The Education of Marcus Smart: The “does he know mid-range jumpshots are allowed?” Edition

Marcus Smart’s shot chart looks like he’s been playing NBA Jam, which is a game that already existed when Marcus was born (how old do you feel right now?)

What is missing here?

What is missing here?

Those of us who are old enough to remember NBA Jam and haven’t slipped into senility quite yet will remember that there were really only two shots in that game. There was the three, which you took if you were John Stockton, and there was the dunk, which you threw down from the rafters if you were Karl Malone, because of course you played as the Jazz. You never took jump shots inside the three-point line. With the league now increasingly understanding the value of the three-point shot, and the folly of the long two (with one exception that is a continuing source of personal schadenfreude) more and more teams are playing the NBA Jam style offense: shots are taken either at the rim or from behind the three-point line. Brad Stevens is a staunch proponent of the NBA Jam offense, and that attitude has clearly rubbed off on young Marcus Smart.

Look a that shot chart. Through four games Smart hasn’t taken a shot between 5 and 20 feet from the basket.

Smart has shot poorly so far, but that was sort of to be expected, and given that Avery Bradley has somehow developed into one of the Celtic’s best shooters after starting his career as a pure defender who ran up and down the baseline on offense like he was playing dodgeball, it isn’t necessarily something to worry about. But how high can your shooting percentage be if 21 of your 30  shots are threes? Especially when you aren’t particularly good at shooting threes? Can you really develop much of a shot if you are only shooting threes and layups?

A mid-range pull up, to say nothing of the a well executed floater, is  a prerequisite of good guard play in the NBA. It would be nice to see Marcus shoot this. Of course, I’m not blaming Marcus for this, and this is a crazy small sample. But maybe Brad should let Marcus know that it’s okay to shoot from fifteen feet every now and again?

Kyle Lowry, the patron saint of wide-bodied point guards, torched the Celtics for 35 points last night. He is, at least offensively, who we hope Marcus grows up to be some day. After last night’s game, it was Smart’s roller coast ride of back to back offensive series down the stretch that got all the ink. He hit the big three to tie the game at 105 with just over a minute to play before Lowry picked his pocket to put the Raptors up for good. But what actually won the game was Lowry’s 18 footer with 8 seconds left that put Toronto up by three.

That’s a mid range jumpshot and it’s often all the defense will give a point guard, especially in crunch time, when the defense is taking away the deep ball and moving to help at the rim. It would be nice to see Marcus shoot one. Just once.

 

 

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Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady…at acting.

It’s Brady vs. Manning XVI in the snow at Foxborough!

This matchup has been broken down from every conceivable angle. Bill Barnwell went back and reviewed every game the two hall-of-fame quarterbacks have played against each other. Bill Simmons argued that Brady is more content to follow his coaches than Peyton because he grew up with older sisters (Simmons was an only child, forgive him for obsessing about siblings). I was going to try and break down today’s game based on each quarterback’s astrological signs (I mean, Peyton Manning is such an Aries, amirite?) but then I remembered that this has all gotten completely out of control and it was up to me to add some levity to all the somber monument constructing that’s been going on this past week. So let’s talk about Brady v. Manning in terms of their secondary careers as professional entertainers.

1. Acting

It’s important to remember that a large part of Peyton’s nerdy populist appeal is his incredible ease in front of the camera. Peyton is equally charming and natural whether he’s forcing a non-existent chemistry with Papa John, or he’s teaching children how to break into a car on SNL. Peyton is so relatable (to unathletic middle-aged white men) in large part because he seems like a regular guy in front of the camera, and because who hasn’t come home from work with a giant red spot on their forehead? Tom Brady has movie star looks but is painfully stilted in commercials and in his interviews he exhibits a friendlier version of Belichick’s “I’m here to talk about the Bears” approach. He’s like Joe Biden without all the gaffes.

Here’s Peyton’s best SNL skit. Notice how it is all Peyton: the camera never leaves him as he plays against type by portraying himself as a merciless sociopath. (wait, is that against type?)

Here’s Brady best SNL skit. It’s funny mostly because Tom doesn’t do much acting and serves as a pretty face. Also, he grabs Amy Poehler’s breast, which is a wonderful moment for me personally, since I love breasts, Tom Brady, and Amy Poehler. Sadly, this is the only remotely watchable clip from Tom’s lone SNL hosting gig in 2005.

http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=c7afcdc8a78d

2. Dancing

Peyton is also just more at ease with himself and his body than Tom. We can see this by how stupid Peyton’s helmet looks in comparison to Tom’s.

