A tit for tat inside the nine circles

“That fucking Justin Timberlake should burn in hell.”

If the following statement got your attention, imagine how felt considering I was sitting right next to the fellow who uttered this curiously hateful dig in the middle of an otherwise placid coffee break. It’s curiously hateful to me, because I can’t imagine anyone could possess that much hatred of Justin Timberlake. The dude seems imminently likable, and I’d probably feel that way even if he dumped me for Jessica Biel; considering she’s way hotter than me.

I was faced with a dilemma, not unfamiliar to those of us who pay attention to breaking news that’s actually breaking news. I could stay put and learn where all this enmity for Timberlake was coming from, or I could take my coffee and get to stepping before some bad shit went down. I never considered running, because I figured that would only have made the bad shit happen a lot more quickly.

And so I remained in my seat, sipping at my coffee whilst anticipating what the nut job in the next seat over was talking about. I’m not proud of the fact that I was prioritizing his explanation while forsaking my personal safety, but I’m guessing it has something to do with a writer’s DNA. Sad to say.

Then it happened, he began his explanation. Initially, I was relieved he wasn’t screaming about the voices in his head and I was even more relieved that his missives weren’t dressed up in metal jackets. To the contrary, he was rather calm and collected in his approach. When I thought about it, a calm and collected bat shit crazy fellow with a celebrity grudge kinda did seem scarier. Even if a screaming bat shit crazy fellow with a celebrity grudge is pretty fucking scary too. Yanno what? Both.

“You might be wondering why I think Justin Timberlake should burn in hell.”

Personally, I was overflowing with a morbid curiosity as to how an event which occurred thirteen years ago could be used as a conversation starter. In need of an exorcism. I can’t see wishing anybody eternal damnation. Not even Marie Osmond.

Then it occurred to me that the person sitting with him was an unsettling individual in her own right because, really . . if you’re an associate of the dude in the tin foil hat, then you too should be fitted for a tin foil hat, and restraints. Unless you’re a vastly underpaid mental health babysitter who is just trying to get through the day without becoming the lead story.

“Well, do you remember that Super Bowl halftime show with Janet Jackson where they showed her nipple and everybody turned her into a villain?” He asked his friend (hostage?).

What? Dude, I can’t figure out whether you’re even dumber than you are nutty, so I’m gonna say it’s too close to call!

I didn’t actually say that, I simply thought that.

“So people hated her while Justin Timberlake became a star!” He said with a full throttled indignation befitting a person who watches reality television for a living, without actually making a living out of it.

“He’s a fucking star and Janet Jackson disappeared!” He continued. There were more words, laden with clueless adjectives and mindless observations that were the conversational equivalent of daily marijuana use; the only difference being his words were killing my brain cells without any payoff whatsoever.

Alright, Spam brain . . for one thing Janet Jackson was vilified by peeps who should’ve been banished to that village in the M. Night movie for having their heads up their puritanical asses. And for another thing, Timberlake wasn’t one of those peeps. And not for nothing, she was deified by dudes such as myself for the moment AND the moments after it when she didn’t bow to the bashing but confronted it head on. Oh, and the album she launched after the controversy overcame the initial backlash to go platinum. And YouTube was born as a result! And what? Justin Timberlake’s master plan was to loose her areola so’s he could catapult into stardom? Because I don’t remember the part where he was a Walmart employee before Janet’s boob went solid gold viral. So why don’t you finish your coffee and head back to your padded apartment Chachi? 

Again, I didn’t actually say any of that.

The episode did make me realize just how costly the price of fame really is. You have the paparazzi who scavenge your personal life for morsels and you have to deal with the fickle nature of executives who bottom line your talents into a little glass jar. You have to navigate trolls and bloggers and Kelly Ripa without a safety net. And if you’re really lucky, you never come face to face with a nut job who hopes you burn in hell for something that happened thirteen years ago.

Cary Grant had it easy.

(Note: If you’re simply interested in doing some research into this ancient history of a conversation gone wrong, it’s at 4:06.)

