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Instead Of Giving Away All Those Pizzas With Peyton Manning, How About Papa John’s Just Pay Their Employees?

In Media, NFL on September 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

By Jonathan Danielson

Before we even start, I want to apologize to you. I know I haven’t been around that much. We all haven’t. Chris got a new gig writing about the Steelers, the Jeffs are busy, Mimmo’s Mimmo, Kevin’s writing about copy machines, and we’ve all had big events pop up in our lives that took us away from this. From you.

And we’re sorry.

For me, I got a new job teaching college, so between an 800 mile move, lesson planning, grading, grading,  grading, and grading, I’ve been a bit busy. Who knew it took eight hours to prepare for a one hour lecture on Marduk and the Enuma elish?

Only by hour eight did I realize this "Marduk" was not the Marduk I was supposed to be lecturing on.

Only by hour eight did I realize this “Marduk” was not the Marduk I was supposed to be lecturing on.

Regardless, sometimes something will happen that makes me so angry, I have to try to make you angry about it as well.

And while the obvious topic would appear to be the Dodgers taking a classless swim at Chase Field, we all have to understand that the Dodgers are from Los Angeles, a place where it’s socially acceptable to OD on crack in someone’s bathroom at a dinner party. I saw Pulp Fiction, I know how these people think.

Besides,  John McCain pretty much summed up everything I would have written anyway.

"Dicks!"

“Dicks!”

So instead of the Dodgers buying the NL West, the thing that got me so upset is Papa John’s Pizza. Specifically, eight Papa John’s locations in Sacramento that decided to close their doors on payday, and leave their employees high and dry.

Per The Blaze, Papa John’s pizza shut their doors in Sacramento, and instead of paying  their employees for services already worked, they taped a note to the window that more or less said, “Sorry Charley, go ask the Government for help.”

Then, via their Facebook page, the Papa John’s corporate office more or less told these workers, “Man that sucks. Work with the people who just screwed you over to figure this out. Oh, and we’ll start up a relief fund.”

Let’s be clear, this is not Hurricane Katrina. This is not a terrorist event or a national disaster. This is fifty employees who, while working under the Papa John’s name, were stolen from by an individual franchise. These employees worked the hours they were supposed to work and they were not compensated for it. These are people making minimum wage during tough economic times, and instead of the corporate office stepping up and making it right by just cutting them a check for what is owed them and then dealing with their franchise later, they said, hey, we’ll set up some red tape. 

And, good luck paying your bills for the time being.

"Boy Papa, we sure look like robber barons at this point, don't we?" "We sure do Peyton."

“Boy Papa, we sure look like robber barons at this point, don’t we?” “We sure do Peyton.”

If Papa John’s can afford to offer half-off pizzas every time a local baseball team wins, or millions of free pizzas during football season, they can afford fifty checks that the franchise’s workers already earned. Lets do the math here : If minimum wage in California is $8 an hour, and the average Paper John’s worker works 30 hours a week, one check would be $240. Times that by be the fifty and that’s $12,000.

$12,000 may sound like a lot, but how much are a million free pizzas? While it might have been the individual franchise that failed here, they failed under the Papa John’s name. And somewhere, the buck’s got to stop.

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Boycott the Little League World Series

In Media on August 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

It’s that time of year again folks, when the vultures from Bristol, CT good folks at ESPN descend on Williamsport, PA for the Little League World Series (LLWS) and when I change the channel whenever it comes on. To get one disclaimer out of the way right off the bat, I’m not one of those people who think you shouldn’t keep score in youth sports. I think competition can play a valuable role in the development of children, teaching them to win with grace, lose with dignity and recognize that to lose is not the same things as to fail. In fact, when I played “little league” (my town was not affiliated with the national association that is Little League Baseball) I was very annoyed the years we didn’t keep score because I could count the players who crossed the plate and knew how very badly my team usually lost (trust me, losing is worse when people try to BS you that you didn’t lose). My complaints about the LLWS and the industry it has spawned have to do with the level of competition, not the existence of competition.

First of all, there is the scope of the competition. The LLWS takes teams of eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds from all over the world and has them compete in a series of ever more demanding regional, national and international tournaments until a single “world champion” is crowned. This continually elevates the pressure with each passing game, making the stakes, in terms of the level of glory being held out to the children, higher with each passing moment. Now even at that age (and younger) I loved to compete, but I also loved going out for ice cream with my coaches and teammates afterward. Here the system says, “congratulations kids, you’re national champions, now let’s gear up for another tournament.” Great achievements thereby become merely stepping stones in the quest for the elusive goal of a world championship that most will not achieve. There is no need to push these children onward and onward to their breaking point as if they are Ender Wiggin. By all means, let children play for their city title, but let it stop at that.

These problems are magnified by the fact that once the teams get to Williamsport, ESPN gets involved. ESPN means that cameras are everywhere, and they do far more than just broadcast these games on live national and international television. They bring teams onto SportsCenter (which is also aired live), play the highlights, provide fun facts about the players gathered in pregame interviews and even do postgame interviews with the key contributor from the winning team!!! In a culture that already makes individuals far too self-obsessed, ESPN seems to have found the perfect formula for creating narcissism complexes worthy of Alex Rodriguez.

Sure, ESPN has the basic human decency to not put crying children on live national television, instead only showing the celebration of the winning team, but why is it okay that they are getting to make millions of dollars off of middle school children???? And the sponsors? National brands sponsor the biggest games, such as “The United States Championship Game presented by Kellogg’s,” and we all know that corporate America wouldn’t be buying all that ad time in the ESPN broadcasts if it wasn’t profitable to do so. Now sure, I wore the names of local businesses on the back of my jersey when I played, it was how we kept the league affordable for parents, but my local sub shop wasn’t making millions of dollars off of my sweat and tears. The amount of money being made off this tournament is just perverse.

