Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jeremy Lin IS Racism. (Basketball)





By now, you've probably gotten your federally-mandated 33.4 minutes of daily Jeremy Lin conversation in, which is a problem because if you mentioned Jeremy Lin in any context, you are definitely a racist.

It doesn't matter what the context for your talking about Jeremy Lin is: Lin is about two steps away from becoming basketball's version of Godwin's Law: saying his name will instantly put a stop to that particular conversation, because (as I mentioned), merely talking about Jeremy Lin is pure racism.



Jeremy Lin's travel from couch-surfing basketball player to sudden-only-if-you-ignore-his-entire-basketball-career success to person who's not dating Kim Kardashian (even though the vast majority of people are [probably] not dating Kim Kardashian, you have to have a certain level of fame before you're required to deny that you're dating Kim Kardashian)




to living embodiment of racism took what, two weeks? That seems a bit long, actually, given that Lin, like Tebow before him, managed to explode onto the scene in an uncomfortable mix of religion and improbable-seeming success but that Lin, unlike Tebow, had the added element of being the living embodiment of racism.

It makes me uncomfortable just mentioning him so much; please remember that when I talk about Jeremy Lin in this post, I'm not really talking about him, so I'm not being a racist the way everyone else is when they talk about Lin. I'm doing this out of whatever passes for journalistic credibility when one is a nonsports blogger.

Here's why Jeremy Lin has gone beyond simply being an apparently-great (because let's face it the jury is still out on his basketball skills at the NBA level over the long haul; he could merely be the NBA's version of the spread offense) basketball player to being the living embodiment of racism -- an NBA version of Loki if Loki were the God of Racism rather than the God of Mischief...

...and how is it that the God of Mischief gets a seat at the head table? Are there legacies in Asgard? Seriously: Odin looks around the pantheon, sees thunder and day and love and... close-up magic, and the latter gets to sit next to him?...

...anyway: Jeremy Lin has moved beyond basketball player, icon, etc., to become racism by virtue of the fact that you can no longer mention anything about him without yourself being racist. Sure, for a while there it was cool to just like Jeremy Lin and pay 300% more for your tickets to unimportant games than you would have just two weeks prior (money the team doesn't get to keep, which raises the question of who is making money off Jeremy Lin, since ads for games were presumably sold long before Lin got into those games, and tickets are selling on the secondary market, not from the Knicks),
but then things got a little weird when it was pointed out that Lin was taking the game away from African-Americans, who sort of viewed it as their thing, I'm told:

I know that sounds crude and overly racial, but we process sports in crude and overly racial ways

Said Rembert Browne on Grantland, processing Lin in his own crude and overly racial way by claiming to be really happy that it's okay now, for black guys to lose to white guys, or maybe Asians:


Losing a pickup game to a team full of black guys pisses me off, mainly because I lost, but losing to a team full of white kids still feels somewhat unacceptable. (I say white in this case because there were few other races represented where I grew up, but had there been a squad of Asian kids in my high school league, those sentiments would have undoubtedly been 100 times stronger. Why? Because this was our sport, no longer a white sport, and definitely not a sport for some Asian kids.)

If we, as blacks, truly believe the idea that basketball is our sport, Linsanity is the perfect wake-up call. The honeymoon is over, and as a black guy, I couldn't be happier.

And by "happier" he meant "not really willing to denounce Floyd Mayweather for claiming that the media is racist in celebrating Lin but not black players," so if you're following along, at that point (February 16, 2012) it was okay to mention that Lin is Asian provided that you did so in a celebratory way while sarcastically (?) saying "there goes the neighborhood" and bemoaning the fact that nonblacks could sometimes win a basketball game.

But then came Chink In The Armor and the ESPN headline writer's firing; prior to that, Chink In The Armor" was a little-used phrase that served primarily as the web-address for a site that helps mortgage owners understand MERS. Those poor suckers are now page 5 of a google search for their name, which serves them right, racists: They were against Jeremy Lin before he was even famous, it seems.

That led another Grantland writer to muse about being Asian and the Wu Tang clan in a piece I got bored with two paragraphs into it, so I skipped ahead to the inevitable conclusion:

But regardless of what the polite rules of our post-racial society might say about conflating athletes into symbols or talking too much about race, Jeremy Lin-as-symbol-for-his-people has already arrived.

You know, the post-racial society where 20 Republican debates have revealed that the sole uniting thread in the GOP over the past two years has been the fact that the President is black and the Tea Party won't suffer such a thing.

But in this post-racial society where LIN stands as a thing not a man, you can't say nothin' about nothin' because merely to mention Lin is racist now. You have to search hard to find the racism in Jimmy Fallon's tribute to Lin:






But it's there. No, not the "Asian Tebow," part, but the part where he says that Asians really can drive. Jimmy, what were you thinking? Besides, maybe, "I saw that one episode of Family Guy"?



Jimmy must not have read the "widely-circulated" media guide warning about phrases to avoid using when covering Lin -- a guide that was covered with the de rigeur reference to America's favorite racist, Archie Bunker (if you're going to mention racism, you are required to mention Archie Bunker, who made it okay that your grandpa was a racist because Archie was funny about it in a way that your grandpa was not. Mentioning Archie Bunker is the Baby Boomer's version of rap lyrics: Rap lyrics make my kids feel like they can say words they should not, because they're quoting Kanye, or something, whereas Archie Bunker makes Boomers feel it's okay to think things they should not because they're just remembering Archie Bunker.)

The link to the guidelines on how to cover Jeremy Lin is down, probably because there's no way to talk about Lin anymore, as demonstrated by the one thing that always, no matter what, points out the flaws in our society:

Ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, specifically-- that ice cream brand that serves as our national, delicious, conscience, mirroring our society both in butterfat content and awkward sentiments: Chubby Hubby is both delicious and an indictment of the laziness of our society, and the fact that nobody can buy a pint of Wavy Gravy is a crime. Not for moral reasons; that was just the best ice cream ever made and I'm outraged that I can't get it at the grocery store.

Anyway, Ben & Jerry's decided that they ought to cash in on Jeremy Lin before his attempt to trademark his own name went through, launching "Taste The Lin-Sanity" all the way back on February 26, 2012, a younger, more innocent time in America when we didn't have all the racial tension that marks the post-post-post-racial America, an America so unracial that we've lapped ourselves back into racism.



When launched, Taste The Lin-Sanity had honey-lychee vanilla yogurt with (GASP!?) fortune cookie pieces. That prompted an almost-Netflix-style outrage, and within hours Ben & Jerry's had retraced their steps, pulling fortune cookies out and replacing them with waffle cone pieces.

The official reason was that fortune cookie bits get soggy in ice cream, but online critics were skeptical -- and the whole story hasn't filtered out yet, since other sharp-eyed commentators noticed that the

The flavor’s choice of fruit also tastes a little suspect, as the soapberry lychee is native to Southeast Asia and southern China.

That is the end of the Linsanity: When even the fruit in an ice cream is deemed racist, rather than celebratory, there is no longer any safe way to talk about, watch, or even think about Lin. Did you read about Lin on your (Chinese manufactured) iPad? RACIST! Did you say something that kind of rhymes with Asian when you talked about Lin? RACIST!

After all: you can't put fortune cookies into the ice cream because Lin is of Asian heritage. You can't put lychee into it because Lin is of Asian heritage. Has anyone noticed that the Ben & Jerry's pint containers look like round-versions of the traditional Chinese take-out boxes? Seems racist to me. Did you know that Vanilla, the majority of which comes from Madagascar, is now grown in China? It's true:

Xishuangbanna, the Southern Prefecture of Yunnan, has a suitable climate for high quality Vanilla growing.

says this site, which notes that the Xishuangbanna vanilla is organically grown, so vanilla is racist, too, the ultimate turnabout being the ultimate fairplay: the whitest food you know is the most racist, ever since Lin The Embodiment of Racism came on the scene.

