Tag Archives: “The Wire”

A hilarious/sad community service award given to a college football player. The Flying Tomato squeezes out another gold medal. And an oral history book about “The Wire?” Yes please!

As a journalist you get all kinds of press release emails, and as a sportswriter, so many of them come from college athletic departments. They can’t wait to tell you about this amazing female volleyball player or male track athlete who won this award or did this amazing thing. Most of the time, you read the email for five seconds, realize that the college media relations department is seriously overhyping said accomplishment, and hit delete.

I gotta say, though, this story, this award, stands out as the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

Washington State University decided to honor a football player in its midst. A fellow named Logan Tago was feted and held up as a sensational role model, and given the CCE  Community Involvement Award, as given by the school’s Center for Civic Engagement.

“Tago was honored for his commitment to service around the City of Pullman and Palouse communities where he volunteered 240 civic engagement hours this past fall,” the press release states.

Whoa! That’s a lot of community service hours. Two hundred and forty is nothing to sneeze at. Man, Tago is a terrific guy, to spend that much time…

Oh wait. What’s that again?

Yeah, it seems Tago did all that community service because he was ordered to. By a court. In a plea agreement Tago accepted last year, ridding himself of a felony robbery charge and pleading guilty to a reduced third-degree assault charge. Tago was arrested in 2016 following an investigation in which a man accused him of stealing a six-pack of beer and punching him in the head, resulting in a concussion for the victim. As a result, Tago was ordered to perform the aforementioned community service and spend 30 days in jail. He was also suspended from the team.

But hey, way to go, Logan! You could’ve skipped out on those hours, gone back to jail, and we’d never have heard of you again. But way to go dude! You did it, you fulfilled what the law demanded of you.

I mean, did ANYONE at Washington State take five seconds to reconsider this award?

Apparently not. It did give me a great laugh though.

 

**So I finally watched a little Olympics coverage Tuesday night, and I picked a good night to do so. After 17-year-old tiny pint of awesome Chloe Kim kicked butt on way to a gold medal in women’s half-pipe, “old man” Shaun White, aka “The Flying Tomato” won yet another gold medal at age 31.

I know nothing about this sport, but even I’m blown away by the tricks this guys can do. Watch this crazy-great run above (you can skip to 1:35 for the actual performance)

**Finally today, it’s pretty rare I get THIS excited about a new book. But Jonathan Abrams, who used to write for the New York Times and Grantland, has just published a new book. And it’s an oral history of the greatest television show of all time, “The Wire.”

I have prophesized on here many, many times about the greatness of this HBO show that ran for five seasons in the mid-2000s. But I know there are still people out there who haven’t seen it, and I’m here to once again tell you, you must.

The book arrived today and since I couldn’t wait I already read some excerpts online, and it’s fabulous. One quick thing I’ve already learned? The actor originally in line to play McNulty was John C. Reilly. That’s right, the incredible actor from “Chicago” and “Boogie Nights” and so many other great flicks was going to be cast as a Baltimore homicide detective.

But his wife didn’t want to move to Baltimore, so Dominic West got the part.

So much good stuff in this book. If you’re a “The Wire” nut like me, buy it here.

The fugitive who just loved karaoke a little too much. Jerry Seinfeld refuses to hug Ke$ha and it’s hilarious. And a fantastic story about the actors who played the kids in “The Wire.”

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A writer rethinks his love of “The Wire” in light of the Baltimore violence. John Oliver brilliantly skewers standardized tests. And funny men are better in bed (now there’s proof!)

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Frank Deford, who is by nearly-universal agreement one of the 5-6 best sportswriters who ever lived, used to scoff when people would refer to him derisively as just a “sportswriter.”

I am a writer, he would argue, who writes primarily about sports. His point was that he could have written about any subject you choose and he’d do a good job on it; to call him “just a sportswriter” diminishes his talent and implies that’s all he could do.

Dave Zirin makes me think of that old Deford line, because he’s a terrifically talented journalist, who ostensibly writes about sports but really much more than that, about the intersection of sports, culture, race and politics. I’ve highlighted his work before, and he’s often at his best when he steps outside of commenting on games.

