Monthly Archives: April 2011

A reality show starring TSA agents. Some NFL Draft thoughts. And Jack Edwards goes on a bizarre rant

More proof that the people who run television networks are officially all out of ideas:
AMC is giving us a reality show about people who work for the TSA, the folks who do all the security screening at the airport.
Yep, the Department of Homeland Security ought to make for really compelling TV.  Or not. I can’t wait for 35 minutes of watching a man get screened at the airport, or a bunch of dogs walking around smelling suspicious packages.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of the cast doing like most reality stars and getting wasted and hanging out in a hot tub together.

Although, as the brilliant Amy Dickinson pointed out on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, it’ll take them a while to get drunk.
Because each cup of beer has to weigh three ounces or less.

**So I didn’t watch too much of the NFL Draft last night. Just didn’t get into it this year; most years, usually.
I did see some of it and read about it online, and have a few scattered thoughts:
— I love all the “experts” who immediately assess which teams did great and which teams didn’t. Like we’ll really know anything about these players for the next 2-3 years.

— I thought it was a wonderful moment when ESPN’s Suzy Kolber made Alabama star Mark Ingram cry by showing him an email from his dad, Mark Sr., from prison.
But then I realized how incredibly emotionally manipulative and staged it was by ESPN. Watch this from the 3:00 minute mark on, and tell me that doesn’t ooze fakeness. (By the way, Mark Ingram Sr. is in prison for financial fraud).

**My beloved Jets didn’t pick until the 30th selection, so it was a pretty stress-free evening. It’s nice when your team is good enough to draft at the end of the first round (where only the best teams from the year before get to pick). It’s a weird feeling, having the Jets as one of the elite. I’d love to get used to it. Pats fans, Steelers fans, this must be what y’all feel all the time, right?

**Finally, Jack Edwards is a hockey announcer for the Boston Bruins. But this post has nothing to do with hockey.

He’s gone on some bizarre rants in his career, and recently he yelled at a Montreal Canadiens player to “GET UP!”
He’s just a strange guy. I love that he loves hockey, but he’s so over the top sometimes that he’s hard to take.
Anyway, this 2-minute speech he gave at the end of the Bruins-Canadiens Game 7 the other night may be the most nonsensical thing I’ve ever heard. Seriously, try to follow it. It’s got something to do with the American Revolution and royalty:

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A peek behind the sportswriter curtain: Lots of waiting. And Obama’s an American! And a scary tornado video

So I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, describing a tiny slice of what life is like as a sportswriter.
But here’s another little something you may not think about when considering my profession: The waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Being a sportswriter is all about “hurry up and wait.” We hurry to college and pro locker rooms, just so we can stand around and wait for athletes to shower, dress, and then maybe, deign to talk to us (seriously, NBA players are the worst at this. I watched an Orlando Magic player take 20 minutes to get dressed the other night. I was truly fascinated by how slow he was moving. If you tried to get dressed that slowly, you couldn’t.)
We wait for people to call us back. We wait and wait and wait for these athletes, and it’s not just at the pro level.
I’ve covered high school sports most of my life, and Wednesday night had another of those wonderful waiting experiences. The game is over. The coach goes and talks to his team in the postgame huddle. You the sportswriter stand there 30 feet away, as parents and fans stare you and wonder why you’re just standing there.
You wait. You know deadline’s coming up. You know you have to get at least a few quotes from the coach/player.  You don’t want to be a jackass, but you’re thinking “Come on! Can’t you talk to them tomorrow at practice? Why now, at 9:55 do you need to spend 20 minutes imploring them about “effort” and “desire?”
If it’s a playoff game, and the team you cover has just lost and their season is over, which was my situation Wednesday, well, that’s a Level 5 situation. Final postgame huddles when the season is over take forever, and you really can’t do anything about it because hey, their season just ended and they’re sad.

So you stand there. And wait. And wait some more. And hope in your heart that sometime soon the players will all stand up and you can get your two measly quotes from the coach, finish your story, and then go home and watch hockey or a “Wonder Years” re-run.

Not complaining. It’s still stealing money, what I do.
But man, the waiting can get to you after a while.
(And by the way, how awesome is Eddie Vedder? I love his live version of a Petty classic up above).

