Tag Archives: Freaks and Geeks

Tales from subbing at a junior high gym class: It’s as bad as you remember. Sarah Silverman is back with a great election year video. And the NRA website gives Cinderella and Goldilocks AK-47s.

EdCutlip.wonderyears

So as I’ve said here many times before, I’ve been substitute teaching in the New York City school system for four years now, though since our son was born I’ve only been teaching once a week.

Usually I go to a different school each week, and it’s uneventful. I love getting “out in the world” without the little guy once a week, and I avoid the truly awful schools, and my experiences are generally fine and routine.

Lately, though, I’ve had a pretty cool assignment. My favorite middle school in NYC, one that knows me and has used me a lot, asked me to be a five-week fill-in for one of their three gym teachers, who is on paternity leave.

So for the past four Tuesdays, I’ve reported to the gym and stayed there all day. I didn’t get a whistle or wear a cool hat like the legendary Coach Cutlip from “The Wonder Years,” but it has been a fascinating experience.

Some notes from the phys ed experiment:

— I hated, hated, hated junior high, and the worst part by far was gym class. Being half-naked in the locker room, as an adolescent boy, is horrifying. Throw in that I was considered a bit of a nerd, and there were mean bullies in my class, and well, use your imagination.

Here’s a nice re-creation of gym class from the folks at “Freaks and Geeks.”

Happily, I didn’t see too much of that so far. Each gym period has three classes in it, and they are inter-gender (which mine never were), so we’ve got 90 kids and three teachers all in one giant room.

— And let me tell you something, it’s physically dangerous. Not for the kids, but for me. They’re doing a basketball unit and so everyone was playing hoops today, but not really playing games, just shooting around. I got hit in the head with a volleyball during 2nd period (we’d run out of basketballs), and then hit again in the head with a basketball during 3rd period. I don’t think I was concussed, but seriously, it’s a jungle in there.

— In the last month I’ve seen about 1,000 boys take half-court shots. I think 10 went in. I wish I could say this was the “Steph Curry effect” since he makes so many of them, but I seem to remember my friends and I trying ridiculous half-court shots, too. What is it about heaving the ball as high and far as you can that’s appealing to us? I truly don’t know the answer.

— So this was fun: Tuesday one of the male gym teachers was telling the students that failing gym could prevent them from getting into their preferred high school, and that they must have a “real medical excuse” to get out of gym.

So one 7th grade girl raises her hand and shouts “That’s so not fair, what if we have our period?”
I was shocked because I don’t think 25 years ago when I was in junior high any girl would ever, ever shout that out and make it a topic of discussion, in front of boys, no less! But I guess kids growing up today, between Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and all that, share their lives completely and totally, and real life in school is just an extension of that.

— On that note, one hilarious threat from the female gym teacher a couple of weeks ago, to some 7th grade classes: “If you guys don’t be quiet and let me start the class, we’re going to sit here and I’m going to tell you in great detail where babies come from!”

The gasps of horror and “Noooooooooooooooooo!” screams could be heard all the way to California, I think. Needless to say, the kids got quiet.

Ah, junior high. There isn’t enough money in the world you could pay me to make me go back and be 12 again.

**Next up today, the great Sarah Silverman is back with another election-year video; in 2012 she famously told New York Jews to schlep down to Florida and make sure their grandparents voted.

Now, Sarah is supporting Bernie Sanders, and come on, is there any way I wasn’t going to post this video? It’s fantastic. Seriously, watch it. It’s 5 minutes and explains Bernie better than he ever could.

**And finally, I wish this was one of those stories from “The Onion” and we could all have a good laugh about it.

But no, no, it’s real. The NRA Family website and author Amelia Hamilton have created new versions of fairy tales where the characters carry guns.

Yep, Cinderella can now blow away those evil stepsisters with a rifle. Goldilocks wouldn’t have had any problem with those bears if she’d had her AK-47 with her! And Little Red Riding Hood, whoo boy, no worries on her walking through the woods now that she’s got her trusty pistol with her!

Seriously. This is a thing. Disgusting, revolting and just … awful.