We can also see this when they both dance.

Again, from Peyton’s SNL episode:

Peyton might have had professional dancing instruction, since he was on SNL, which presumably employs professionals who can coach Peyton how to play Will Forte’s leg so expertly.

We should probably judge Peyton by his natural dancing ability, by what he brings when the music starts and he just feels it. 

Actually, they are remarkably similar. Peyton is a bad dancer, but he owns it, like a Dad intent on embarrassing his daughter while chaperoning her middle school dance.

Tom is bad, but it’s his lack of confidence that kills him. He’s confused about what to do with his hands. He has a “am I doing it right?” vibe.

3. Improvising

A good way to judge a professional athlete’s charisma and charm is to see what happens when the questions get weird and the athlete has to turn off the auto-pilot. Tom manages to skillfully take this super weird question, chuckle at it, and still make the cliché work.

Tom remains cordial and even compliments the weird 1920’s reporter guy for the question. That’s a nice piece of improvisation. But Peyton agrees to get interviewed by Will Ferrell in character as Ron Burgundy. He steps into the ring with an improv master, and he holds his own, even when Ron says he looks like a “succulent baby lamb.”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t all improvised.

4. Singing

Brady is on-key, like, most of the time here. I think he did just fine. JUST FINE.

Peyton’s performance here seems better until you remember that Brady was singing LIVE and that Manning probably had Katy Perry-level post production done on his voice to make it sound acceptable.

5. Modeling
This is no contest. Take away things like voice inflection, comedic timing, and natural delivery and make it all a looks contest and Peyton has no chance.

 

tom-brady-stetson-ads-05

 

vs.

peyton pizza

 

Tom modeled the shit out of that picture. Conversely, Papa John looks sexier than Peyton. It’s also worth noting that Peyton has Roger Goodell hair in this picture.

 

Conclusion:

Peyton is better, but only because he has much better weapons than Tom. (Amy Poehler’s SNL era DVOA was actually not that great).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Will Miss Being Totally Confused by Rajon Rondo

rondo

It’s not often that a professional athlete is branded with a SAT vocabulary word by the sports media, but wherever the name Rajon Rondo appears in print, it seems the word “mercurial” is sure to be nearby.

“Perhaps the most discouraging news to come out of Boston this summer regarding the often mercurial Rondo,…”

And if the Celtic star isn’t being described as mercurial, it’s probably because he’s being enigmatic.

“As the Celtics open the 2012-13 schedule Tuesday night in Miami against the title-defending Heat, the enigmatic Rondo — a fussy fashionista with a basketball assassin’s soul — reigns as their undisputed floor leader,…”

Both of these words can be useful, but when applied to Rondo they don’t illuminate him, or his relationship to the otherworldly basketball talents he possesses. They only obfuscate our understanding of him. When sportswriters first started using those words to describe Rondo they meant he was moody, tough to talk to, tough to interview certainly, but also clearly capable of giving thoughtful and funny answers (his assessment of his likelihood to play on opening night — 79% — and the 4% upgrade he gave himself today, along with his assertion that he will be a “nap time decision” are just the most recent examples). His game was similarly bipolar: his imagination on the floor was limitless, but his focus untrustworthy. Writers never knew which Rondo they would get when talking to him or watching him play. The assumption was that there were two Rondos: the brilliant technician leading the Celtics high-powered offense, and the other Rondo who emerged when his maturity faltered. This Rondo was all petulance, lazy defense and ill-advised passes.

Early on, it was assumed that the duality was connected to an immature moodiness that would dissipate with time. Those words so often used to describe him (mercurial, enigmatic, aloof) were placeholders; he was enigmatic only because we didn’t know him yet. He was mercurial because we didn’t understand him. Surely, winning a championship would allow us to know him. Becoming the Celtics’ best player as the big three grew old would force his personality and his game to calcify into something we could easily define. Maybe a knee injury and a blow to that aura of invincibility he wore so casually would force him to do away with the impatience that became palpable whenever a camera or microphone was directed his way. And then there was last year, when we thought that Rondo would surely let us know his true self as the unquestioned face of the franchise during a hopeless campaign. We were waiting for the easy narrative, for enough pieces to fall into place where we could properly pigeonhole Rondo, as both a person and a player. That has still not happened (nobody can even agree if he is a good shooter or not) and it’s pretty clear now that it never will.

