The Newsroom Briefing: Bacon Makes You Stay Awake

“Bullies” happened during the April 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan.

Six episodes into The Newsroom, and it appears that Will McAvoy is beginning to wrap his head around, well, his own head. “Bullies” took place from the luxurious leather chair of Will’s psychologist, who he’s had appointments with the past four years, but has never kept. Meaning, he’s been paying a psychologist for an hours worth of time every Wednesday, but never seeing him.

Playing character psychologist, it’s easy to see why Will does that: he feels better about knowing help is there, but he doesn’t have courage to face his problems. Will’s a man who suffers from anxiety and depression, which has led to his long-running bouts of insomnia. He does a hell of a job of masking it externally, and coddling himself internally. Until this episode, of course.

The episode was a series of flashbacks that Will recalled from his shrink’s office. In one flashback, while on-air, Will bullied a gay Black aide for former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, after Santorum had repeatedly voiced his lack of respect for the gay community. It led to the man taking over Will’s own air, lashing out at Will for defining him by only his race and color—a powerful moment where Will’s own crusade for the truth at the top of an all-protecting high-ground crossed moral grounds. In another flashback, Will gave a pep talk to Sloan, who had been tapped to fill in for Elliot for the 10 pm broadcast. Will berated her for letting her guests get off the hook too often, and not asking tough follow-up questions. Emboldened by his speech, Sloan went rogue on air while interviewing a Japanese plant worker about the reactor meltdown, which then led to Charlie getting frumpy at her (despite all of the yelling, Charlie’s hair didn’t move one inch. Remarkable), and Sloan making the best cutie-pouty face I’ve ever seen. We’re not any closer to getting Sloan half-naked (damn you, Sorkin), but watching her speak fluent Japanese was a weird fucking turn-on. Who’s with me on that?

But what would an episode of The Newsroom be without a little love? Don, growing concerned about the way Jim and Maggie interact in the office, went to Sloan for advice. He’s finally catching up to the rest of us. Mackenzie, who found out that Will had almost moved to LA in 2006 to host a late-night show on FOX while they were dating, stormed into Will’s office. Apparently the LA move would’ve meant an end to their relationship, and therefore no marriage. While Mackenzie ranted on, Will unlocked a drawer in his desk, and presented Mackenzie with a Tiffany ring that he had bought for her in 2006. This did nothing but upset Mackenzie even more. The thought that they could’ve been married had she not cheated on him ruined her day. Oh, what could’ve been. As it turns out, Will anticipated all of this (somehow), and had just bought the ring that day as, in his words, a “prank.” His psychologist described it as “not normal.” He’s got that right. It was no prank—it was another Will McAvoy mind game to win Mackenzie back. After claiming that he’d return the ring, the closing scene showed Will ripping up the receipt.

Will’s determined to be with Mackenzie again, but he’s too stubborn (not strong—stubborn) of a man to beg for her. No. She cheated, so she’s coming back to me. “She make me beg for it, till she give it up.”

“Too busy thinking about my baby.”

After a few weeks of corporate struggle, it all took a backseat to Will’s sleepless mind. The themes of love and workplace stress are nothing new to Will, but his guilt about Sloan and the Santorum aide interview caused everything to come to a T. The psychologist ended up prescribing a sleeping pill, but only after telling Will to stay away from his nightly eating bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches before bed—bacon contains tyramine, which is an amino acid that releases norepinephrine, a stimulant that keeps people awake. Tyramine is also found in ham, cheese, sausages, tomatoes, peppers, fish, smoked meats and chocolates. It’s about midnight my time, so I think I’ll go with a bowl of cereal as a snack instead of chocolate ice cream this time. I’ll be up thinking about Olivia Munn’s pouting face all night if I don’t.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

Liverpool FC Takes Boston: Tour Documentary+Match Highlights

The whole JLBSportsTV family (the JLBDad, JLBbrother/video editor extraordinaire, and contributor Greg Visone), headed up to Boston to see Liverpool FC take on AS Roma at Fenway Park. It was our first LFC game, and it was a truly magical experience. For a history-rich club like LFC, it was only fitting that they play at America’s most beloved ballpark (I say this begrudgingly, as I’m a die-hard Yankees fan. It’s a shame that the new Yankee Stadium has priced-out fans like me). Shout-out to subscriber Joe from Newark, NJ who recognized me, Maria for finding us, and all the wonderful fans I interviewed and met. You are all beautiful, and we’re one big LFC family. Enjoy some pictures taken by Maria, and our mini-documentary of the spectacle. We interviewed fans from Liverpool, Ireland, India, China, Canada, Uganda, and all over the US. LFC is truly an international club. We also have some great match footage—I hope our video puts you right in the Boston Kop. YNWA.


Thank you to my little brother Adam for filming and editing everything. He worked very hard on this!

The Shankly Gates… In Boston?

The Boston Kop!

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

What A Kanye West Olympics Opening Ceremony Would Look Like

After watching London’s Opening Ceremony, I immediately began wondering how Kanye West would do the whole thing. Ye has his hands in everything nowadays—art, fashion, music, sports, television, movies—so I wouldn’t put a Kanye directed Ceremony past anybody. Here’s how it would go down:

The negotiation process to get Kanye to direct the games would legendary. He’d demand a budget of at least $500 million for the concert. London Olympics organizers would remind him that it’s not a concert, that China spent $70 million on their Opening Ceremony, and that no, Austin Powers is a fictional character. After agreeing to direct the show for a lush sponsorship package (DONDA would be the official sponsor of the entire Olympics. Even though DONDA lacks a logo and any real products, it just would be.)

Working with a measly $15 million, Kanye would conceptualize, plan, organize, rehearse, and create the entire Ceremony in 3 days. After determining that $15 million isn’t enough, he doubles the ticket prices of the Ceremony, and contributes $30 million of his own money (most of which he wrangles from Def Jam) to offset the now $50 million budget.