I read this piece by Zirin the other day and have thought about it ever since. Like me and millions of others, he’s a huge fan of HBO’s “The Wire”, partly because it did such a tremendous job showing inner-city Baltimore’s real life, and the constant battle between drug dealers, police, and the racial questions that never go away.

But given what’s happened in “real life” Baltimore the past few weeks, Zirin has taken to re-assessing. He now finds himself angry “The Wire” didn’t address more real-life city issues, like young African-Americans trying to change Baltimore’s schools, or in the season set by the docks, why more black union leaders weren’t shown?

I don’t agree with Zirin here; I think it’s unrealistic to expect a TV show to cover all possible angles/areas of a city, and his criticisms of choices the show made are easy to make in light of what’s going on in Baltimore today.

But it’s a really interesting and compelling article, and I highly recommend it.

**Next up, the brilliant John Oliver took his delicate scalpel to the highly-charged issue of standardized testing in schools on this week’s show, and as usual he did a masterful job.

As a part-time teacher I’ve followed this issue closely, and Oliver hits just about all the right notes, and I’m particularly glad he focused heavily on Florida, which was just about ground zero of the whole standardized testing movement, a movement Jeb Bush basically championed more than anyone.

Just watch that young Florida girl in Oliver’s piece, and tell me we’re not doing more harm than good here.

**Finally today, I’ve been told all my life I’m a pretty funny guy, so I’d like to think not everyone has been lying. But where did that get me with women most of my teen years and through much of my 20’s? Nowhere, that’s where.

If only I’d had a research study, some kind of proof, that funny men are great lovers. If only the University at Albany (N.Y.) had come out with this study before now, I could’ve been like Hugh Hefner or Wilt Chamberlain!

What am I babbling about? Researchers at Albany studied undergraduate females and asked them a bunch of questions, and found that “women are more likely to not only prefer sex with a man who makes her laugh, but they’re also more likely to initiate it more often, straight-up want it more often and physically enjoy it more.

“Further, women are more likely to feel both protected by and committed to her man if he knows exactly what sort of joke will have her doubled over with a fit of the giggles.”

Can’t argue with science, right? Funny men rule.

Good News Friday: The Winter Classic hockey game a great start to 2015. Parenting tips that are actually brilliant. And a little taste of “The Wire.”

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And a Happy 2015 to you!  Thanks for coming to see this blog again in 2015, I truly I appreciate your readership and support.

Hope your New Year’s celebration was fun, and safe. We Lewises had a very low-key night, thanks to the new baby and all, plus the wife has been sick and coughing all week. Still, it was fun watching an old movie favorite (“You’ve Got Mail,” which I know will be mocked by some but we like it), then turning on CNN to see Kathy Griffin hilariously, as always, embarrassing the hell out of Anderson Cooper. Sadly, it’s the only time I think I turned on CNN in 2014.)

And oh yeah, R.I.P., Mario Cuomo. As gifted a public speaker as has ever been in politics. Watch this if you don’t believe me.

Used to be, Jan. 1 meant only college football bowl games, and I’ll admit, this year gave us a bunch of great ones (Michigan State erasing a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Baylor was sensational, and Oregon laying the smackdown on Florida State was delightful to see. Jameis Winston and Co. deserve to be humbled a bit, don’t you think?)

But since 2009 the NHL has made Jan. 1 must-see hockey, and once again the Winter Classic delivered the goods Thursday.
No, we didn’t get snow like we did that first year, but it was still a hell of a hockey game between the Blackhawks and Capitals. Good action, lots of chances, great job by NBC with that only-works-in-outdoor-games overhead camera angles, and a dramatic finish with the Caps scoring the game-winner with 12 seconds left. (As a Rangers fan, I didn’t like the ending, but hey, it’s just one game).