**Well knock me over with a feather. Barack Obama’s an American citizen??? Who knew? All this time I thought he was faking it, and I voted for a Kenyan back in 2008!
Please. As the New York Times rightly points out in a very well-written editorial, Wednesday was a low point in American history. When the President of the United States has to go on television and tell people he really is from the U.S.
And yeah, this whole b.s. controversy has had nothing to do with the fact that Obama has dark skin.

**I’m not one of those people who watches The Weather Channel a bunch, and I think people who chase storms are pretty kooky. But every once in a while I see a storm video that makes me go “Wow.”
Saw one Wednesday night on Twitter; it’s of a tornado in Alabama on Wednesday. It’s 45 seconds of sheer “oh my God that thing is coming at us.” You can see it here.

The sheer irrelevance of the Royal Wedding. Warren Zevon sings hockey. And more truth about the awful Gitmo prison

**Follow me on Twitter here.

There are many, many things I don’t get in this world. But maybe my No. 1 head-scratcher is why so many people in America give a hoot about the Royal Family.
I mean really, why??? Why does anyone care about Charles and Di and Prince William and Queen Elizabeth and the rest? Are they somehow more special people than the rest of us? Do they have some sort of power in government or culture that I don’t know about?
I’ve never understood it. The whole idea that there’s this elite group of people in England who by virtue of their blood are on such a higher plateau than everyone else always struck me as crazy.
And now this Royal Wedding business. Hey, I’m sure Kate Middleton’s a nice woman. And her soon to be husband William is probably a fine fellow. But Judas Priest, do we really need this much freaking media coverage? Do I need to hear about these bloody nuptials on every TV station?
I just don’t know why people care so much. Maybe it’s just escapist entertainment. Maybe people just want to still believe in a caste system when it comes to privilege. But I just don’t get why everyone goes gaga over these people.
Jerry Seinfeld recently compared the Royals to “playing dress up.” I think he’s right.
And I thought playing dress up as a kid was way more interesting. (Wait, was that out loud?)

**Amazing hockey game last night. Canucks-Blackhawks, Game 7, and it went to overtime. There was awesome goaltending, great excitement, and a thrilling finish. I feel in honor of this, and two more Game 7s coming Wed. night, I have to share with you the best hockey song ever. It’s by  the great Warren Zevon, and it’s called “Hit Somebody.” A great song that tells a great story. Enjoy. Lyrics here.

**So in case you missed it Monday, WikiLeaks is at it again, dumping 700 pages worth of documents to the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. about the secret detention center known as the Guantanamo Bay prison.

And in case you were still under any illusion that Barack Obama and his administration were really serious about closing Gitmo, as he promised in the 2008 election, you can forget it.
I urge you to read this report summarizing the document dump by Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. It talks about how so many prisoners at Gitmo are being held on very little evidence, but releasing them now is too dangerous. It talks about the egregious detention of a journalist from Al-Jazeera named Sami al-Haj, who was held for six years for basically no reason, then released without being charged.
It is once again repulsive that America operates this prison, and has operated it in such a secretive manner.
It is a stain on our country, and one that should make all of us feel ashamed.

Welcome to Michigan, new home for the insane and downright cruel. And some really, really unlucky refs.

I’ve never been to Michigan, except for a few hours spent at the Detroit airport once.
It seems like a lovely place. A world-class university is in Ann Arbor, there’s great culture there, and I’ve got some friends who live there and love it.
But I’ve got two stories to bring to you today, from Michigan, that scare the hell out of me, and really truly make me wonder about the intelligence of state leaders. Michigan just edges out Tennessee in my rankings this week as the most insane state, although Tennessee put up a heck of a fight with this, passing a law that says you can’t use the words “gay” or “homosexual” in school.
But Michigan wins this week with these two stories.

The first came from “The Rachel Maddow Show” last week, and it’s about the shutting down of the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school that helps pregnant teenagers complete high school. This school has a 90 percent graduation rate, and 100 percent college acceptance rates for those who do graduate.
This is a wonderful place. And yet, using dictatorial powers and wrestling control away from local government, the state is shutting it down. And arresting the pregnant teens and others who had the temerity to protest.
Seriously, watch this for a few minutes, and be very afraid of a state run by Tea Partiers  that is simply running roughshod, and doing whatever it wants:

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Then there was this story. Which frightened me even more.

A plan set forth by state senator Bruce Caswell would require that foster children in the state would use their state-funded clothing allowance only in thrift stores.
Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor  is actually used for that purpose.
He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.
Seriously. This is what the man is worried about. All those foster children running around buying drugs and stereo equipment instead of clothing.