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“Parenthood” goes out on a great note. Mental Floss pays tribute to the late, great “Freaks and Geeks.” And the Rangers-Flyers series has divided my family

Parenthood

Another season of the infuriating but fascinating and often lovable NBC show “Parenthood” has just finished up, and as usual, the season finale is so good and heartfelt that I almost overlook all the things wrong with this year’s show.

Like the insane storyline of Kristina running for mayor of Berkeley, or even more insane idea of her and Adam opening up a charter school for autistic kids. Or Sarah Braverman being a horrendous mother and all-around not-great person, yet getting more men chasing after her than any woman her age in history.

But dammit, as often as I get mad at the show, I still love it. The season finale (SPOILER ALERT) was beautiful in so many ways; Amber reuniting with her still-majorly damaged physically and mentally ex-fiance Ryan was beautiful. Ray Romano’s Hank, who I’ve completely turned around on and now root for, pouring out his heart to Sarah a week earlier, and now trying so hard to be the man she can date; and the Joel/Julia separation storyline, which has dragged on forever, continues to be interesting because of the great acting. (Completely improbable that Victor would win an essay contest and read so flawlessly out loud given what we know about him, but that scene in the school library was just so touching.)

The finale was sweet and tender with the whole Braverman family house being sold storyline coming to an end, and Drew going to see his new girlfriend, and Haddie suddenly being a lesbian (my wife and I both thought it was hilarious that the kid grew up in free-love Berkeley, yet discovered she liked girls at Cornell).

I don’t know if NBC is going to renew “Parenthood,” it seems to always be up in the air. But this show has tremendous heart, and for all its flaws, continues to win mine. Please, NBC, keep it on the air.

**Next up, the great website Mental Floss has been on a roll lately writing about beloved former TV shows, and this weekend they put out a list of “20 Things You Didn’t Know About” one of the all-time greats, and a show I’ve talked about several times on this blog already, “Freaks and Geeks.”

Couple of great nuggets in this story: Everything that happened to the characters on the show actually happened to one of the show’s writers (man, that episode with the fake keg party must’ve been hilarious in real life, too), Lauren Ambrose from “Six Feet Under” was almost Lindsey Weir (she’d have been great), and there were some awesome storylines for Season 2 that never got to happen (Daniel in jail? Yeah, that would’ve fit).

This was such a classic show; so wrong that it only got one season.

 

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**Finally today, Sunday was a great day (mostly) for me. My mother hosted a post-Passover lunch for our extended family, and I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while. We ate, we laughed, we ate some more, and I got to play catch with my 9-year-old nephew, which is always a good thing.

So everything was great… except when we watched the hockey game together. I was born and raised a Rangers fan, just like my father taught me to be. My sister married a man from outside Philadelphia, who is a die-hard Flyers fan and is raising his child to be one, too. (Hey, he has other good qualities, but she had to marry a Flyers fan???)

Anyway, the Rangers and Flyers played Game 2 of their Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series Sunday, and me and the enemy watched some of the game together. My bro-in-law and nephew cheered when something good happened for Philly. I cheered when something good happened for the Rangers.
They got to cheer more. I didn’t get to taunt a 9-year-old, which is probably a good thing.
The Flyers won. Then we ate.

Playoff hockey is life.  But family’s family. Still, I ain’t watching no more games with any Flyers fans this year…

 

“This is 40” was hilariously funny. Some very short book reviews from my vacation. And the best viral videos of ’12

Film Title: This Is 40

I freely admit to giving anything Judd Apatow does a chance, because he gave me and the rest of the world “Freaks and Geeks,” one of the best TV shows I ever saw.
Apatow does a little too much gross-out humor for my taste, but his movies are funny and have heart and he really knows how to write “real people” in his movies.

Still, I was pretty surprised at how fantastic “This is 40” was. I saw it on New Year’s Eve and it had me laughing just about the whole way through.

I know critics have given it mixed reviews, but I loved it. Paul Rudd is terrific, Albert Brooks is his usual hilarious self as Rudd’s money-mooching, triplets-having father (I continue to argue that Brooks is underrated; he’s hilarious in everything), and even Apatow casting his own daughters in the flick works, because they’re cute and funny.