How racist is it for Lin to simply exist? Plenty racist: Even the Chinese are against Lin, as evidenced by the fact that the Chinese government is concerned that celebrating Lin might be wrong, what with Lin's heritage actually being in Taiwan:


Chinese television has yet to broadcast a full Knicks game this season, ostensibly because of scheduling conflicts. Although Lin has become a popular subject on sportscasts, the hosts tend to steer clear of his religion and Taiwanese heritage.

China doesn't just dislike Lin because he's Asian, though: China also holds it against him that he's short:

If Lin had been born in China, his height alone would have almost certainly eliminated the possibility of his being trained to play at a professional level, commentators said.

(Same site.) There is no safe place for Jeremy Lin, and no safe way to talk about him. Best to let him get on with not dating Kim Kardashian, and move forward in our post-post-post-post racial world to the next scandal, which I predict will be a half-clone/half-machine excelling at bowling and raising the question about whether it's okay to discuss the way all the pins look the same.




Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday Scramble!

Thursday Scramble! is when I take an older post from one of my other blogs, and repost it to all my blogs so you can see what you're missing. Today's post first appeared on The Best Of Everything on January 13, 2009. It's called

The Best Pizza Topping:

Yesterday, I had a lot of time to think. And this topic is one of the things I thought about. Specifically, here's what happened: I was driving home from Milwaukee, about a 1 1/2 hour drive, and I put on the song "This Guy's In Love With You" performed by Herb Alpert & His Tijuana Brass. You know the song, right?



And as I listened to that song, this thought suddenly occurred to me:

When does a thing stop being that thing and start being something else?

Which doesn't immediately, I know, make sense, but it will, if you bear with me as I do a little thought experiment.

Picture a ray. You remember "rays" from math class in high school, right? A line extending from a point in space off into infinity, represented by an arrow with a dot at one end.
Yeah, the middle one. Picture that ray, and assume that point "C" represents "pizza" the way "pizza" originally was intended to be represented, like, say, this:And maybe that's not your idea of a pizza. Maybe your idea of a pizza is something thinner crusted or square or with anchovies or whatever, but that's not the point. Or it is the point but I'm not yet at the point where I'm ready to make my point, so whatever your idea of a pizza is, of the quintessential pizza, get that picture in your mind, and picture your own Quintessential Pizza as the point at which the ray begins.

Got that? Now, picture, in your mind, making more and more changes to the Quintessential Pizza, each change moving you a little further along that ray, each change not a big deal, in and of itself, not so far removed from what came before, but each a change nonetheless. As that happens, as you keep making little changes here and there to your Q.P., this mathematically- and scientifically-accurate diagram gives an idea what happens:




As you can see from that Scientific chart, at some point, you, the Q.P. creator, have moved so far away from your starting point that we, as human beings/scientific observers, have to ask, in the interest of philosophical, intellectual inquiry, this question:

Is what you've got really a pizza anymore?

Which begs this question:

What is the essence of a pizza?


Which begs this question:

What is the essence of ANYTHING?

Which is how you can get from Herb Alpert to questioning the very foundations of human existence via pepperoni.

But this is a serious question, albeit a serious question I am choosing to answer via the method of "pizza-as-demonstrative-example." (I was about to say "Pizza-as-allegory," because that sounded good, but the pizza isn't really allegorical in this article, it's demonstrative.)

Which begs this question:

Which sounds better, "Quintessential Pizza" or "Allegorical Pizza?"

I think the answer is "Allegorical Pizza." But anyway, the pizza in this article is not allegorical, it is demonstrative of the question of when a thing stops being that thing, a question that actually was on my mind because I read the "novella" Disquiet on Saturday. Disquiet, by Julia Leigh, is a very, very good story. After I read it, though, I questioned whether it is a novel or novella or a long short story, and then I wondered whether that matters.

I decided that it is a very long short story, and that yes, it does matter.

Here's how I decided it's a very long short story: the transformations that the characters go through are ambiguous and not clearly explained, and much of the plot occurs offscreen or is left untold. That's the criteria I apply to a short story, as opposed to a novel. A novel is not only longer, but has more development, more wrap-up, more explanation.

In a short story, a character might (as one of mine did, once) get in her car and try to drive away from her house with her young daughter, only to rethink her actions as a thunderstorm starts to set in, and go back. And the reader might (as my readers were) be left to wonder or fill in the blanks as to why the woman is leaving, why the thunderstorm makes her change her mind. The short story shows an episode in the woman's life with some explanation but with little change in her and with little beyond that episode explicated.

If that story were a novel, though, we would expect more detail, more plot, more description, more backstory, more of everything. The short story is a snapshot; the novel is a photo album.

That's not to say one is better than the other; it's to say that each label carries with it a set of expectations and rules that guide the writer, and the reader, and determine how they should interact with each other through the medium being used. A short story cannot be said to be better or worse than a novel any more than a sculpture could be said to be better or worse than a painting.

The problem, if there is one, arises when we use the wrong terminology to describe something. If I told you to come to my house to see a sculpture, and showed you "Red Yellow Blue,"


you might be mystified. That's a painting, you might say, and while you might like "Red Yellow Blue," you may find yourself befuddled because you were expecting a three dimensional sculpture only to be presented with a two dimensional painting.

Or maybe you think you did see a sculpture, because "Red Yellow Blue" is three canvases separated from each other so that it is more than a two-dimensional splattering of paint on a canvas, it takes into account the space between the canvases and can be rearranged and in that way fully inhabits or more fully inhabits a three-dimensional world than a "painting," but is it a sculpture? When I say sculpture, do you think of "Red, Yellow, Blue," or do you think of this:



And if you do think of that, why didn't you think of this


when I said "sculpture?" Aren't they both sculptures? Of course they are: but one is more sculpture-y than the other. One is more a quintessential sculpture.

Which is my point again, here. At some point, a sculpture stops being a sculpture. As it gets bigger, and more made of metal, and more standing-in-a-harbor-in-New York, it stops being a "sculpture" and starts being a "statue" or "monument." And as it gets flatter and more primary-color-ish and on canvas, it stops being a "sculpture" and starts being a painting.

And as Disquiet failed to tie up all of its storylines, it stopped being a novel and became more of a short story. Which in Disquiet's case was not actually a bad thing. It wasn't what I expected, because I was told it's a novel, and so I expected more wrap up, but given the nature of the story and the general feel of the story, being left hanging somewhat at the end despite expecting more resolution wasn't a bad thing itself, either -- it made the story more of a meta-story, instilling in me one last time the exact feeling (of disquiet) that the author was going for.

So maybe messing with one's expectations can work, in some instances. But in pizza? That's where we began, after all, to consider whether a thing can ever stop being a thing, and as this discussion is important, it will help to keep it rooted in the things of reality: Herb Alpert and pizza.

So when is a pizza no longer a pizza? Is a breakfast pizza a pizza? I had a sample of breakfast pizza at the store two weeks ago -- miraculously, given that pizza samples are amazingly rare in the real world, and I had to wonder is this pizza? It was round -- like a pizza, except that sometimes when I make pizza at home I run out of pans and have to resort to making some of them square or rectangle. It had a pizza crust on it, which is like a pizza. But it had eggs and cheese, and while pizzas have cheese they don't have breakfast-y kind of cheese on them, they have pizza-y kinds of cheese on them: mozzarella, which I think is chosen for the way it can hold everything on the pizza while not having much actual flavor, which is why I usually substitute in some other kind of cheese on my homemade pizzas, because I like the stronger flavor, and because I also had a goat cheese pizza and liked that, too.