Fair weather fans, and where to find them

la-chargersWhy can’t sports fans be free agents?

Sticking by your team through thick and thin might have played in 1956, when doubleheaders and five cent hot dogs were de rigeur, but in today’s world it no longer applies. Not when teams flex afternoon games to prime time for TV money. Not when teams like the Jets- who haven’t been to the Super Bowl since the moon landing- price life long fans out by charging exorbitant PSL prices for the privilege of watching a perennial loser. Not when coaches skip town and players change uniforms every year. Professional sports leagues do what TV money tells them to do and the owners play follow the leader in order to pay the rent on their billion dollar playpens. That’s progress, whatevs. But why in the hell can’t fans follow suit?

Miami Heat fans caught plenty of heat- pun intended- when they left Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals before the home team was able to stage a miracle comeback. Context, of course, is everything. The Spurs- a club that had won four NBA titles coming into that series- were leading by five points with twenty eight seconds remaining in what seemed to be the title clinching game. San Antonio was a better bet to close things out than Brad Pitt in a bar at closing time. Heat fans were vilified . . . for behaving like adults with options. Never mind that the final minute of an NBA game can go longer than a confirmation hearing. And never mind that there are hundreds of better ways to close out your evening on Ocean Drive. And never mind they were trying to beat traffic to one of those better ideas. And never mind the fact they paid good money to get into that joint and had the right to leave any time they damn well pleased.

But don’t never mind the hate that was directed at those fans who made the decision to head for the exits rather than stick it out to the bitter end. The hate ignored an ugly truth: As much as we love our teams, they are allowed to do anything they want, at any time. And when we follow suit, we get pissed on.

Then you have San Diego Chargers fans, who always showed up even when their teams didn’t. They supported a franchise in a town where the average temp makes attending a football game almost seem like an afterthought. They painted the town baby blue and they were among the loudest and craziest fan bases in the league. And none of that mattered once voters told the Chargers to figure out a way to raise their own downtown stadium money.

I know Chargers fans never would’ve headed for the exits back in September, because they were too loyal to pull a stunt like that. Even if it would have been the appropriate action to take against an owner who threatened to leave town for years while rolling out a mostly mediocre product for more years than that. And so now we have two markets- San Diego and St Louis- who have lost their teams to LA in the past two years. Two markets that supported their teams lose out to a market that was plenty fine not having an NFL team for the past twenty years. And this isn’t a knock on LA fans, but on a league that will always value its bottom line over its fans.

San Diego fans lost a team that couldn’t get out of its own way, but it keeps its fair weather. If you ask me? They’re better off.

New Hope, Old Tricks and Waffle House Game Plans!

darth-sabanA long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . Tampa, the galaxy was Tampa . . .

It is a period of civil war among fans and voters alike, and the South- or more specifically the SEC- finds its stranglehold on the college football universe weakening. The Clemson Tigers, having come so close to defeating the Evil College Football Empire known as the Alabama Crimson Tide in the year 2016, have returned once again with young Jedi Deshaun Watson leading the rebellion.

Lord Saban’s death grip on the galaxy has been questioned by certain members of his own council as a result of his decision to banish his top commander Lane Kiffin to the outpost of Florida Atlantic for the high crime of douchebaggery.  Kiffin was replaced with Lieutenant Sarkisian; formerly of the Planet Troy.

The young Watson was courted by Lord Saban after his senior year of high school in Gainesville Georgia, but decided against joining the dark side and now he finds his college football legacy hanging in the balance as the Evil Empire takes a double digit lead into the fourth quarter. During this battle, the Leader of the Rebellion- Dabo Swinney- manages to stall the Evil Empire’s game plan to milk the clock and win yet another national championship in the process. A double digit lead evaporates and the- pun alert- Tide begins to turn in favor of the rebels. Swinney leads his soldiers back against the seemingly far superior storm troopers with nothing more than a Waffle House menu in his grip and the famous words of Jedi Master, Yoda Lee Corso in his heart. Not so fast. And yeah, he has that young Jedi Deshaun Watson doing his thing . . which helps a shit ton.