Leslie Mann was just OK; she kind of whines a lot even when she’s not trying to, and I just don’t think she’s that good of an actress. But the script is really funny, the supporting cast is great (Megan Fox provides some good moments), and as someone nearing 40 myself, I could sorta empathize with the characters.

Ignore the critics; go see “This is 40.” And if you don’t bust a gut at the scene involving Rudd and a hand-mirror, well, you might not laugh at anything.

**As I’m just catching up on the InterWebs after my vacation, I missed this fabulous end of 2012 video. The 50 best viral videos of 2012, all in one video. For my money, No. 11 (the Isaac Lip Dub Proposal) is still the video of the year. And yes, I just watched it again.

**Finally, with a couple of long plane flights and some nice laying on the beach/pool time, I got to plow through four books on vacation. Some mini-reviews of three of them (the fourth, Mark Kriegel’s biography of boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, I gave up on halfway through. Just didn’t like the writing style, and wasn’t that interested in Mancini’s life, to keep going).

The Obamas, by Jodi Kantor. Fascinating biography from a N.Y. Times correspondent on the First Couple, focusing on them as individuals but also as a couple from 2008-2012. I’m a political junkie so I ate up the “inside politics” stuff (man, Michelle Obama really didn’t like Rahm Emanuel), but the marriage dynamic between the Obamas is a lot more complicated than I would’ve thought.

Kantor seems pretty slanted against both Barack and Michelle for large parts of the book, and she takes a few surprisingly nasty shots at each. But the honest reporting is terrific, and we see Michelle as a tough-as-nails, backroom dealer constantly pushing her husband to try to do better.

Definitely recommend this book.

My Life As an Experiment, by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is a really funny writer for Esquire who does these bizarre “year in the life” books; one was reading the encyclopedia cover to cover, another was about living exactly as the Bible says for a year.
This one is a series of one-month experiments where Jacobs goes far from the norm; he tries something called “Radical Honesty,” he pretends to be a hot woman in an online dating experiment, and he lives as George Washington for a month.
It’s hilarious and surprisingly insightful; his prose is funny and to the point and he doesn’t waste time with boring details. His wife is beyond saintly for enduring his craziness, by the way.

The Best American Sports Writing, 2012: I have read every volume since it started in 1991 or so, and each year I’m amazed at how much good sports journalism there is. This year’s selections are all over the place, like usual; a few stories that stood out were S.L. Price’s tale of a Aliquippa, Pa. and its high school football team, holding a town together, and a great story by Bill Donahue in Runner’s World about a woman whose brain surgery made her a stronger endurance runner.

If you love great writing, BASW always comes through.

Teaching dogs to drive, for real. It’s Hanukkah, so we can all listen to Adam Sandler again. And the stories behind “Freaks and Geeks.”

And a happy Friday to all of you fine people. Today’s Good News Friday starts with news that is good news for canines and people who don’t like driving.

Apparently three dogs in New Zealand are being taught to drive. I know this sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s true. Watch the above video and be very afraid.

Me? I hope all dogs learn how to drive. I’m sick of the Long Island Expressway traffic; with a pooch at the wheel, I can take a nap in the back. Or, since roles will be reversed, I can stick my head out the window with my tongue out.

**To all my Jewish readers, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah. The annual eight days of presents and lighting menorahs begins Saturday night, so as always here on the ole’ blog, a little Adam Sandler to get us in the mood.

This song still cracks me up whenever I hear it, especially the “fine-looking Jew!” part.

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**Finally, oral histories of news events and pop culture seem to be all the rage on the Internet these days; seems I can’t go more than a day or so without seeing one.
Which is great, I think; I love hearing the stories behind the stories. Today I was pointed toward Vanity Fair’s superb oral history of the best TV show no one ever saw when it was on, “Freaks and Geeks.” (It’s long, but it’s Friday, you can slack off work.)

Like millions (OK, thousands) of others, I caught up in re-runs a few years after it went off the year, and felt cheated that such an honest, painful, hilarious look at high school only got to do 18 episodes.

Lots of great material in here, including Judd Apatow knowing Seth Rogen would be a star right away, and how the whole cast pretty much had a crush on James Franco.