Thank God.

Rondo is the weirdest, most mercurial, enigmatic, and inscrutable player in the NBA, which is a just a list of thesaurus words employed to say that we just don’t get him. Our greatest basketball players exist in a simple personality matrix: there’s the immature talent (Boogie Cousins), the former immature talent who grew up and “got it” (Kyle Lowry, Chris Webber, Paul Pierce), the quiet superstar (Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan), the affable pitchman (Lebron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin), and the win-at-all costs sociopath (Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett). Where does Rondo fit into this? Couldn’t you make a case for just about every category, minus the affable pitchman? But then again, would it even be surprising if Rondo was in a series of hilarious Kia commercials? What can’t he do?

Apart from his statistics, and the fact that he’s fourth all-time in playoff triple doubles, here are some things we know about Rondo:

  1. He is a freak. From Lee Jenkins’ excellent 2013 SI profile: “Rondo’s hands, 9½ inches long and 10 inches wide, are the size of a 7-footer’s. His wingspan is 6’9”, common for a power forward. If built proportionally, he says, “I’d be like Magic or Oscar Robertson.” In peripheral vision tests Rondo beats everybody except Ainge, and on road trips he can recall exact directions to places he visited once. Ainge has seen him throw a football 80 yards, hit a softball 380 feet and beat 33-year-old assistant general manager Ryan McDonough in a 40-yard dash with a tire strapped to his waist. In college Rondo stole the ball from his man 16% of the time; no one else in the 2006 draft swiped it more than 5%.”
  2. He is a connect four savant. He challenges groups of children to simultaneous games of connect four and he beats them mercilessly.
  3. He never watched basketball growing up. He learned the game entirely through his own experience of it. His unique style, the chances he takes, the plays he makes that seem to have never been made before, much of that may come down to the fact that he was a basketball tabula rasa. He invented his game in a vacuum free of expectations of what the game is supposed to look like.
  4. He asks questions back at reporters more than any athlete I’ve ever seen. It’s often steely and cold, but it’s never hostile. He can give the most cliché sounding answers and make them seem natural and genuine, and he can give the most controversial answers and make them seem boring and cliché. He can be friendly and adversarial. His interviews are great in a subtle way. Watch how many interesting, yet very simple answers he gives in this three-minute interview.
  1. Speaking of interviews, he gave the greatest halftime interview of all time when he called out the Heat for crying to the refs. He wasn’t complaining about them doing it, he was simply answering a question about why the Celtics were able to get out and run. “Them complaining and crying to the referees in transition.” Rondo seems like he is at once deeply committed to the truth, and totally bored by it.
  2. He is best friends with Josh Smith. This can reasonably considered a red flag.
  3. He has been, according to this typically excellent Jackie MacMullan piece, the leader of the team for years. He was the guy who took the younger players under his wing, not just recently, but while KG and Paul were still in town. He forms deeply committed friendships with teammates.
  4. He once told a reporter that he had big plans for his post-basketball career, but refused to say what they were.
  5. He may or may not have clashed with Doc Rivers and Ray Allen.
  6. He takes five showers a day.
  7. He is an excellent roller skater. 
  8. He said he “felt nothing” when Paul and KG left.
  9. Nerlens Noel said Rondo was the “biggest helper” of any NBA player while dealing with his recovery from ACL surgery.
  10. He is smart. He drops in on high school math classes and ends up teaching them. Danny Ainge has said that Rondo is always “the smartest guy in the room, and the most stubborn.”
  11. He out rebounds his height (6’1) better than anybody since Charles Barkley.
  12. Danny Ainge has tried to trade him roughly 3,540 times.

What are we to make of all this? It’s 2014 and the mercurial and enigmatic Rondo® is still as unknowable as he was when he entered the league in 2006. Those adjectives are no longer placeholders, they are an admission of a comprehension failure. Writers have given up trying to understand Rondo or get to know him, not because he’s dull – he is anything but – and not because he only allows access to a customer-facing version of himself (I can’t imagine Rondo ever talking about his “brand”), but because Rondo is honest and yet still we can’t figure out what type of player or person he is. He refuses all attempts at explanation or narrative. He frustrates the manufacturing of simple career arcs that we have become accustomed to as sports fans. He is a series of parts, impressions, and facts that don’t seem to fit together. He is a mystery.