The NHL has done a great job moving the game around to different and unique venues; some cool ones in the future would be Ohio State’s football stadium (Columbus Blue Jackets would host, but NHL won’t do it because Columbus isn’t a big market) or Denver’s Invesco FIeld (hockey outdoors at high altitude would be fun.)

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Next up, this is pretty ingenious if you’re a parent: The website http://www.twentytwowords.com has come up with a story called “27 Parenting Hacks that will make you feel like you have everything under control.” It’s filled with great tips like the one in the photo above, which instructs to put a fitted sheet over a Pack and Play so your baby can stay cool outdoors without getting eaten alive by bugs.
I also love “instead of having to cut each piece of food into tiny bites with a knife, use a pizza cutter” and “use a disposable coffee lid to keep popsicles from turning into a huge mess.”

Seriously, a lot of these tips are fabulous; check them all out here.

**Finally, a little video from “The Wire” that always makes me smile, because it’s the best show ever on television, because HBO has been running the whole series from beginning to end the last few days and of course I had to DVR a couple, and because if you resolve to watch only one thing on 2015 that you’ve never watched, I implore you to make it “The Wire.”

This video definitely not safe for work, but it’s fantastic (my favorite quote is from Daniels at :52.)

The five best TV dramas of all time (according to me)

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You may remember a few weeks ago when I put together a list of what I thought were the five best TV sitcoms of all time.

A few of you were mad I omitted “Taxi,” and “Mad About You,” and M-A-S-H,” and on the first two I see your argument, but I just never got the appeal of Alan Alda and crew working to save lives during the Korean War. I mean, I get why people loved it, but it just never did it for me.

Now, since dramas deserve equal time, I present my five favorite one-hour shows of all time.

5. L.A. Law: The greatest show of my childhood, and one I used to beg to be allowed to stay up late for. Sleazy but lovable Arnie Becker. Straight-laced legal wizard Michael Kuzak. Tough-as-nails prosecutor Grace Van Owen. Crotchety old Douglas Brackman. Tax attorney Stuart Markowitz and his bride, Ann Kelsey.
These were the brilliant legal minds of Mackenzie Brackman, and they brought the funny, the serious and the heart-tugging emotions every week. Thursday nights at 10, I felt like I was getting a glimpse into “grown-up world” television. “L.A. Law” never patronized its viewers, always brought interesting cases, and was the forerunner of so many of today’s legal dramas.
It’s entirely possible that my friends Marc, Andrew and I were the only 12-year-olds in America debating Arnie’s sex life and Abby looking for her kidnapped son, but man did we love that show.

I miss it still.

4. Friday Night Lights: One of three shows on my list that I didn’t discover until very late in its original run, or after it was over, the tribulations, joys and heartache of the Dillon Panthers, and everyone around the West Texas football team, was simply sensational. I’ve never seen a show beloved by such a cross-section of people as this one; Kyle MacLachlan as Eric Taylor, and Connie Britton as Tammy (aka Mrs. Coach) led an incredible cast, the writing was sensational, and it pulled on your emotions like few others.

The scene that hooked me for good was early in the first season, in the third episode, when Taylor had his team run up and down a hill in the rain while screaming at them.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
If you’ve never seen it, the whole run of the series is on Netflix. So good.

3. Breaking Bad: I’m cheating a little here because my wife and I aren’t finished with all five seasons of this glorious show (right now we’re three episodes away from the end of season 4), but it’s been so incredible, living up to all the hype so many people in my life have promised, that it’s already No. 3 on my list, and quite possibly moving up.
A high school chemistry teacher stricken with cancer, his troubled but good-hearted (mostly) protege, and an indelible cast of drug dealers, lawyers and family members have made this probably the best piece of television made in the past decade.
Just as everyone told me, Season 1 was really good, Season 2 was better, Season 3 was even better, and Season 4 blows them all away (yep, it’s incredible).
There isn’t a single flaw in this show, and it’s so beautifully constructed that most of the time when the episodes end my wife and I are both open-mouthed, jaws dropping, uttering “Wow.”