At that ladies and gentlemen, is why I refuse to watch the LLWS. I hope you’ll do the same.

 I invite you to follow me on Twitter @CHallenbrook.

Why Are You Still Watching ESPN?

In Media, MLB, NBA, NFL on May 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

By Jeff Gibson

Some people would consider it a character flaw I possess— the second anything becomes popular in America, I lose all desire to follow the masses in their blind passion for consuming mass-marketed garbage. Take Twilight, American Idol, Uggs, McDonalds, Sarah Palin, Bud Light lime, etc. Some people, like my girlfriend, claim I need to watch a movie/show before I dub it awful, or slip on a pair before I “hate”.

I wonder how they get people to buy this stuff. Courtesy zimbio.com.

Well, if you want to call it “hating” then I’m most definitely hating. I’m not sorry I can spot poop when I see it and smell it from eight feet away. I can judge it without having to eat it. I’m not a baby that has to put everything in its mouth to know what’s poop and what isn’t.

But I’m in my late twenties. I’ve got grey hairs on my chin.

What I’m saying is that it takes time to learn to spot poop. We’re not born knowing most marketing campaigns are designed to trick us. And that’s why marketing campaigns for poop are so profitable when executed correctly. Meaning, the least intelligent audience with the most disposable income is selected for consumption. Teenagers.

Jeter being mistaken for Robert Pattinson. Courtesy withleather.com

Well, unless you consider professional sports. But there are “teenagers” in professional sports. Most people call them bandwagon fans. I call them Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, Celtics fans, Heat fans, Giants fans, Patriots fans. Like poop, they’re easily identifiable. They’ve got on brand new gear, but didn’t wear a glove to the game and spend every inning gossiping about the cute boy wearing an Affliction t-shirt that went home with them last night. Or they’ve got a blue and white Giants hat on, flat-billed of course, and when you ask them if they’re wearing it to be ironic, they mug you and claim they’ve been a Giants fan their whole life. You smell poop. So you ask them what they thought of JR Phillips. You try players a bit more well-known. Robby Thompson? Royce Clayton? Alright alright. An easy one. Will Clark.

“You think you’re smart because you know all the coaches, bro?”

Poop again.

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn I hold zero respect for All-Star games, in any professional sport. They’re popularity contests. And who are the voters? The same “fans” who don’t even know three players on their favorite team but will spend their entire welfare check on an authentic Patriots jersey of a player their team will waive next season. Did I mention they’re not even from Boston? Nor the East Coast?

Even if these “fans” are informed, they get shafted by the mainstream sports entertainment outlets who interview “experts”, aka “reporters” on their own payroll, to provide pre-chewed fluff to boost ratings. Touting the same players over and over and over again. Even my girlfriend knows who Tim Tebow is. And she can throw a football farther than him.

Pop-quiz. How do you profit off of two bored individuals bombing a marathon and killing innocent people? Or a gay basketball player fighting to simply be himself publicly? Ask ESPN, their ratings skyrocketed after these events, after they dubbed cowards pointing cameras and pundits spouting hate “heroes”. No, heroes help others. These selfish people earned profits for your corporation — maybe I should have included this network in that opening list up above, right between Sarah Palin and Bud Light Lime. The same network that allows one of their reporters to ask Golden State Warrior guard Steph Curry, arguably the best player in the history of the NBA to get shafted out of an All-Star appearance, whether the team can compete in the playoffs without their “All-Star” David Lee. How misinformed can you possibly allow your staff to become before a player calls you out on it? Can’t prove it either, see ESPN doesn’t like to leak anything online that proves how awful they are. At least they inspired Curry, judging by how he played the following game.

I have a better acronym for this broadcasting network. BS.

I wonder how they sell this stuff. Courtesy usatoday.com

At least with Twilight, American Idol, and all that other BS, there are myriad alternatives. In the sports broadcasting world, there are few to none.

TNT, CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC (nope, owned by Disney, same parent company as ESPN). If you think these networks are decent alternatives then that’s like believing the Angels lineup is dangerous. Hint: you’re misinformed and watching too much BS. But it’s not your fault. Just like it’s not teenagers’ fault they buy into the misinformation, the garbage dubbed entertainment (in middle school I owned a KORN t-shirt, seriously). They don’t know any better. But come on, not all of us are still teenagers. Are you? (Put the vampire fan fiction down).

We don’t have to continue this nonsense.

You can start by turning the channel away from BS and other networks that show clear biases in their sports coverage even though they claim otherwise. It won’t be as easy as telling your girlfriend you’re not going to the new Twilight premiere, but let’s face it. If you’re a real fan of your team, then you’ll tell the networks they aren’t important if they’re going to tell you that your team is not important.

If you’re at a bar and BS is on. Ask them to change it to a local channel. Support your local affiliates and your local affiliates will support you, eventually. It may take some time and energy, but seriously, when was the last time BS aired the Oakland A’s? Or the Golden State Warriors? The Colorado Rockies? The Sacramento Kings? The San Diego Padres? The Seattle Mariners? The LA Kings? The Arizona Diamondbacks? The Portland Trailblazers? The Oakland Raiders? And when they did, they had two broadcasters covering the game that couldn’t tell the die hard fans the difference between Jamarcus Russell and Marcus Allen, before touting the BS’s favorite to win for the duration of the game.

Joe Buck wondering why his microphone is made of wood.

If you’re a fan of the teams listed above, maybe it won’t take much energy at all. You don’t need some network based out of Maryland to tell you which teams are good and which aren’t.

Highlights? Please, you can find highlights on MLB.com, NBA.com, NFL.com. Are you that lazy, that truly American, where you have to have highlights spoon-fed to you? We’re not the society depicted in WALL-E, not yet. Hooray for the internet!