The breakfast pizza was toasted in a toaster oven, but aren't pizzas supposed to be cooked in pizza ovens? I sometimes grill mine, too, making them using the broiler setting.

All of which leads to much confusion: was this a pizza at all? And if it was a pizza, why is it a pizza?

What about the "mashed potato pizza" that I sometimes make using an idea I stole from a pizzeria -- making a pizza crust and then putting mashed potatoes into it and then topping it with pizza toppings and baking it? Is that a pizza?

And if it is, what about the "fruit pizza" my mother-in-law makes -- that's a sugar cookie with fruit and frosting on it. Is that a pizza?

And if that's a pizza, then isn't everything a pizza? If all that's required of a pizza is that it be round, more or less, and be called a pizza, then isn't this:



A pizza if I call it a pizza?

I come down on both sides of that issue. I understand the allure of saying that things have to be what we call them, that everything has to have a category, that a pizza must have some definable quality or qualities that makes it a pizza and that if something doesn't have all or most or enough of those qualities, then it's not a pizza, because then everything makes more sense and expectations are not dashed and we all know what we mean when we invite each other over for pizza -- nobody will be invited over for pizza and be served eggs on a crust, or fruit on a cookie.

But on the other hand, I see, too, the side that says anything can be a pizza if we want it to be, for two reasons.

First, the practical: I want to be aligned with the anything can be a pizza crowd because my pick for The Best Pizza Topping is mashed potatoes. Ever since coming across the potato pizza as an appetizer in that restaurant, I've loved the potato pizza. Done right, it is (as the pigeon might say of the hot dog) a taste sensation. It combines the mushy-but-crisp-edged creaminess of a twice-baked potato with the gluey cheese and savory tomato sauce and spicy sausage and fruity pineapple and zing of the onions that I like on my non-potato-pizzas, and does so in a way that creates a new feeling, a new thing that is both pizza and not pizza at the same time.

And that is the impractical, esoteric reason why I see the appeal of the anything can be a pizza argument: Because if we rigidly define life's categories, if we say a statue is a statue, and a pizza is a pizza, and things that aren't quite statues or pizzas aren't statues or pizzas at all, then we are limiting ourselves and our thoughts. We'll be saying to our imaginations: no, you can't put that on a pizza, or no, you can't sculpt that or no, Herb Alpert, you can't have the Tijuana Brass play with you (it'd been a while since I'd mentioned Herb) and we'll say that because pizzas don't have that, whatever that is, on them -- so pizzas will never have that on them, and limiting ourselves like that raises the prospect that we'll stop innovating at all.

After all, it's easier to take tiny steps than giant leaps. It's easier to decide to move a city away than a continent away. It's easier to move from painting to sculpting if a painting can kind of be a sculpture. And it's easier to try to mix something into your pizza than to create an entirely new dish... but doing all those little steps leads you into a direction that you might not have tried, had you had to do it whole hog right off the bat. How tough was it, do you suppose, for Columbus to get on his ship and sail towards the edge of the world? Pretty tough, I imagine. What if, instead, Columbus had known of five, six, seven island chains all stringing off into the west, and had decided he was just going to follow them and see if there was an eighth and instead of finding the Eighth Islands, he found America?


What if the space program, instead of trying first to get to the moon, had set off for the nearest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri? That's only 4.2 light years away. Voyager, our fastest spaceship, moves at 17.4 km/second. At that rate, it would have reached Proxima Centauri in 7 million years. Why would we have even tried to go into space if we wouldn't see results for 7 million years?

Tiny steps, incremental changes, minor modifications, shifting standards, can lead to big things. And not pigeonholing things into one category lets people experiment with tiny steps and incremental changes. And, not pigeonholing things into one category allows the mind to wander. It allows people to expand their mental horizons, to picture more than one thing when just one word is used, to play with the shifting sands of our imagination and in doing so, create something new, something wondrous, something that challenges our expectations and makes us think, at the end of our novel, or as we bite into a pizza, or look at a painting: "Hmm. Well, that was interesting. That wasn't what I expected at all."

In the end, that's one of the best things about Mashed Potatoes being The Best Pizza Topping: allowing mashed potatoes to be pizza opens the door for a world where one can move from pondering Herb Alpert to questioning the very basis of reality -- and that kind of world is the kind of world I want to live in, the kind of a world where a thing never stops being that thing but can be that thing and something else, entirely, all at once.



Here's a little more Herb to play you out:



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the After
Saoirse's life didn't really begin until it ended: When a plane crashes, Saoirse wakes up in 'the After,' a place where everything is exactly what you want, unless what you want is to not be there.

Confused at first, Saoirse's new... life?... takes a turn for the (more) unexpected when William Howard Taft knocks on her door and says he knows a way out. From there, Saoirse travels through scenarios that are fantastical and mundane at the same time, trying to discover not just a way to end this new existence, but also whether she wants to do that in the first place.

'the After' is a heartbreakingly sad and funny mystical journey through one version of what happens after we die, told through the eyes of a woman clinging to the memory of a life she didn't know she cared about. Thoughtful but action-packed, 'the After' presents an entirely new and not always comforting view of what comes next for us all.

Click here to buy it on Kindle, or here to buy the paperback from Amazon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aaron Rodgers to finally get some recognition, just 9 days before the world ends, (Football)(Aaron Rodgers Doesn't Like)


Sicilian-Irish blackbelt reporter Mary Spicuzza just broke the story that Wisconsin has dipped its toe tentatively into the waters of Lake Let's Respect Aaron Rodgers, announcing on Twitter that Wisconsin's Assembly (the lower house of the bicameral legislature, for those of you who didn't fall asleep reading this sentence) had passed a resolution making December 12, 2012, "Aaron Rodgers Day" in Wisconsin.

That wasn't the only athletic accomplishment on the agenda for the day -- Wisconsin also wanted to give a hearty Assembly Resolution congrats to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team which won one another national championship (its fourth) that nobody cares about, and to congratulate the UW Badgers on having an "outstanding 2011 season," so if you're keeping track, it doesn't matter if you win or lose the big game in Wisconsin, you're still going to get an honor.

It also may be a case of too little, too late, given that California's Assembly honored Rodgers way back in June, 2011, so there's ample reason for Rodgers to hold a grudge against Wisconsin's tardy-to-the-party legislators -- as I'm sure he'll do.

It's also interesting that the official text of the resolution (available here) declares Rodgers "the best quarterback playing in the National Football League," while it's not clear whether they even considered Blaine Gabbert in making that claim. I would think that many hours should have been spent debating this subject. We wouldn't want to look like fools here in Wisconsin, going out and just declaring things without considering whether the evidence supports them or not.

Either way: December 12, 2012, is officially the day we celebrate all things Aaron Rodgers. Phantom Championship belts, Fu Manchu moustaches, and an offputting smirk will be de rigeur.

As with all OTHER things Rodgers, though, The Anointed One falls short of Brett Favre in "Days Honoring Him," too: Favre's Day in Wisconsin is October 10, and former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle named a Monday in November, 2009, an official Brett Favre day, too, and previously declared one Sunday in 2009 to be "Favre Record Day."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hey, I have something to say about basketball, rap, and poetry! (So They Made A Song About Sports)



As you probably don't know because you only come to this blog to eye up scantily-clad cheerleader photos, I like poetry, and post, on many Fridays, a poem on my blog Thinking The Lions. (A listing of all such poems ever posted is right here, and to appeal to readers of this blog, I'll note that almost every one of those poems has a picture of pictures of some Hot Actress alongside them.)