Read it weep that we never got to see Bill Haverchuck go out on a date.

Oscar noms are mostly on-point. And anti-semitism in pro hockey?

A rare Wide World of Stuff teaser: Tomorrow I will tell you about my crazy car adventure Tuesday night, when a huge rainstorm, slick tires, and a little carelessness found me and my Toyota stuck in a ditch for an hour on the side of the road (we’re both OK, thanks for asking).
No time to tell that story tonight, but tune in tomorrow, I promise you’ll be entertained…

Always love Oscar nomination day. Usually I see the list come out and I get annoyed that my favorite from such and such movie got snubbed.
But I have to say, I think the nominees are pretty damn good this year.
I’m still not a fan of the whole 10 best picture nominees; I thought five was fine.
But a lot of my favorites got picked this year. I am very glad “True Grit,” and Hailey Steinfeld, got nominated, and I hope Melissa Leo from “The Fighter” wins best supporting actress. Also thrilled to see “Toy Story 3” get a Best Picture nominee, though I highly doubt it’ll win.
I was surprised that “Waiting for Superman,” the documentary about the failing school system in America that everyone loved, didn’t get tapped.
Still, a darn good group of nominees, methinks.

**This story actually surprised and disturbed me when I saw it Tuesday night. Jason Bailey, a former hockey player in the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks organization, has filed a lawsuit against the organization and one of its minor league teams, the Bakersfield Condors, alleging anti-Semitism and a constant stream of verbal harassment.
I know what you’re thinking: There are Jewish hockey players? Yeah, I was surprised too, and I’m Jewish. But hey, there are several in the NHL, including the Montreal Canadiens’ Mike Cammalleri and the Washington Capitals’ Jeff Halpern.
In Bailey’s lawsuit, he says that Bakersfield coach Martin Raymond made derogatory comments like “they (Jews) only care about money and who’s who.”
And the suit says the assistant coach, Mark Pederson, said “well, I don’t know if we can trust him with money, he’s Jewish.”
Beyond the absurdity of that statement (everyone knows my people are good with money. Remember the great “Freaks and Geeks” line from the Jewish character Neil Schweiber: “I was elected class treasurer, and I didn’t even run.”), I’m surprised that, if true, the coaches would single out Bailey’s Jewishness as something to make fun of.
I’ve been around hockey players a lot as a reporter, and let me tell you, these guys will make fun of anything about their teammates. How they look, how they dress, how they skate, everything.
Never once did I ever hear religion brought into any discussion. Hockey players simply don’t care.
I’m not saying Bailey is making this stuff up; if true, the Anaheim organization absolutely should’ve disciplined Raymond and Pederson.
I’m just surprised that any hockey player, with so many other things to choose from in a ragging on a guy, would go after another’s religious beliefs.
What, the guy wasn’t ugly enough to make comments about his face?

Thirty-five, with a “Freaks and Geeks” present. And a hilarious book of kids’ letters from camp

Turned 35 on Tuesday. Didn’t sweat this birthday as much as some others. Sure, I felt sad a little that I’m getting older, and that I’m no longer in the coveted advertisers’ 18-34 demographic, and I’m now just as close to 40 as I am to 30 (and as you read this, I’m one day closer!).

My day was made by many things, including so many warm wishes from friends and family (I swear, every birthday turns into a “This is Your Life” it seems; people from different stops along the journey check in, and it’s wonderful), a terrific dinner with my wife, and some great presents.

My favorite gift? A wonderful one from my wife. She knows what a huge fan I was of the late, great television show “Freaks and Geeks.” And so I got the “Freaks and Geeks” ultimate DVD collection, with all 18 episodes on tape, plus director’s commentaries and all kinds of cool other stuff.

If you’ve never seen “Freaks and Geeks,” I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s about high school kids in 1980, and it’s by far the most realistic show about high school I’ve ever seen. So many of the kids on F&G have become stars, like Linda Cardellini (she was on “ER”), Jason Segel (in movies and “How I Met Your Mother”), Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up” and a bunch of other movies”) and James Franco (“Spiderman” and many others.)

