Sunday, August 06, 2017

Rick Allen is a Terrible Track Announcer

I'm not the most knowledgeable track fan by any stretch of the imagination. I watch the Olympics and lament not watching the World Championships, but it's hard to find time to work it in. So, an announcer would have to be quite bad for me to notice. I noticed Rick Allen's performance yesterday.

During the women's 10,000 meters Rick Allen stopped announcing as soon as Almaz Ayana crossed the finish line first. The director switched to the competitive race for second between Dibaba and I have no idea because Rick Allen never mentioned her. Craig Masback picked up the slack and pretty much called the rest of the race.

While Rick Allen's 10,000 meter call left something to be desired, his announcing of the men's 100 meters didn't go well at all. One of the fun parts of the pre-race build up is when the runners first come out to the track. Maybe Rick Allen was checking his Twitter, because he didn't mention the runners appearing. Ato Bolden tried to fill in, but by the time Bolden realized Rick Allen inexplicably wasn't talking, it was too late and it unfairly made Bolden look a little foolish.

Before a semifinal heat, Rick Allen said, "Surprisingly, Justin Gatlin is getting booed." Bolden tried to be professional. "This is a pro-Bolt crowd, so..." then very quickly adding, "not surprising." Before the final, while the camera was on Bolt, Rick Allen mentioned Bolt's dancing. I would've preferred something like, "a three-time Olympic gold medalist in this event, Bolt's charisma has made him a global superstar."

Just before the race, Rick Allen started randomly listing some of the runners' last names for no discernible reason. In a moment of foreshadowing, Justin Gatlin wasn't one of the names mentioned.

During the hush of the crowd moments before the start of the race, Rick Allen said, "The crowd, silent." Something more like, "Usain Bolt, the greatest 100 meter runner of his generation in his final race" might have set the scene better.

So Rick Allen did a terrible job in the build up, but of course he would do better during the race, you say. If you said that, then you'd be wrong. He essentially repeated the names Bolt and Coleman in what turned out to be a very tight race for second. One name not mentioned during the entire race was Gatlin, the winner.

As an announcer, your job is to make things clearer for the viewer. Rick Allen diverted the attention away from the real story and only until a good bit after the race even acknowledged, "Gatlin thinks he won." I don't know if Tom Hammond was some great track announcer or not, but I liked him. He did a great job of building the tension and rising to a crescendo as the runners crossed the finish line. He made it exciting to watch.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 6)

Donald Trump continued his dance with open white supremacy during the spring of 2016 over my objections. But Trump was heading my advice in another area.

"David, let's talk about our proposals for an ObamaCare replacement. I'd love to be able to cover every American," Trump said.
"Don't worry about policy Donny," I answered.

During my time working with Herman Cain, I had tried to teach him foreign policy. It was a disaster. He tried his best, but he came across as ill-informed. Add some allegations of sexual harassment and his candidacy was done. Though Trump was more interested in the wonky side of policy debates, he had an elementary knowledge of the issues, as do most people without experience in government. I decided we wouldn't make the same mistakes as Cain. Instead, we wouldn't even pretend Trump knew the first thing about policy.

"But David, I need something to say when they ask about health care. Right now, I've got nothing. I only talk about repealing ObamaCare. The media is questioning my credibility."
"Forget about that shit," I said. I cussed a lot because, unlike most professions, people in politics cussed a lot. It gave the cusser a feeling of self-importance. The more cussing, the more self-important.
"What about discussing interstate state trade in the context of health care reform," Trump asked.
"No one gives a fuck about that shit in a Republican fucking primary. But whatever, Donny. Just dumb that shit down."

That's when Trump came up with "the lines" line whenever he was asked about health care. I tried to shield him from other things that past presidential candidates absolutely had to know to be considered viable. He was clueless about the nuclear triad. He didn't even really know how a bill became a law or the basic responsibilities of the president. When he would say something stupid about any of the above, the media would mock him, liberals would snicker, and the Republican base lust more and more for Trump.

He maintained his delegate lead throughout the spring. But two things worried me even more than the explicit white supremacy. Trump kept threatening violence at his rallies and the people around him kept taking weird meetings with Russian officials.

Out on stage, Trump's machismo would get out of hand. We had talked about feeding off the crowd and saying ridiculous shit to see if his fans had a line. They didn't. But telling his supporters to punch protesters could be viewed as inciting violence. We didn't need him to get arrested. Things were going well and the reaction to a potential charge was unknown.