2. The West Wing: I’ve always told myself that this and my No. 1 choice were dead even in every way, but if I absolutely had to choose, the Jed Bartlet administration comes in second. Loved this show from the minute I first started watching, at the start of season 2, and its first four seasons were so incredible I could (and have) watched them on reruns dozens of times.

The casting was perfect, especially Leo McGarry (John Spencer), Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), and Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlet. Aaron Sorkin’s writing was cracklingly brilliant, the storylines were fascinating, and the humor and drama blended beautifully.
The last two seasons weren’t quite as magical, but as a whole “The West Wing” was still better than any other network drama ever.

1. The Wire: Nothing I can say here except that “The Wire” is the greatest piece of pop culture entertainment I’ve ever experienced. I’ve proselytized about this show to so many of my friends and family that many have watched it just to shut me up, I think.

David Simon, over five seasons on HBO, created a masterpiece, weaving the lives of drug dealers and police officers in inner-city Baltimore into a coherent narrative that stands up to anything else that’s ever been on TV.
“The Wire” treated you as an adult, forced you to pay attention, and rewarded you for watching all the way through.
I bow down to you, David Simon, and me and millions of others are grateful that you created such a fantastic show.

 

Why casino gambling should be legal, in every state. “The Wire” acted out in LEGOs, brilliantly. And the end of Linsanity makes NY sad

So I was watching TV the other day and two news stories came on, one right after another, seemingly coincidentally.
The first story was about state budget deficits, and how thanks to the economic downturn more and more states are cutting services.
The second story was about New York State continuing to face opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s plan to legalize casino gambling in the state, even after states like New Jersey continue to make it easier for people to place bets.

Now, full disclosure: I like to gamble. Casinos to me are exciting, bright and sparkling houses of fun. I say this as an adult who has lost money at them, and as an adult who has won money at them. If I were wealthy, I might gamble a lot more.
Yes, I know gambling can be addicting, and I know it’s very, very easy already to place wagers on the Internet at sites like this.

But so many states are laying off teachers, cutting crucial government services, etc., that alternative revenue sources have to be found. Casino gambling is, and could be, a huge source of income for desperate states.
Frankly, I feel like the positives outweigh the negatives here.

**As I’ve said on here too many times to count, “The Wire” was the greatest show ever on TV. So anything “Wire” related that comes across my radar, I try to pass along.
This will only be hilarious to people who’ve seen the show (Jason Garber and Clay Pandorf, you in particular will like this), but it’s “The Wire” acted out in LEGOs. Brilliant…

**So it became official late Tuesday night: Jeremy Lin is no longer a New York Knick. It’s hard to remember an athlete coming from total obscurity, rising to an insane level of fame and popularity, then being gone from the place that gave him that fame and popularity as fast as Lin.

He was like a meteor soaring above Madison Square Garden in February, and now he’s gone, off to Houston because once again, Knicks owner James Dolan is too stupid and too cheap to know a good thing when he has it (What, suddenly a man who gave untold millions to Howard Eisley and Maurice Taylor is suddenly thrifty? I’m not even a Knicks fan and I think the guy is a disgrace).

So Lin goes off to the Rockets, where he’ll probably play great. Most of my Knicks fans friends are pissed, because after watching 15 years of bad basketball, they finally had something to be excited about last season.

Here’s a great column on Lin and the cluelessness of Dolan from the N.Y. Times’ Harvey Araton, and a humorous look at Lin “returning” to the Knicks in 2030 by Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal.

The Trayvon Martin shooting sparks outrage (and great writing). Final Four field is set, and I’m not happy. And tennis gets some love on “60 Minutes”

It seems like every day, this Trayvon Martin shooting story gets bigger and bigger.
I’ve been as interested in it as anyone else, partly because I used to live very close to Sanford, Fla., where a 28-year-old white man named George Zimmerman shot and killed a 17-year-old African-American boy.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much outrage has been sparked, from professional sports teams like the Miami Heat (who took this fantastic photo, above, in support of Martin, who was wearing a hoodie when he was killed), to ordinary folks all across the country who are sick and tired of our gun culture, and racial prejudice, combining to cause so many innocent victims.