Oct 10, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney reacts during the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Clemson win 43-24. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney reacts during the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Clemson win 43-24. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Not to be outdone, Jalen Hurts is a Knight of the First Order with mad skills. As with Watson, Hurts is quite young but the force is also very strong with him. Hurts however, has used his powers for evil rather than mediocrity (he could’ve gone to Texas A&M). His mission is to crush the Alliance for once and for all and to establish a reign even Bill Belichick would be impressed with . . . maybe. And as the battle enters its final stages, it appears as if Hurts will do just that after he breaks straight up the middle and scores with two minutes remaining.

But then, with six seconds separating the Evil Empire from a victory which would seal the fate of the college football galaxy for yet another season, Deshaun Watson rolls to his right and as he does so, he can hear Yoda Lee Corso’s words . . The LSU Tigers are gonna win the national championship, you can book it!No, no, no . . not those words . . these words. The force is strong . . and hey! That Renfro kid is open! Deshaun connects with wide receiver Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining on the clock and Clemson fans begin to celebrate, even if there is still time enough for the Crimson Tide to squash this rebellion. Because really, one second on the clock is a fucking lifetime in college football. As any Georgia Bulldog fan would tell you, in between curse words. 

The rebels have one last trick up their sleeve, however. Rather than kicking the ball deep, after which they would have to give chase to their evil counterparts for a solid twenty minutes of lateral advancements, they utilize an onside kick which they recover to seal the victory. As the clock expires, Deshaun Watson lets a call from the New York Jets go to voicemail, Dabo Swinney orders the All Star Special off his Waffle House menu and Lord Saban ponders what life would be like in LA.

The Alliance has a new hope . . at least until Lord Saban decides to give the NFL another try which opens the door for Dabo to take over.

 

The Tortoise and the Hair

objYou know the fable, right? A hot shit rabbit challenges a tortoise to a race (I’m assuming it was a 5K race because the story wasn’t all that long), and then proceeds to get his ass handed to him by the tortoise because he was busy styling instead of running. After which, the wiseguys in Vegas who lost a shit ton of money over the race make stew out of the loser.

Or something like that.

Anyways, I thought about the tortoise and the hare when all this Odell Beckham Jr. bullshit was coming down over the last week before building to a crescendo on Sunday evening. You might be wondering how I applied a story that was published in 1668 to the trials and tribulations of a star wide receiver on the New York Giants. Unless you’ve visited Drinks before, in which case you know how my mind breaks from its leash and just goes off running into the wilderness.

Okay, let me ‘splain. Odell is the hare. He’s fast and he’s entertaining. Basically, he’s the bright and shiny object fans slobber over. He can dazzle with his one handed catches that win the top 10 highlight spot on SportsCenter, and so you tend to never mind the fact that he’s never won a really big game.  He can break one from anywhere on the field, and so you tend to never mind his disappearing act when the moment gets big. Sure he’s shown a proclivity for preening and posing rather than leading and winning, but he’s the bright and shiny object . . . remember?

Then you have the other side of the equation, the tortoise. Slower, methodical, it’s okay to say it . . boring. The tortoise might describe a lesser physical specimen than OBJ who just so happens to play the same position, at a fraction of the price in drama and dollars. And there are a bunch of these fellas in the NFL as we speak. They don’t have sizzle and most of them will never make the SportsCenter top 10 highlights. Because they’re not bright and shiny objects. See, if Beckham Jr is a Ferrari . . . these guys? They’re Honda’s.

But here’s the thing. The New York Giants are parking their Ferrari in the garage for the winter while the New England Patriots are tuning up their Honda’s for a road trip to February. I choose the Patriots in this instance because there is not a single wide-out on New England’s roster who can match Beckham’s talent; but it’s a good bet they wouldn’t take OBJ right now if the Giants offered him up for a bag of footballs (Even if the footballs were properly inflated).