Heads-up. Cable companies won’t make it easy. Most sports television packages come with local and ESPN together, without an either/or alternative. So write to the cable companies, call them and tell them to stop supporting the BS. Stop hiring Joe Bucks and Tim McCarvers to spout out nonsense to more informed viewers (demand the local broadcasters get to move networks with their teams, especially for the playoffs!). You’d think the local companies would want a package that excludes the bigger companies, that way they could hold a bigger share of the market, in turn growing, possibly becoming a powerhouse sports network the West Coast desperately needs.

But I’m no business savant. I’m just a fan.

All I know is BS is BS.

And I’ll never root for Boston.

The Penguins Are Trolling the NHL

In Media, NHL on March 29, 2013 at 6:15 am

by Chris Carosi

Last night I was at the bar, enjoying myself, trying not to be awkward, talking about Doctor Who or something when I looked up at the television above the bar and saw that the Penguins had traded for Calgary forward Jarome Iginla. I convened with my one friend in the Bay Area that loves hockey and he said, being more informed than I, “I just read Boston got him.”

After a few hasty iPhone searches, we saw the truth. No, the Penguins swept him, seemingly at the last possible second.

I went home and checked it out. The entire Internet was trolled by the Penguins. Everyone including reputable sources like TSN (that’s Canadian ESPN) were saying the Boston Bruins had landed Iginla. This was going until an enormous sigh swept over the Internet, like a long breeze sweeping the Cheetos crumbs from underneath the servers around the globe: “Oh shit. Sorry everyone. Iginla is going to Pittsburgh.”

TSN’s venerable Bob McKenzie apologizing to the Internet

What’s even stranger (or awesome depending on your POV) is that the reason why Iginla came to Pittsburgh is that he chose to. He has a no trade clause which means he can waive it to play for a contending team. That’s why he didn’t go to Boston. He didn’t want to. And the Pens only gave up two mediocre prospects and a first-round pick for him.

Add to that the Penguins addition of the other big name grizzled veteran on the market (Brenden Morrow from Dallas) and the best big defenseman on the board (Douglas Murray from San jose) and you have an ungodly stacked roster of dudes that want to win a cup. The current NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby is playing spectacularly and the team is in the midst of a 13-game winning streak (longer than the Blackhawks 11-game winning streak this season–their 25-game streak was a points streak, not wins). And, oh yeah, the reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin hasn’t played since March 9th. The Pens haven’t lost in March yet.

Douglas Murray: Swedish Troll.

The Pens have trolled the entire league before the league can blink an eye. They have usurped control of the Eastern conference with skill, front office suave, and haven’t even spent any money or traded anybody.

Iginla has a huge cap hit so he will be gone after the offseason probably. This is what a team who wants a Cup looks like. They are determined to put fixes in place to win now. The trolls can have class.

A Not So Short Reflection Upon The Life Of A Celebrity: Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter

In Media, NFL on February 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm

By Jeff Weyant

The person in this video – referred to sometimes as Beyoncé, other times as Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, depending on whether the speaker wants to characterize his or her subject as a pop star or as an ultra-empowered feminist/cultural icon – confuses me. But then I’m easily confused. For example, it was at an embarrassingly-progressed stage of life when I learned that the pronunciation of the noun “lingerie” had nothing in common with the verb “linger.” Still, understanding in some important way the actions of a professed un-single lady seems meaningful in spite of the present confusion.

The origin story of our eponymous star, thankfully, isn’t all that confusing. It doesn’t require a J.J. Abrams-directed prequel trilogy nor an Alan Moore graphic novel. One long sentence will suffice: Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter was born in Houston, Texas, where as a child she pursued the age-old tradition of singing and dancing which naturally led to the just-as-age-old tradition of performing, a gig which quickly developed into a prominent role at the front of the famed 1990’s/2000’s musical act Destiny’s Child which, after many successful forays into the labyrinthine maze known as the Billboard Charts, went on hiatus (due to normal stuff like “internal conflict,” “exhaustion,” and “former bandmates suing current lineup”), forcing the eponymous star of this article to release a solo album that righteously stormed the already-stormed Billboard Charts and became the basis for the young Houstonian’s vault into the record books (in terms of sales) and into the hearts and minds of billions of people the world over (in terms of everything else), culminating (so far) in the universally-acclaimed performance during this past Sunday’s as-usual-highly-Nielson-rated Super Bowl, a performance which, for most, cemented her legacy (at the tender age of thirty-one) as one of the greatest most awesomely badass female performing artists ever of all time forever.

It’s well-established, then, that Beyoncé is at the top of whatever edifice our culture considers representationally important. She’s friends with basically everyone cool. She sang (perhaps without vocalizing in the present moment) the national anthem at the recent presidential inauguration of her good friend Barack Obama. She gilds with gold whatever she touches. She has a strange website where the background animation is a repeating GIF of her doing something regal in attire befitting her station. And, oh yeah, she’s married to her male counterpart in the musical world, Jay-Z. In sum, she is, according to the third entry at Urban Dictionary, “[t]he female artist of the decade who is hated on by people who are jealous of her fame and extremely great talent. She is also one of the most beautiful women in the world and the top female black artist.” Sad to say, this is one of the more sincere entries on that great website.

All this is common knowledge. And yet The Artist Currently Most Often Referred To As Just Beyoncé perplexes me. Because on the one hand she seems to have expertly crafted a public image that portrays her as a strong-willed, beautiful woman able to achieve her dreams using nothing but copious amounts of elbow grease and a glistening can of Pepsi, the kind of generous, self-sacrificing individual who acts as spokesperson for campaigns like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative aimed at curbing child obesity, the sort of human being one imagines intelligent feminists created in a laboratory somewhere in Minnesota to be their incredibly effective mascot, effective because she doesn’t overwhelm the opposition with facts and logic and violence but instead with solicitations of admiration and worship against which most of us are essentially defenseless. Because who can ever quibble with the vicissitudes of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, the woman who finally conquered the unconquerable heart of Jay-Z (he of 99 problems of which a bitch ain’t one), the woman who donates to charities constantly and seemingly effortlessly, the woman who reunited Destiny’s Child for a brief moment in front of the whole world last Sunday around 7:15pm Arizona time?

