Tag Archives: White House Correspondent’s Dinner

The Jets (maybe? Finally?) draft their QB savior, and some other NFL Draft thoughts. The worst person you’ll hear about today, a New Jersey woman who berated cops. And the Waffle House shooting hero continues to be amazing, and under-publicized.

There have been so many who’ve tried and failed. I could make a list, but it’s too depressing, and too long.

The New York Jets have been trying for the past 40 years to find a franchise quarterback, somebody who can lead them to the Super Bowl and render this mostly laughingstock of an organization into one that others aspire to be like (Hey, it can happen with a great QB: The Patriots used to be a laughingstock, too.)

They were so sure they had one with Mark Sanchez about a decade ago. That didn’t work out so well.

But you know what, ya gotta keep trying, so Thursday night this tortured franchise that has caused me way too many bad moods and heartache took another swing at finally finding an Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees.

His name is Sam Darnold, he played at USC for two years, and I have no Earthly idea if he’ll be the next Favre or the next Browning Nagle. He looks good in highlights, he’s got a problem with fumbling and throwing interceptions, but he smiles nice and is saying all the right things so far. (Also, his grandfather, Dick Hammer, was the Marlboro Man in TV commercials. That’s kind of awesome.)

Can Sam Darnold lead my tortured team to the promised land? Who the hell knows. It’s only April. But I’m sure by September I’ll have myself convinced Darnold will be the man.

Couple other quick-hit thoughts on the three-day extravaganza that is the NFL Draft:

— There is no more overhyped event in sports, every year, than this draft. It is beyond ridiculous how many “mock drafts” and endless hours are spent speculating about which college tight end is the best, or if that NFL team can find a good safety. Months pass from the Super Bowl to this process of picking new players, and it’s interminable if you follow football. Anyone wondering if football is still king in America should look at the incredible amount of stories written about the Draft.

No question it’s still king.

— Best story of the draft: One-handed phenom Shaqueem Griffin of Central Florida getting chosen by the Seattle Seahawks, then having this wonderful reaction with his family.

— The Cleveland Browns will always be the Cleveland Browns. Maybe Baker Mayfield will be a great quarterback, and their other top 5 pick, Denzel Ward, maybe he’ll be a great defensive back. But the fact that almost nobody thought the Browns did well with those two picks should be alarming to Browns fans. Then again, they’re Browns fans, they live in a state of alarm and unhappiness.

— Loved this story from former NFL front-office executive Andrew Brandt:

“And my favorite story of my career came when signing an undrafted player: I once told a player we would sign him for a $500 bonus. His response: “I only have about $100 now, but I can get you the rest next week.” “No,” I answered, “We pay you.”

That cracked me up. 

**Next up today, James Shaw Jr., the hero of the Tennessee Waffle House shooting last week, continues to do great things. Self-effacing and humble, Shaw has reached out to the victim’s families and helped raise $205,000 to help pay for the three funerals of those who died.

This is a quiet, honorable man, who isn’t getting near the attention of the idiotic White House Correspondents Dinner, or the latest ramblings from President Moron, or whatever Kanye or other attention-starved celebrities have been getting.

But Shaw is a nice reminder that being thrust into an awful situation, totally not of your own doing, can reveal loads about character and the kind of person you are.

**Finally today, let me introduce you to a truly awful human being. The anti-James Shaw, if you will. Meet Caren Z. Turner, a residence of Tenafly, N.J. and a former commissioner of the Port Authority (that’s the agency that runs the trains and buses in New York and New Jersey).

She’s a “former” commissioner because of this odious behavior she displayed recently after her daughter and some friends were pulled over during a traffic stop. Watch how she berates and tries to “big time” these two police officers, who maintained an amazing level of patience during this. (Why Turner refuses to just ask her daughter and the driver what happened completely baffles me.)

This woman is exactly why people hate those who have privilege and power and try to use it to their advantage, thinking they can just throw their “weight” around. Watch how abusive she gets toward the end, how insulting she is to these two men simply doing their jobs. I noticed that her daughter and friends do nothing to try to stop Turner; maybe they’re just used to their parents getting them out of stuff like this, or maybe they’re too embarrassed by her behavior to interfere.