Listen, I don’t give a flying fuck what a star wide receiver does in the week leading up to a single elimination contest. Just so long as he does his job come Sunday. Beckham showing up in Miami last week didn’t cost the Giants a chance to advance on Sunday. Beckham not showing up in Green Bay? That did. Miami gets blamed for shitty football every season, so hells yeah I have a problem with that narrative. This wasn’t Miami’s fault. This was an all world talent behaving like a punk when he should’ve been getting down to business at game time.

He’s young and so you tend to never mind the stupid. But at some point, the dude has to own it rather than deflect it. Beckham behaves as if all the criticism exists in a vacuum, as if he had nothing to do with it. It’s like he took a long nap when all this shit was going down.

At least he woke up in time to watch the tortoise play next weekend.

 

Sunday Morning Coffee Love: The Letter

Sam, 

This letter is never going to get to you unless I’m the one delivering it. I know this. Still, I have to carry this letter because it’s my tether to you- infinite and indestructible. From this place, this strange and horrible place, I can still find beauty when I close my eyes and think of you. In all the ways I think of you. Like, how you look in the morning, with your caramel hair breaking rank with the scrunch that is futilely attempting to hold it captive. And the honey strands, they drip across your neck and your beautiful face and I let you know what a portrait you strike, even first thing in the morning. 

You sniff back a reply, something like “I’m SO not beautiful right now, but thank you” and then you flash me a smile that makes my heart flutter and sing in a million different languages. I watch your movements, serene as the morning air. You nestle the small of your back into the chair with this angelic repose that betrays the sinful plead it is provoking, and you nudge your reading glasses back into place like an abiding school girl, and your eyes start dancing inside the words again.

You’re the church to which my entire existence is explained, ministering to my every need without a blessed syllable necessary to span the sweet silence. It’s in the pose you strike without trying, the melody you sing without knowing. It’s in the mood you create simply by being in the room. 

“What?” You ask. 

I pause for several long, dumb moments before responding as my eyes paint you into my brain from where you sit; allowing me to gain this moment in perpetuity, every single time I close my eyes until the sun quits trying. In the mystic of this solitary involvement . . where I pray to feel the nearness of you once again, I can feel the small of your back in my hands as I silence your tremble and bury myself in the perfume of your hair. And all the doubts are solved and all the questions have meaningful lessons and I know that all the love songs were made out of this kind of perfect thing. 

“Nothing.” I reply, simply. And you return to your book and I move into the kitchen and make some coffee, after which I close my eyes. 

And there you are. 

Dak to the Future!

So Christy Anna Beguins had this genius idea for a Back to the Future spoof involving her Dallas Cowboys. And then my curiosity got the best of me, and here’s what happened.

Dak to the Future! starring . . . 

Dak Prescott as Marty McFly

Tony Romo as Biff

Jerry Jones as Doc

The scene is set in the parking lot of the Dallas Cowboys practice facility where Jerry rolls up to his quarterback, Dak Prescott in a DeLorean. He jumps out and runs up to Dak in a panic . . . which is where we pick things up.

“Dak!!!! You have to come with me! ”

“Where we going Boss? And why are you wearing those funny “We’re #1!” fingers while you’re driving?”

“What? Never mind that, this thing drives itself.”

“Fess up now, where you coming from?”

“January 31st, 1993.”

“What are you talking about? ”

“The Rose Bowl. What a time! And to think I’m thisclose to getting a Super Bowl ring for my middle finger. But we have to act quickly if we want to get to Houston!”

“Slow down, JJ. You have me more confused than a Skip Bayless drunk call at two in the morning.”

“You’ve gotta come back with me! Now! I mean, then! I mean back!”

“Back to what?”

“The future!”

“Okay, you’re not making any sense. Why don’t we go back inside and get you some water or some of that pink lemonade Tom Brady drinks, because you’re obviously hallucinating.”