Well, me, I guess. And also apparently Harry Belafonte.

“And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyonce, for example.” – Belafonte to the Hollywood Reporter

There’s a lot to unpack here (people like Beyonce rarely travel light) and I think it’s best to return to Urban Dictionary. The first and second entries are the same (which doubles as a metaphor about Beyoncé) and they help shed light on my confusion: After saying that Beyoncé “shows who she is,” it is revealed that she, apparently not in contrast, “is extremely careful about how she portrays herself in the media” and that “People take this for a fake or flighty character, but she doesn’t give too much of herself away because she wants to keep a piece of her own integrity and protect her self [sic] and those that she loves.” Comprehensibility issues aside, this provides the most immediate and pressing question concerning Beyoncé: is she quote-unquote for real or is she merely a marketed manipulation, an artificial construct created to win the souls and wallets of everybody everywhere as quickly and as lastingly as possible?

As Hamlet would say, aye, there’s the rub.

My answer, as is probably already clear, is that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, as we all know her, exists only on paper. Somewhere in the cavernous recesses of the body we identify with the aforementioned quadrinomial title is the “real” Beyoncé but the only one we’re allowed to see is the one designed to make the most money and in general be the most awesome at all times (generally for the purposes of making money but also for making the hidden Beyoncé feel really nice about life) and that this, of course, is harmful and bad and uncool.

Very few people have wondered aloud about this (mainly because such individuals are universally reviled upon receipt of said public wonderings – Harry Belafonte a case in point) but it bears pondering nevertheless: Why is the most visible spokesperson for one of the nation’s most visible anti-child obesity campaigns also the most visible spokesperson for the leading cause of child-obesity? It’s a surprise to no one that fat children are fat largely because they imbibe truckloads of sugary soft drinks which are not only obesity-inducing but also the cause and suspected cause of lots of other awful health issues, like death, death, and death. Pepsi, who paid for Beyoncé’s ringing endorsement at the Super Bowl, accounts for an embarrassingly-large part of the market share for sugary soft drinks. Beyoncé, then, wants you to lose weight but to keep buying Pepsi while you do it. Which makes, naturally, no sense whatsoever (and is also expressly harmful, because children are more susceptible to whatever’s in front of them more often, and since no one sees the Let’s Move! campaign nearly as often as they see Beyoncé drinking Pepsi, it’s easy to guess which advertisement wins out).

The standard workout routine for Let’s Move! consists of walking to the store to buy more Pepsi products.

Another troubling part of her resume is World Humanitarian Day, which is, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “a global day to celebrate humanity and the spirit of helping people.” One assumes, rather appropriately, that such a day is to be marked by the selfless, altruistic spirit of an individual like Mother Theresa and not, say, by the arrogated arrogance of an individual like Kanye West. It was interesting, then, that the UNOCHA decided to commemorate this day (which was actually more like a month, but whatever, it’s their terminology) by having Beyoncé stand alone in a white gown in front of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and sing one of the most incomprehensibly self-involved songs in the history of civilization.

Performed on August 10th, 2012 but released worldwide on August 19th, “I Was Here” seeks to impart to the listener the singer’s ardent wish that they be remembered for all the awesome things they did while alive, a small part of which concerned helping other people. The chorus is (and I’m not making some elaborate joke here, this is literally accurately factually what she sang to the world): “I was here, I lived, I loved, I was here, I did, I’ve done everything I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be, I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here.” If you notice the distinct lack of altruism in this chorus, you’re onto something. Because it’s only occasionally in the verses (and frequently vague at that) that we get any sense that this song is even partially concerned with the welfare of other people. Given the time and venue, it sounds more like a South Park parodic imitation of what a celebrity would sing at such an occasion rather than what they actually sang. But no, it’s real. Painfully real. As if my generation wasn’t already expertly skilled at naval gazing, Beyoncé gave us more validation: do good not because it’s the right thing to do but so that everyone will remember how good you were.

To make matters infinitely worse, Beyoncé has repeatedly failed to question her public associates’ actions and decisions, however harmful they might be. For instance, she values highly her public friendship with Barack Obama but has to yet to comment publicly on anything he might be doing that could construed as, well, “bad,” for instance the sanctioning of the continual slaughter of innocent civilians (mainly children) in Pakistan using fancy remote-controlled airplanes, or really any of his other empire-building initiatives the world over, actions which seem contrary to the spirit of World Humanitarian Day, and she and Jay-Z first endorsed gay marriage only after President Obama gave his own support (and for what it’s worth Beyoncé also didn’t speak out against the various failures of George W. Bush either, unlike her good friend Kanye West, which suggests Beyoncé’s more interested in cultivating relationships with the powerful than using those relationships to make the world better).

Kanye West is more authentic which makes him more obviously obnoxious. But that’s probably a good thing.

The proverbial list goes on and on and it all leads to the same thing, the only viable explanation for Beyoncé’s contradictory actions: she’s a self-interested pop star who cares more about her coffers and her self-worth than she does about the strangers she influences and who willingly help fill those coffers. She donates to charity only if it helps augment her global brand, she offers conflicting messages to impressionable youth, and she maintains a cone of silence around the only things that really matter in life, opting to say nothing at all even when she’s in a position to do the most good. And when she does do something beneficial to somebody other than herself, she has to publicize it endlessly so everyone knows that she was here.

Which brings us to the halftime show at the Super Bowl, which was, fittingly, a summation of her entire career. For while her lyrics on Sunday didn’t necessarily point overtly to a self-aggrandizing agenda (unlike, say, those of her husband) the visual display was more than enough to compensate.