I have on occasion actually written the poem that was posted, and I am an award-winning poet, having been awarded the prestigious States Viar Poetry Award for 1986 for a sonnet I wrote. (I was not especially popular in high school.)

I am also currently at work on a poem, an ode to McDonald's Cheeseburgers, but I haven't posted that yet because I want this poem to rhyme, because anyone can write non-rhyming poetry. Free verse is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is think up something you want to talk about and then say it in a poetical way, like by including an obscure color or perhaps by messing with the order of words.

Consider, for example, Jeremy Lin, the subject of today's post, kind of. I woke up this morning after sleeping in my easy chair because I had a coughing attack in the middle of the night that came out of nowhere and didn't go away until I sat upright (and also drained most of a bottle of Benadryl, so to be honest, I can't be sure it did go away; I might have just fallen asleep while coughing, because Benadryl is powerful stuff.)

Anyway, I woke up this morning and heard about Jeremy Lin, who is a New York Knick and who briefly was the front page massive headline on Huffington Post, and who, I gather, is something of a rockstar right now in the NBA, a sport I don't usually pay attention to until it is crammed down my throat like Jeremy Lin is being today.

Jeremy Lin is sort of the exact opposite of Tiquan Underwood, the Patriots* player who was cut 24 hours before the Super Bowl and thus missed out on getting cussed out by Gisele Bundchen and an all-expenses paid trip to Aruba, a vacation destination that decided it would be better known for serving as a consolation prize to losers than the place where college students can be murdered without any fear of punishment and so offered the Patriots* a free trip to that land of beauty and astonishingly ineffective judicial systems.

Whereas Underwood is left looking for a job and hitching back from Indianapolis, Jeremy Lin is inspiring the kind of fervor that we previously reserved only for quarterbacks who wear so much religion on their sleeve that it interferes with a proper throwing motion.

Lin is, as probably everyone knows by now, the previously-unheralded (except that he was very much heralded in college) basketball player who this week took the (pro) basketball world by storm by scoring more points in his first three starts than any other player in modern NBA history, and by doing for for New York, which helps spur him to greater fame because of the media focus on New York, and also by doing all that in the week after the Super Bowl, when people were already sick of talking about Gisele ripping Wes Welker and were looking for something new to briefly obsess over.

Hence, "The Harvard Hurricane," and his slow-news-cycle filling temporary fame that has inspired, already, rhapsodic and poetic pieces in fora as nonsportsy as The Wall Street Journal:

When The Garden is full and the right moment hits, it sounds like a riverbed canyon during spring thaw. The roar is deafening, and it rebounds from wall to wall, off the rafters, and into your face with tangible force.

The first time you felt that sonic boom was a few minutes into last night’s program, when No. 17, Jeremy Lin — the man of the hour, the evening and just maybe the season — trotted into the strobing lights of the world’s most famous arena for the first time this evening. As every screen in the house lit up with his picture, the packed crowd let loose with an ear-splitting cacophony: Shrieks and hoots and applause and shouts of “MVP” and behind it all, the roar, that thunderous roar that some call the Knicks’ secret weapon, at least when the Knicks aren’t being utterly terrible. You know, like they were B.L. — Before Linsanity.

The Wall Street Journal has to cover sports, I suppose, so that the stock brokers who read it will get to feel even more like they still exist in the world of Wall Street where men slick back their hair and wear suits to go out at night and can chest bump about basketball without feeling weird about it.

Jeremy Lin is so famous, right now, in fact, that his Wikipedia page -- which previously had 50,000 page views as a high-water mark back on January 15, 2012 -- has been viewed 400,000 times in the past two days, with (I'm sure) 90% of those views being people like me thinking "who is Jeremy Lin?"

The answer to that question is: Jeremy Lin is whom people are talking about today, including me, although I am Jeremymandering this post into something that is more to my interests than basketball: poetry, and how easy it is to write a rap song.

That's where I began, remember: poetry, like the poetry that Lin inspires in so many people, including Spike Lee, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for that Lin piece:

Lee proceeded to spend the next ten minutes rattling off new handles for Lin, slam poetry style, that he’d invented or received from his vast Twitter following, waving away cameras and other fans: “Jeremy, moves so sick, they need insu-Lin.” “Jeremy, hang my jersey from the cei-Lin’.” “Jeremy, the Lakers, you better be double-Lin.” Lee, he knew who this kid was.
See? Slam poetry -- a/k/a free verse a/k/a "stuff anyone can write without even trying"-- is simple enough for kids on Twitter to do it, and for Spike Lee to then quote them.

Which is why I discount both free verse and rap as poetry and music respectively: it's not that they don't have their merits, it's just that both are bottom-of-the-barrel artistic endeavors, pretty easy to do in a competent way.

Consider music: Writing a symphony, say, would be incredibly difficult. Writing one of the complicated songs that bands like The New Pornographers





Is slightly less difficult, and so on downto rap, where, yeah, you have to rhyme and have rhythm and I'm not saying I could do it, but I couldn't not do it, because even nerdy guys can rap:





And not just that one guy:





So it's not like rapping is any more difficult than free verse. Rapping is, after all, just couplets with a bit of rhythm, and that, too, is no more difficult than free verse is for any half-wit writer like me.

Let me demonstrate by off the top of my head coming up with a free verse poem about Jeremy Lin:

Once passed over
Now passing fancy--
Then surpassing expectations,
Boards pitch beneath his feet,
Orbs commanded by his will float
as he does--
through the air on brilliant trajectories
that mirror the arc of
his fame--
his fame presaging
the arc of his brilliance.
He is in our eyes--
Our hearts
Our minds--
Our headlines
For now.


I did that in 48 seconds, and I bet I could get it published in The New Yorker, especially with those Dickinsonesque dashes in there.

So, back to how easy rap is: Couplets, remember, set to a rhythmic beat. And to prove how that can be done, let me take Linsanity, the poem, and recast it as couplets. Start the clock!

They once passed you over
But like a four-leaf clover
Your name came back
On a flying attack.

Now you're in the news
And you're getting page views
Twitters all yours
Fame's opening doors

They didn't know how good
You'd be on the wood
Passing, dribbling, dunking ball
The Harvard man has got it all

Spike's got your name on his lips
And you're on Kobe's hips
Contracts signing, stars aligning
Even nonsports blogs are rhyming
Your name
Your game
Your fame is insane 'cause you're on another plane.

One minute, 40 seconds.

Not the best work, but give me a little more time and a beat to set it to and I'll have a hit single, which is what finally leads me to the Song About Sports,





A rap in honor of Jeremy Lin written by "teacher/rapper Mega Ran". That's what one sports site called Mega Ran, anyway; his Twitter calls him a TeacherRapperHero whose bio on his website is short on listings of heroic acts but long on references to his prior raps, most of which appear to be about video games.

Mega Ran saw Jeremy Lin as a "teachable moment," according to his website, and wrote the rap about it, he says to teach kids something about something.

But it seems to me more likely that Mega Ran is perhaps hoping to take advantage of a white hot flash in the pan who is so suddenly famous that Harvard is now known as "Jeremy Lin's college" to promote his own upcoming tour. Ran's site, after all, mentions that his video has been on ESPN, in a blog post that mentions the tour, too. In case you were wondering.

