Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tony Dungy Clarifies His Michael Sam Comments...By Repeating His Michael Sam Comments

I wasn’t going to say anything about Tony Dungy’s commentson Michael Sam, because people smarter than I said what I was thinking much better (or at least snarkier) than I could have myself.

But then Tony Dungy clarified his comments by saying, well by saying his original comments all over again. “My philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years…was to minimize distractions for my teams.”

Let's be clear: the only “distractions” Michael Sam is causing is when people like Tony Dungy make a big deal of how distracting Michael Sam is.

Plus, and this has been asked multiple times by many people but it’s worth repeating, was Dungy’s philosophy really about “minimizing distractions”? Let’s go to the highlights!

Keyshawn Johnson, who at the time was merely a talented headcase who had just “written” (with ESPN’s Shelley Smith) the book, “Just Give Me The Damn Ball,” was traded for by Tampa Bay, with Dungy as its head coach. A few years later (after Dungy was fired), Key would be deactivated for the season by the Bucs because he was considered…wait for it…a distraction.

Michael Vick, who at the time had just gotten out of prison for his role in the dog fighting ring, was signed by the Eagles thanks in large part to Dungy, who was instrumental in helping Vick and all of his baggage find an NFL home. Vick was such a lightning rod that the debate of whether or not he should be allowed to play in the NFL continues today. 

Johnny Manziel, who in 2012 was arrested, who in 2013 left the Manning Passing Academy early (allegedly for oversleeping), who later that year was investigated by the NCAA for accepting money for autographs, whose off-the-field exploits has led to media asking coaches and teammates about them over and over again – you know, Johnny Football – was lauded by Dungy not once, but twice, about how good a football player and what a great teammate he was going to be. Just for fun, you should google “Johnny Manziel” and “off the field” and scan through the first few pages of the over two million results.

But sure, having Keyshawn, Vick and Manziel on your team would totally work with a philosophy of “minimizing distractions.”

If Tony Dungy had just left his comments as “if you can play, you can play,” (which coincidentally is an organization Dungy doesn't seem to agree with), he would have been (mostly) in the clear. We could have looked past his previous anti-gay stance because he’s just so gosh-darn likeable on TV. But he had to throw that little bit of himself in there, that part of him that still looks at Michael Sam the gay man first and Michael Sam the football player second.

Dungy is certainly free to voice his opinion, and unfortunately he is not alone in that opinion. But there is hope that change is on the way. Not too many years ago, people still thought that having a black quarterback would negatively affect the locker room (read: be a distraction). In February, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with very little reporting on his race. I hope coverage of gay football players goes the same way.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why Anti-Soccer People Are Wrong (And Trolls)

Every four years, an event takes place that divides our great country. We know it’s coming; we talk about it ad nauseam before, during and after; people choose sides and yell across the aisles about how wrong the opposition is.

I’m referring, of course, to the World Cup. It comes around every four years. Soccer fans in America –


– get excited for the two months of world class soccer, sometimes even rearranging their sleep schedule to watch the games.

Unfortunately, the growth of soccer fans in America has also led to an outbreak of soccer haters (henceforth known as “trolls). Trolls gonna troll, and when the World Cup comes around those trolls take to the airwaves and the twitters and the facebooks to discount everything soccer.

I’ve noticed a few anti-soccer points that the trolls raise time and time again, so I thought now would be a good time to answer some of those arguments.

1) Soccer is boring

This is an easy argument for anti-soccer people to make, and usually their reasoning centers around the dearth of scoring. But here’s the thing – ALL sports are boring. In fact, turn on any game in any sport on TV, and the odds are it will be boring.  

The NBA Finals are, theoretically, the most exciting time in the [professional] basketball season. But in 2007, when the Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs, most people wrote it off as one of the most boring Finals ever. Moreover, the majority of NBA fans will readily admit that regular season games are pretty boring unless it’s between two top teams, and they generally don’t start actually watching games until the playoffs.

College football – one of the most popular sports in America – had a national championship in 2012 between Alabama and LSU that was roundly criticized for being incredibly boring. In fact, most college football games are pretty boring, unless you’re a fan of the team that’s beating the other team by a gazillion points. The college basketball tournament is usually pretty exciting, but the regular season? Sure, some games are fun, but by and large most are 50-40 slugfests.