Beyoncé was given free license to immortalize herself in the annals of cultural history. It was no surprise then, given her track record, that the halftime performance was essentially a fifteen minute public service announcement designed to inform the world that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter exists and is important and is finally worthy of your undying adoration. To say it was maddening to watch is, as is usually the case with these sorts of things, an understatement.

It begins (after a Pepsi intro) with a Vince Lombardi quote broadcast over a stampede of screaming strangers running onto the field, followed by pyrotechnics which illuminate three objects: opposing profile light displays, a giant statue, and the shadowy outline of a female figure, all three of which bear a striking resemblance to Beyoncé herself, a supposition made certain when the shadowy female figure is revealed moments later to be the eponymous singer. The self-deification is agonizing: like all formidable and long-lasting deities, Beyoncé is a tripartite goddess (two-dimensional profile, three-dimensional and huge statue, and three-dimensional and human-sized avatar), greeted and adored by onrushing worshipers. In addition, every other individual on stage throughout the performance will be dressed and made up such that they resemble the reason we’re all watching (a lot like Eminem’s army at the Grammy’s in 2000, except without the cultural critique).

Probably not purposeful but if it was it makes Beyonce the Emily Dickinson of contemporary pop artists.

As the first musical number rolls along aimlessly (because all musical numbers at the Super Bowl roll along aimlessly because they have to be part of a larger, necessarily awkward medley to fit the time and entertainment constraints of being loud and obnoxious as much as possible for fifteen minutes) we are gifted a telling visual: the camera goes birds-eye and Beyoncé is supposed to fit snugly into a circular design meant to enclose her prostrate figure. It and she fail to align and we’re left with an odd image, which can be read two ways: either Beyoncé’s façade isn’t and will never be perfect, allowing people like me to cast those much maligned slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or it was a purposeful deviation sent as a subliminal signal to people like me who spend way too much time thinking about this shit that the multitudes of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter can’t be contained by the puny constraints of time and space. Your guess is as good as mine.

At this point we’re three minutes in and I’ve already had enough but against my better judgment I brave the interminable tragedy of Beyoncé’s unutterably depressing self-aggrandizement (depressing because it appears to be contagious) for twelve more minutes, during which the singer jumps around and sings breathlessly out of tune renditions of her Billboard-topping catalogue, making me realize that even Madonna ceded the stage last year to other performers. But not Beyoncé. She declared, once and for all, that she is the contemporary female equivalent of Kanye West, the sort of person interested in two things, making money and cementing one’s legacy as the most awesome and beloved and respected and adored person ever. The only difference is that Kanye, while musically a genius, is otherwise an idiot, particularly with respect to public relations. Not so with Beyoncé, who managed to accumulate laudatory couplets from the entire universe for behavior that we label as megalomaniac in others.

Fittingly, then, the only appropriate way to conclude is through the words of Beyoncé herself. After the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, she was quick to release a charity single, a cut of “God Bless the USA,” the proceeds of which were intended for the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund. She went on CNN to premiere the single, participating in a short interview with Piers Morgan afterwards. Now, did she publicize her own awesomeness unnecessarily when a simple anonymous donation would have sufficed? Yes. Did she, instead of donating herself, merely create an opportunity for others to contribute? Yes. And did she needlessly and harmfully invoke the Judeo-Christian deity in the aftermath of a political assassination of a prominent figure in the Muslim world? Yes. But, as she told Piers Morgan, “I cannot think about anything more appropriate to do to help these families.”

Which is basically all you need to know about Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter.

Parting of the Ways

In Media, NFL on December 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

by Chris Carosi

With three weeks left in this typically ridiculous NFL season, all the pieces seem to be moving towards a finish. Let’s take a look at what appears to be true and if it will be pan out by season’s end:

1. Manning Brady Manning Brady Manning Brady etc. etc. etc.

To the glee and delight of network executives across these United Estates, the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos and the Tom Brady coerced New England Patriots will probably be meeting in the AFC playoffs barring any crazy upsets (please god) in the second round. If the NFL’s wet dream truly comes to fruition, the two will meet on the snowy grounds of Foxboro (or Denver actually, if the Broncos get lucky) with the entire universe watching and many pointless cuts to Brady or Manning standing around doing nothing on the sideline while the other is on the field. When that happens, I will be extraordinarily drunk and rooting for both defenses to crush the bones of these two gentlemen. Oh wait, that’s part of why the media is so excited. You win this round, NFL. God help us all if the Patriots make it to another Super Bowl.

Is it true? Yeah I guess. Damn it.

“Pssh, talk to me after you’ve impregnated TWO supermodels.”

2. The AFC North is a collection of beta bullies.

All three AFC North teams lost last week in games they probably should have won. While the Steelers flounder the energy of enormous upsets with soul-crushing losses to terrible teams, the Ravens are just crappy right now, and the Bengals are… the Bengals. Without a doubt, two of these three teams will make the playoffs. But which? Who will stand up for what they believe in?! Let’s review:

Baltimore

  • Fired their offensive coordinator
  • Have a quarterback that plays like he’s asleep
  • Lost to Charlie Batch (!) on their home field
  • Refuse to give Ray Rice more than 15 carries

Pittsburgh

  • Lost to Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland, and San Diego (I just got disappointment chills thinking about it)
  • Have an offensive line that can’t stay healthy or consistent
  • Lost to Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland, and San Diego (Oh god, I’m having PTSD flashbacks)

Cincinnati

  • I’ll get back to you

Is it true? Oh yes. But if a dethroning of Manning/Brady can happen, it will be one of these teams. Mark my words. For my money, the safe bet is Baltimore and Pittsburgh to make the cut; however, if Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh next week, they deserve the sixth slot. There is of course an outside possibility that all three will make the playoffs like last year. That would be something.