As for Russia, his shit-for-brains son and son-in-law had these moronic meetings with Putin's people. They thought it would be insurance against Hillary. I thought it was a catch 22. If we lost the general, Trump probably wouldn't get in trouble for it, but we would lose. If we won, this Russia shit would hang over him like a nuclear cloud. There was no upside to it. And Trump Jr. and Kushner were really stupid in their dealings with the Russians. They would be caught for sure. I tried to get Donny to stop both. He said he would. But you know what happened...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review of George Karl's Book

Furious George contained some interesting tidbits. There were certain players that Karl didn't like: Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony for example. It was fun to relive Karl's former teams. But the book had some problems.

The most frustrating issue was incorrect facts. Karl played four seasons for the San Antonio Spurs- two in the ABA and two less successful seasons in the NBA (which totaled only 33 games). You would think he played all four years in the NBA if you read this book and didn't know any better. He describes a fight with the New York Nets as the longest in NBA history even though it took place in the ABA. He implies that the Virginia Squires were an NBA team.

Karl puts Clyde Drexler on the Houston Rockets two years too early, claiming Seattle "took down Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and the Rockets in seven in the second round" in '93. Drexler joined Houston in '95. In '93, he was still on Portland.

He claims to have joined the Milwaukee Bucks as head coach during the lockout on August 30, 1999. The lockout ended that previous February. He became head coach in 1998.

Incorrect facts, especially ones so obvious, infuriate me, but the book had some other issues. During the first part of the book, there is a loose chronological order with too many asides and tangents to really be coherent. The book settles down in the second half and becomes mostly linear in organization.

I have no problem with Karl naming players he didn't like. I think he took it too far with his pseudo-psychoanalysis of Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin. Apparently, growing up in poverty in single-parent homes effected them in a certain way. Karl admits he had no experience with either experience and he had trouble getting close to either man. Karl believes Carmelo is a player who cares more about scoring points than winning games and questions Anthony's defensive commitment; that is completely within Karl's expertise and thus a fair analysis. The "psychoanalysis" isn't.

There was also a sorry-not sorry tone to the book. Karl mentions his flaws in dealing with players suffering from substance-abuse (Chris Washburn), depression (Kendall Gill), and addiction (Mel Turpin). He admits that he wasn't knowledgeable enough to handle these issues in an appropriate way. That was refreshingly mature from an ex-jock and longtime NBA head coach. Yet he also shits on these players as if he learned nothing at all.

A similar tone was struck when he discusses racist comments he made about Doc Rivers and "Afro-American" players who are anointed as head coaches. Karl argues that his real point was that some assistant coaches should get looks at the head job instead of ex-players with no coaching experience. That's a legitimate point. But Karl tries to erase the racial tone in his original comment. He's the one who brought up "Afro-American" ex-players. He could have left out the word originally.

But he didn't. So he needed to address the racism in his comments. Karl's explanation in Furious George was about as weak as it gets. First of all, he argues that since he's spent his life in basketball, a sport that employs a lot of black men, he can't be racist. My college basketball coach was certainly racist, describing the team as his "plantation." Karl is a white man "in charge" of black bodies; of course a basketball coach can be racist. His other excuse is that the writer manipulated him into a state of comfort after hanging out for a couple of days. Sounds like Karl's true self came out because he felt comfortable. That's not an excuse. I would've liked him to understand the offensiveness of his comments.

If you can get beyond those issues, it's at least worth a read.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 5)

"Why'd you say that?" I shouted at Donald Trump.
"Say what?" he asked innocently.
"The thing about shooting people on Fifth Avenue."
"But David, you said that a few weeks ago," Trump answered.
"Right, but that was just between me and you. Don't give away the game!" I scolded.

We lost Iowa to that smarmy lowlife Ted Cruz. I knew we would lose the caucus because our campaign was based on Trump's fame and charisma, so we didn't have any kind of ground game. We won New Hampshire and I knew we were on to something. Primaries were to be our bread and butter, because the American electorate is so disengaged it's possible Trump was the only Republican candidate some people had ever even heard of.

At the end of February, notorious white supremacist David Duke endorsed Trump. This reminded me of when Louis Farrakhan endorsed Barack Obama in '08. After an initial stumble, Obama handled it perfectly. He disavowed the endorsement. A handful of people for whom Farrakhan's endorsement actually means something might be pissed, but ultimately, the endorsement showed fence-sitting black voters that even a radical black nationalist supported him while not turning off white voters by shunning the endorsement.