The writing is so dead-on perfect, the acting is great, and the realism of the show drips through in every scene.

Highly recommend checking it out on Netflix or whereever you can find it.

**Sometimes you see a new book come out and the idea is so perfect, you’re like “Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?”

Heard about Diane Falanga’s new book on “CBS Sunday Morning” this week. It’s called “P.S. I Hate it Here: Kids’ Letters from Camp.” She’s gathered hundreds of real letters from people across the country, all telling about the horrible and wonderful adventures at camp.

There are great ones in here, with nuggets like “the rash on my penis (spelled “P-Nus” in the book) has gone away, so I can run now.,” and “Kenny has a new rifle. He let me hold it.”

My favorite letter had this P.S.:”Nick, the riflery teacher from last year, got fired for inhaling crack and camp. He also went to jail.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Outrage not worth it for Brett (Hamlet) Favre

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I wanted to be upset and angered and outraged when I heard that Brett Favre, he of more “retirement” pronouncements than Larry Holmes and Rocky Balboa combined, announced Tuesday he was coming back to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

I wanted to be ticked off that Favre had again lied to everyone’s face when he declared back in July that he was definitely retired for good.

You know, kind of like when he said after leaving my beloved New York Jets after last season that he was through. And when he retired as a Packer after the 2007 season. And when he retired … well, you get the jist.

But I just couldn’t work myself into a froth over it. To me, Favre’s just not worth it. He’s clearly a raging egomaniac who has now held 3 (count ’em, three) franchises hostage over the past two years, while we all waited to see what King Brett would do.

“You know who he is?” I said to my friend Tony Jones on the phone today. “He’s Freddy Krueger. Everytime you think we’re rid of him, every time he’s definitely, totally, completely gone, Favre pops back up.”

Tony agreed.

I just really don’t care about Favre anymore; as a Jets fan, Brett was like that really hot girl in high school who you NEVER think you’ll be able to get to go out with you. Then, amazingly, she agrees to be your girlfriend for little while, only to be totally not what you hoped for. (Incidentally, there was a great “Freaks and Geeks” storyline about this very same thing.)

A few questions I have about this whole new Favre arrangement:

— Can Vikings fans really just forget the last 16 years of hating this guy and cheer their guts out for him? Forget where I read it today, but this is like Derek Jeter putting on a Red Sox jersey, or Larry Bird getting traded to the Lakers. The Purple-clad Vikes fans hated No. 4’s guts for almost two decades, and now they’re going to pin their Super Bowl hopes on him? Definitely a weird set of emotions today if you’re a Vikes fan.

— Another question: Did Brad Childress and Co. watch any of the last six Jets games last season? Because I did. And injury or no injury, Favre has nothing left. I don’t think he’ll lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl anymore than Sage Rosenfels would’ve.

— Am I bitter as a Jets fan? Not really. I’ve said repeatedly that I loved that the Jets went and got Favre last yea, and that I was equally happy when he quit. It was a gamble worth taking, and I really don’t care about him anymore.

(What I do care about is my NFL Jets Favre jersey being devalued now; I kinda hoped it’d be a collector’s item one day, you know, Favre’s last-ever NFL jersey. Oh well; I’ll have to figure out another way to pay for my future kid’s college tuition)

— Will Packers fans boo Favre at Lambeau this year? Not sure. The question was tackled in a good SI.com column from Don Banks, and Packers fan and author David Maraniss said he wasn’t sure. Packers fans are wildly loyal and I just don’t know if they have it in their hearts to boo their legend.

Then again, I was just perusing the message boards on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Favre story, and well, the mood is not very friendly.

Anyway, I’m done with Favre. Play, don’t play, I really don’t care. Just for the love of God, don’t ever actually tell us you’re retiring again!

**Couple more scattered thoughts on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning:

— One more beauty of Facebook: It has completely ruined the ability of friends to say they forgot your birthday. If you’re Facebook friends with someone, there’s a little application on everyone’s home page that reminds you of all your friends’ birthdays.

It’s really quite wonderful; heard from so many people yesterday with good wishes. Would they’ve remembered without Facebook? Probably not. But it’s just one more nice way to stay in touch in our incredibly disconnected world.