London organizers repeatedly ask for outlines of the show, but Kanye points out his “Kanye Kontrol Klause” (short-sightedly abbreviated as “KKK”). The KKK allows Kanye to work in total secrecy. He makes no promises to pay homage to the United Kingdom, the games themselves, or the international community watching. He declares that “I’m universal” when pressed on the matter.

The show starts in total darkness. Everyone in the audience, including international broadcasters, would be asked to remain totally silent. (Matt Lauer would ignore these directions.) A singular light shines upon one man standing on a massive, white circular stage. He’s a Black man wearing a Horus mask dripping in gold. Faux Horus is also wearing the $100,000 Horus chain that Kanye wore in 2010 to perpetuate his greatness. Horus begins to fly, and as the audience tracks him into the dark of the London night, the white circle stage disappears. An all-black pyramid emerges from the ground, flanked by a 7-screen movie setup. This instantly causes a problem, because half of the stadium cannot see what’s happening on the screen. The trailer for Cruel Summer plays, and the screens explode. Beneath the pyramid, a clear-glass bottom surface has emerged.

It quickly becomes clear that the glass surface is actually a giant in-ground aquarium. Great white sharks swim throughout, eating the carcases of dead male Lions. The moment first blood is drawn, aggressive “Love Lockdown”-like drums pound away. Hundreds of ballerinas dressed like 1850s-era African-American slave women emerge from the pyramid as the drums continue to roll. They begin some stupid routine. A man representing Nat Turner breaks the glass aquarium, climbs to the stage, and shoots a make-believe Ronald Reagan character in the head.

(At this point, everyone—Black, White, Asian, Purple, English, Young Money—is offended.)

The ballerinas all suddenly swoop towards the middle of the stage. They huddle up, chant some wild nonsense, and when they break, Kanye appears dead-center. He’s wearing nothing but a Givenchy loin-cloth, with the letters “KW” embroidered on his crotch, and “DONDA” on his ass cheeks. He begins pounding away on an MPC, using samples from the Inception soundtrack.

Giant floats of great African-Americans cruise around the stage. The heads of Nat Turner, Dred Scott, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, MLK, Carter Woodson, Muhammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Fred Hampton, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Basquiat, Michael Jordan, Steve Urkel, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Oprah, Obama, and Black Jesus parade around. All hope of the Ceremony having anything to do with the UK, the Olympics, or the world is now lost.

Jay-Z, dressed in a suit, rides onto the stage on the back of Tinie Tempah (who’s crawling on the ground). Kanye and Jay perform that song about African Americans In Paris. After performing the song 30 times (finally, the Olympics are referenced. This is the 30th Olympiad after all), the Queen joins them on stage. All three pop bottles of champagne, spraying the bubbly on Prince Harry, the Olsen Twins, and Sir Paul McCartney. “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles plays, and everyone on stage (including the Queen) is suddenly wearing a leopard print vest. Horribly awkward dancing ensues. Kanye smashes his bottle on Mr. Hudson’s head, and screams “I AM KANYE WEST, AND I AM NOT MAKING HISTORY. I AM HISTORY,” before the whole stage goes dark.

The Ye-lmypics have now begun.
Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

Sports Media Today and Their Shame

“It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”—Kobe Bryant on whether the 2012 Men’s team could beat the 1992 Dream Team

“They have (Patrick) Ewing and (David) Robinson and those big guys. It’s tough. If you’re asking me, ‘Can you beat them one game?’ Hell yeah, we can beat them one game.”—Kobe when asked if he stood by his first comments.

“If we got the opportunity to play them [the Dream Team] in a game we feel like we would win too.”—LeBron James commenting on Kobe’s comments.

“I absolutely laughed.”—Michael Jordan on everything.

Two weeks ago, I laid out the facts, the matchups, and the strategies behind a hypothetical Dream Team vs. 2012 Team game. In my arena, the Dream Team would whoop the 2012 Team. For any basketball observer, it’s a given: Not only is the Dream Team better than the 2012 Team, but the 2012 Team isn’t even as good as the 2008 team, which narrowly beat Spain in the Gold Medal game. Nobody was talking Dream Team vs. Redeem Team back then.

Kobe’s first quote about beating the Dream Team is over two weeks old. LeBron’s newest quote, reaffirming his belief that his squad would win, is from today. The entire Dream Team vs. 2012 Team is an example of shameless story manufacturing on the part of the sports media at large. An old story was recycled just for the sake of press. It’s no better than the English tabloids drumming up football transfer rumors and lies, and running the same stories every few months just to sell a headline.

Turn on any talkshow on ESPN today, or any hour of SportsCenter, and LeBron’s quote will be covered, dissected, and dismissed just as Kobe’s was. What won’t make the broadcast though, is LeBron’s follow-up quote:

“As a competitor you never want to say that you will lose no matter who you are going against.”

LeBron pointed out exactly why his quote, Kobe’s quotes, and the entire story is total rubbish. What else is LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet, supposed to say? Anything less than “We’d win,” and images of pre-championship LeBron would be brought back to life. He has no confidence. He lacks Kobe or Jordan’s killer mentality. LeBron was put in a lose-lose situation by reporters just for the sake of a story.

And what was Kobe going to say? He’s the most pathological competitor in basketball today—only Jordan has ever topped Kobe’s mean-streak. Kobe genuinely believes that he could beat anyone in anything. It’s just the way he’s wired. In both Kobe and LeBron’s case, they were set up to deliver controversial quotes before they even answered. There’s a reason why Kevin Love or James Harden weren’t asked these ridiculous questions. 1) Both Love and Harden know that they’d get whooped by Barkley and Drexler, 2) They’re more likely to give more tame answers, just because of who they are, and 3) Nobody gives a fuck about what Kevin Love or James Harden thinks, except for their mothers. These writers went after the 2012 Team’s two top-dogs, and targeted them for sensationalist dialogue, because there’s no big story this Olympics. In 2008, it was all about the “Redeem Team,” and the players rededicating themselves to the USA Basketball cause after 2004′s horror show in Athens. This year, the team is just good, and there’s apparently nothing interesting about just being good. That’s just lazy reporting.

