’m joking. That’s Suz’s team. Unfortunately, she has no more possible points left. So…
If Louisville wins another game, doesn’t matter if it’s one or two then the “Louisville Contingent” will surge past Grossy Stop It Bakery and the rest of us. The leader of this pack is Zeffy Pen, aka DC, aka Team Horse Face–the winner of 2012 D.A. Fantasy Football. That would be quite the embarrassment of riches in one year, but we’ll see. I just checked with the internet and I’m told we’re not quite out of Shocker puns. And wheat shocker sales on Ebay are through the roof right now. Enjoy the Final Four.