As Rachel Maddow said, “This can’t be real, right? This is cartoon evil.”

But yep, it’s real. In the great state of Michigan.

**Finally today, because people falling down is always funny, a couple of hockey refs who really, really don’t like carpets on the ice:

The incredible story of Dick Hoyt and his son. And the greatest school project on pregnancy, ever

What do you say we start the week with some inspiration?

Dick Hoyt and his son Rick have gone on an incredible journey for the past three decades. Rick has been confined to a wheelchair virtually since birth, struck down with cerebral palsy.
Wanting to show his son that he could still lead an active lifestyle, and refusing to allow Rick’s handicap to define the family, Dick started running road races.
While pushing Rick the whole time. They started with 5Ks, and moved on to half-marathons, and then marathons.
And because that wasn’t challenging enough (Dick and Rick actually ran several sub-3 hour marathon times in the 1980s; remember this is a man running while pushing another person in a chair) they started doing triathlons. Yes, Dick actually swam and biked with Rick strapped to his side, or in a boat nearby.

Through heart attacks and illness, through financial problems and divorce, Dick and Rick Hoyt, bonded together through their love and through running, have just kept on going. They have each other and little else, except for the love and admiration of millions who are so glad that from the start of the Hoyts’ crazy odyssey to now, the plight of disabled people has stopped being shoved in a dark closet and has been brought out into the brilliant sunlight.

There is so much we can accomplish with hope, and love, and a good pair of running shoes.
I can’t express how impressive these two are.

Next time you want to complain or worry about your problems, think of a father pushing his son in a chair, showing love the greatest way he can.

Here’s the Sports Illustrated story from last week’s issue by the great Gary Smith about the Hoyt’s, and below is the HBO Real Sports piece in which I first heard of them. If you’re not crying by the end, well, maybe your tear ducts are empty.

**I’ve heard about going above and beyond for a school project before, but this girl takes the cake.
Gaby Rodriguez is a 17-year-old student at Toppenish High School in Washington state.  She was a straight A student, and decided during her senior year that for her senior project, it’d be fun to pretend to be pregnant, to see how her school and the community would react.
And so she did it, for 6 1/2 months she pulled it off. Until last week, when she shocked her school by pulling her “baby bump” out from under her shirt.

All throughout, she wrote down what people were saying about her, and most of it wasn’t positive, as you’ll read.

I think this is beyond fantastic. That a kid would take on such a project to show how stereotypes foster terrible treatment of pregnant teens is WAY more interesting than any crap they show about it on MTV.

Good for you, Gaby.

End of the line for the Rangers, and other hockey thoughts. A cute kid can’t stop laughing. And James Inhofe, a Grade-A moron

And so for the 16th straight season, the New York Rangers will not win the Stanley Cup.
My beloved Blueshirts were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, in five games by the Washington Capitals.
And you know what? They should’ve been beaten in this series. The Caps are at least two, maybe three levels  more talented than the Rangers. And when you can’t score, well, you deserve to lose.
This Rangers team was painfully unable to score in this series, and for much of the season. They’ve got a great goaltender and some terrific young players (kids like Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer and Derek Stepan could be special soon), but man, they just don’t have any pure goal scorers besides Marian Gaborik (and he has yet to show up for this playoff series).

But hey, at least they made the playoffs this year, which is more than I can say for last year.  I am excited about the future of this team.
And now I can root for my man-crush Alex Ovechkin and the Caps to go all the way this year (did you see the sweet goal he scored Saturday? Check it out here.)

Couple other Stanley Cup playoffs thoughts:

— This Bruins/Canadiens series has been fantastic. Two straight OT games, including Saturday’s 2-1 Bruins win in double OT. Great hitting, great action, two teams that hate each other… just awesome. Here’s the play of Sat. night’s game, an incredible save by a Bruins forward named Michael Ryder:

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— I completely expect Vancouver to choke away Game 6 Sunday in Chicago and come home trying NOT to be the 4th team ever to blow a 3-0 lead in a series.
_ Six of the 8 first-round series have gone to at least six games. Which means we could see multiple Game 7’s this week. Game 7’s are the greatest thing in sports.

**Since we’re all suckers for cute babies laughing, check out this one I saw on the Internet. Man, this girl really loves bubbles!