There will be no “knowing” Rondo. To just sort of flippantly refer to him as mercurial and enigmatic is understandable, and a time saver, but doing so is a disservice to the complexities of one of the most dynamic athletes and personalities I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. As the 2014-2015 season begins, Celtics fans know this is very likely Rondo’s last in Boston. I personally hope that the Celtics sign Rondo to a max deal, since no free agent is coming to Boston without an established star, and try to build around him. But whatever happens, we should appreciate him for his basketball genius and also his inscrutability; we should relish the fact that in this age of social media and advanced analytics a point guard leading a marquee franchise is still capable of being so joyfully confusing. We should enjoy every last one-handed cross-court pass, every altercation with the referees, every question turned back on a reporter. We should stay vigilant in order to celebrate the plays, and there will be a few, which Rondo is the first to ever complete, not because there has never been anyone with his talent, but because Rondo was the first to see through the limitations of physics and aesthetics and will a new basketball play into existence with his daring and stubbornness.

Rondo is totally unknowable. But that doesn’t make trying to know him any less fun, and it doesn’t make his inevitable departure any less sad. For the next few months, we should bang our heads against Rondo’s contradictions and be happy that someone so intelligent and so talented wouldn’t make it simple for us to love him. It will be a sad day when Rondo isn’t around to confuse us anymore.

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It’s hard to police violence when you’re profiting from it

In the past few weeks, the NFL has revised both its domestic violence and its banned substances policy, by, among other changes, increasing punishments for the former and decreasing them for the latter. There were significant problems with how the NFL handled each type of infraction, and there still are despite the new policies (see Hardy, Greg), but in general things are at least more aligned with how the larger society views the crimes in proportion to each other. Gone is the radically backwards belief formerly codified in the NFL bylaws that smoking pot is a worse crime than beating a woman.

This man married a Fox News anchor.

This man married a Fox News anchor.

The fact that it took two separate videos surrounding the Ray Rice incident to make this judicial inequity clear to both the NFL and their fans is unfortunate, sort of disgraceful, and a pretty clear indication that the NFL is reactive, instead of active, in its policies.

(It also made clear that the NFL and Roger Goodell don’t understand the nature of causation, i.e., what has to happen in an elevator ride to have it end with a man dragging an unconscious woman out of it, or what is inevitable when there is a second tape of the incident floating around and the staff at the place that has the video, which is worth lots of money, are getting laid off, or what happens when you leave reporters out to dry, or what happens when you constantly lie to the public and use incompetence as an excuse for moral failings. It ultimately made it clear to a great many people that Roger Goodell should be removed from his duties as Commissioner.)

What no one is really asking, however, is how did the NFL’s punishments for most crimes/infractions, including the “gates” (bounty and spy), drunk driving, banned substances, and performance enhancing drugs, become so thoroughly enforced while domestic violence had no such punishment prescribed or implemented until recently? I think a pretty simple explanation is that the NFL isn’t a law enforcement entity (although that seems to change depending on Roger Goodell’s mood), and that crimes committed off the field, or have no direct impact on the game itself, should be handled by the law, which 99% of the time doesn’t give people charged with crimes like Ray Rice committed the deal that Ray Rice got.

One could argue that the NFL can and should let crimes committed off the field be handled by law enforcement authorities, and that only in the case of direct impact to the game, or its integrity, should the NFL be suspending people. The NFL’s earliest suspensions were all for gambling or fixing games, which makes sense, given that those are crimes that mean far different things to law enforcement than they do to the NFL, since gambling or fixing games would destroy the league’s validity.

According to Fivethirtyeight.com and my counting of the suspensions they compiled, there were six suspensions by the league office between the formation of the NFL in 1920 and when the league began drug testing in 1987. There were an additional 34 suspensions from 2000 to the start of the 2006 season when Roger Goodell replaced Paul Tagliabue as commissioner. Of those 34 suspensions, twenty were for PEDs, seven were for substance abuse, and the remaining seven were for personal conduct violations and in-game incidents. This makes sense, as PED use poses a threat to the integrity of the sport, much as gambling did in a previous era. Since Goodell took over in 2006, there have been, by my count, 192 suspensions (!). Now there could be a lot of reasons for this, one is more sophisticated drug testing, one is the fact that players are using more PEDs, and another might be that with more money than ever, the players are just out of control. Or maybe nothing has changed, and Goodell is simply reacting to the fact that crimes that used to be easily forgotten now quickly grab national headlines due to the new media landscape, which has forced him to react to just about everything.