This dives into a much larger problem in sports media. Last month, Mark Cuban Ethered Skip Bayless for the lack of real analysis and the preponderance of storyline fabrication.

It’s no surprise that Cuban went after Bayless, while Stephen A. Smith—another loud-mouth who uses his Southern preacher-like overtures and tones to make points (an example of the classic “Whoever is loudest wins the debate” problem)—stood silent. Smith didn’t want it with Cuban, because he knew that Cuban was right. Bayless and Smith are exactly the talking heads that reporters feed when they ask Kobe or LeBron about the Dream Team. Their spew fills minutes on the air-waves, puts inches in columns, and brings in traffic to ESPN’s army of websites and networks. No wonder coaches and players never say anything of real meaning in interviews—the media doesn’t care if they outline double-teams or shooting percentages—they want the MediaTakeOut quote. It creates a level of distrust that only hurts the conversation.

Let’s see some x’s and o’s drawn up about how the Gasol brothers might take the 2012 Team’s weak interior to the brink of defeat. Let’s point out that LeBron’s ability to play power forward has the team playing small-ball, allowing Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to run free. Let’s put real sports analysis ahead of talk, and authentic stories ahead of shameless story manufacturing. Let’s be the anti-Bayless.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

Juicing Your Way to the Hall of Fame

The baseball Hall of Fame defines itself. It’s a museum that’s dedicated to the famous people that helped build the sport into what it is today, and to celebrate the amazing achievements that have taken place since baseball became professional in 1869. The all-time greats live on there, smiling down on as we walk through time. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is about to go through the next 10 to 20 draft classes with a significant road block concerning who gets inducted. That road block is named steroids.

The recent baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony made me think about the the next few years, which will essentially mark the beginning of the “steroid era” of the Hall of Fame. Players that put up amazing numbers and broke record upon record during the 80s, 90s and 2000s will be eligible. The elephant in the room will be the clear bottle of liquid and syringe that parked itself over the heads of these players during the last 10 years of steroid investigation. These players put up gaudy numbers, but the authenticity of their stats has been called into question when they were then then accused and/or found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. Should they be allowed to enter the hallowed ground of Hall of Fame glory? Do these players still deserve it?

No, these players do not deserve it, nor should these players be allowed in the hall of fame. It’s not a new idea by far, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had before it’s too late and the Hall of Fame is tainted with people who decided to chemically enhance their bodies to gain an edge. Let’s put it more bluntly: they cheated. Plain and simple.

Let’s take an example: If I go into an exam for class with an iPhone and use the internet to help falsify my test and appear to have more knowledge than I do, I am cheating. If I get caught, I fail the class and face expulsion from the school. There are no other outcomes. I cheated, I got caught, I suffer the consequences. Now in baseball, if you use “performance enhancing drugs” and get caught, there are a whole slew of ways to wriggle your way out of punishment. “The trainers didn’t tell me what the substance was that they shot into me” (because who would ask right?), “I was told it was something different.” “It was an accident.” For the majority of cases, this has somehow worked! Investigations have came up with a lack of evidence to find the players guilty, or a technicality let these players off the hook. Hell, Mark McGwire refused to answer any questions and absolutely nothing happened to him! In no other forum can that be a legitimate answer in an investigation. Ryan Braun was crowned MVP last season, immediately accused of steroid use, and got off on a technicality. I wonder when he’ll be eligible?

The truly sad part about all these players juicing throughout the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s is that they absolutely dominated. They dominated so much that they obliterated records left and right, truly great records from truly legendary baseball players. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire both broke Roger Maris’s record of 61 home runs in a single season. For nearly 40 years that record stood and then two people happened to break the record in one year, with McGwire finishing with 70 home runs that year. Gone was the Roger Maris legacy, replaced with a record built on syringes and lies. Don’t worry though, McGwire’s record only lasted for three seasons, when an aging Barry Bonds jacked 73 home runs in a single season. I mean, that’s what happens when you’ve been in the league for 13 years, you decide that’s when you going to hit 73 dingers, which was 24 more home runs then he had ever hit in a single season and 27 more home runs then he would ever in a single season until he retired! I guess that season someone ate their Wheaties.

Barry Bonds, in my opinion, is the epitome of everything I hate about the steroid era (the fact that I even have to label and era in baseball as the “steroid era” makes me sick) and why people that use steroids shouldn’t be elected to the Hall. You take a player that dominated parts of the sport for years, putting up great AND reasonable numbers year in and year out for a decade. As he begins to decline, as all players should do, instead of aging gracefully into the makings of a surefire first ballot Hall of Fame career, he decides to give his career a boost back into superstardom. Now I know that nothing has ever been officially been recorded concerning Bonds’s steroid use, but you have to read between the lines. It’s highly unlikely that a 37 year old baseball player is going to have an explosion of offensive production that late in his career and at that magnitude without help. It is completely illogical to think that Barry Bonds did that by himself. The thing that hurt the most though was when Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record in the 2007 season. Though Bonds technically hit 7 more home runs than Aaron, he did it with the help of steroids. Aaron hit all those home runs with two things, his bat and his love for the game. He didn’t have anything else. He didn’t need anything else. Barry Bonds showed us the disrespect of breaking that record solely for his own selfish ego. He didn’t earn that, he wanted it and he took it through his use of steroids. It’s a sports tragedy that Aaron had to congratulate that cheater on breaking his record that stood for 33 years. What I was proud of was that Aaron did it with a smile on his face. That’s integrity.