That was our plan for the David Duke endorsement. Secret racists would love that Duke endorsed Trump, but we wouldn't alienate the vast majority of our supporters who feel David Duke takes it too far.

Instead, Trump rambled, "Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don't know. I don't know. Did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."

Oh, fuck! Trump actually ran against David Duke for the Reform Party's nomination in 2000, so there's no way anyone would buy that he didn't know who David Duke was. I was sure this would be undoing. I was already pissed that he kept retweeting white supremacists' praise for him.

"But David, you said race-baiting will help win the nom," Trump explained.
"Yeah, but with dog whistles. Not so explicitly."

Then I told him a little story: "Ronald Reagan started his 1980 general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It's only claim to fame is it's the location where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1965.The local authorities were complicit in the murder. No one was charged at the time. There he talked about his belief in states' rights and the need for local empowerment. Reagan didn't just come out and say, 'You should be allowed to kill black people and get away with it.' That's what he meant, but he used coded language. That's what we need to do."

But he wasn't doing it. More and more I felt that I was losing control of the campaign and the attention of the candidate. After winning the Florida primary, Trump had a bunch of steaks and magazines on a table next to him. He claimed that they were Trump Steaks and Trump Magazine even though both had long been out of business. I had nothing to do with that ridiculous stunt. I wanted to get back to the core themes of the campaign: hating Mexicans and Muslims.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 4)

Following my guidance, Trump had insulted Mexicans, veterans, and the disabled and yet was leading in the polls for the Republican nomination. "Donny, you could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters," I told him chuckling. But I deep down I understand how fickle the Republican base is. In 2012, potential voters flooded first to Michelle Bachman, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, and then Rick Santorum, before settling on Mitt Romney.

I kept stressing the importance of Islamophobia. All across America, ludicrous bills were passed in Republican strongholds banning Shariah law. Many Americans didn't even want mosques built in their communities. An embarrassingly high number conflating over a billion Muslims with the minute percentage of terrorists who claim to follow the Islamic faith. My plan was to exploit that bigotry all the way to the Republican nomination.

I quickly wrote an internal memo laying out our plan to focus on Muslim-hating: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on."

I was tired when I wrote it. The memo included bullshit justifications from dubious polls. But I knew we couldn't rely on "facts." So I included this justification: "Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension."

This was just hastily written brainstorms. I was hoping to talk to the rest of the campaign crew about how to best present our anti-Muslim stance. Then I turned on the news and this idiot actually read my memo word for word at a press conference. He even started it, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States..."

"Donny! What the fuck was that?" I screamed over the phone that night.
"What's wrong?" Trump asked like a kid about to be scolded.
"That was a fucking internal memo! You moron! It was complete nonsense. And why the hell did you start it in the third person?"
"Oh! Whoops," Trump admitted. "I couldn't go out there and wing it. You know this bigotry angle doesn't come naturally to me."
"Yeah, I know, but that wasn't for this press conference."
"Oh no! Do you think it will hurt the campaign?" Trump wondered.
"Yes! You sounded insane out there. We need to be tighter in the future," I demanded. "If we have one."

As you know, it didn't hurt the campaign. By the time the South Carolina primary rolled around, 75% of the Republican electorate in that state actually agreed with what would become known as "the ban." Trump kept surging in the polls.

A few weeks later, at a rally, Trump exclaimed, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Best Basketball Players I've Seen

Since 1991:

By Position:

PG: Jason Kidd
SG Michael Jordan
SF: LeBron James
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Shaquille O'Neal

Top Ten:
1. Michael Jordan
2. Tim Duncan
3. Shaquille O'Neal
4..Hakeem Olajuwon
5. LeBron James
6. Kobe Bryant
7. David Robinson
8. Jason Kidd
9. Kevin Garnett
10. Patrick Ewing

Friday, July 14, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 3)

Building off our successful clash with John McCain, I had been working with Donald Trump on improving his Islamophobic cred since the summer. It wasn't going well. Trump had made business deals all over the Muslim world (except Qatar and Iran) and he had an acute sensitivity to Muslims.

In the beginning, I could only get him to say publicly, "There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down."

See the word Muslim anywhere in that statement? Me neither. Needless to say, Trump needed a lot of work on his Islamophobia and religion-baiting. But something advantageous did come from Trump's statement.