“You don’t understand, Dak! We have to go back to April 29, 2016 before it’s too late!”

“That’s the day you drafted me. Aww, Jerry . . . you remembered.

“No, no, no! You get drafted by the 49ers! Chip Kelly loves your pocket presence and your poise under pressure and the fact that your name doesn’t rhyme with LeSean McCoy! He sees something in you I didn’t see!”

“Wait . . . what?”

“It’s not important now, Dak. What’s important is that we get back to the NFL draft and I don’t make the biggest mistake of my life as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys! I mean, other than letting Jimmy Johnson go after we won our second straight Super Bowl title together! We could have won four in a row! And then Switzer took me out for drinks, and then we started doing shots . . . what was I thinking?!”

“Whoa Jerry, back up!”

“No, Dak . . you’re my starting quarterback!”

“What’s this Chip Kelly business about?”

“We don’t have time for that! Tony’s coming and he’s going to take back the starting job!”

“Make time, Jerry.”

“Okay! I wanted Paxton Lynch, alright?”

“You mean that dude on the Broncos who looks like one of the Backstreet Boys?”

“I loved his arm!”

“I’m curious, Jerry. Where did that arm get the Broncos this season?”

“I was wrong! Not as wrong as I was about Manziel though.”

“Is that all?”

“Well yeah . . . I mean . . yeah.”

“What else Jerry? And make it quick because I think that just might be Tony at the front gates . . .”

“Connor Cook was my backup plan!”

“No offense Jerry, but not even the Texans thought he was a good idea.”

“He was a Spartan, and 300 is my favorite movie ever! And I thought Tony could take him under his wing!”

“You mean, after Tony broke his wing,”

“Again, not the worst idea I’ve ever had on draft day.”

“Manziel, I know. So let me get this straight . . . you want me to come back with you to the future, which is actually the past, so that Chip Kelly doesn’t end up taking me while you’re getting your mac on with one of the backstreet boys, or maybe a dude who is gonna be starting a playoff game for the Raiders only because Kenny Stabler was no longer available?”

“YES!”

“Thing is Jerry, the Bay area would be a pretty chill place to call home.”

“A raise! I’ll give you a raise!”

“We both know you can’t negotiate rookie contracts under the CBA. Let’s be real, Jerry.”

“Okay, okay! What do you want!?”

“I want your guarantee that you won’t bring in Tony if I go three and out on the first drive next week.”

“Deal!”

“Imma need some proof. You repeat what you just said, and I’m posting it to my Instagram account.”

“Dak! We have to go, it’s Tony!” Jerry screams as Tony Romo pulls into the parking lot and speeds up to where the two men are standing.

“And . . . posted. But here’s what I don’t get, JJ. I’m here, I’m a Dallas Cowboy . . . what’s the big deal?”

“Okay, you want the truth? The Rose Bowl was a stopover . . . I was in Cabo, with Chip Kelly. Where I might have told him about the DeLorean, and he might have pulled a Switzer on me after which he might have taken it for a ride when I was passed out and he might have left me a text . . .”

“And holy shit! This is a 49ers jersey in my duffel bag!” Dak screams.

“I gotta say, red is definitely your color.”

Dak and Jerry turn to find Tony Romo staring back at them.

“You have plans for that ride? Because I know I do.” Tony grins.

“Wow, you made really good time.” Jones says.

“Thanks. Yeah . . . Aeromexico. Great experience . . . and the chicken mole verde? Spot on.”

“Hey Tony, we were just debating our favorite morning shows. Now me? I love Kathie Lee and Hoda, but Jerry’s all about . . .”

“Shut it, kid! You’re not getting out of this one. That’s MY ride, and I’m gonna take it! All the way to the Super Bowl.”

“Hold up, you were in Mexico too?” Dak asks.

“You wanna tell him, Jerry?” Tony glares.

“Okay . . . Tony might have been in Cabo with us.” Jones confesses.

“Might have, Jerry? The way you might have a tat of me on your right ass cheek?”