Roger Goodell has made himself the league’s enforcer and protector of the shield, and in doing so has put himself in a position to be questioned for his punishments, or lack thereof. Before he started with his crusade to clean up the game, nobody would consider it his job to create and implement domestic violence policies, and nobody would have started evaluating how ad-hoc and inconsistent his system of justice was. But Roger Goodell bullrushed his way into the land of behavior regulation (the newest example being the type of “inappropriate language” penalty that Colin Kaepernick was hit with on Sunday), and the league didn’t seem to stop and consider that fact that an asserted right to penalize anybody for anything means that systems of justice have to be established. Once the precedent has been set that all behavior is punishable by the league, omissions or weak penalties for certain acts are now unforgivable. There is no longer an excuse to make that any crime is outside of the jurisdiction of the NFL.

Of course they were going to miss some sort of infraction, and of course it was domestic violence, which is no surprise because the NFL is a man’s league, a man’s league predicated on violence. (Breast Cancer Awareness month, the NFL’s transparently cynical PR push to remind it’s viewers of a disease everybody is well aware of, is going to be particularly awkward this year).

Maybe the crime here isn’t that the NFL has adjudicated poorly, maybe the problem is that a sports league that profits off violence and broken brains thinks it can adjudicate behavior at all. And when it does, is it any surprise that its judgment about the relative severity of crimes isn’t going to be in alignment with the rest of society’s, which outside of a few isolated areas, discourages violence and has more or less accepted marijuana use?

The NFL treats its players, who have the shortest shelf life of any professional athlete and who must sacrifice their individuality more than any major team sport participant, as automatons whose function is violence. These can be replaced when their CPUs breaks down, which they most likely will, because there are no guaranteed contracts. If you pay people money to commit violence in a regimented, team first environment, then anything that asserts or displays individuality, smoking pot, taking a public political stance, non-normative sexual orientation, are all distractions. They create individuation that disrupts the uniformity of team. In the business of violence, violence committed off the field or misdirected is unwanted, sure, but it’s not a fundamental rejection of the NFL’s programming. It’s a slight malfunction. It’s the kind of aggressive play that results in a personal foul penalty, the kind coaches can live with because they’d rather have their players living on the edge of chaos then be afraid to approach it.

I’m not saying this is a conscious decision by the NFL, or that the owners, coaches, players, or staff of the NFL don’t sincerely care about stopping violence against women. And clearly the NFL is trying to figure out just what amount of violence is appropriate, and how the game can be made safer. But like any organization, the more power the NFL gives itself, the more power it craves. The more the NFL decides that its job is to police personal conduct, they more they are going to be faced with their own contradictions. This is made worse by the fact that up until recently, Roger Goodell was the source of appeal for Roger Goodell’s decisions.

The NFL screwed up the Ray Rice incident badly. But what the incident made clear is that the NFL under Roger Goodell has created a haphazard system of justice that lays in the hands of one man, and operates according to a set of values that is out of touch with the values of its audience. It was only a matter of time before a Ray Rice came along to show us that.

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The Second Annual Another Beer Salesmen Podcast: Worst QB Ever Edition

This is the second annual podcast we’ve done here at anotherbeersalesman.com. We have decided to do this once a year because 1) Wait, it’s really been a year? and 2) Brother Dan was in town again.

Brother Dan getting hoisted after the Eastern Maine title game, 2008. Photo from the Bangor Daily News.

Brother Dan getting hoisted after the Eastern Maine title game, 2008. Photo from the Bangor Daily News.

I recently wrote an article on Slate.com about my time as a very bad (worst ever?) high school quarterback. In the article, I mention that my younger brother Dan played for the same team that I did, the John Bapst Crusaders of Bangor, Maine. His experience could not have been more different then mine, however, as he won a state championship and I lost every game. We talk about the transformation and the difference in attitude between winning and losing teams, as well as dress codes, actual “facebooks,” and driving in Maine winters. (It’s all tangentially related).

Hope you enjoy!

A few notes:

1) Here’s a link to the wikipedia article on the actual person John (Johannes) Bapst.

2) Our brother Tom is fine.  I mentioned that he was “unfortunately not with us,” and I realized later that sort of made it sound like he was dead. I just meant he wasn’t hanging out with us that day, which is always unfortunate.