Which, if that's the case, that Ran is using Lin to jumpstart his own career (Ran's Twitter icon is a picture of Jeremy Lin), then more power to him -- I'm certainly not going to down someone for noticing Jeremy Lin and jumping on that bandwagon. Although Mega Ran went about it the wrong way. Sure, a rap song will get you noticed, but you know what gets page views?



And that's even easier than writing a rap.

Here's a question for you: Will we still be talking about Jeremy Lin next year at this time? My guess is, no.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lord knows, we all need a way to make making fun of Tom Brady easier.

You may find yourself asking some questions when you come to this blog, questions like “Why am I here again?” and “Where are the pictures of the scantily-clad cheerleaders that are pretty much the only reason to visit this, since this guy knows next to nothing about sports?”

Those questions do not have answers, and I’d appreciate you keeping them to yourself.  Also, we’ll get to the cheerleaders in another post.

Another question you may have is “Where does the incredibly handsome, cool author of this blog keep all this information that he then talks about on this well-written, informatively funny site?” 

Yeah: Maybe you should have started with that one, to get us off on the right foot.

The answer to that question is: “Yes, I am very handsome, thank you.” And also: I am constantly reading online about various topics of interest to me: Not just sports but politics and books and culture and science and Star Wars and things that talk about Star Wars and people that talk about people that talk about Star Wars and things that are tired of all the Star Wars talk… I’m starting to see why I never get anything done.

And until now, I have not had an easy way to organize that information – I have notes and bookmarks and emails and a jumbled collection of thoughts that amounts to “Star Wars… cheerleaders… whah?

But then I found clipix.

Clipix is a new site to help me organize information and keep it handy, and then to easily share things with other people.  It lets me save websites and share them with one or two clicks, and the minute I figured out how great it was, I signed up. (Even signup was easy: I used my Twitter account (you can use Facebook, too) and it was literally a two-click process, after which all I had to do was drag a button to my browser bar, at which point I could surf the web and take reminders with just another click or two.

Here’s how it works: I find an article, say, about how Bradying is a new thing, and I click the “Clip” button to open a little panel:

Bradying!

Asking me which clipboard I’d like to add this to. I have a sports folder, where I can save it and find it later, or even share it with others through this thing they have called “Syncboards” which let you and your friends or family “clip collaboratively,” adding clips to the clipboard for everyone to see, while anything THEY add, you can see. There’s also “Multiboards,” which groups your clipboards so you can have all your blog clippings in one article.

Clipix is great for publishers and group workers – you could have all your buddies online and clip an article and EVERYONE could make fun of Tom Brady all at once.  It was stuff like that which made me sign up.  You should too. I mean, what else could you useClipix for? (Seriously: If I’ve missed a use, tell me in the comments.)

Want to know more? Like them on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clipix/252550344792744) or follow them on @clipix on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/clipix). Or download their iPhone app and clip stuff on the go.

Or watch this:

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday Scramble!

Thursday Scramble! is when I take a post from one of my blogs and put it on all of my blogs, to show you what you're missing if you're a uniblogolist. Which is a thing. Today's random number came up with Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!, so I decided to give you the first-ever post from that site, a good intro to the ongoing serialized sci-fi erotic story that is taking the world (well, three people) by storm:

WARNING! NSFW! (I'm not just saying that to guarantee that you'll read it, but I'm sure it had that effect.)

THIS IS PART ONE OF MY STORY:


"Lesbian zombies are taking over the world!" Reverend Tommy hollered. He was in a lather.

So was I but that's because Brigitte was sitting next to me and had her hand on my knee. Above my knee, actually. Her little, soft, pink hand was resting right where my miniskirt would end if I wore my miniskirt to the Church of Our Savior of Living People Only, but I don't wear it there because Reverend Tommy wouldn't approve.

He wouldn't approve of my thoughts, either, or of what Brigitte and I had been doing just before we left for church in our church-y clothes: We'd been having sex, which Reverend Tommy disapproved of. Reverend Tommy disapproves of any sex, and he's not one of those preachers who say they disapprove of sex but then they're fucking the girls (or the boys) behind the curtains by the chapel; he was the real deal. Reverend Tommy hated only one thing more than sex, and that was zombies. And he hated only one thing more than zombies, and that was lesbian zombies.

That's what he was tearing on about, and it made me wish that Brigitte and I had not rushed to get there because if I'd known the whole sermon was going to be about nothing but how I'm supposed to be taking over the world, I would have skipped. But I doubt Brigitte would have skipped. She's not like that. Even though she's a lesbian, she's very religious. I don't know how she got mixed up with the Church of the Savior of Living People Only. I don't know how she got mixed up with me, either. She's going to be mighty confused when she finds out. If she finds out.

And I don't want to let her find out. Not yet, anyway, because I've got plans. I may just make her like me, for one thing. But even if I don't, I can't resist her lips. That's what almost made us late for church. I took a look at her lips as she was putting lipstick on them, and couldn't resist. Without even strapping on my bra, I had to lean over behind her and turn her head to face me and started kissing her.

I pushed my tongue into her mouth, forcing her lips apart so I could feel them on either side of my tongue, soft and pliable and gently sucking on my tongue and she pushed her tongue into my mouth, so I tried to return the favor, but my lips are always a little dry, probably (I think) as a result of being me and probably because I'm not very ladylike except in public and I associate wet, soft, moist lips with ladies. We kissed like that for a while, pressing our lips more and more firmly together, and I couldn't take it anymore, I wanted those lips everywhere else on me. I moved her mouth away from mine and stared into her eyes for a few moments and then lowered her head down to my breast. She took the hint, and she took my nipple and she nuzzled it and sucked on it. God, her lips were so soft that I almost came right then and I cupped her hands in mine...

So you can see why we were almost late. And here's Reverend Tommy, who's actually not a bad guy except he says I'm going to hell and he wants to kill me, and I don't even know why, ranting and raving:

"These lesbian zombies walk among us. They dress like us, they talk like us, they look like us..." although technically, Reverend Tommy, I don't look like you, because you are a man, I wanted to say. Brigitte squeezed my thigh. I thought she did it inadvertently but she leaned over and said

"They don't look like him," in a whisper that tickled my ear and made me start to perspire. She was so much like me already! Could I make her more like me? Would she like me more if she were more like me? Word games in my mind were better than Reverend Tommy:

"And they will come out in broad daylight and mock us, and then after dark they will steal into our houses and steal your wives and your daughters, they will corrupt them and drag them down to the bowels of hell with them. They move freely between the Life and the Afterlife."

That startled me. Do I? Do I move freely between the Life and the Afterlife? I'd never thought of it. Maybe those dreams I have where I go to Hell aren't just dreams?

"And they will leave our women in the fires of Hell and return to take your souls and eat them." I looked around, furtively. We sat midway back in the Church, and the Church attendance was evenly divided between men and women and children. Most of them were attentively listening to Reverend Tommy. Some of the women looked a little flushed. I guess maybe they wouldn't mind a little corrupting.

"And Jesus doesn't want them. He wants YOU. He wants to save you, but you've got to be vigilant against the newest trick of the devil. The lesbian zombies are out there. They are after your souls, and they are taking over the world!"

I should a few things straight.

First, I am a lesbian.

Second, I am not a zombie. I don't think so, anyway. I'm not a revenant, either, because nobody controls me. I'm some kind of creation. I think that because none of my parts match. I have dark black, straight hair, but my pubic hair is brown. My left hand is larger than my right and doesn't look the same. I have one green eye and one blue eye and who ever heard of that? Plus, my right shoe is size 6 and my left shoe is size 9. I have a slight limp. At least my torso appears to be all one piece and I don't have any scars, so I'm not a Frankenstein. I don't think. I've never met anyone like me. Or at least, anyone who I knew was like me.