Either way, it’s an object lesson in how NOT to behave. Good riddance.

The President again brings the funny at Correspondents Dinner. A very cool NASA video. And some thoughts on a crazy-fun weekend of playoff hockey

I say it every year, and I’ll keep saying it: The White House Correspondents Dinner is ridiculous. Journalists who cover high-ranking politicians in the U.S. government, going to an event where they kiss up to, schmooze and drink with the people they cover violates so many ethical rules of journalism, I can’t even count that high.

It’s obscene, journalistically, that so many papers and websites and TV stations attend this every year. And Saturday night, while the city of Baltimore was erupting in protest over yet another suspicious death of a black man while in police custory (RIP, Freddie Gray), every single major cable news channel showed the WHCD, and not real, actual news breaking in a major American city. Disgraceful.

It’s also a little bit blood-boiling for me that Barack Obama always honors and toasts journalists at this thing, yet his administration has done more to stifle press freedom, between prosecuting journalists who protect secret sources, to being not nearly as transparent as he promised, than most other Presidents have.

However, it’s also true that it’s the one time of year where Barack Obama gets to show off his comedy chops. And the man has serious comedy chops. (Check out this clip with the awesome Keegan-Michael Key, playing his “anger translator.“)

His speech this  year was as good as ever, highlighted by one-liners such as:

— Those Grey Hairs: “I look so old John Boehner’s already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.”

— Hillary Clinton: The economy’s gotten so bad for some people, Obama said, “I had a friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and now she’s living out of a van in Iowa.”

— Joe Biden: Talking about how close he and Vice President Biden have gotten, especially in stressful times, Obama joked that he loves Biden’s back massages. “Those Joe Biden shoulder massages are like magic. You should try one.” [Pause.] “Oh, you have?”

He added, “We’ve gotten so close, in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore.”

Good stuff.

**Next up today, this is incredibly cool: NASA released a video last year (that I just saw this wekeend, thanks to a friend’s Facebook page) showing what the eruption of the Sarychev volcano looked like when it happened in 2009 (The Sarychev volcano is a Russian archipelago located in the Kuril Islands, out in the Pacific Ocean).

Mesmerizing, isn’t it?


**God bless the Stanley Cup playoffs. Man, I love them. Of course I’m happy this day because my New York Rangers finished off Pittsburgh Friday night, and for the first time in forever, actually have a few days off.

But there was sensational hockey all over the place the last few days, in great contrast to the for some reason more popular NBA, where blowout after blowout reigned in the first round. (Seriously, there’s one competitive series among the 8 first-rounders. ONE!)

A few scattered Stanley Cup playoffs thoughts from the last few days:

— The Islanders and Capitals play Game 7 tonight, and it should be a beaut. If Saturday was the last game at the old dump, aka, Nassau Coliseum, it went with a loud bang, literally. As a Rangers fan, I’m stuck in a very uncomfortable position: Rooting for the Islanders.
I desperately want to see a Rangers-Islanders series, first one in 21 years, but I’m also scared to death that the Isles might win that series. So I should be rooting for the Caps tonight, but that would be no fun. Go Isles (ducking to avoid lightning bolt).

— Move over, San Jose Sharks. The St. Louis Blues have eclipsed you as the biggest chokers in hockey. Man oh man, what a miserable performance, losing in the first round again, on Sunday to Minnesota. How many years have the Blues been favorites, and lost?

— The Chicago Blackhawks, if they get any kind of decent goaltending at all, will win the Cup.

— So great to see Canadian teams like Calgary doing well; they are such a fun team to watch.

— Finally, Ryan Miller almost won a gold medal for the U.S. in 2010. Now in 2015, he gives up a 3-0 lead for Vancouver and 5 goals, total, in an elimination game. Boy has that guy fallen fast.

A new candidate for best headline of the year. Obama kills it at the Correspondents Dinner. And movie theaters caving on cell phones?

Depressed about last night’s New York Rangers loss to the Washington Capitals, but sometimes you’ve gotta blog when you’re sad. So here goes.