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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad High School Football Career

The good people over at Slate.com have published an essay I wrote about being a terrible high school quarterback, and by terrible, I mean maybe the worst ever.

 

I Will Not Meet Your Friends Because Chili’s is Patriarchy

It is out of my respect for you as a liberated cisgendered female and sexual collaborator that I refuse to go to dinner with Bob and Jody because Chili’s is patriarchy.

Instead, I insist that we stay here on my roommate’s couch, watch Netflix, and bang heteronormatively.

I’m a bit shocked that you are proposing that we go meet your friends at all, given the many times you insisted to me that you act on your own desires and don’t bend to society’s rigid expectations that cisgendered females your age should be monogamously pair bonding their way to an engagement ring. Now you want to introduce me to Jody and Bob and show them you have a man? I understand that as your roommate, Jody is curious about who you’ve been running off to meet in the middle of the night. Why don’t you just describe to her the sexual fireworks that have been happening here on this couch, which I just vacuumed by the way, instead of asking me to put on a shirt and play double date at Chili’s, which is the intersection of intersectionality, the very nexus of misogynistic patriarchy, all smothered in the rib sauce of androcentrism? What was your minor in women’s studies even for? Did I mention my roommate is out of town tonight?

know they just want to meet me. That’s the problem.

I understand that as a reluctant embodiment of heterosexual male privilege, I am able to have sexual congress in relative obscurity while the gender binary puts incredible pressure on female-identified individuals, like yourself, to publicly claim a single sexual partner as a way of safely constructing a space for female sexual agency that doesn’t threaten the patriarchy. But I didn’t think you would bend to that expectation. Not when we have Netflix here, as well as a bottle of wine my roommate won’t miss.

Your ability to win a staring contest with the male gaze, your refusal to be slut-shamed, your variety of riot grrl t-shirt and leather jacket combos, all of it has made the last six months of fortnightly sex so wonderfully refreshing. Now I see you look weary from fighting the good fight. And you are willing to let Chili’s, whose logo is a throbbing red phallus, break your wild spirit, all so your roommate and her boyfriend can evaluate the source of the texts that prompt you to sneak out of your apartment at three in the morning to meet me on this couch.

This couch is a safe space free of the misogynistic expectations and body ownership that shine down from Chili’s carefully calibrated mood lighting. You are tired. Refresh yourself. Stay here with me and let Bob and Jody mix and match their fajitas while their erotic outlets stay forever fixed. My roommate is gone for his sister’s graduation, and any anxiety you might feel about having sex on the couch in the room between his bedroom and the bathroom is gone with him.

Bob and Jody chose Chili’s because that place beats you over the head with the expectation of cisgendered monogamy. Baby back ribs? Southwest pairings? They want to see me buy you dinner, they want to be sure that I can take care of you, because they view you as fragile, just like the way Chili’s views my sobriety after only two skinny pineapple blueberry margaritas. Well, you’re not fragile. And I can have a third skinny pineapple blueberry margarita and drive just fine.

Once we go down this road your identity will be destroyed, your beautiful spark extinguished. In a year I’ll be asking your father for your hand in marriage, like two farmers negotiating the sale of a cow. You are not property, not mine and not your father’s, and I won’t let you be owned by Chili’s, which is spelled as a possessive. Chili is the name of a man who owns you and your vagina as soon as you walk through that branded door.

I refuse to stand idly by while another beautiful human being takes her place on the assembly line constructing the patriarchal infrastructure that the media and legal system installs over our heads, under our feet, and inside our Tex-Mex platters. Don’t let foreman Bob and project manager Jody construct it around your wild, beating heart.

Shhhh. Take off those clothes, let your beautiful body be free of attire forged in the hearth of third-world slavery. I will share my body with you, here, on this newly cleaned couch.

Share your body with me. Also, your Netflix password. I think my roommate changed his.

 

 

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The Top Ten Reasons Why I’m Quitting the List Game

By A (Righteously Indignant) Veteran Top Ten List

10. You don’t even need to be a top ten list to be published anymore. In my day, if you had seven items, or sixteen, you’d be either sent to Santa or thrown away in the supermarket parking lot. Now there are “top twelve lists” and “top forty-two lists.” What’s next, the top two reasons to buy a car in the winter? The top 6.8 ways to win on eBay?

9. The pound sign has been murdered and turned into something called a hashtag. Pound signs were for lists and lists alone. Pound signs were used to organize ideas. They made each one dignified. Hashtags ruin ideas. They commodify ‘em and make ‘em cheap. Hashtags turn everything into whores. And not the good kind.