Third, I'm not sure why I'm here. Not here in the Church of Our Savior Of Living People Only. I'm here because Brigitte goes here and I'll do anything for those lips. Not here in this town, either. I wandered here a few months ago after living in New York City for a while and then deciding that I couldn't go on working at a diner and wondering why I didn't have parents, or didn't rememer any parents, or even a childhood, or even anything before one day I was just there, working at the diner and serving people egg platters and refilling their coffee without any idea of who I really was. People called me by my name (Rachel) and seemed to know me but nobody talked to me much and I didn't live with anyone. That first day was kind of scary -- I left work at 5 and I didn't know why I was leaving at 5 because I didn't remember being scheduled to work or even that I worked or who anyone was, and then I started walking home and got on the subway but I didn't know what a subway was, and I was riding the subway and I realized that I was going home but I didn't know where home was or if I had one at all.


I got really scared, then, and then tried to clear my mind and relax, which worked because when I stopped thinking about it I just headed home, which turned out to be a kind of crummy little studio apartment that had a view of a wall and some furniture and a TV in it. So maybe someone is controlling me because I went home, but I don't think so because why would they let me just wander away?


But fourth, I think maybe I am trying to take over the world.

Go on to part two-- Meet Doc-- by clicking this link.

Or click here if you'd like to download the entire story for free.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

UPDATES UPDATES UPDATES! (God, Brett Favre, Tim Tebow, Aaron Rodgers...)


Or are all of those people just the same person?

I'm not entirely willing to be done with football yet even though talking about football makes me feel exactly the same way looking at a Christmas tree on December 26 does -- tired, a little depressed, and sad that I'm going to have to take it down. Although this year, when we decorated our tree by hanging candy bars on it as ornaments using colored yarn, taking the tree down was much more fun.

So here's some post-football, pre-nothing else I much care about happening in sports until, say, July, updates on the four people who matter most, in (rough) order of importance:

UPDATE ON GOD!
I was getting ready to go to the office for a bit on Sunday morning and had the NFL Network's pre-pre-pregame show on, and they were talking about how this was the Year Of Tebow or something like that. A montage of people saying "Tebow" was played, and then a guy said something about Tebow's phenomenon transcending the NFL, and added this:

"When it transcends the NFL in the United States, it essentially transcends God"

Which:

(a) Take that, NASCAR. I told you you weren't a sport, and

(b) Really? The NFL is bigger than God in the U.S.? To check that dubious claim, I googled "NFL vs. God," because googling things is how scientists prove science these days, and I found this site that claimed to have "NFL vs. God poll results," only the actual poll wasn't NFL vs. God, and I went back to the results and went all the way to the second page of Google results, which nobody ever does (when was the last time you even paged down to see a result?)(What? You're not as lazy as me?) So I've set this up as the poll over there to the right. Make sure you vote because either God or the NFL is going to smite you if you don't.

Brett Favre's Legacy Update! Did this Super Bowl almost see a surprise return of the Ol' Sext-slinger to the gridiron? If you said yes then you, like me, were probably overcome by oven cleaner fumes and lost for a few hours in a hazy fever dream in which the entire league was made up of Nothin' But Favres.

But that's to be expected, given that the allure of the Super Bowl was enough to get Brett talking about how maybe he misses playing just a little:

Brett Favre joined 1340 The Fan in Lubbock with Jack Dale's Sportsline with Steve Dale to discuss being away from the game of football, his retirement process, what it takes to play in the NFL and his Super Bowl memories.

Do you feel a little antsy during the week leading up to the Super Bowl?:

"I do. This'll be my first year removed from playing. I get the question all the time: Do you miss it? I really, in all honesty, have not, but once the playoffs came around, especially [last] week, and in year's past as well, this is kind of the time the juices get flowing again. Even in past years, when I wasn't in the Super Bowl, I wished I was. This week was really no different than in year's past, but as far as the regular season went, I didn't miss it a bit. … It kind of started out for me, in my career, when we got to play on a primetime setting … that was kind of the start to the Super Bowl lead-up. Just being the only show in town was a big thing for me."
Wouldn't it be great if Brett Favre could only play in the Super Bowl? It's the natural progression, right? He didn't like training camp and so began to join his team about a week before the preseason. Now, he doesn't like the regular season, so why not just get to where we all want to be, and require that Favre take the field only for the Super Bowl.

This year, for example, he could have played for the Patriots*, and that would have freed up Brady to catch the ball, relieving him of the obligation of doing both.




Aaron Rodgers also probably doesn't like those two guys who like Drew Brees better than him.
But, then, Brees had a better postseason, didn't he? (He did.) Never one to let things just slide, The Anointed One graciously accepted the award by taking a jab at the 49ers:

Rodgers, who grew up in Northern California, acknowledged childhood heroes Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young of the 49ers before saying this with a sly grin: "Big Niners fan as a kid -- thanks for drafting me."

To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, "Show me a poor sport, and I'll show you Aaron Rodgers."

And last but not least, Tim Tebow continues to get the ladies, with reports claiming that he rejected Kim Kardashian, but "only had eyes for" Maria Menounos at the Super Bowl party, and had Katy Perry dedicate her pre-Super Bowl song "Peacock" to Tim Tebow. Tebow took it all in stride, hinting that when he's done having his coach and general manager publicly rip him for his gall in winning most of his games while selling tons of merchandise, he may go into politics, so 20 years from now, we can all look forward to a presidential election in which Tebow is down in the electoral votes until just before midnight, when he suddenly wins in some unexpected manner (Puerto Rico discovers it has 532 electoral votes it's never used?).

Meanwhile, have you Bradied today? Even Brett Favre's getting in on that craze:




Here's Katy Perry's Peacock:




Can you believe once people were upset because George Michael sang about how great monogamy was? I bet Tipper Gore is rolling over in her grave.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

WHODATHUNKIT!? The Three BEST THINGS you REALLY WANT To Know About Super Bowl WHATEVERNUMBERITIS.

Because Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! has no intention of bowing out before all 50 primaries are done, this is a joint venture between that site and The Best Of Everything.

Can you taste the excitement in the air?

No, me, neither.

For some reason, this year's Super Bowl seems a little underwhelming, doesn't it? In fact, the past several Super Bowls have seemed less than exciting. Steelers-Packers last year didn't seem, running up to it, like it would be all that memorable -- it seemed to me like the Steelers didn't really want to be there while the Packers seemed like they didn't know they were there.

And Super Bowls before that? Well, I had to go look at a list of Super Bowls to see who had played in recent years because while I can obviously remember the last Giants-Patriots* matchup and I can remember Colts-Saints, I can't think of who else has been in the Super Bowl recently, which in and of itself says a lot about how exciting (or not) the Big Game has become.

Going back a few years, there were Patriots-Eagles, Steelers-Seahawks, Colts-Bears, Giants-Patriots*, Steelers-Cardinals, Colts-Saints, Steelers-Packers, and of those, how many games were truly memorable for the game?

And more: how many were exciting in the build-up to the game?

I can think of only one, really: The Giants-Patriots* matchup where the Patriots* were denied a 19-0 season. That game had a lot of anticipation going into it, because the teams had played a great game to end the season, it was Eli's first Super Bowl, and the Patriots* were still mired in Videogate, plus the Giants had to put Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers out of the playoffs in a thriller just to get there, all of which set up an amazing storyline.