Every time Charlie Batch smiles, a sick child believes in miracles.

3. The Bears have imploded so far they have no concept of their basic atomic structure.

Chicago had absolute ownership of the NFC North five weeks ago. They had the territory marked and boundaries set, with chewed up honeycombs on the border or whatever the hell actual bears do in the wild. However, after they lost to Houston in a rugged, rainy game on their home field, things began to fall apart. Injuries. Lapses in their formally world-beating defense. More injuries. This week, they play a Green Bay team that has risen with Aaron Rodgers looking so cold he has to practice in a steam room just to keep his muscles alive. It’s over for Chicago unless they get lucky on the back end (Green Bay has to lose).

Is it true? Possibly. Their last two games are against Arizona and Detroit so that shouldn’t be a challenge to finish at least 10-6. They will make the playoffs, but at what cost to their sanity?

4. The 49ers will be fine.

What should have been locker room cancer has turned into locker room common cold, or maybe locker room eye boogers. I live in San Francisco, and the weird faith the “fan base” seems to have in Alex Smith is a bit strange… like, why? Dude was definitely not good until Jim Harbaugh came along. System wins, not quarterback (in this case that is). Kaepernick can play, they have an excellent receiving corps, and as long as the defense plays to their potential, they can beat anyone in the league (except St. Louis). Being a West Coast team, they are immune to media distraction (it’s all about inclusiveness in SF) so they are very much in control of their own destiny. They absolutely  need to beat Seattle convincingly at the end of the year to assert their dominance though. That will be important.

Is it true? Yes. If they can wrap up a first-round bye, they will be the favorite to go all the way.

Champions eat their Wheaties and stand sternly on the sideline.

5. Indianapolis will enter the playoffs and win at least one game.

Now this is interesting.  The Internet collectively did not give the Colts a chance (including me) and here they are staring down a very real (and improbable) possibility of a playoff berth with nothing to lose. The Colts play Houston twice in the last two weeks. Yowzah. Two good things about that for the Colts:

  1. If the Colts want to prove they can hang, they can prove it by winning one of those games. Boom. Done.
  2. Houston might rest some starters in the Week 17 match-up. This will give Indy an opportunity for an easier win to leap frog a team like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati for the last playoff spot.

If you think about it like that, the Colts might have a better chance of making the playoffs than Cinci and/or Pittsburgh. Interesting, right? Earning a playoff berth for their coach will be enough for them to build on for next year, when the fun ends due to the dreadful weight of something called expectations.

Is it true? Yes. But they won’t win a game. Good story though.

“I vow to never wear an officially licensed ball cap to cover my Cro-Magnan brow until we make the playoffs!”

6. Houston and Atlanta scare no one.

This one is interesting because these teams get little respect for their overall record but seem to garner it because wins matter after all. I’m of the opinion that everyone starts back at 0-0 come playoff time, but one has to respect the momentum built from the regular season… that’s why they play the games (it’s not for money, dude). Houston still has a legitimate shot at the first overall seed, so they’ll likely draw a beta bully from the AFC North in the second round. That will be a rough game for them, but only in terms of physicality. The truth is that they can beat anybody on their home field because I still believe they are that good. While the New England game was scary and disappointing, it doesn’t matter in the long run. They can use that loss to fuel them.

Atlanta right now seems like the guy who only works out the glamour muscles to get laid… so he has skinny little legs and a small, un-clever brain. They haven’t won a “statement game” at all, and really they never had the opportunity. The Denver win at the beginning of the year really feels like a long time ago. The only thing they could have done to build momentum with an easy schedule is murder bad teams to assert dominance (ahem, New England), but they haven’t done that either. The impossibly scrappy New York Giants come to town this weekend, so this is their chance to get the momentum going for their run. Teams like Green Bay or San Francisco will DESTROY Atlanta in the playoffs.

Is it true? Yes, but anything can happen. Houston is in a better position to have a deep run.

“Hey, J.J. good g–ouch, ouch, my hand!”

NFL Week 14 Games of the Week: Some of the Marbles

In Media, NFL on December 6, 2012 at 10:44 am

By Chris Carosi

There are 4 weeks left in the NFL season: shit is getting real. The AFC race is coming into focus way too early and the NFC is just getting more contentious. Some teams seem to be getting better and better as the season progresses (Denver, New England, Green Bay) while some are looking more vulnerable (Baltimore, Atlanta, San Francisco). Things will look even weirder after this Sunday, with the three of the four divisions in the NFC up for grabs. It’s too early to diagnose a damn thing, but it will be a fun day of football. Let’s take a look at the three games of the week for Week 14: “This One’s for Some of the Marbles”

#3 Dallas (6-6) at Cincinnati (-3) (7-5) 1:00pm ET

The Underachievers Bowl. Both of these teams’ identities revolve around beating the wrong teams and losing to the right ones er… losing to the wrong teams and beating the right ones? Whatever. Know this, Cincinnati’s playoff hopes are completely realistic and entirely possible at this point while Dallas is just trying to hold on. The Bengals have an easier path because the AFC is AWFUL. This is Dallas’s last chance, last dance. I think the spread is spot-on here. It will come down to clock management in a close game and we all know how clueless Jason Garrett is when it comes to that. The Bengals actually win an important game at home when it matters! Fact you didn’t know: the Bengals lead the league in sacks.

Cincinnati by 3

“Jerry Jones told me that if I stop the clock on a certain number, that player’s jersey sales will go up by 30%”

#2a Chicago (-3) (8-4) at Minnesota (6-6) 1:00pm ET

#2b Detroit (4-8) at Green Bay (-7) (8-4) 8:20pm ET

God bless the NFL scheduling people. This couldn’t be anymore perfect with 4 games left. The NFC North race has become really interesting. Green Bay sits in first right now after Chicago’s defense s*** themselves at home. Green Bay draws a much easier game than Chicago this week, but neither game will be straightforward. The forecast is looking like snow at Lambeau, which probably favors the Packers but these games can get wacky. The Lions are really only good at one thing: throwing the ball. In the snow, this will be a challenge but the Packers have a perfectly average defense (statistically speaking). What does this all mean? I have no idea.