Obviously, Trump's assertion about people cheering the destruction of the Twin Towers is completely baseless. That's not the point. It rings true to a lot of the Republican base, which was the demographic we intended to court. The information was a bastardization of an article written by reporter Serge Kovaleski in the Washington Post.

On September 18, 2001, Kovaleski wrote, "In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners' plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river."

After Trump began citing the article, Kovaleski retorted that his piece doesn't mention Arabs celebrating and that these celebrations were merely alleged. We were in trouble of falling into a fact- based argument with a Pulitzer Prize wining journalist, known for his meticulous investigations.

"Do you know this guy Serge, Donny?" I asked
Trump answered, "Yeah, I do. Good reporter."
"You know he has arthrogryposes?"
Trump swallowed hard, "Um, yeah. What are you getting at, David?"
"At your next rally, you should mock him."
"WHAT?" Trump yelled in disbelief.
"Yeah. Trust me, my wife has a disability. I mock her all the time."
"You do?" he wondered.
"No, of course not! C'mon Donny, what am I an insensitive shithead? I'm also not running for the Republican nomination. You should mock his disability. The base will love it," I assured him.

Trump was clearly pained by my last bit of advice. "Surely even the Republican base has its limits?" he asked in almost a pleading manner. "They don't," I said flatly.


Up on stage, Trump addressed Kovaleski's clarification. "Now the poor guy," Trump chided, "you ought to see this guy, 'Uh, I don't know what I said, uh, I don't remember." While the words were offensive, his gestures were Oscar-worthy. He shook and bent his limbs in what was clearly a disgusting imitation of Kovaleski's condition.

The mainstream media was sure this latest outrage would be the end of his candidacy. My only concern was his denial, "I get reports that I was imitating a reporter who was handicapped. I would never do that." Then the news would show a clip of him indisputably mocking Kovaleski. Everyone around Trump began thinking he was done. Donny nearly fired me. Desperately, I described the callousness of the Republican base. "Having me make fun of somebody who is differently abled," Trump shook his head, "You misread things David, and now I'm not only going to lose, I look like the biggest asshole in America!" Trump bellowed.

But then a funny thing happened. His poll numbers went up again. And as it turned out, even my wife's parents- both of them- would vote for Trump. My job was safe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Surprise Winner of Chopped

Last night's episode of Chopped on the Food Network featured a new titan in the world of preparing gastronomic delights. During the main course portion of the competition, host Ted Allen revealed the ingredients in the basket which included truffle oil, lychee berries, and a human spleen.

Upon viewing the basket, Chef Anne Burrell began vomiting violently. After several minutes of continuous retching, she made an executive decision to only use the first two ingredients. She whipped up a scrumptious foie gras with a lychee Worcestershire sauce. The judges felt her dish was delicious, expertly mixing sweet with savory, but Chef Anne was punished for failing to use all of the ingredients in the basket.

Chef Bobby Flay wept openly after opening the basket. He made a spleen stir fry, adding okra and roasted brussel sprouts to the dish. Judge Geoffrey Zakarian felt the stir fry was too salty, likely due to Chef Bobby's unceasing crying. Judge Amanda Freitag loved the dish while Marcus Samuelsson passed out before tasting the dish.

In a surprise upset, Michael Symon was ousted in the appetizer round by a relative unknown. Chef Jeffrey Dahmer dominated the competition with his spleen souffle. Chefs Bobby and Jeffrey advanced to the dessert round, where Chef Jeffrey concocted a delectable dessert of ladyfingers made out of actual lady fingers.

Dahmer advances to the championship round in Chopped's All Star tournament. He's joined there by Idi Amin, the anthropophaginian Liberian warlord General Butt Naked, and the left flanker on the 1972 Uruguayan national rugby team. A charity of the winner's choice will receive $50,000.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Coaching Trump to Victory (Part 2)

"But David, I'm not going to say anything bad about... John McCain! He's a war hero and a distinguished senator. That would sink my candidacy for sure," begged Donald Trump.

I had been coaching Trump, a political novice, through the ins and outs of a campaign for the highest office in the land. The last few months had gone well in the polls, but the candidate was still hesitant to trust my advice completely.

"Listen Donny, John McCain is a loser. He lost in 2000 and '08. Do you like losers?" I snapped back.
"Well, no," Trump meekly replied, "But he survived five years in a POW camp in North Vietnam. He has fought tirelessly against the practice of torture. That deserves at least a modicum of respect."
I frowned, "I like people who weren't captured. I don't know about you, Donny."