The runner-up would be Steelers-Cardinals, because Kurt Warner is a good story even if he's kind of a jerk himself, and the Cardinals hadn't made it to the Super Bowl before, and that was after Roethlisberger's troubles began, so there was a good-vs-evil component to that one.

But other than that, the storylines and setups to football games haven't been that compelling. The Saints winning was a good story, what with Katrina having happened to New Orleans and Drew Brees getting some respect, but they did that at the expense of the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, which, Manning is overpaid and himself kind of a jerk, I expect, but publicly the Colts were considered "good guys" back then, so it was good versus good, and what kind of matchup is that?

I mean, imagine if Luke Skywalker and Han Solo got into a fight. Wouldn't that be cool?

I thought of that. George Lucas thought of this:


And yet George Lucas is the millionaire while I sit around in my pajamas typing a blog post.

Anyway, no, a Han-Luke fight would not be cool, because they're both good guys, so the only way they fight is if it's one big misunderstanding, like the time Spider-Man and Superman got into a fight -- doing so only because they were tricked into it by Doc Ock and Lex Luthor.

Colts-Saints was Han-Luke: an upstart goodhearted kid against the cocky older hero but they were both on the same side, so it wasn't a fight we wanted to see.

Sports, to me, is entertainment -- and that means that I want someone to root for and someone to root against, and I want the outcome to seem to matter, even though it doesn't matter at all; the outcome of the Super Bowl is financially important to some people, and personally important to most of the players, but it's not important at all to me and you and the rest of the people who will be sitting around stuffing our fat faces while we deny basic protections to other human beings. Your life won't be any different at all tomorrow, no matter what happens today, unless what happens today is that just after winning the game, standing at midfield with the Lombardi Trophy, Belicheat rips off his mask, Mission: Impossible style to reveal that he's one of those Crystal Skull aliens, and roars into the microphone:

At last! I have the fourth Stanchion of Power! Minions! Open the Warp Rift and allow the fleets to pass through! Earth shall be under my dominion for all eternity! Bring me the heart of a newborn baby for my triumphal feast.



It could happen. And imagine the shock for those people who didn't bother watching the fourth quarter and only found out about the Earth being taken over by logging onto the Internet Monday morning to see what the most popular ads were.

There should be a storyline here, this week, and it should be a good one: After all, the Giants were the ones who denied Belicheat and Brady Football Immortality, costing them 19-0 and turning them into a punchline (because only in football can going 18-1 and losing narrowly in the championship turn you into a laughingstock -- I've said before and it bears repeating: it is better, in the NFL, to not make the playoffs at all than to lose the Super Bowl, and before you dispute me, answer this: Which team is more of a loser to you, the Buffalo Bills or the Jacksonville Jaguars?)

(See what I mean?)

But there's no storyline at all -- partly because Belicheat and Crew don't ever talk at all about anything and partly because the NFL has so clamped down on any kind of interestingness at all that it would be amazing if the Giants or Patriots* even acknowledged that earlier Super Bowl existed, let alone that one or the other had something to prove here.

The Patriots*, in fact, are going out of their way to say that revenge isn't an issue, which is to be expected. Lots of Patriots* players are downplaying the revenge factor:

Wes Welker said:

"Does it take care of what happened (if we win this time)? No. I don’t think so... What happened, happened, and we’ve moved on. The only thing I am worried about is this game and doing what we can to win this game.”

While Belicheat, speaking carefully so as not to tear his mask on the spiky crystalline killing appendages it hides, said:

We are where we are now, and we’re different than where we were earlier in the season. The Giants are where they are now, and I think they’re different than where they were at different points of the season. To take it back years and years before that, I don’t think it has too much bearing on anything. I don’t think anything in the past has too much of a factor in this game.

But again, that's to be expected: they don't want to admit it got to them, don't want to give any "bulletin-board" material (because athletes playing at the highest level of the game in the most important game at that level for millions of dollars cannot be expected to give 100% effort unless you give them a quote to motivate them), and so they say "It was no big deal, the way they made us go from legendary status to laughable footnote in one game."

But what's surprising is that the media, which has a rooting interest in having a good storyline and which isn't 100% controlled by Roger Goodell's Homogenization Machine, is going along with it.

The Boston Herald -- the Boston Herald -- has a column in which a sports "writer" argues that revenge ought not to be a factor. (Also, in that article, a Panthers manager is quoted as saying that if you lose the Super Bowl, "you wish you never went," which backs me up about the benefits of making it to the Super Bowl only to lose.)

Other media outlets have focused on things like "Will Peyton play again next year?" and the like; in a week of Super Bowl hype, I actually heard very little about revenge and how that might motivate people in this game.

Which isn't to say there wasn't some. The New York Post is trying, hard: Google "New York Post revenge Patriots" and you'll find four different stories on the first page of results alone, including a column saying the 7 Patriots* from the 18-1 team who are still on the roster are lying about not wanting revenge, to a quote from former Patriot* Rodney Harrison saying of course the New England squad wants revenge.

But tabloid papers or not, there's no doubt that this year's Super Bowl is short on storylines, and so to give you and me and everyone we know something to root for or against tonight, I present you with this year's WHODATHUNKIT!?, the three best things you really want to know about the Super Bowl -- this year in the form of three storylines that will help you have a rooting interest in the game.


1. Bill Belicheat vs. Niceness: Football is a game played by large, athletic men trying to hit other large athletic men as hard as possible in order to make bad things happen to the other team -- so it's not what you'd generally associate with niceness.

But, with all that, still opposing defensive lineman occasionally help up the quarterback they sacked, and teams shake hands after the game, so football has room for a little sportsmanship and heart amidst the controlled (and sometimes uncontrolled) violence. That's why movies like Rudy and Brian's Song and Invincible exist: Because hidden among the injuries and sacks and bone-crushing, spine-mangling, concussing violence are tiny gems of heart, growing like a flower through the cracks of a slum sidewalk.

Except in New England, where the only hearts visible are those served up still spurting blood in sacrifice to Belicheat's remorseless winning machine.

Remember last year, when the world was all a-flutter because the Green Bay Packers weren't going to let their injured reserve players be part of the team picture? Well, take a back seat, minor kerfuffle of meanness, and consider this display of coldness that would make even Darth Vader go "What the H, man? Have some kindness.":

Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood has been cut by the Patriots less than 24 hours before the big game ...Underwood had three catches in five games this season.
(Source.) With that, Tiquan Underwood became perhaps the unluckiest man to ever play in the NFL, and I'm including Scott Norwood in that calculation.

He was 24 hours away from the game that all NFL players want to make it to. 24 hours.

I confess to being a nervous type. I got my first partnership bonus this year at my law firm, and until the check was actually cut on New Year's Eve, I didn't think it would actually be given to me. In fact, it wasn't until I was actually holding the check in my hands that I believed it existed -- and even then I went to the bank to cash it immediately before someone could change their mind.

Sweetie thought I was crazy -- but I bet Tiquan Underwood would sympathize. He even practiced all week for it. He's in the team photo. He's there in Indianpolis and they cut him.

That is cold-hearted. Tiquan Underwood has to fly home using his own money, having gotten within shouting distance of his life's dream.

I wonder if he'll watch the game.

If there's any justice in the world (and there's not, so this is a pipe dream) Tiquan Underwood will be signed by the Giants today and suited up for them.

Which isn't actually a bad idea: Tiquan Underwood is only 24 hours removed from game-day preparations and would be a pretty good catch for Tom Coughlin; he could suit up and help the Giants know what the game plan is. I doubt even Belicheat is smart enough to install an entirely fake game plan and feed it to a little-known wideout with the plan of cutting that wideout the day before the championship in order to get him signed by the other team just so that the other team would have false information about the Patriots*' intentions.