Green Bay by 5

Chicago is playing well, all things considered, and were certainly the early favorite to win this division. Things are getting complicated and they can’t overlook the Vikings, who are a young one-dimensional team (and that team is Adrian Peterson). They’re clearly better than Minnesota, but if Minnesota’s pass rush can do anything at all, they will put so much pressure on the Bears running game. If you flip that scenario, it’s true that Christian Ponder is NOT Russell Wilson. So, what happens when the freely movable object meets the easily stoppable force? A close, low-scoring game and my UPSET SPECIAL!!!!

Minnesota by 2

“Haha, guys, I seriously have no idea what our quarterback looks like!”

Houston (11-1) at New England (9-3) (-3.5)

Wow, ESPN finally gets a good match-up. As I’ve said before, New England consistently gets too much credit by the media for smashing bad teams, and this year is no exception. They are very, very good at running up the score on basement-level teams. It’s true, it can be said that that is one of Bill Belichick’s prime directives (perhaps it’s THE prime directive). Houston has been doing the same thing, really, but to me they can’t be denied the somewhat hairy identity of “Best Team in the League” , despite their close victories against Jacksonville and Detroit. It’s clear that they’re very, very good on both sides of the ball.

What is also clear (and revealed through Vegas spotting the Patriots 3.5 points before the kickoff) is New England plays well in prime-time at home in the cold in December. Houston doesn’t necessarily need to win (their two match-ups with the Colts still loom), but they should give the Patriots all they can handle, considering the other thing we forget about New England: their defense is really bad. I would definitely take this bet.

New England by 2

Coach Belichick signals to his sniper in Section 24, Row I at Gillette Stadium.

The Illusion of Safety

In Media, NFL on December 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm

By Chris Carosi

Another week. Another critique on the NFL’s “toughness” by a veteran player. It can be difficult to prescribe the actions taken by players during the intensity of an NFL game, often confusing the common brutality of the sport for “fair play” and then judging something banal as especially brutal or (my favorite adjective) “unsportsmanlike”. And, not to be overshadowed, tragic deaths making the whole system itself seem banal.

The game is fast. Really fast. Dudes coached from birth wearing suits of armor come crashing into each other at full speed every forty seconds for one hour. Full-grown men leap high into the air for a leather elliptoid. From the comfort of our living room or standing on the sticky floors of bars across America (and the world), it’s easy (and really fun) to holler at the television and gamble and so on. That’s what sport is all about: entertainment.

This ‘Co-Eds Watching Football’ Ad is sponsored by Europe.

But in the NFL, the purity of that entertaining component is often undercut by the personalities of the players themselves. Hell, over half of ESPN’s “news” coverage is hearsay and commentary on the perceived personalities of players. And this is basically true for all the major sports. (Side note: my favorite players are usually ones that screw with this and still excel at their position: Bryant, Kobe)

So when a respected veteran like Ed Reed, future Hall-of-Fame safety for the Baltimore Ravens, says the league has double-standards or is making the game “powder puff” to heighten the offensive prowess, the points, and (presumably) the $$$$, one pays attention to it.  This isn’t the first time a respected defensive player has critiqued the league’s “double-standard”. Troy Polamalu said a few years back the NFL is a “pansy sport”, citing the changes to how defenders can hit the quarterback. Reed echoes that, and goes on to say:

“It’s become an offensive league. They want more points. They want the physical play out of it, kind of. They want [it] like powder puff to where you can just run around and score points ’cause that’s going to attract the fans. I understand you want to make money, but bending the rules and making the game different, you know, it’s only going to make the game worse.”

This is a fine and interesting line here. Reed contends that the NFL wants to make more money and “bend” the rules. And yes, it seems to be working i.e. if you touch the quarterback’s head or come down at the quarterback’s knee, your team is penalized and your opponent is awarded 15 yards and a new set of downs. New set of downs = another chance to score. Does this “worsen” the game though?

Cheater.

The league says this addresses the safety of the players, and have fined Reed accordingly for “repeat offenses” which apparently include hits to the head of defenseless players. As the physicality and sheer athleticism of defenders reaches it’s peak, the league is trying to pare down the violence of a violent sport while trying to increase the pop and pizzazz of dude’s scoring touchdowns and dancing around in the end zone. To illustrate the growth of the player itself, Ed Reed as a safety is 5’11” and 205 lbs. Jack Lambert, one of the best and hardest-hitting linebackers playing in the 1970’s, was 6′ 4” and 220 lbs. So yeah.

It’s strange that the NFL chooses to pander to douche bags and fantasy football “experts” who think that more points equals better football. I’m not saying a good game can’t be high-scoring, but to me (a football fan) it’s like trying to make cake that much better by increments. It’s cake! It’s good! No one hates cake!

A football cake?! My brain just exploded.

Desserts and dessert similes aside, what’s also interesting is that the point of criticism here is coming from Ed Reed. I mean, the dude is one of the most respected players in the league, hell one of the most respected ever. And his name is on a very short list of all-pro safeties that changed the position (along with names like Ronnie Lott and his contemporary Troy Polamalu). So, if there’s a fellow that knows what he’s talking about, who eats, sleeps, drinks, and poops the game of football, it’s Ed f****** Reed. But it’s largely a criticism that falls on deaf ears in a league so far beyond the control of the players that it’s blockbuster collective bargaining agreement does not give the players 50% of revenue. They even had to claw and scratch their way to eliminate two-a-day practices!