8. Half the lists aren’t even lists. People used to read lists because they knew they were getting something special, something with some punch. Maybe even a blue joke. I used to put those around number four and give the reader some time to collect himself before the big payoff at number one.  Now everywhere you look people are writing journal entries and disguising them as lists. “Top six reasons I had a great day.” These bastards are betraying the public trust in lists and Obama is just letting it happen.

7. Letterman’s about to go. Damn shame. That was the only real place an up and coming top ten list could get noticed anymore. I remember I was on that show in 1992. Nancy Kerrigan read me. Nice broad. Legs up to her ears.

6. Some of these lists are just pictures. They don’t even have copy. You’ll see fourteen unattributed pictures masquerading as a list. Now, I’m not against pictures. After I came back from the war, I was working as an FBI most wanted list at the post office. People just looked at the pictures, I know that. But we still had text, whether anyone read it or not. That was where I met my first wife actually, she was a pretty little telegram. I made her a top ten list of stamps, “flowers of the west” they were called. That was one night she didn’t use STOP, if you know what I mean.

5. These lists today repeat themselves. You can’t have “the through the dorm shortcut” and “stopping inside somebody else’s dorm for warmth” on your “38 ways you know you went to the University of Alaska at Juneau.” You should be trying to reduce items anyway, not repeating yourself. Get it to a round number at least. God almighty. Why do I even bother?

4. There’s no integrity anymore. Lists used to matter. You had to verify your sources and be ready to ask the tough questions. You know we were this close to getting a Pulitzer category right? They almost gave it to a list who worked with Sy Hersh. The “Top ten reasons that Agent Orange will be a huge headache for the U.S. government.” Headache? Ha! He had balls that one. Good list. Ahead of his time. Married a cocktail menu. Died in a swimming pool.

3. The lede can be anywhere these days. We used to bury that sucker, bury it all the way down at number one. That was something we were proud about. We would go into the newsroom and call all the new stories pussies for putting the lede first, trying to buy the reader off. Might as well open with chocolate and flowers. We buried our leads with pride. Made you earn it. These days the best one is always number seven or something. Pathetic.

2. Fucking Buzzfeed. I’d add 23 reasons why anyone who reads that can go to hell, but I have enough respect for you not to just choose numbers out of the air and pretend they matter, like some sort of carnival gypsy. I was once Nixon’s enemies list you know. Twenty assholes, all heavyweights, and I carried them all, pulled a double and barely avoided the shredder. You were always worried about the shredder when Ol’ Dick was around.

1. A list doesn’t even get a proper end anymore. I’ll take the shredder over an icon of a recycling bin any day. Now there’s no pageantry, no respect, no ceremony, none of that beautiful shredder engine starting up, none of the dignified howl as the paper gives up the ink. No, now they just delete you and you’re gone, like you never existed. Well not me, dammit. I’m retiring and I’m going to see the country as an old-fashioned chain letter, a list of ten awful things that will happen to you if you don’t mail me forward. With any luck, I’ll go out helping a cowboy light some kindling. I’m not going to die as a fart coming out of some computer’s ass, I’ll tell you that much.

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A Snowy Night in Brooklyn Reconsidered

The day before I left for the Philippines, a country I have lived in for the last few months, I was out buying some t-shirts for the trip. It was around nine and I was walking home through the snowy streets of Brooklyn, streets which were not empty but certainly had been put to bed for the night, when a white van pulled up next to a woman walking on the sidewalk about thirty feet ahead of me. She was bundled up against the cold and wind, and from behind in her long coat she looked like a wizard in faux-fur trim.

The van slowed down next to her and the head and breath of a man around thirty years old protruded out the window. I didn’t think anything of it, I assumed he knew her and was talking to a friend. But as she continued on, one determined stride after another, her head steadfastly forward, and as he leaned his whole torso out the window of the van rolling next to her, I realized I wasn’t witnessing two friends crossing paths on a Tuesday night. My curiosity piqued, I picked up the pace of my walk and got closer. He was hitting on her, asking her name and where she was going. Nothing overtly sexual or demeaning, but his meaning was clear.

What’s your name baby? Where you headed tonight?