The NFL – another one of the most popular sports in America – has boring games every Sunday. Don’t believe me? Do you have any interest in watching Oakland at Cleveland on Oct. 26? I thought so.

Here’s another key point about football: in a 60 minute game, there is only about 11 minutes of actual action. Read that sentence again, I’ll wait. Now that you’ve read it again, you might ask, what is “action”? Good question, glad you asked. Action is the time between when the ball is snapped until the play is whistled dead. The Wall Street Journal did a study in 2010 and found that during the three real-time hours of the game, with 60 minutes of gametime, only 11 minutes are actual football action. Which means, during a college or pro football game, you watch more commercials than you do actual football action. Soccer, on the other hand, has no commercials during actual soccer action.

(On an aside, maybe that’s one of the reasons Americans have been so slow to gravitate to soccer – you don’t have built in breaks for your ADHD or bathroom trips or snack grabs once the action begins.)

NASCAR – usually No. 2 behind the NFL in the popularity contest – has seen its ratings drop significantly this season. I can’t really speak to this one, because I literally have never watched more than 30 seconds of a NASCAR broadcast.

Baseball…is incredibly boring, especially on TV. You will never convince me otherwise. One guy went to a Colorado Rockies game high as akite and had the best baseball viewing experience of his life. Granted, he hates baseball and doesn’t go to games often, but still.

My point is this: with all the boring games from all these other sports, why hasn’t anyone ever written about how the offending sport should be done away with? After the 2007 NBA Finals, did people ridicule fans of the NBA? No. After the 2012 college football championship, was there ever talk about how stupid and boring and non-sensical college football is? Nope. Was the system changed to implement a playoff to appease the fans who were upset about that one boring game? Ok, yes. That did happen. Bad example.

But here’s the thing about soccer that makes it more palatable than the other sports: it’s relatively short. When you watch a game, you know it’s going to be two hours. Even if it’s part of a tournament and goes to extra time or even penalty kicks, it still won’t go past three hours. When was the last time a college football, NBA, NFL or baseball game went two hours? Plus, and it’s worth repeating, watching soccer means you actually get to watch soccer – there are no commercial breaks during the first or second half (or extra sessions).

2) You’re Not A Fan Of Something If You Only Watch Every Four Years

Another easy argument to make, even if it’s wrong. Yes, the World Cup happens every four years. Yes, international soccer doesn’t have a “season” per se. But World Cup fans are generally watching games leading into the World Cup. We’ll watch international friendlies, or the qualifying matches, or EPL on NBC, or Champions League on FOX, or even MLS. But besides that, how many people watch Olympic sports during non-Olympic years? Some sports people will tune in for, sure, but the majority…not so much. For example, I love watching curling, but I’m not even sure it exists outside of the Olympics.

3) Growing Interest In Soccer Can Only Be A Sign Of The Nation’s Moral Decay

Ok, that one is true. I can’t dispute it. Sorry, America.

4) Any Sport In Which You Can’t Use Your Hands Is Stupid

This one I really don’t understand. In track and field, most of the running events don’t include the use of one’s hands. Besides, who cares what body parts you use to play a sport? A sport is just a game, for crying out loud. For that matter, calling a sport a name that actually is just 3% of that sport is stupid. American football is called football…why, exactly? Because the players use their feet to run around? If so, then why isn’t basketball also called football?

Let’s be clear – the only players in American Football who really use their feet are kickers, and they are the generally viewed as the least footbally members of any football team. At least football (read: soccer) is a name that actually makes sense. Players use their FOOT…to kick a BALL.

5) Penalty Kicks Is A Stupid Way To End A Game

I won’t entirely disagree with this argument, because it’s valid. Games that go to penalty kicks are basically decided by the kicker putting the ball on goal and the goalie guessing right on which direction he should go to stop the ball. Now, I do think that another overtime session wouldn’t make sense – in professional soccer you can only make three substitutions per game, which means that after 120 minute of action the players will be absolutely gassed. They’ve just run between 7-10 miles, for crying out loud. My guess is that more time will not lead to a gamewinning goal, since everyone on the field will be exhausted.