**Finally, somehow I missed this a few weeks ago, and now having read it I am pretty stunned. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma illegally landed his Cessna airplane on a closed Texas runway last year, scaring the hell out of the workers there. The plane actually landed and “sky-hopped” over six vehicles AND over some personnel working on the ground.
What a class act. I wish this incident would get more publicity.

Traffic reports on TV, when Google fails, and other thoughts from my fried brain. And a hero amid the N.C. devastation

Not so much a coherent blog post tonight, as I’m extremely tired; more like some thoughts rattling around my brain that I wanted to get off my chest.

1. So I was flipping around the dial this morning while eating breakfast and caught the local news showing me a traffic report. On TV. And for the 74th time in my life, I thought “Why?” Traffic reports on TV, really? Think about it.  If you’re watching the report, you’re obviously not in the car.
If you’re watching the report and about to go out, chances are that by the time you turn the TV off, get in the car, and arrive to where there just was traffic, there won’t be much traffic anymore.
And third, let’s say you see a big accident reported on TV right where you’re about to drive through.  So you think, “I’ll take an alternate route.” But by the time you get to that alternate route, everyone who was ALREADY stuck in that traffic has gone the alternate route.
So basically I’m saying that traffic reports on TV are worthless. Yet they keep showing them.
And I just don’t know why.

2. Was having a deep conversation with Clay the other night and we got to talking about that famous quote about “we are all three people,” the person we are, the person others see us as, etc.  And neither one of us could remember exactly what the saying was, so I Googled it. And Googled it again, and then a third time, trying different ways each time. And I got nothing. Nada, zip.
So I’m telling you this because A, if any of you know what the exact quote is, I’d love to hear it. And B, I’m always shocked on the rare occasion when Google fails.
We are so used to being able to find everything we want, on the Internet, within seconds, that it’s truly stunning when we can’t instantly get satisfied with information.
Twenty years ago, just the idea of getting every single question we had answered immediately seemed like something out of “The Jetsons.” Now, we practically demand it.

3. My mom, God love her, just spent five minutes trying to convince me over the phone that Bernie Sanders, the liberal, self-admitted socialist Senator from Vermont, could be elected President. And I couldn’t dissuade her.

4. I think I have a long rant coming up soon about the Royal Wedding. A really long rant.

**I love small stories of heroism in disaster. So this story about a Shaw (N.C.) University football player named LaMichael Howell, and how he housed, clothed and fed so many of his fellow students after the Raleigh, N.C. school was ravaged by the recent tornadoes in the state. Howell showed some remarkable compassion in a time of trouble, and he should be applauded and praised to the hilt.

I hope he makes the NFL.

The odious Senate practice of “anonymous holds.” The mascot who stepped on kids. And a funny spoof of celebrity profiles

So this is one of those things that has bothered me for a long time and now I need to vent about it.
Remember when you were a kid, and you wanted to do something or go somewhere, and your parents said no, and you asked why, and they said “Just because,” or the ever-popular “Because I said so!”
No reason given, no explanation, just a simple “no” and you’d go stomping off into another room to sulk or play Nintendo or try to explain to your Don Mattingly wall poster how you wish he was your Dad (OK, maybe that was just me.)
Well, if you weren’t aware, a similar situation exists in the U.S. Senate. Any of the 100 Senators can, at any time, basically derail any piece of legislation, for any reason, without giving any kind of a reason or explanation.
And they don’t even have to identify themselves; they can put an “anonymous hold” on the bill, and poof, there goes a law that may have 99 of 100 other Senators’ support.
It’s disgusting and ridiculous that our democracy can work this way. But it does, and it did so recently on the National Whistleblower Protection Act, which was designed to help and protect employees who reveal dirty or corrupt practices of the companies they work for (think Enron).
One schmuck of a senator decided to put a stop to a bill that was popular in Congress and overwhelmingly with the public, for reasons he/she kept to themselves.
NPR’s fantastic “On the Media” show investigated, and long story short, figured out it was either Alabama’s Jeff Sessions or Arizona’s Jon Kyl (he’s the genius who recently said 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s money goes to abortions, when in reality it’s 3 percent)>
And yet, nothing can be done to shame Kyl or Sessions. They’re allowed to just sit in the shadows, grinning maniacally, knowing that 1 person can stop the will of the people, without even needing the guts to show themselves.
This is a pathetic disgrace, that anonymous holds are allowed to go on. This must be changed, and soon.
Meanwhile, the whistleblower legislation may see the light of day again … someday.