I think the police acted way too slowly in this case, and I fear that there are far too many people who seem to think any white male who, for any reason, feels threatened by a member of a minority is totally within their rights to start shooting.

I read two excellent articles about the case over the weekend that I wanted to share: Here’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts with his take on the case, and David Simon, the brilliant creator of “The Wire”, talking about our gun culture and how destructive it is.

**The Final Four is now set, and I don’t think many people had their brackets right on this one. Kansas, Ohio State, Louisville and Kentucky all survived their first four games and get to now play on the biggest stage in college basketball.
Some quick-hit thoughts on the weekend’s games:
— That Kentucky-Indiana game Friday night was so much fun to watch; easily the most entertaining game of the tournament. So many great athletes in the game, such excellent shooting, and really, really solid team basketball. It was a joy to all of us who love the sport.
— I dislike Rick Pitino quite a bit, and think his ethics leave much to be desired. But damn, the guy can coach his fanny off. This Louisville team in no way seemed good enough to reach the Final Four a few weeks ago, but they got hot at the right time, and they’ve got a masterful leader who knows how to get the most out of his players.
— Can’t wait until John Calipari has this Final Four appearance vacated for cheating, just like the last two times he’s gone there (with UMass and Memphis). The trifecta will be beautiful for this soul-less ethically-challenged jerk.
— I hate UNC as much as any Duke fan, but I did feel a little sorry for them that they lost their floor leader, Kendall Marshall, for the regionals due to injury. Carolina may have been the best team in the country, but I would’ve liked to have seen ’em get beat at full strength.
— Oh, to be in Kentucky this week. I can’t imagine much work will get done in the state. The Wildcats and Cardinals rivalry is pretty intense already, but now they’re playing each other in the Final Four? Two coaches that hate each other, two fan bases that hate each other, playing for a spot in the title game? It’ll be madness from Bowling Green to Paducah.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally today, it’s rare that my beloved sport of tennis gets mainstream media attention. So I was thrilled to see current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who has a remarkable life story and genuinely seems to be a good guy, profiled last night on “60 Minutes.” If you’re a big tennis fan, there’s not a lot of “breaking news” here, but it’s a great look at the Serbian star, where he came from, and how he’s become so dominant.

Well done, “60 Minutes.”

Musings on the joy of bookstores. A ridiculous Andy Roddick shot. And loving “The Wire” vicariously through my best friend

I am an enormous fan of bookstores. For so many reasons. I love wandering around them never knowing what I may stumble upon.
I love that you can just sit in them for hours and get transported into another world. I used to have a thing, for a long, long time, that I literally could not go into a bookstore without buying something. I had very little self-control.
I haven’t been wandering in bookstores for a while; just don’t seem to have the time or the desire.
Luckily, Joe Posnanski did, the other night. And he wrote this hilarious, poignant, rambling collection of thoughts about how we feel in bookstores, what happens there, and why the bargain bins always have bird-books in them.
If you love books, you’ll love this piece, and it’ll brighten your Monday. I promise.

**Andy Roddick, on match point Sunday, to win a tournament, hit the most ridiculous shot of his life. He said so himself. Watch this and your jaw will drop:

**So I’ve been trying to get my best friend Clay to watch “The Wire” for about four years now.
Finally, about six months ago, on one of our rare visits (he lives in California), I literally stuck the entire first-season DVD box in his hands and said “Watch this. It’s the best show ever on television.”
Well, what you have to know about Clay, God love him, is that he’s deliberate. I mean, he makes molasses seem speedy. It takes my boy a long, long, LONG time to do things, but he eventually does them. I knew he would one day get around to watching “The Wire,” and be immersed in the world of Omar Little and Avon Barksdale and the great, great Stringer Bell.

Finally, he finished Season 1 Saturday night. And then left me a classic voicemail telling me how much he loved the show, and thanking me for turning him onto it (Hey, I steer him toward all the good stuff. He never watched “The West Wing” or “Six Feet Under” before I told him to.)