So what could be done to make penalty kicks a better way to end a game? A friend of mine made a suggestion on facebook that I think is brilliant in its simplicity – just move the kicker back. Right now penalty kicks are taken from 12 yards away from goal. If you move the ball to the 18-yard mark, it makes it a little more difficult for the kicker and gives the goalie a chance to be reactive to the shot rather than making an educated guess about where he thinks the shot is going. This way both participants in the penalty are relying on their athletic ability.


The point of all of this is to say: your arguments against soccer are mostly dumb, and the only reason you’re making them is because you know it will get a rise out of soccer fans. Which is actually the best indication of how far we have come as a soccer-loving society. People are now trolling U.S. soccer fans. Rihanna went out of her way to tweet her support for EVERY TEAM EXCEPT THE USA. There was that silly troll (as Ken Tremendous called her), who wrote a ridiculously silly troll piece, trolling American soccer fans. There were countless tweets and facebook posts using the five talking points I listed above.

But beyond all that, the ratings for the World Cup were amazing. The US games averaged approximately 25 million viewers between ESPN/ABC, WatchESPN and Univision. Not just that, but the championship between Germany and Argentina – two teams that are decidedly NOT America – set a record with more than 26 million viewers, becoming the most-watched soccer match in American history.

All of which means…soccer is here to stay. Trolls don’t troll unless they know there is something to gain by trolling. Soccer fans in America are passionate and we are tuning into games in record numbers. If you’re not on board yet, I suggest you give soccer a shot. It’s fun to watch, it’s only two hours, and you get to be trolled by trolls.

But you don’t have to call it “futbol.” Even I draw the line there.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Beautiful Game

The NBA news of the week of the decade of the millennium is that LeBron and Carmelo have both opted out of their contracts with the Heat and Knicks, respectively. If you’ll all think back to a few months ago, when the Knicks didn’t make the playoffs, or a few weeks ago, when the Heat lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, you’ll understand why I have a hard time caring about two of the best players in the NBA both becoming free agents at the same time.

Because it doesn’t matter where LeBron goes, or where Carmelo goes, or if they become the Big Two and make a Decision to play together in [insert city here]. Put together all the great players you want, NBA owner looking to make a splash. Players don’t win championships – teams do. And as long as the Spurs are run by Gregg Popovich and RC Buford, they’ll always have the best team.

The Spurs should be the two-time defending NBA champions. They were a crazy Ray Allen three-pointer away from winning in six games last season (covered perfectly by Grantland grand poo bah Bill Simmons), and this year they took apart the Heat and its Big Three, winning in five games.

Did you know, that on the same day LeBron opted out of his contract, Tim Duncan exercised his 10.3M option with the Spurs? See if you can find the story on ESPN’s front page.

It’s in the headlines, eight stories down. Why isn’t it getting the same coverage as LeBron? Because just like the Spurs, it’s not flashy or attention grabbing. It’s just a good old fashioned team-first basketball mentality.

It’s fitting that the Spurs won the NBA Championship in 2014, the same year as the World Cup. No one comes as close to the Beautiful Game on the basketball court as San Antonio. A friend and I were talking about this the other day (well, texting about it, but that’s basically talking now): San Antonio is America’s version of a top-class futbol – yeah, I said it – program. Their roster is filled with players from different countries; those players all had essentially professional play experience by the time they got to the Spurs; the players are coached to play fluidly and think and not drilled to follow each play step by step; they are coached to do one-touch passing until they find the open player; the players are all team first.

Who are these players, and what is it about them that they are able to maintain this team first mentality through thick and thin? Let’s take a look at the Spurs roster, focusing on the players who saw extensive playing time during the playoffs.