Leading the draft class next season is going to be Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza, all of whom have had admitted or been accused of steroid use. My solution? Don’t give any of them a single vote. You make have been a great baseball player, but the Hall of Fame has it’s integrity to uphold. I’m not saying these players were bad baseball players. All four, even without steroids, had at least a fighting chance to get into the Hall of Fame. In fact, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds essentially had their bags packed and their tickets bought. Their use of steroids was purely based on selfish motives and/or money. They were afraid of losing a step. I hope they realized they lost more then a step in the eyes of the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire hasn’t received over 25% of the vote to get into the Hall of Fame, 50% short of the designated 75% it takes to be inducted. Rafael Palmeiro hasn’t gotten over 15% since he was eligible. I hope that the Baseball Writers Association of America electorate continue their crusade with trying to keep the halls of Cooperstown clean and safe from contamination. It’s just a shame that Barry Bonds, someone who is within range of several significant hitting milestones: he needs just 65 hits to reach 3,000, 4 runs batted in to reach 2,000, and 38 home runs to reach 800, needs 69 more runs scored to move past Rickey Henderson as the all-time runs champion and 37 extra base hits to move past Hank Aaron as the all-time extra base hits champion, shouldn’t make it into the Hall of Fame. Granted we could never determine what those numbers would be without steroid use, but damn, those numbers are great.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala

Death By Fire To Penn State

“No price the NCAA can levy with repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert as he handed down Penn State’s sanctions. In the aftermath of the Freeh Report—an independent collection of evidence, accounts, and interviews following Sandusky’s child molestation charges—new details of Penn State’s implicit cover-up of Sandusky’s abuse were recounted. Although Penn State only broke one rule, “lack of institutional control” (this is a criminal case, not an athletic one), the NCAA has given themselves the power to punish the football program.

The sanctions imposed are a $60 million fine to be donated to a child abuse charity (about $13 million less than the program’s revenue), a forfeiture of all wins since 1998, and a four-year postseason ban; football players can transfer to other schools without penalty, and the Penn State athletic department is placed on probation. Never before has a program been punished to this degree. It’s worse than the Death Penalty, which is when the NCAA bans competition in a sport for at least one year. Joe Paterno, who’s name and legacy has already been lit on fire, has now had his records burned. The program is now financially crippled, and with transfers looming and no postseason to offer to recruits, bringing in Penn State quality players will be impossible. These sanctions are a slow death by fire, when a quick decapitation is needed.

Penn State football is irreparably ruined. The reputation of the university and the program has already been tarnished, but these sanctions impose logistical harm. The school is now defined by Jerry Sandusky, and the football team is too. Although the NCAA sanctions are unprecedented, the act of handing them down isn’t a problem—it’s the sanctions themselves. The NCAA should have closed down the football program altogether. If they really felt the need to be involved, a decisive blow should’ve been dealt. Instead of delivering a slow, painful fall, a swift death would’ve been more appropriate. Football will continue at Penn State, but only in a sad, hollow shell of itself. Every game will be a reminder of Sandusky. Why even let that happen?

The NCAA is making the entire case about football without any regard to the victims. The $60 million donation is nice, but it’s only a small gesture in the grand scheme of the situation. Football is now overshadowing everything. History will remember Sandusky as the footnote that led to the death of Penn State football, instead of the evil man who ruined lives. All we’ll remember are the “ruined” careers of football sportsmen, instead of the victims. This case was never about football, but that’s all anybody seems to care about. When Penn State’s students rioted on campus following Paterno’s firing, it was all about football. “JoePa is Penn State.” Really now? For Penn State’s students to forget about football, and to be re-cultured and rewired into students—not football-driven maniacs—the program must die now. There’s a crisis of culture at Penn State that the NCAA is bent on exacerbating.

When Paterno arranged a lucrative pay-out some 15 months ago, before the story went public, it was all about protecting him, the program, and therefore the university. Institutions like Penn State are effectively run by the football program, because of all the money, attention, and power, and students it brings in. Isn’t school spirit and the football team central to a Penn State experience? What is the school now? Sandusky’s showers are more famous than Beaver Stadium. This could’ve happened to any team at Penn State, but if it was the swim team coach who was molesting children, no way it gets covered up. It’s a story that comes out, gets attention for a week, and then dies. Penn State lives on. Because the money and power of the football team was linked, Sandusky got away with his perversion for decades.

The NCAA has an elephant that isn’t even in the room yet. College football programs have grown to be too rich, too powerful, and out of control. The value of an athletic scholarship has been bastardized by TV contracts and merchandising. College football doesn’t exist for students to get an education–it exists as a free talent-evaluating service for the NFL, and for the pockets of the university. Right there is why Paterno and Penn State’s braintrust covered the whole thing up. But are they as immoral as their peers? No university or athletic department would ever admit this, but would they have done the same thing if they were in Paterno’s shoes? Would they’ve called the police at the cost of their football program? Men have done worse to maintain wealth and power, and with so much of it in the college game, there can’t be many morally sound men left.

The NCAA and Penn State should be trying to find solutions, not sanctions. Penn State will probably sue the NCAA for handing down these penalties without legal standing, meaning this quagmire will continue to drag on. The longer this is an issue, the longer it will take for the victims to heal, and for Penn State to heal. The NCAA’s ego is getting in the way of a humanistic tragedy, just like how Paterno’s prevented him from calling 9-1-1. Only a power-drunk organization like the NCAA could put itself ahead of a crime. They genuinely believe that they’re above the law. The best price the NCAA can levy is either total, immediate action, or none at all. Focus on the victims, not on football.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

The Newsroom Briefing: Coach McAvoy

“Amen” was set during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

Aaron Sorkin has written sports movies before, the Olympics are around the corner, and this is a sports website. I want to say that because I’m addicted to sports, I was able to see how the entire episode was just one giant sports team metaphor… But Sorkin made it so painfully obvious that by the end of the episode, “Coach” McAvoy might as well have had a Gatorade cooler dumped on him.