I knew I had gotten through when Trump was asked about the former '08 presidential runner up at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa a few days later. "He's not a war hero," Trump began, "He was a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured."

YES! Much better than his half-hearted Mexican rapist comments at his initial announcement. I knew something the experts didn't: the Republican base wanted their id stroked. These were the sort of people who watch NASCAR in hopes of witnessing a fiery crash. They don't have time for nuance. They want to win and take down Others while they do it. And they haven't been winning much lately in an increasingly globalized and tolerant world.

But then, near disaster. Trump equivocated. He claimed he called McCain and apologized. For his part, McCain denied that any call was placed and demanded Trump apologize to veterans and retract his remarks. Fortunately, Trump countered that he didn't regret his comments. "You do things and you say things," Trump responded on the radio show Imus in the Morning, "And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And some people like what I said if you want to know the truth. There are many people that like what I said."

The mainstream media thought the spat would destroy Trump's prospects, but I knew better. He shot up in the polls once again. Still, I didn't yet have Trump's full trust and his (thankfully inaccurate) assertion of apology showed it. I still had more work to do.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The First Ever Tiny House Hunters

Here is the transcript for the first ever Tiny House Hunters in 1978.

Ted, a former university professor, is looking for a lifestyle change. He wants to downsize and live a simpler life. On his wishlist is a tiny house with under 200 square feet deep in the woods. Can he find his dream tiny house on his $3,000 budget?

Ted: I'm looking for something rustic out in the middle of nowhere, so I can get away from it all and tackle some projects.

Ted's agent, Julie, is taking Ted to the first tiny house. But it may not have the rustic feel Ted is looking for and it may have too many appliances for Ted's liking.

Julie: It's 367 square feet and costs $12,000.
Ted: Oh, that's a lot of money! And I don't know what I'd do with all that space.
Julie: Let's take a look inside before you make up your mind, Ted.

Inside the house, Ted sure has some strong opinions.

Julie: Here we see a farmhouse sink atop a stainless steel dishwasher. Here's a functional mini-fridge.
Ted: Ooh, Julie, I told you I didn't want a dishwasher or refrigerator. The technological revolution has been a disaster for the human race and has led to the destruction of the planet.
Julie: Ok Ted, but just have an open mind. Now let's check out what you might call the dining room. See the table can be folded down? And up the ladder leads to a loft.
Ted: It's too modern.

Ted's agent Julie took him to see a tiny craftsman for his first option. But Ted thought the modern appliances would spell doom for the human race. Plus it was over budget and Ted didn't know what to do with all the extra space. Now Julie is showing him another option that might meet Ted's desire for a rustic feel.

Julie: Hi Ted! This log cabin is 222 square feet and is $8,000. Isn't it neat?
Ted: [Unintelligible]
Julie: The log cabin theme has been continued in the interior as well as you can see.
Ted: There doesn't seem to be room for shelves.
Julie: There are places for storage in this model though, Ted.
Ted: I'd prefer to keep my ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, nails, tacks, and lead on shelves for easy access.
Julie: Love doing scientific projects, do we? Ok. Here's the dining/living area.
Ted: There seems to be no room for my L3 Smith-Corona portable manual typewriter.
Julie: Uh huh. Well, in your price range, it's hard to get everything you're looking for.

After two tries, Ted isn't sold on any of the two options his agent, Julie, has shown him. The first tiny house didn't satisfy his neo-Luddite worldview and the second tiny house didn't have space for what can only be described as bomb-making material or room for his typewriter, on which he will no doubt write some rambling manifesto. So Julie has a third option lined up that should be more up Ted's alley.

Julie: This is 120 square foot cabin a few miles south of Lincoln, Montana. It's not much to look at, but it's only $3,000.
Ted: On budget. I like that.
Julie: Let's take a look inside. Remember, just keep an open mind.
Ted: Oh wow! I'd put my potassium nitrate over there. My barium nitrate would go over there. I see my L3 Smith-Corona portable manual typewriter here. I would keep stamps in this drawer near the typewriter. Julie, you've hit the jackpot! I'll take it.
Julie: But... there's another segment of the show where you're supposed to say the pros and cons of each tiny house.

Yeah, and I need to recap each option in that next segment. Don't take away my air time! There's so few jobs for female voice-over announcers.

Ted: Never mind that! Here's the cash, now beat it, I've finally found my "forever house." Or until they catch me anyway.