Tony Parker – from Belgium, played minor league basketball in France from 1997-1999 and professionally in France from 1999-2001, 28th overall pick (2001)
Kawhi Leonard – from USA, played two years at San Diego State, 15th overall pick (2011)
Danny Green – from USA, played all four years at UNC, 46th overall pick (2009)
Boris Diaw – from France, played professionally in France 2000-03, 21st overall pick (2003)
Tim Duncan – from US Virgin Islands, played all four years at Wake Forest, 1st overall pick (1997)

Key Reserves:
Marco Belinelli – from Italy, played professional basketball in Italy from 2002-2007, 18th overall pick (2007)
Matt Bonner – from USA, played all four years at Florida, played professional basketball in Italy in 2003-04, 45th overall pick (2003)
Manu Ginobli – from Argentina, played professional basketball in Argentina from 1995-98, played professional basketball in Italy from 1998-2002, 57th overall pick (1999)
Patty Mills – from Australia, played two years at St. Mary’s (Calif.), played two games in the NBDL, professionally in Australia and China during the NBA lockout in 2011-12, 55th overall pick (2009)
Tiago Splitter – from Brazil, played professionally in Spain from 2000-10, 28th overall pick (2007)

Here’s what I notice from this group: players born in the USA are outnumbered, 7-3 (I’m including Duncan in the non-USA group). All 10 players had a minimum of two years playing basketball at least at a semi-pro (i.e. college) level, with the international players averaging approximately 3.0 years of playing in a professional league before reaching the NBA. The only player drafted in the top-10 in that entire group is Duncan (which makes the Spurs’ dynasty even more incredible, considering they are always going late in the NBA Draft).

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the players from overseas also played soccer growing up. I think that helps with the team first mentality. You’re not going to win in soccer if you play 1 v 11. In basketball, playing 1 v 5 is not advisable, yet it probably happens more often than not for those high school kids who are good enough to go right to the NBA. Then they go to college for that one year of “where will they go in the NBA Draft,” and then it’s off to the NBA. The biggest reason that you are seeing the Mercers and Lehighs beating big name schools in the NCAA Tournament is that they are teams, going against players.

Certainly LeBron and KD are exceptions (and exceptional), players who went straight to the NBA or played just one year in college and became superstars right out of the gate. Perhaps Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will have the same kind of immediate success. I have my doubts, but I’ve been wrong before. Regardless, I’m already looking forward to watching the Spurs play. As Chris Bosh put it after the Spurs dominated the Heat in game four of the Finals, “They're playing beautiful basketball.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Flipping Out: Flip Saunders' Job Interview With Flip Saunders

Today we found out that Flip Saunders the GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves had hired a familiar name to coach the Timberwolves, a gentleman who coached the T-Wolves from 1995-2005 who goes by the name of…Flip Saunders.

Yes, you read that right. Flip Saunders the GM hired Flip Saunders to be the head coach, taking nepotism to a whole new level. Here is how I imagine the interview went.

GM Flip: Flip, thanks for coming in.

Coach Flip: Not a problem at all, Flip, thanks for the opportunity.

GM Flip: Flip, obviously you have heard some of the names that are on the short list for the Timberwolves job, including Florida’s Billy Donovan, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and former Knicks and Rockets coach and current ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy. Tell me why I should hire you instead of any of these other guys.

Coach Flip: That’s a great question, Flip, I’m glad you asked. I think if you look at my track record you’ll see a history of success. I took Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in 1996-97, my first full year as head coach, had 50 win seasons in 1999-2000 and 2001-02 and came thisclose to a trip to the NBA Finals in 2003-04. In fact, I took Minnesota to the playoffs eight-straight years while I was head coach.

GM Flip: Flip, I’m hearing a lot of past success, but as you well know, the NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” league, so what have you done lately?

Coach Flip: Very fair question, Flip. After I left the Timberwolves, I coached the Pistons for three seasons, setting a franchise record with 64 wins in 2005-06 and then recording back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2006-07 and 07-08. We made it to the Eastern Conference Finals all three years I was there, but just couldn’t quite get over the hump into the Finals.

GM Flip: Flip, if you were so successful in Detroit, why were you let go?

Coach Flip: Flip, it’s a question I have asked myself many, many times. To be honest, I’m not really sure. Then-GM Joe Dumars said the team needed a “new voice.” In my defense, they’ve had five new voices since I left and the team has had nowhere near the success that I had.

GM Flip: While I agree with you there, Flip, since you left Detroit you also haven’t had anywhere near the success that you had with either the Pistons or the Timberwolves. You went to Washington and won just 51 games over two-plus years. What happened there?