The entire episode was built on the concept of coaching, and what coaches do for their players. They’re supposed to mentor their players in the game and in life, and pass down whatever knowledge they have. They’re role models and authority figures. In “Amen” Will, Maggie, Don, Gary (I was going to say “The Token Black Guy” but IMDB and my senses know better), and Sloan were the coaches. Here’s how the teams broke down compared to past coach-athlete tandems:

Maggie-Jim
Maggie, concerned for her own Valentine’s Day with Don, planned the perfect one for Jim and his “girlfriend”/her roommate Lisa. Jim, reluctant to force love upon a girl he’s been on four dates with, is apprehensive. Maggie persists, as she’s already booked reservations at Lisa’s favorite restaurant, bought her a charm for her bracelet, and picked out some lingerie to top the night off. Instead of Maggie balking at Jim and Lisa’s relationship, she’s now embraced it so she doesn’t have to deal with Lisa’s “I’m Single Why Don’t Guys Like Me?” routine. Think Mike Shanahan and Jake Plummer in 2005. Shanahan created an offense perfectly tailored to Plummer, but Plummer still shat the bed in the biggest game of the season. Jim ended up forgetting about his perfectly planned Valentine’s Day and his date with Lisa.

Don-Elliot
While Elliot was in Cairo reporting on the Egyptian Revolution, Don ordered him to leave his hotel do some on the ground reporting. Elliot was subsequently beaten and bloodied by a mob. Once Elliot returned, Don wanted to put a bruised and maimed Elliot back on the air to show the human interest side of reporting. Don wanted to prove that not all journalists are in Ivory Towers with typewriter. They’re on the ground, putting themselves in harms way for the news. At one point, Don even told Elliot, “You’re benched.” Sorkin was really trying to drive the sports metaphor home I guess. This one has Dusty Baker-Mark Prior written all over it. Dusty rode Mark’s prodigious 22 year old arm 225 innings in 2003 while trying to win the pennant. Prior averaged 113 pitches per start, including 126 PPS in his September starts and another 120 PPS in the post season. Since 2003, he’s never thrown more than 166 innings in a single season, and hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2006, all while struggling with elbow, shoulder, groin, and achilles injuries. Both Don and Dusty rode their guys too hard, got them hurt, and wanted them to return early from injury to prove something.

Gary-Will
Yes, even Will McAvoy got a little coaching advise here. The gossip magazine TMI had been attacking Will for his crazy dates, and were now prepared to go after Mackenzie. Her boyfriend was planning on running for Congress, but he never told her, instead using Mackenzie to get him on News Night to raise his own profile. TMI slammed the News Night crew for that, and were now preparing to go after Mackenzie for almost getting her team killed while reporting in Pakistan, and Will for hiring his ex-girlfriend to be his executive producer—a conflict of interest to an outsider. Gary, who used to work at TMI, told Will that the magazine could be paid off to not run the story. Think Michael Jordan’s first retirement. Jordan retired so he could play baseball, but that’s not what really happened. Why would Michael Jordan, the most pathological winner of all-time, walk away from basketball at his absolute peak to go 0-3 with 3 strikeouts and ride minor league buses in the hopes of making to the majors? Saying that he “lost the desire to play the game” is absolute bullshit. Months before he retired, it came out that Jordan had been gambling millions away, which depending on the gambles, could’ve been a violation of NBA rules. NBA Commissioner David Stern probably told Jordan to retire for a year or so, and let the controversy die down so Stern wouldn’t have to hand down a crippling suspension. Walk away, and your problems will be solved. In Will’s case, he could’ve secretly paid TMI, and his troubles would’ve been solved as well. He either paid the secret price (Jordan’s faux retirement in this case), or dealt with the harming media blitz to himself and News Night (Jordan’s suspension/black-eye for the league and himself).

Sloan-Mackenzie
Mackenzie needed to learn about economics for a panel she was invited to speak to about the media and the economy. Sloan, who’s News Night’s economics analyst and someone who could be a millionaire on Wall Street, was enlisted as Mackenzie’s economics coach. Mackenzie didn’t know the difference between an investment bank and a commercial bank before Sloan coached her up. After some coaching, she was an amateur on the Glass-Steagall act. This one has Happy Gilmore-Chubbs all over it. Happy, who couldn’t even make a putt before Chubbs came along, had to get better at golf to win the Tour Championship. Sloan was Mackenzie’s Chubbs, except Mackenzie didn’t accidentally kill Sloan with a dead crocodile head.

Will-News Night
At the beginning of the episode, a mini-argument broke out in the conference room about the movie “Rudy.” Jim had never seen it before, so Will explained the plot: a kid works hard to get into college, then works even harder to make the football team’s practice squad. Every week, he dreams of being named to dress for the game on Saturday, and every week for four years he gets disappointed. Rudy gets his ass kicked in practice, but he sucks it all up for the hope that he’ll suit-up one day. Before the last game of Rudy’s senior year, his name doesn’t get called to dress. One of the last scenes shows every player on the team handing in their jersey to their coach, because they want Rudy to take their spot on the team. Yes, the plot of “Rudy” was actually explained on The Newsroom.

At the end of “Amen,” the same exact thing happens with Will and his staff, but checks replace the jerseys. His show had acquired a freelance Egyptian nicknamed “Amen” to report on the ground in Cairo. While on assignment, Amen was abducted, with his captors demanding $250,000 for his release. Corporate was unwilling to pay, so Will stepped up and paid the ransom. His reason? “He’s one of our guys.” Mackenzie got the entire office to write checks to Will to help contribute to the ransom, and in “Rudy” fashion, they lined up and dropped the checks on Will’s desk, with “Coach” written in the memo of each check.

