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.