When she didn’t respond, he quickly gave up and the van pulled away. As I was now fairly close,  I was tempted to say something to her, to let her know that I had seen what happened, that it was crazy, and that not all men were like that. But then I realized I was another strange man, walking behind her on a dark night, and that the last thing she would want was another unfamiliar man to engage her. I wasn’t going to get a chuckle of relief if I said “Out of a van? Did he think that would actually work?”

Because that’s what I was thinking. I was thinking that the guy, the scrub (he was, after all, hanging out the passenger’s side of his best friend’s ride) was sure, a creep, sort of an asshole, but mostly just an idiot. My reaction was one of bewilderment and, I admit, amusement. I certainly felt sorry for the woman to have to deal with male harassment as she was making her way home, but I was also amused by his “game,” I thought it was funny that anybody could think that a woman would respond to the overtures of a guy leaning out of the side of a van on a dark night, asking her name. Did he actually think that would work?

I was told repeatedly by my father growing up to not only respect women, but that it was a man’s job to protect women. I was told that was the very definition of man: protector of women. If the van’s passenger had tried to get out of the van or had grabbed her, I would have run up and tried to stop it, I know that much. If he had kept at it for a while, I would have picked up my pace to pull even with her, and the van probably would have driven away. If it had turned into something serious, according to my definition of that word, I would have intervened. That’s what I told myself anyway.

But in that moment, I thought 1) nothing was going to happen and 2) the ineptitude of his pick up attempt was funny.

I’ve only realized over the last day or two, getting gently reprimanded on Facebook and reading #yesallwomen tweets, how scared that woman may have been. I’m sure she wasn’t thinking “oh man, what a lame pick up attempt,” like I was. I understood at the time she was probably uncomfortable, which is why I quickened my pace to get closer, and why I wanted to say something reassuring to her after the van pulled away. But I saw that van as something like a really bad online profile, something creepy, a turn off, precisely because of the “rape van” connotation, but somehow in the moment I didn’t immediately  understand that “rapey” doesn’t just equal “creepy” it equals “potential for rape.” I only now realize that I interpreted a man making sexual overtures from the window of a stalking van as a turn off more than I did a threat of violence. That’s because I assumed nothing would happen, I assumed nobody was going to be snatched off the street in front of me. I assumed dudes hit on girls, and as distasteful and uncomfortable as it was, as unfortunate as it was, he would quickly drive away and the only damage done would be to his ego when she finished ignoring him (although if he lacked the self-awareness to decide to hit on a girl out of the window of a van at night, I doubt he would have the self-awareness to be embarrassed when it didn’t work.)

Good thing there were was a man like me around, a man who not only knew how to properly hit on women, but was raised to respect and defend them.

What an asshole.

I made that moment, a moment in which I watched a woman walking home on a dark night get harassed by men (at least two, because obviously the driver was involved, and who knows how many more guys were in the back) and thought about what a great guy I was. I thought about what a better man I was then those creeps that speak to women in catcalls from large vehicles and street corners. I thought about how different I was. I thought “I’m not like that.” Not, “how can there be men like that?” Not “what steps can I take to make sure I never have to witness something like that again?” Not “how many more women are going to have to deal with that tonight?”

No. “I’m not like that. I have value as a man, because I can both seduce and defend women.”

Not “is that woman’s heart pounding?” Not “is she remembering a time when the van stopped?”

If that woman turned and saw me walking behind her as the van pulled away, she wouldn’t have thought that she was safe. She wouldn’t have been thankful that I had been watching the whole time. She would have seen a man with his hood up on a snowy night walking behind her on mostly abandoned streets.

Even now, it’s about me. Christ.

I hope you made it home safe.

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Volcano Adventures

Here are a couple articles I wrote for WheninManila.com, one of the largest and most successful Manila lifestyle blogs. My roommate, Vince Golangco, founded the site a few years ago. Now he is on billboards around Manila (no joke).

I wrote about hitting a golf ball into a volcano and staying at a weird hotel. Naturally, I got a free hotel stay and volcano tour out of it. I would add that what I wrote was totally true, and even if I was reviewing them totally objectively, without any freebies involved, I wouldn’t change what I wrote. I did, however, get soaked on the boat ride back from Volcano Island. I left that part out.

 

 

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Volcano Adventures: 

http://www.wheninmanila.com/golf-at-taal-hit-a-golf-ball-into-taal-volcano-for-all-of-humankind/

 

http://www.wheninmanila.com/the-theodore-hotel-in-tagaytay-spectacular-sights-both-inside-and-out/