Because, you know, you don’t see this every day, here’s a big furry mascot accidentally attacking schoolchildren: Love the slo-mo replays.

**I have gotten to the point where I practically always refuse to read celebrity profiles in magazines. Nine times out of 10 they’re ridiculously fluffy, silly and mostly just self-promoting (I love Esquire because it has some amazing journalism, but their celebrity puff pieces (especially on beautiful women, which comes across as SO lecherous and juvenile are intolerable.)
Anyway, Tom Scocca  of Slate wrote this pretty amusing examination of the inanity of the celebrity profile. Check it out; you’ll laugh.

“Parenthood” goes out with an awesome bang. “Stairway to Heaven,” whistled. And monkeys riding dogs herding goats

Follow me on Twitter here. And I’m too upset by last night’s double-overtime Rangers loss to talk about it yet.

 Some thoughts 24 hours after another fantastic season of “Parenthood” has wrapped up. I waited a day to post these because I know not everyone can stay up until 11 p.m. to watch the best show on TV the night it airs. SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET, SKIP DOWN TO THE LED ZEPPELIN PICTURE.

**So many great scenes in the episode, but 3 stood out: Of course first was when Zeke took Amber to the junkyard and gave her that moving speech about “messing up his dreams.” God, Craig T. Nelson’s a phenomenal actor. Then in Max’s bedroom where he asks his father “Are you made at me because I have Asperger’s? I’ve complained before that they way overplay the Asperger’s angle on the show, but that was such a beautiful, tender moment.
And then of course the scene near the end with Amber and Sarah in the lobby of the playhouse was sensational. Truly heart-tugging stuff.

**I’m extremely disappointed they’ve chosen to have Jasmine and Crosby get back together. Totally at odds with Jasmine’s character as we’ve gotten to know her, plus Crosby doesn’t deserve her. It’d be much more interesting to keep them apart.
** Richard Dreyfuss really did nothing for me all season in his guest starring role. But he did have the line of the night: “I told them your daughter died.” (I guess out of context that doesn’t sound so funny. Trust me, it was).
**The only character I still can’t stand after two seasons is Christina Braverman. I just find her annoying and not nice.

**NBC better bring this show back. It’s way too good to let go. And it’s not like they have so much other quality programming, you know?

**Whatever else you want to say about my little blog here, you have to say this: I point you toward weird and interesting stuff.
For example, the recently-held International Whistling Competition (the Bulgarians are great at it!) featured this guy from New York, seen here at the 6:30 mark.
He whistles the great Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway To Heaven.” Seriously, you’ve got to hear this (and boo on the NY Times for not letting me embed this here.)

**Finally, some weirdness for your Thursday. The Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, a minor-league baseball team, are hosting on July 19 something called Team Ghost Riders. Which, as you’ll see by the below video, are monkeys riding dogs herding goats.
And no, I can’t explain it any more than that. Just watch.

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My brother-in-law’s amazing transformation. A tennis player turned hot dog vendor. And today’s sign we have gotten too lazy

 My brother-in-law Jason Linch has had a lot of cool experiences in his life (besides, you know, marrying into my family. What could be cooler than that?)
He spent a few years following the Grateful Dead around, supporting himself by selling sandwiches in the parking lot.
He’s a chef who once worked for John Popper of Blues Traveler (who as you know if you’ve ever seen him, liked to eat).
In the last year he’s tackled a new project: Himself. Jason, who loves food as much as anyone, has gone on a tremendously successful diet over the past nine months, losing 75 pounds.
It’s not so much a diet, actually, as a way of life. Jason has totally changed his eating habits, become a vegan, and made a dramatic change in his appearance (see above for the “before and after” pics.) 
Now he’s started a blog about delicious dishes for vegans, called The Real Meal Today. If you or someone you know is a vegan, check his site out here; Jason is truly a food savant.

 **This just depresses me. Honda has invented a device that basically takes away the hassle of, you know, walking.

As one of the YouTube commenters said, the company’s new slogan should be: “Honda. Because people aren’t lazy or fat enough yet.”
Seriously, who’s going to buy this thing? 

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**One of my favorite parts of being a journalist is getting to talk to cool people who have done things a little differently. I did a story for my newspaper Tuesday about a woman named Zenda Liess, who was a pro tennis player for a few years, then retired and opened up a hot dog stand on the beach in Daytona with her boyfriend.
Not the career path you’d normally choose. Anyway, I think the story turned out pretty well; check it out here.