“Wow guys, no wonder you didn’t have time for playoff football before I got here.” Dak says.

“I’ll make it up to you, Dak! Tell you what, I’ll get a tat of you on my left ass cheek.”

“And I’d rather play for the Browns, thank you very much.” Dak says.

“Dammit JJ! I just threw up in my mouth. And you know what? That chicken mole verde is still pretty damn spot on.” Romo says.

“Umm, Tony? I know this is a bad time, but why’re you driving a Prius? What? I’m not paying you enough?” Jerry asks.

“It was a rental . . . it’s dependable. It won’t break down when I need it the most.” Tony explains.

“That is some ironic shit right there.” Dak giggles.

“Forget January 2017! I’m going back to April 2016 and the first thing I’m gonna do is sell this thing on Craigslist. And then, Jerry, I’m gonna take you out for drinks on the first night of the draft! And then shots!” Tony says, grabbing the keys from Jerry and sprinting towards the DeLorean.

“You’re not pulling a Switzer on me!” Jerry says as he gives chase. Just when it looks like Romo is going to rewrite history, he twists his ankle and crumples to the ground mere yards from his ride back to the future, or the past. Both.

“Aaahhh! My back!”

Dak shakes his head as he watches Tony writhing in pain while Jerry leans over and takes back the keys before signalling to Dak to get in.

“Hey, where are the seatbelts?” Dak asks.

“Seat belts? Where we’re going, we don’t need seat belts.” Jerry smiles.

Games Gone Wild! (Same great flavor, none of the Jets)

funny-nfl-picRaiders at Texans- Third stringer Connor Cook is injured in the third quarter when a piece of a meteor shears off his left forearm. With no options beyond Cook, the Raiders apply a tourniquet to Cook’s arm and send him back out, after which he leads a furious Oakland rally from 21-0 down to win the game. Texans QB Brock Osweiler turns in a Venus de Milo performance, with thirty five passing attempts without a completion. Houston trades Osweiler to Sony Pictures and receives a year’s worth of acting lessons for J.J. Watt in return.

Dolphins at Steelers- Miami head coach announces Ryan Tannehill as his starting quarterback an hour before the game, which allows Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to rest his cornerbacks. Pittsburgh wins 2-0 as Tannehill shows more rust than the Titanic, and the Dolphins playoff hopes sink into the murky depths despite a record setting performance by running back Jay Ajayi, who rushes for four hundred and sixty eight yards. Head coach Adam Gase announces his club will not use a quarterback next season. Ben Roethlisberger is critical of his team’s offensive game plan, suggesting that perhaps Tomlin should hand off his cheer leading responsibilities to someone else.

Lions at Seahawks- Richard Sherman takes a nap during the national anthem and doesn’t wake up until the second quarter, allowing Matthew Stafford to light up the Seahawks secondary for three touchdown passes and propelling the Lions to a 28-7 halftime lead. Seattle’s comeback falls short on the last play of the game when Pete Carroll inexplicably calls a flea flicker on fourth and goal from the Lions one yard line. Detroit wins its first playoff game since the first Bush administration and President Elect Donald Trump takes full credit for bringing winning football back to Detroit.

Giants at Packers- The Giants wide receivers play the first half as if they still have sand in their jocks. Eli Manning completes twelve passes in the half- ten to running backs, one to his tight end and a sixty eight yard scoring strike to himself. Not to be outdone, Aaron Rodgers goes 17-17 and catches his own Hail Mary to give the Packers a 14-13 lead at halftime. Things get no better for the Giants wide receivers in the second half as Odell Beckham drops a touchdown pass and then blames it on suntan lotion residue. Aaron Rodgers wins it for the Packers on a Hail Mary pass to Jordy Nelson as time expires. Nelson later admits he also spent time in Miami (Of Ohio) recently. Giants head coach Ben McAdoo puts a $50,000 bounty on Justin Bieber, dead or alive. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fines McAdoo, calling the Bieber bounty “Not nearly enough.”