Coach Flip: I figured this would be brought up, Flip, and I appreciate your bluntness. That was a disappointing experience for me, both professionally and personally. We had to deal with locker room issues and injuries. Gilbert Arenas was the star of that team but he only ended up playing 32 games my first year and 21 my second, before he was traded to Orlando. Unfortunately other than Gilbert we did not have a lot of talent on that team, so I really didn’t have a lot to work with. I would argue that most of the blame would fall at the feet of the GM Ernie Grunfeld. I think he had set the roster so that it was Gilbert’s team but didn’t know Gilbert as well as he should have.

GM Flip: I’ve worked with Grunfeld myself, Flip, so I can certainly sympathize.

Coach Flip: Flip I can assure you that our relationship will be much stronger than what I had with Ernie.

GM Flip: I certainly hope so, Flip!

…awkward silence

GM Flip: Let’s get back to the question at hand, which is: why should I hire you?

Coach Flip: Sorry about that, Flip, I guess I got a little carried away.

GM Flip: Not at all, Flip, happens to us all.

…uncomfortable laughter

Coach Flip: What makes me a good coach and the right person for this job is how I deal with the people around me. I have coached young teams and veteran teams and have succeeded with both. I have coached young rising superstars and older cagey veterans, and have succeeded with both. In short, Flip, I am the man to coach the Timberwolves.

GM Flip: Well I certainly am intrigued with what you have to offer, Flip! If I were to hire you, what would be your first course of action?

Coach Flip: First things first, I would sell Kevin Love on Minnesota, hard. Priority number one has to be getting him re-signed.

GM Flip: Right answer, Flip! It’s like you’re in my head.

Coach Flip: I figured you were thinking the same thing, Flip!

GM Flip: Well, Flip, to be quite honest with you I already knew you were the man for this job before the interview even began. Something about you reminds me a little bit of me, and nothing you’ve said in this interview has dissuaded me from that opinion. Welcome back to the Timberwolves!

Coach Flip: That’s great, Flip, thanks so much! You won’t be disappointed. I have a feeling we will work very, very well together.

GM Flip: Couldn’t have said it better myself, Flip.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why I'm Pulling For The NY Rangers In The Stanley Cup Finals

I am not a hockey fan. Growing up in Florida, we didn't do a whole lot with hockey. The Panthers had their run to the Stanley Cup Finals and then were swept right back into mediocrity by the Avalanche. Tampa Bay won the Cup a few years back, but let's be honest - who outside of Tampa really cares about Tampa teams?

I would watch the obligatory playoff game(s), I would crack the occasional (on the nose) "I turned on a fight and a hockey game broke out" joke, but that was the extent of my involvement with hockey. So I have no reason to pull for either team in the 2014 Finals. But I am a huge New York Rangers fan now. You might argue that it’s because I live in the NY area (I do), or because I have money on the game (I don’t), but it’s more than that. In fact, it’s Moore.

The three brothers Moore (Mark, Steve, Dominic) all grew up in Toronto, all attended Harvard, all played hockey for the Crimson (even overlapping for one year, 1999-2000), all went on to professional hockey careers, all saw their careers either shortened by bad luck, incredibly stupidity (not on their part) and heart break.

Mark was drafted by the Penguins in 1997, graduated from Harvard in 2000, went to Pittsburgh’s training camp and was sent to the minors. He was never able to make it to the Big Show, as he suffered a career-ending concussion when a teammate’s helmet collided with his chin during practice.

It seems unfair to label what happened to Steve as incredible stupidity, but I really can’t think of what else to call it. I don’t believe that what happened to him was malicious, it was just one of those “my name is Iniego Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die” situations that seems (seemed?) so prevalent in hockey. I’m referring, of course, to this:

Even I, non-hockey fan that I am, remember this incident. March 8, 2004, Todd Bertuzzi punched Steve in the back of the head and then essentially pushed Steve’s face into the ice. I don’t feel that Bertuzzi meant to hurt Steve any more than the hurt that is inflicted in a “normal” hockey fight. But it was just so stupid, so incredibly unthinking of Bertuzzi to hit a guy like that.