People, I cannot recommend “The Wire” enough. Netflix it, watch it on HBO, whatever you’ve got to do. You will not be sorry.

Schoolchildren as speed bumps. Seriously. And loving “Friday Night Lights” so far

This is one of those ideas that I’m not sure is either brilliant, or horribly misguided.

The city of Vancouver was unhappy that drivers seemed to be speeding through school zones, and ignoring the speed bumps as well.
So they’ve decided to unveil new “pavement paintings” on the city’s speed bumps near École Pauline Johnson Elementary School.

The 2-D image they’re using? A playing child.
That’s right, the image is designed to make it seem to the driver that as he’s driving closer and closer to the school zone, he’s about to ram into a child.

According to this story, the pavement painting appears to rise up as the driver gets closer to it, reaching full 3-D realism at around 100 feet. “Pavement Patty,” as the girl in the painting is known, is intended to “give drivers who travel at the street’s recommended 18 miles per hour (30 km per hour) enough time to stop” before running over the fake child, “acknowledging the spectacle before they continue to safely roll over her.”

Wow. I mean, wow. I guess this could convince people to drive slower. I think it also could mean a ton of drivers slam on their brakes and cause accidents because they think they’re about to hit an innocent child.
Curious to hear what you think; brilliant idea, or really misguided one?

**I mentioned last week that I was finally taking the plunge and starting to watch the show everyone has told me is so awesome, “Friday Night Lights,” from the beginning.

Six episodes in, I’m hooked. The music is fantastic, and it plays under just about every scene. The acting is excellent, particularly Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler. The football scenes? Yeah, there’s some Hollywood-ization there, but I’ve seen much worse.

So far I have to admit it’s as great as everyone has told me it is.  Really strong writing, and Minka Kelly is not bad to look at every episode.  Just sayin’.

On a related note, my best friend Clay has finally, after years of me nagging, begun to watch Season 1 of “The Wire.” I’ve told him he’s got to stick with it for at least 3-4 episodes, because it gets better every episode and you need to at least give it a chance.

After one episode, he called and reluctantly agreed it’s “interesting” and that he’ll keep watching.
It’s the best show in the history of television, I’ve told him. I hope he watches long enough to believe me.

And for you “Wire” fans out there, here’s a great clip:

On Labor Day, thinking of prostitution. And jumping on the “Friday Night Lights” bandwagon

So I was thinking a lot about prostitution this weekend.
Not for no reason, of course. Sunday and Monday I was chasing a pretty big story at my newspaper: The most famous high school football coach in town was arrested Saturday night for trying to solicit a hooker. He was caught as part of an undercover sting operation by the local police.

I got to thinking a little bit about the whole way we criminalize prostitution in this country. I’ve never been entirely comfortable seeing this as a black and white issue. Prostitution is a victimless crime, legalization proponents say. It’s one person and another person coming to a mutual agreement to have sex, and one person pays the other for it.

Why is this illegal? Of course, there’s the other side, which says that making women sell their bodies for sex, while a pimp profits, is downright wrong.

I don’t know, I’m a pretty liberal guy. I happen to think prostitution isn’t the biggest priority for our police forces right now. I think laws should be looked at and loosened. But I’m open to arguments, as always.

**It took me a while to finally listen to everyone I knew who told me to watch “The Wire.” When I finally did start watching the greatest show ever on television, I kicked myself for waiting this long.

That’s probably how I’m going to feel about “Friday Night Lights.” Many people, from different areas of my life, have been telling me for years how good the show is.

The book was incredible, and the movie was pretty good. So I had no interest in the TV show when it first came out.
I watched one episode the first season, and there was a scene where a kid threw like an 80-yard pass in the air. That was all I needed to see.
But since it’s been so universally beloved for so long, I figured it’s time. ABC Family is re-running the whole series, from the beginning, starting today at 6 p.m. So I’ll be DVR’ing and watching for as long as the show interests me, probably posting periodic blogs about it.
All the hype can’t be wrong, right?