For one thing, this headline cheered me up. It’s guaranteed to make you want to read the story below it.

Meth lab explodes in man’s pants, Oklahoma police say

Yes, that’s right. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol tried to arrest a guy after noticing he had a “chemical smell” near him.
The fellow then tried to run away while having “an active meth lab in his pants” (ladies, bet you never heard that one before at the bar!) but the lab exploded, causing what I’m sure was quite a mess and perhaps some pain to the felon.

Ah, stupid criminals. What would we do without them.

**Speaking of dirty things, the annual smooch-fest between politicians and the reporters who cover them happened over the weekend. Yes, the White House Correspondents Dinner, when political journalists laugh it up and back-slap those they’re supposed to be reporting on, was once again held.

The only good thing to come out of these things is the President’s monologue. Obama has good humor writers and he’s got a pretty good sense of humor. Enjoy…

**Finally, this is such a bad idea. The movie theater owners of America, because they have no spine, sound like they’re going to soon relax the rules on people talking on cell phones at the movies.

This is what one theater owner said in this story: “His 17 year old son ‘constantly has his phone with him,’ he says. ‘We want them to pay $12 to $14 to come into an auditorium and watch a movie. But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence.’ Banning cell phone use may make them ‘feel a little handcuffed.'”

To which I say: Are you freaking kidding me? Turn the phone off and watch the movie, and don’t disturb the OTHER people who paid 14 bucks to see the film???

Ugh. I hardly go to the movies that much as it is. If I have to listen to people’s phone conversations two seats away, that’ll drive me (and millions of others, I’m sure) away from the movies permanently.

Cell phones in theaters: A colossally bad idea,.

Why the WH Correspondents’ dinner needs to end. And a bomb scare in Times Square

As a political nerd, I used to really look forward to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Bunch of big-shot journalists get together, along with all the major politicians in Washington, and tell some jokes, while making fun of each other’s self-importance.

Harmless fun, right?

Saturday night was the annual yuk-fest this year, and it was the same old story. President Obama got off some really good one-liners (the joke about John McCain and Arizona was pretty hilarious, at the 7:15 mark of the video) and everyone laughed.  Obama had another good line about the emcee of the dinner, Jay Leno: “Though I am glad that the only person whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight. Great to see you Jay. I’m also glad that I’m speaking first. We’ve all seen what happens when somebody takes the time slot after Leno’s.”

Here’s what upsets me, more and more each year, though: This dinner is wildly unprofessional. As a journalist, it’s pretty distasteful that the people who are supposed to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire spend all this time palling around with them. It represents everything many of us hate about the Washington political culture: They’re all in it together, reporters and Congress, journalists and high-ranking officials.

Do sportswriters like myself go to team banquets and parties of the teams we cover? No. Do business writers hang out at the country club with the CEOs they write about? No. So why is it acceptable that the journalists who have the most important beat in the country are all buddy-buddy with those in the highest seats of power?

Especially when things like this are happening; reporters getting subpoenaed by the Obama Justice Department for not revealing sources. I thought this crap was supposed to end after Dubya left office?

Maybe I’m getting old and crusty and cynical already. But not only does a dinner like this send the wrong message, it insults the good name of hard-working reporters who don’t want to be best-friends with the people in power.

**So a car bomb almost went off in Times Square on Saturday. I guess it’s a measure of how much safer I feel, or just how much time has passed since 9/11, that the revelation shocked me. Around 2003 or 2004 or so, I would’ve half-expected such a scare.

A lot of fascinating details in the stories the N.Y. Times has been running, including: How did the police, on a Saturday night in the spring, get Times Square cleared so fast? And I love that it was two sidewalk vendors, who are generally treated as an annoyance by those of us who are natives, are the heroes in this case so far, as they alerted police to the strange-looking Pathfinder on 45th Street.

Another pretty frightening question raised? Why hasn’t New York City been targeted by car bombs before? It’s a lot easier than hijacking a plane or blowing up a subway, and many other major world cities have been bombed this way before.

Thank God it didn’t work. Thank God those street vendors were paying attention.

I just wonder, though, how many times we’re going to get lucky that these attempts at mass destruction “fail.”