Steve suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion and Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely, which basically became the rest of that season and all of next season as the NHL was locked out. In fact, Bertuzzi was suspended for 17 months…and missed only 20 games. He also lost out on approximately $900,000 in salary and endorsements.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the victim suffered, among other things, "uncertainty, anxiety, stress and emotional pain for the…family." Wait, Bettman was actually referring to Bertuzzi in that quote? That was why he lifted the indefinite suspension?! Gary Bettman, everyone!

Again I don’t believe that Bertuzzi meant to cause the damage that he did. I think it was just a moronic action by someone who obviously wasn't giving the consequences of his actions even a first thought. I certainly hope that Bertuzzi feels guilty about what happened and thinks about it every day. But regardless, Steve’s career was over.

Dominic did not suffer any physical harm, but I would argue that of the three brothers, he was hit the hardest. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2003 and then went through seven trades and nine teams over the course of nine seasons. His college sweetheart, Katie, who played soccer at Harvard, traveled with him every step of the way. But then in 2012, Katie was diagnosed with cancer and Dominic stepped away from hockey altogether as she fought, and sadly lost, the good fight. ESPN’s Outside the Lines and Jeremy Schapp did a masterful job of telling the story. WARNING: when you watch this video, wherever you are, dust will attack your eyes. You will need tissues.

I know that the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup will not allow Mark or Steve to resume their hockey careers, or bring Katie back to Dominic. But for a family that seems to have suffered so much within and outside of the sport, it would be great if the sport could give something back to them. That is why I will be actively, and loudly, cheering on the Blueshirts.

First I gotta figure out how this sport works.

NOTE: Dominic started a foundation in his wife’s name to help patients and families deal with rare cancers: http://www.katiemoore.org/

Steve established a foundation that focuses on the prevention and treatment of concussions and other head/neck injuries: http://www.stevemoorefoundation.org/

Mark wrote a book about hockey entitled Saving The Game.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Are You There, People Who Find Chelsea Handler Funny?

Chelsea Handler has been in the news a lot lately. First, she was one of the names thrown about as possible replacements for David Letterman, who is retiring in 2015. Then, more recently, she made herself a the name throw about as a possible replacement for Craig Ferguson, who by all accounts is not retiring at all. Then Handler took herself right out of the running to replace the non-retiring Ferguson by saying she will never ever work for a "regular network." Whether that was her decision, or CBS' decision, we'll never know.

Seeing her name bandied about reminded me of a question I have asked myself many times since I first heard of the host of Chelsea Lately: is Chelsea Handler funny?

My first experience actually listening to Chelsea Handler was when she was a guest on the Howard Stern Show in October of 2012, and I found her to be...offputting. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but something about her bothered me. She was an interesting interview, to be sure, but she seemed too quick to make fun of people she had met or dated or interacted with. Plus I felt that she wasn't as thankful to Howard as she should have been, as (in my estimation at least) she wouldn't have the career she's had without him paving the way.

But regardless, that really wasn't enough of a Chelsea Handler experience to make a determination as to her funniness. So I posed the question on Facebook, to ask if anyone found her funny and if so, why. The only responses I received were other guys who also didn't understand what about Handler was funny.

So I decided to watch her show on E! to see if I could figure out what made her so popular. Chelsea Lately has been on since 2007, its YouTube page has over 300,000 subscribers...so it's gotta be funny, right?

I watched a week's worth of episodes. The format seems to be: a brief opening monologue by Handler, followed by the opening credits, followed by Handler introducing her panel. It's three people, most if not all stand-up comedians, although I had never heard of any of the panelists from any of the four shows that I watched that particular week.

Handler then goes topic-by-topic, with each panelist getting a chance to make a joke about the subject matter, with Handler getting the final line. She then goes to the next topic; rinse, repeat. The final segment is a celebrity interview - the ones that I watched seemed more about Handler than the guest. (I certainly didn't learn anything about the guest, although to be fair, the late night show format as a whole - Daily Show and Colbert Report not included - is pretty lame when it comes to the interviews.)