**I’ve watched the Usain Bolt race a few more times since the weekend. I think I may have to do a separate post on him soon; I’m just so blown away by what he’s doing to track and field. He’s taking his sport to a whole new level.

Here’s a great story by Christopher Clarey in the NY times about him:

**Finally, Democrats in Congress =absolutely spineless jellyfish. So pissed off at my Party right now. Why must we always, always, screw things up when we’re finally in charge? Push a damn health care bill through, you’re in the MAJORITY!

“Rescue Me” and Rickey’s induction speech

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So I’m one of those people who gets really mad when my friends and family don’t watch a TV show I recommend heavily.

I think I have a secret fear that if I don’t zealously spread the word, it’ll get canceled.

I told everyone I knew to watch “Freaks and Geeks,” still the best show about high school ever. Few did. It got canceled after 18 episodes.

I raved about an old Jay Mohr show called “Action,” which was hilarious but criminally unloved. I loved “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which lasted a whole season.

After the pilot, I spread the gospel of “Dirty Sexy Money.” “It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s well acted, and it’s probably way too smart for most of America!” I exclaimed. It too got canceled.

With that track record, friends and family have grown skeptical. But dammit, sometimes I’m right. And from the first episode in 2004, my favorite show on television has been FX’s “Rescue Me.

If you are not familiar with it, a brief primer: It’s about life in a New York City firehouse post 9/11. The adventures of Ladder 62 make for the most hilarious yet heartbreaking show I’ve ever seen. In one minute, you’ll be busting out laughing at the wildly inappropriate humor. A few minutes later you’ll be devastated by the drama.

If you haven’t seen it, I beg you to give this hilarious clip a try. Or this unbelievably heart-wrenching one.

No show I’ve ever seen does comedy and dark humor better. Denis Leary is the star and is a genius. He plays Tommy Gavin, who has so many terrible qualities but so many great ones. Leary has been on other shows before and I’ve always watched them, because the dude is flat-out funny. When I was 14 I wore out his “No Cure for Cancer” comedy cassette, I played it so much. (The joke about the guy with the voice-box pulling up to the drive-through at McDonald’s still kills me).

Turns out Leary, who is one of the writers, is also a great actor, and the rest of the cast is fantastic, too. There’s Franco, the Puerto Rican tough guy who gets all the ladies and was revealed this season to have some interesting 9/11 theories. There’s Mike the probie, who is just so stupid but so endearingly earnest. There’s Ken (aka Lou), a great foil to Leary’s Tommy, who’s unlucky with women but has a great heart. There’s Sean, a great partner for Mike who has great comic timing and facial expressions.

There are lots more terrific, well-drawn characters, too, including a pair of crazy women Tommy’s constantly ping-ponging between. (For fans of the show, yes, I know that’s an old picture of the cast I’ve got up top, but I’m still mad they killed off Jerry the Chief a few years ago. I loved him.)

I don’t know why the Emmy Awards people keep snubbing this show, but it’s in the middle of Season 6 now and it’s still fantastic.

OK, end of arm-twist. It’s on tonight at 10 on FX, and it’s well worth your time.

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**On another note, I was wildly disappointed in Rickey Henderson’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech. Not only was Rickey one of my favorite players growing up (at least when he was a Yankee), but the dude was 100 percent unintentionally funny. He spoke in the third person constantly; one of my favorite Henderson stories was when, disgruntled with the team he was on, he called every GM in baseball and said “This is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey, letting you know that Rickey is available in a trade.”

Then there’s the story, which may be apocryphal, when he went up to John Olerud and said he played with a guy in New York who also wore a batting helmet in the field.

“Um, Rickey, that was me,” Olerud allegedly said.

Anyway, Henderson’s speech was anticipated since he was elected in January; what would such a strange dude say on the biggest day of his life?
Sadly for us, it was a straight, emotional, speech. Rickey didn’t even call himself “Rickey” during the 14-minute talk.

I’d say it was a pretty big letdown. Oh well. We still have the great Phil Rizzuto speech from1994 to appreciate.