Or... is he?

Tiquan's loss is Defensive End Alex Silvestro's gain -- the Patriots* signed Silvestro from their practice squad, which means Silvestro just won the lottery in more ways than one: practice squad players are paid a minimum of $5,200 per week, but being on the roster for the Super Bowl will likely get either $42,000 (for losing) or $88,000 (for winning.)

But, put another (and far more sad) way: Tiquan also lost $42,000-$88,000, just 24 hours before he got the check.



2. Wings vs. Salsa: Over on Grantland, they've been running the enormously entertaining "Souper Bowl," an NCAA-style matchup of soups that sounds not at all fun, but the devil is in the writing, and the people writing about it know both soups and how to write well, so check that out after you're done here.

Soup, of course, is a terrible snack for the Super Bowl, because you've got to look at it to eat it -- you can't just put it into your mouth without thinking about it, you've got to watch the spoon going in and hold the bowl and all that, and if you're watching what you're eating, you're not watching the commercials around which the NFL puts a game. You've got to put some thought into what you're going to serve your guests.

(Me, I don't have guests, as I've found that having anyone around but my immediate family during the game tends to (a) interfere with my watching the game and (b) reduce the number of pizza rolls I, personally, am able to eat in five hours.)

Which brings up matchup number two: Wings vs. Salsa. Over on USA Today, wings have shot up to second on the list of Super Bowl favorites, polling at 23% -- so wings are the Mitt Romney of snack foods!-- second only to chips and salsa, which pulled in 32%. Trailing at 14% was pizza, which tied with "salty snacks," which brings up a major problem in that poll: aren't chips also "salty snacks?" So aren't chips actually 46%?

Questions about the legitimacy of their finish not only serve to emphasize the Mittitudinity of wings, but also bring up the question: Why are wings associated with sports? which brings up Why do people eat wings at all?

In short: how did someone somewhere manage to convince people that the second-least-edible part of the chicken -- I'll get to the first in a minute -- is something they not only should eat, but do such a good job of it that 23% of Americans would rather gnaw a chicken's elbow than eat a Dorito?

Over at The New Yorker, which is pretty much the only place you'd think would do a credible job of reporting on the origins of the chicken wing as food, Calvin Trillin did a piece way back in 1980 that attempted to divine the provenance of the wing-as-snack. The entire article should really be read on its own, as Trillin's a heckuva writer, but allow me to summarize for you:

1. Wings were invented as an hors d'ouevre because the Anchor Bar, which is credited with inventing the Buffalo wing, got a shipment of wings instead of necks and backs, the necks and backs being what the bar usually used to make spaghetti sauce, and now I'm never going to eat spaghetti sauce again without uncomfortably imagining that I'm eating a chicken back, and up until this moment I hadn't even considered whether chickens have backs, but obviously they do and we eat them which is gross and that's why I hate nature; according to this version, the wife of the Anchor Bar owner didn't want to use the wings for sauce and so made them into hors d'ouevres and they caught on, and that version comes right from the owner of the bar so it must be the truth except

2. The son of that man says it wasn't a mistake at all, he just came up with the idea of having something free to pass out to Catholic bargoers at midnight on a Friday, and his mom used wings because that was the part of the chicken that wasn't good enough to sell so they gave it away free.

Either way, the wing was born at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, as an enterprising bar owner sold you garbage and offal and made money off of it, which brings me to chicken paws, which are this:



and which are simply chicken feet, but which, when deep-fried, are considered a delicacy in other parts of the world, other parts of the world being places where they eat bugs and things, too, because they have not yet discovered the joys of processed food and never knowing where your food came from. If I never have to eat a deep-fried thing that looks like a chicken hand, I will be a grateful man.

Chicken paws aren't just disgusting; they're also behind some of our big international disputes: in 2009, the US shipped $648,000,000 worth of chicken paws to China, in what can only be described as brilliant foreign policy: the Chinese loan our government money to pay for Dennis Hastert to have a $900,000 a year office to do nothing from, and in exchange, we ship them the parts of the chicken we find too disgusting to even think about (but not too disgusting to picture on a blog.)

Also: Maybe the whole Buffalo wings/Anchor bar story is bunk after all: Trillin goes on to note that a guy named John Young had a restaurant named "John Young's Wings 'n' Things," which served wings in "mambo sauce," and that he registered that name about the same time the Anchor claimed to have accidentally invented this snack food by trying to foist off garbage on its patrons.

In any event: If you are eating wings, you are exemplifying the American dream in that wings are a way to eke money out of you by selling you something you didn't want and didn't know existed, but also keep in mind: Salsa is still number one, so there's another American job taken over by a foreigner. Thanks for nothing, NAFTA.

3. Cars vs. all the other crap advertisers want you to want to buy:

And speaking of selling you things you didn't know you wanted or needed, consider this: According to ABC News, 1/3 of all the ads you'll see tonight are car ads.



From Ferris Bueller's triumphant return:





To something about Volkswagen and dogs:





To other car ads, what America will be watching tonight will largely be car ads, and what Americans will largely be thinking tonight, if they're smart, is

"Why would someone pay millions of dollars for a Super Bowl ad and then release the ad ahead of time, thereby spoiling the surprise and virtually guaranteeing that you will not actually watch the ad during the game?"

That's what I was thinking, anyway, when I saw that some carmaker had stolen my idea for Ferris Bueller's Next Day Off and then, not wanting to wait until the game to actually show the ad, had simply put it online -- I watched that ad Tuesday, sitting in front of my laptop, with Sweetie telling me "this is my favorite Super Bowl ad," nearly a week before the ad "officially" aired.

In fact, Hulu has an entire channel devoted to watching Super Bowl ads -- and it's up already.

What's behind this trend? Maybe it's what I said -- having a party detracts from actually watching the ads, so advertisers want to make sure you see them anyway; in that sense, what they're purchasing, by spending millions on an ad slot, is not eyes during the game, but media coverage of their ads prior to the game -- getting their ad to go viral in a completely nonviral way.

Or maybe it's that Super Bowl ads no longer spend much time advertising the product -- many of the best Super Bowl ads are memorable for the ad, but not for their product. What, after all, was Terry Tate advertising for? And what were those cats being herded trying to get you to buy? In some cases, the ad becomes memorable for the ad, not for the product. You probably know Whassup! but you have to think to associate it with a product.

I watched the Ferris Bueller ad, but I never actually realized what car it was advertising. (It's Honda; I checked.)

Or maybe it's because most Super Bowl ads don't actually do much. This article notes that it takes controversy (or junk food) to make a Super Bowl ad worth all the expense. An Eau Claire study found that sexy ads particularly do not do much (although the king of sexy ads, Go Daddy, has benefitted from its stupid Super Bowl campaigns). That same Eau Claire study found that firms get a small boost in stock prices in the week after a Super Bowl ad airs -- which isn't the same as being profitable, because stock price increases benefit shareholders but not necessarily the company, so maybe it's that Super Bowl ads are used to make the company seem more valuable to investors without actually increasing the value of the company, a particularly American innovation -- we'll pretend to sell you goods so that our company will look more worthwhile to investors, while not actually increasing our sales or our worth.

Those same Eau Claire researchers are going to be on Twitter tonight, trying to use Twitter to measure advertising reactions for another new study, which is another one on the list of all-time jobs I wish I had: Super Bowl ad researcher.

Enjoy the game!

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