My assumption is that the panelists are also writers on Chelsea Lately, which, if true, makes me wonder if the stuff they're writing for Handler is really their best jokes. I mean, if you're going to be on the show yourself, would you really want to give your best material to someone else to use?

Regardless of who is writing for whom, I didn't find anything anyone said particularly funny, and that includes Handler herself. Her comedy doesn't seem to be comedy per se, she just says things that are inappropriate or just plain mean. She goes to the stereotype well too quickly; there isn't any substance or intelligence behind her jokes.

In a recent appearance on the Stern Show, she told a story of a joke that E! asked her not to use. The joke was about Ryan Seacrest and how it's weird for a straight man to be covering the Oscars. The punchline was that any straight guy who covers the Oscars should be forced to have gay sex. Handler said E! asked her not to go with the joke because it's making fun of Ryan Seacrest. I say E! asked her not to go with the joke because it's terrible. Not funny. Just terrible.

But that's her "humor." That's what constitutes comedy for her. We all know people, men and women, who say ridiculous things as a way to get a laugh, and Chelsea Handler seems to fall in this category. Obviously this has worked quiet well for her, at least on E!. (It did not work so well on her sitcom on NBC. And this is NBC we're talking about.) I've never seen her live. She has had four successful books - full disclosure, I've read nary a one. My wife couldn't get past the first few pages of Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.

Having listened to Handler twice on the Stern Show, I think she's interesting. She's obviously very smart and she has good stories to tell, when she's not resorting to weak stereotype punchlines. But I just don't see her as a late night host on a major network. I think E! suits her because she doesn't have to worry about ratings and she can get away with a lot of "jokes" that she probably wouldn't be allowed to say on CBS/NBC/ABC. FOX, maybe. But not the other three.

Many people have correctly stated that it's ridiculous that there are no women on late night, and I agree with that. I know Tina Fey's name has been thrown about, but she's executive producing TV shows and starring in movies, so I don't see her jumping into the late night rat race anytime soon (if ever). Ellen Degeneres is very funny, but why would she want to leave her successful day-time talk show? Samantha Bee is a possibility, but my guess is that TV executives would want someone with hosting experience to take over one of the main late night shows. With Colbert moving to Letterman's spot, Bee would be an excellent choice (maybe along with her husband Jason Jones) to take over the slot after The Daily Show.

But that's another story for another day. I know I've only watched four episodes of Chelsea Lately, but I still don't get what makes her funny. I feel I have a pretty normal sense of humor. I think Family Guy is funny. I love Parks and Rec. I'm a huge Howard Stern fan. I listen to the comedians on SiriusXM's comedy channels and I laugh. But Chelsea Handler just doesn't do it for me. Is it a guy thing? Is that why I don't get her? I could see her being good on a Bill Maher-type show, where she can host a panel that discusses various topics, where she can give her honest opinion rather than make jokes. For me, jokes are not her strong suit. I'd like to think that it's not me, it's her, but I'm just waiting to hear from someone who finds her funny.

So I guess what I'm asking is, Are You There, People Who Find Chelsea Handler Funny? It's Me, Someone Who Doesn't.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When Reporters Troll

After UConn defeated Notre Dame in the women's basketball championship, ESPN reporter Holly Rowe asked Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma,  "What is it about your standard of excellence that's different from other coaches?"

I can't tell you how much this question, and this type of question, bothers me. Oh wait, I can. And will.

ESPN is already pretty well known. It's the world-wide leader in sports, for crying out loud. Do ESPN reporters really need to go out of their way to troll coaches for sound bytes? What other possible reason would Holly Rowe have for asking that question? She's basically setting Geno up to say something critical about other women's basketball coaches, therefore getting ESPN in the news "UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said on ESPN after the game..."

If Holly Rowe, and ESPN, really cared about finding out what makes Auriemma and UConn tick, maybe a better question would have been, "talk about your standard of excellence and what you expect from your players, even in the late stages of a blowout win."

But no, Rowe went for the troll question, which apparently is what passes for reporting these days.

In Rowe's defense, she's not the only one. Nor is ESPN the only organization that resorts to these tactics. I just think it would be nice if we saw more attempts to report the news, and fewer attempts to become the news.
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