To echo what Jonathan was saying yesterday: when violence happens in this sport (in this country), it can be overshadowed or glossed over in an attempt to sell you something. Like Bob Costas ignoring the larger WAY more important thesis of the victims of a murder-suicide and preaching gun control. Like opening the door for quarterbacks to pad their stats while attempting to limit other great players like Ed Reed by reaching into his wallet when he hits a dude. It’s wild and weird that to improve the safety of the players for the greater good, one has to unionize and pay fines. In any other job, that would cause you great stress. In order for you to continue playing, you have to limit the way you play if you play defense like a bad-ass. This certainly changes the shape of the defensive game.

Will defenders get smaller? Will quarterbacks take more chances as a result? Already more and more quarterbacks like RG3 and Cam Newton are playing ball at the professional level. Even Andrew Luck can be seen as a new archetype of the pocket passer, one that runs frequently. Will defenders compensate and get longer, faster, and more agile? This is all long-term, but worth thinking about as a long-term fan in a constantly evolving sport.

Not The Time Or Place, Bob

In Media, NFL on December 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

By now, we all know what happened in Kansas City over the weekend. On Saturday morning, linebacker Jovan Belcher killed Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend, then went to the Chiefs practice facility and killed himself in front of Head Coach Romeo Crennel, and General Manager Scott Pioli.

Against the conventional wisdom, and despite calls to cancel or postpone Sunday’s game, the Chiefs went on to  beat the Carolina Panthers the very next day. Fortunately, while taking a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence, the Chiefs did not glorify Belcher. They did not recognize a man who murdered his girlfriend and left his three-month old child an orphan. Instead, the Chiefs organization decided to keep things in perspective.

Unfortunately, Bob Costa did not feel the same way later in the night, and instead used his halftime commentary for the Cowboys/Eagles Sunday Night Football game to grandstand and politicize a tragedy into a cry for gun control.

Before I published this article, I wrote a 500 words counter argument to Costas’s claims, then realized my opinion, much like his, is irrelevant at this time. Even if I would have published it, you, the reader, would have read it on a website which you knowingly and willfully clicked on. Costas, on the other hand, used his halftime appearance as an inappropriate opportunity to capitalize on his political views. To push his agenda on an unsuspecting audience. The bodies haven’t even been buried yet, the families not given time to grieve, yet Costas hijacked the moment to pimp his opinions.

Last night Bob Costas was no better than the West Baptist Church, making sure someone, anyone, everyone, heard his message at the most inopportune time. There is a time and place for arguments and discussions, and last night was not one of them. Last night should have been a moment for families to grieve, or an opportunity to educate on organizations who can help in cases of domestic violence.

But now, it’s an opportunity lost.

If you or anyone you know needs help escaping domestic violence, please visit these sites and organizations:

http://www.ncadv.org/ 

http://www.thehotline.org/

http://www.weaveinc.org/

Plymouth Rock

In Media, NFL on November 21, 2012 at 11:16 am

By Chris Carosi

Week 11 of the NFL is in the books and Week 12 rapidly approaches, just as your in-laws and uncouth uncles/cousins/family friends make their way to your cozy household carrying thick casserole trays and lazily prepared desserts. It’s Thanksgiving, which the NFL has adopted as its own holiday to both positive and negative effect.

The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys own Thanksgiving football, which reveals a lingering echo of the old NFL before the merger. The way it’s supposed to work is–and it’s altogether easy to see–either Dallas or Detroit hosts an AFC team and the other hosts an NFC team, guaranteeing coverage for both networks. This is a result of the NFL TV deals with each conference: if a game is inter-conference,  the visiting team’s conference gets the network coverage. So, if the visiting team is an AFC team, the game is broadcast on the AFC affiliate (in today’s case, CBS). If the visiting team is an NFC team, the game is broadcast on the NFC affiliate (Fox). This is totally fine, provided the games are actually good, and it makes total sense seeing that both Dallas and Detroit are in the Central time zone, making it perfect for prime coverage on either coast (cha-ching!)

“Tails.” “Burlap is the call. Burlap it is!”

But two is not enough for the NFL. Belying all of that amazing ratings and money, the NFL has it’s own network: the money-snake that eats itself. Starting a few years back, the NFL Network broadcasts a third game in the evening, snatching up the rest of the East Coast prime-time ratings and a bit of the West… because they can. That is actually a good motto for this league: “Because We Can”. Let’s preview the games.

Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6) 12:30PM ET

Houston had to scramble a week after their HUGE win against Chicago and defeat Jacksonville in overtime. They will no doubt come out firing against Detroit, who simply doesn’t have the discipline nor the experience to hang tough in their own division, and their pride is hurt. This is a strange game for both teams, with the Lions having a great potential to win based on their spirit and nothing else. Matthew Stafford will raise his arms in disbelief at a no-call of pass interference on Calvin Johnson a lot, who he will throw to every play in double coverage. Houston has been given 3 points, and they will win by more than a touchdown.

Houston by 9

He can manage.

Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5) 4:15PM ET

Dallas is in the driver’s seat in the NFC East and that is so poor considering how horrible they are. This game is all about RG3 on the national stage, where he will dazzle and amaze us until he is leveled by a safety because he has no desire to protect his body or keep his team afloat. In a bizarre turn, the Cowboys have been given 3.5 points in this game. I would take that bet.

Dallas by 2

“Sorry, guys.”

New England (7-3) at New York Jets (4-6) 8:20PM ET

The Patriots’ deconstruction of the Indianapolis Colts last week was both an indication of their overrated dominance of the mediocre teams in their conference and the Colts’ lack of experience in important games in their conference. The Jets come into this game with absolutely zero upside and the blood completely sucked out of them by their leeching, tiring, heavily over-dramatic media coverage and the near-constant parade of pointless Tebow and/or Sanchez articles. I will not watch one second of this game.

New England by 34

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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