Will has been a staunch defender of his staff, and showed that fire in his monologue to a TMI reporter who demanded money in exchange for not running the story on Mackenzie. Will said: “Come after me all you want Lena. Come after me everyday, look through my garbage, invent things out of thin air—that’s what you’re paid for. But you touch my staff, and you’re walking into a world of hurt. I have an hour of primetime every night and I will rededicate my life to ruining yours.”

There’s a cross between Bill Russell’s dedication to the team, Jack Twyman’s care, and Michael Jordan’s commitment to vanquishing opponents in Coach McAvoy. We’re all waiting for him to buckle his broadcasts under the pressure of Leona Lansing’s juggernaut, but it appears that Will has no plans to—he believes in his cause and his teammates too much.

Between all of the coaching and the bizzarre array of injuries (Elliot’s mugging, Don’s shoulder sprain, Jim’s concussion, and Neal’s broken fingers), “Amen” should’ve been named “Hail Mary”—a play that only Will McAvoy’s team could draw up.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

Time For Tiger To Get Back On The Prowl

Here’s our first article from our newest contributing writer, Michael Pakkala. Micahel is an English/History major at Michigan State University. Be sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala

As the Open Championship commenced yesterday, the whispers of Tiger Woods chasing his 15th championship emerged. The sporting world is eager to see if this is finally the major where Tiger gets his (golf) mojo back. More importantly, the way people have discussed Tiger has changed. Leading up to the tournament, he was talked about in a positive, golf-only light, something that hasn’t been done in literally years. It’s an interesting shift in dialogue about Woods that seemed almost out of place. But for Tiger Woods, golf hasn’t been the main topic of conversation the past two years.

Ever since that “devastating November” when his world came crashing down and his life changed forever, we didn’t talk about Tiger the same way. From then on, 90% of the time when an article about Tiger was written, towards the end of the article, it would mention that Tiger went through a extramarital affair, and hasn’t been the same on the golf course since. But what do his actions off the course have to do with his actions on the course? It’s almost as if people seem to think that his infidelities had anything to do with his abilities as a golfer. Sure, his mind has been in other places, and his laser focus has waned because of the scandal, but what does that have to do with his pure golfing abilities? The man took a year off from professional golf so he could deal with his personal issues. When he returned, he had to redevelop his game. End of story.

Anyone who has played golf knows that the first couple rounds you play after an extended absence from the game are dedicated to reviving your swing. (In my case, reviving what little game I have and trying to get comfortable again.) So when people yet again bring up his personal issues, it makes me wonder: Are we giving Tiger excuses to fail? He hadn’t played golf in a year, so why are his personal issues continuously brought into the analysis of why he isn’t performing up to par? Save LeBron James, no other athlete has had so much pressure been put on to keep playing at an extraordinary level year in and year out for so long, all while dealing with personal scrutiny. Simply put, he hadn’t played in a year and within that year he probably didn’t focus to much on his golf career. Let’s make the conversation about the problems with his game, and not his personal life. It’s going to take a hard fought battle to get back to being the best in the world. He has to play at the highest level round to round to win tournaments.

From his first tournament back in April 2010 to his first win since his return in December of 2011, he dealt with a multitude of normal problems that every golfer, including Tiger himself, have dealt with in their careers. He changed his swing again (which can just go along with trying to get his swing back), changed his caddies, and had an injury plagued year in 2011. All these things happened in only year and a half and the only thing that was referred to over and over was his infidelity issues off the course. Of course, he also dealt with problems that only Tiger Woods could have: his ex-caddy started a war of words with him through the media (ESPN turned into TMZ for that one), had he had that awful apology ad that Nike made him do (featuring his dead father no less).

If we could peer into the personal lives of all the athlete’s we love, we could find hundreds if not thousands of replica Tiger stories. That’s what makes Tiger’s case so confusing. Why is it so wrong and deplorable what Tiger did when hundreds if not thousands of other athletes did the same thing? Brett Favre texting other women, Wilt Chamberlain sleeping with thousands of women over years and years, Tony Parker cheating on Eva Longoria—athlete infidelity is nothing new. Yet Tiger Woods is the first to have his sporting career turned upside down because of it.

But Tiger is different than Wilt, Favre or Parker. Wilt hung his dick hat on his sex life. Favre was a drug addict in the late 90s. Parker’s French. Until November 2011, Tiger was the perfect sports superstar. He was legendary on the course and he was legendary off the course. The perfect athlete and role model. He was the reason people of my generation even watched golf, and to see him fall in that manner that hard really hurt us, so he was held especially accountable. Personally, while I don’t condone his actions, I didn’t see how it was really the public’s business to meddle into his personal life. Yes, he’s a superstar athlete that millions look up to, but does that mean that he is completely responsible for his imperfections? Human’s make mistakes, and he made quite a few. The athlete without any weaknesses had finally shown a weakness and in the worse possible way. It wasn’t his game slowly deteriorating after years and years of abuse. He chose to leave due to his poor management of his personal life. That’s what hurt us. Now we’re ready to forgive him for is transgressions.

Sports is the greatest reality TV show on television. But with actual reality television, we love to talk about its characters outside of the show itself. We discuss and recap what happens on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but the peripheral events outside of the show are what’s discussed even more. That’s why KimYe is a thing, and why Ray J reminding us of how Kim got famous in the first place matters. ESPN doesn’t just cover the games anymore—they cover the people playing those games. Everything outside of the game itself is now news. Human interest stories surrounding sports are getting more headlines than the actual sport. Anytime an athlete has a chance to be turned into a celebrity worthy enough of the gossip columns, it’s pounced on. We pounced on Tiger.

Returning to the course, in all honesty, I’m unsure how anyone can say that he’s not back on top. He’s won three of his last seven events. Has anyone else matched those numbers in that time? No. Maybe that’s just our expectation of Tiger from the years and years of extraordinary numbers and wins. If Tiger isn’t dominating every category, then there’s something wrong. Things are also changing on the media front for Tiger. People are remembering why they loved the guy in the first place. Gene Wojciechowski is writing good pieces about the guy again. So all must be well. Fresh off a swing change and a year off, he’s finally playing the way “our” Tiger should. Going into the second round on Friday, Tiger is at 3 under par and 3 behind the leader. Right where he should be. He’s reminding us why we loved him so much before November 2010. I don’t care what you say, in some way or another you want Tiger to win. We want him to surpass the Golden Bear and take the All-Time majors lead because he deserves it. He’s been the overall best in the world since 1997 and since I was 9 years old. Hell, ESPN still has “Tiger Tracker” on their website, even through the scandal. So you can’t tell me that the world doesn’t still love Tiger. They just hated to see him fall.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala

Liverpool In For American Striker Clint Dempsey?

It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but every indication (websites are accidentally leaking links to purchase his jersey, NESN.com accidentally ran a story on the signing; etc) is telling us that he’s signed. Liverpool is probably waiting to unveil Dempsey in conjunction with the start of their US Tour this weekend. A shrewd piece of marketing there. Having his shirts available at the Liverpool-Roma game in Boston will be a big merchandising move for the American striker, and Liverpool. I’ll be at that game, and if Dempsey shirts aren’t available, then I’m gonna flip a shit.

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Your thoughts on the signing?

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

A Eulogy For Jeremy Lin

I’m not going to say I knew him his whole life. Up until February 4th, 2012, I didn’t really know who Jeremy Lin was. When he averaged 13 points and 4 assists in during career at Harvard, I still had no idea who he was. I was more interested in Greg Paulus, Kyle Singler, and Gerald Henderson than Jeremy Lin. When he signed with the Golden State Warriors, I heard about him in passing. He’s some Asian kid playing for the Warriors. Still, nothing registered. When my hometown New York Knicks picked him up shortly after Christmas 2011, I read his Wikipedia bio, but nothing more. I wasn’t even really a Knicks fan at that point. I attended their last playoff win in 2001, but my 7 year old self didn’t fall in love like many kids do at their first game. I watched Knicks games on television at college every once in a while, and rooted for them when they played, but my NBA fandom was like this: I was going to wait until the Nets moved to Brooklyn and got me excited, or until the Knicks got good. I was going to hop on whatever bandwagon came riding up first, buy a seat for life, and not budge. This was my lifelong fanhood that was at stake—I wasn’t going to blindly pledge to either team.

In a fantastic twist of fate, I landed a couple Knicks-Nets tickets at MSG on February 4th. I took my buddy Rohtas along with me, and his obsession with the Knicks was contagious. If I was going to sit through a game with Rohtas, I had to root for the Knicks. At MSG, I bought a Carmelo Anthony jersey—my first piece of Knicks merchandise. After throwing down $80 for a jersey, I was literally invested in the Knicks cause.

Early on in the game, Carmelo got hurt. Going into the night with a 7-15 record, Coach Mike D’Antoni, fearing a loss to the Nets would cost him his job, went all Lin, and gave the gangly Jeremy Lin his chance to run the point. As a 19 year old Chinese-American, I was glued to Jeremy’s every move. I cheered every basket, rebound, and assist he made like I would celebrate a goal in soccer. My shouts of “It’s the Year of the Lin,” “That’s my Chink Balla!” and “Kung hei fat choi motherfuckers!” rained down onto the court after every one of Jeremy’s moves. I remember being enthralled after he scored 10 points, ecstatic when he topped 20 points, and euphorically foaming at the mouth when he ended the game with 25 points after sparking a 4th quarter comeback.

After the game, I scoured the MSG concourse for any vendors selling his jersey. They had Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas, and Landry Fields jerseys printed, but no Lin 17 shirts. I had to rep my new favorite athlete and my new favorite team immediately. I went to the NBA Store the next day in hopes of scoring any Lin merchandise. Nothing was there, but people had been customizing $300 Knicks jerseys with Lin’s name and number all day. I guess I wasn’t the only one who was hooked and needed a little retail therapy.

The Knicks went on to win 10 of their next 13 games, hitting the tipping point when Jeremy scored 38 points against Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. The day before the game, Kobe scoffed at the notion that he’d personally be guarding Jeremy. After Jeremy torched Derek Fisher, and traded baskets with Kobe in the 4th en route to a big Knicks win at MSG, I’m sure Kobe wished he had paid a little more attention to my man. Rohtas was at that Laker game, and he said that the Garden was buzzing like it was a playoff elimination game. In a way, this was Jeremy’s elimination game. Four games and three starts into Linsanity, Jeremy still had more doubters than lovers. If he had shat the bed against Kobe Bryant with the world watching, Linsanity would’ve been tempered to just Jeremy Lin, Knicks starter. Nothing is Linsane about being a starter on a team below .500.

Instead, Jeremy took himself, his expectations, and my pride to heights I’ve never felt as a sports fan. A week after the Nets game, I purposely showed up late for a test so I could go and buy the last Lin jersey at Paragon Sports in Union Square (I ended up getting a C+. I’ll take it.) I was at his 28-14-4 performance against the defending champion Mavericks (After the game, I told an ABC reporter outside of MSG that I was Jeremy’s third-cousin removed. I don’t even know what that means. My interview ran that night on the 6 o’clock news. No, I am not actually Jeremy’s third-cousin removed). To this day, I still don’t understand how he nailed that 3-pointer over Dirk Nowitzki. I’m waiting for Sports Science on ESPN to figure that one out for me. Since I was born (and became a fan of my respective teams. I wasn’t wearing a Yankees cap out of the womb) my Yankees have won five World Series titles, my Packers have won one Super Bowl, Michael Schumacher won everything, and Liverpool FC has been successful. None of those championships and wins mattered as much as Jeremy’s two month run at the top of the sports world.

That’s why it hurts losing him so much. He mattered more.

It wasn’t just that he was good. It wasn’t just about the wins, the worldwide hysteria, and his underdog story. Jeremy Lin mattered to me, because he was doing all of those things as a Chinese-American kid. He’s just like me. (Technically, he’s Taiwanese, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s Chinese.) I’ve never been able to identify with anybody like that before. I’m a bi-racial kid, but I usually don’t self-identify. Being half-white doesn’t give you the White Privilege in America that’s afforded to every other white man—it only gets you sideways stares at family weddings or gatherings featuring my “Block” side of the family. I look Asian. I don’t look white. I don’t look like them.

The “Lew” side has brought me personal shame. During baseball games, everyone teased me and compared me Ichiro or Hideki Matsui. Actually, I hit righty. While I was pitching in an All-Star game once, the announcer compared my unorthodox motion to Hideo Nomo’s. No. I based it off of Black pitching great Bob Gibson’s windup, and I like Huston Street. They called me the “Blazin’ Asian.” My friends usually just call me J. Block. At school, I was picked on viciously for being Asian, despite living in a town that falsely prides itself on diversity. No, I do not have squinty eyes. My penis is the same size as yours. I’m actually bad at math. Fuck you Carlos Mencia. I’ve been conditioned to be self-ashamed when faced with other Asians. I’m embarrassed when I see an Asian mother struggle to order a hamburger at McDonalds. I’m disgusted when I see nerdy Chinese kids in matching outfits play on their Gameboys at dim-sum. They’re all playing into the stereotype that I was ridiculed for, and I used to blame them for it.

Jeremy Lin changed all of that.

He made me proud to be Chinese.

He made me proud to be me.

It takes a long time for everyone to get comfortable in their own skin. Some people never get used to themselves. Everything is cool when you’re a kid, and then puberty blows everything up. We get fat, skinny, tall, wide, muscular, acne-scarred, ugly, pretty, handsome, busty, or just lame. I became Chinese. Jeremy Lin made that okay for me. I’ll gladly self-identify in a world where Jeremy’s playing basketball.

Jeremy related to me in a way that Yao Ming never did. Yao was from China; I’ve never been to China, and he couldn’t have been more different than me culturally and physically. Yao was over seven feet tall. He looked like a basketball player. He was always going to be one. After all, what’s a seven foot Chinese kid going to become in a country where he’s a full two feet taller than the average man? He was built to play basketball. Jeremy, however, could be just another American man. I’m sure that his six foot three inch, 200 pound build is more imposing in person, but on an NBA court, he looks like a college freshman. He got knocked around like one too. Drive after drive, he’d get hit at levels only Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose know, and he’d get back up after every fall. Jeremy’s got five inches and 50 pounds on me, but I figured that if he could go out and dominate a Black man’s game, then I can hold my own in pickup games at NYU. At the very least, I could carry myself with more confidence. Want to call me “Young Jeremy Lin” anytime I play ball? That’s what I want to hear.

Even in totally random situations, Jeremy’s affected me. I was in the hospital this past weekend with an intestinal problem (I’m fine now). While I was sitting in bed in agony, all I could think of was this picture that Jeremy put on his Facebook after his knee surgery in April.

If Jeremy could be in the hospital and stay strong, then so could I. That seems like what a kid on one of SportsCenter’s “My Wish” segments would say, but that’s how I felt. Every time I play beer pong, write an article, or play a video game, I often shout “I do it for Jeremy Lin!” as if Jeremy is somehow being empowered through my nonsensical chants. He inspires me to live my life.

During Linsanity, I wasn’t the only person in my family who became Linsane. My father, who hates basketball, began watching Jeremy’s games after work instead of watching Glee. All my mother could talk about was Jeremy, and she’s clueless about sports. Even my 84 year old Chinese grandmother watched Jeremy play on TV. These people could’ve cared less about LeBron’s playoff redemption, which was arguably the sports story of the 21st century. My family stopped and watched Jeremy and only Jeremy, and millions of other families around the globe did too. He became a worldwide icon, and my personal hero.

I’ve been heartbroken by athletes before. Brett Favre coming out of retirement twice to play for the hated Minnesota Vikings was treacherous. Fernando Torres, after declaring his undying love for Liverpool FC for years, burned us out of nowhere and forced a move to the empirical Chelsea FC. Jeremy’s broken my heart today, but unlike Favre and Torres, I won’t harbor any ill-will towards him. He’s a Houston Rocket now because he wanted to get paid after the Knicks gave him every indication that they’d hand him a blank check. Jeremy did what every other 23 year old with a limited resume and a chance at the jackpot would do. He took the money, and still should’ve been a Knick. I’ll never forgive the Knicks for letting Jeremy go. My brain and I had a meeting about becoming a Nets fan, but I’m too loyal of a person to do that. I was at MSG for their first playoff win in over a decade against the vaunted Miami Heat. There’s a different energy and passion that Knicks fans give that building, and I want to be a part of that for the rest of my life. I won’t, however, be giving the Knicks a single penny as long as Jeremy is playing NBA basketball.

We all have that one friend who we accept and deal with just because they’re around. By all accounts, they suck and they’re a total snake, but we still call them up to hang out. The Knicks are now that friend to me. Jeremy Lin, however, isn’t my friend—he’s my idol, and idols don’t just wear uniforms.

“I love the New York fans to death. I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career.”

We did too Jeremy.

RIP

Linsanity

February 2012-July 2012

“To know Him is to want to know Him more.” 

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49