On Thanksgiving morning, I picked up a copy of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, the daily paper round those parts. I did it out of habit; I was eating an English muffin and needed something to do with my other hand. Whatever your thoughts about the newspaper industry, I think we can all agree that it's easier to pick up a newspaper with your left hand than type into a computer. If newspaper publishers could genetically fuse English muffins to everyone's right hands, the world of print journalism would look a lot different over the next few decades. Plus, your Kleenex would come lined with butter.
A few things I noticed about the paper:
1. Because no one wants to work late the night before Thanksgiving, all the sports scores were from Tuesday rather than Wednesday. This led to the rather odd sensation of reading a document that was literally 36 hours old, delivering news as if it had just happened. It is one thing to be scooped by online news sources overnight. It is quite another to miss an entire day of news and pretend as if you have not.
2. The most read pages of the paper, in the household in which I was staying and elsewhere, without question, were the ones with the comics, Dear Abby and the horoscopes. I had forgotten about Dear Abby. To read Dear Abby is to be beamed in from a universe in which everyone is mostly preoccupied with kitchen etiquette, spending the holidays alone and how to explain to suitors that you'd rather not accompany them to the fair. The only way Dear Abby could get any better would be if it were read out loud by Paul Harvey.
3. The Ledger-Enquirer has a section called "Sound Off," in readers can send in their unvarnished thoughts on issues of the day, and the paper will print them. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, exactly like the worst comment section of a blog you've ever read, minus the idiots yelling "FIRST!" A few selections:
*** Nowadays, if you pay attention to the facts and have common sense, they say you're "filled with hate."
*** Don't get angry when I blow my horn at you. Your phone conversation is not as important as living through your bad driving habits.
*** Ever notice that if you barely run that red light, the next lights ahead are green all the way? Traffic engineers should try driving in Columbus instead of playing with their computers.
*** Biden warned voters about the negative aspect of an Obama victory. The blood of the India terror victims is on the hands of Obama voters!
The best part about this is that the "Soundoff" page actually has its own comment section. Those are even better:
*** The word imbecile means an adult with the mentality of a six year old or a foolish or stupid person. It "must take one to know one" considering the spelling of the word in the previous comment. Funny!
*** Some embaciles will try to pin anything on Obama. How about pinning the stock market's conscequetive session gains on him too? That's where it belongs.
You can be a part of "Sound Off" by emailing email@example.com or calling 706-571-8583. You have to limit your comments to 35 words, though, so make the screaming count.
This is all to say: I love newspapers, with all of my heart. To this day, writing something for a newspaper means more to me than writing something online. But not that much more. Not enough more. Everything just seems to be moving ... so ... slooooow. I don't think this is because I have a short attention span. I think it's just different now. It happens.
There's been a debate recently about whom to blame for the decline of newspapers. Some say it's the blogs, some say it's the consumers, some say it's the journalists themselves. (I am far from convinced by this argument, taken down artfully right here.) I think the real answer is: Craig Newmark. Craig's List devastated the classified section of newspapers, which was a major financial lifeblood. This peaceful, idealistic 56-year-old Free Internet advocate dried up a major revenue stream. Blame him. Leave the journalists alone. They'll find a place. They're good. People will never stop desiring news. Obviously.
And hey: We'll always have books. Right? RIGHT?
Now, as I finish becoming the 45 millionth journalist to endlessly pontificate on The Future Of Journalism, we move on. Thankfully. Maybe we could settle this whole question just by asking Abby.
32. Detroit Lions (0-12). It was with much curiosity and delight that I saw this headline on the Detroit Free-Press site: "A 4-step plan to turn the Lions around." Four steps? Man, this plan must be brilliant! I would have expected at least 14. And then I caught the first one: "1. The NFL must assume temporary guardianship of this franchise." Wait, what? Columnist Drew Sharp suggests we "[d]eclare the Lions intellectually bankrupt and remove the decision of finding the next chief executive from [William Clay] Ford's hands." I can only assume the next three steps involve hiring a unicorn to play quarterback and installing an offensive line full of orcs.
"4. The Lions must cut ticket prices a minimum of 10% in response to a bad economy and bad product." Yep! I was right!
31. St. Louis Rams (2-10). A big salute to this guy, whose (presumably) imaginary new book is titled: "Causality, Subjectivity and the Disappearance of the Physical Frontier: A Theory of Black-Out Drinking as Time Travel." You know, I'd read that book.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (1-10-1). Palin watch! Actually: Fey Watch! I gleefully ate up Vanity Fair's (and Maureen Dowd's!) cover story on Tina Fey this month, mostly because I enjoy her husband so much. His name is Jeff Richmond, he is 48, he is short and he seems somewhat uncomfortable with what his life has turned into.
"I know how she feels about some things," Richmond tells me over coffee one day at an Italian place around the corner from his house. "Like, we never had to deal with any of this, but: adultery. Just looking at examples from other people's lives, we know that anything like that, messing around, is just such a complete ‘No' to her. And she has her principles and she sticks to her principles more than anybody I've ever met in my life. Like that whole idea of, if you are in a relationship, there are deal breakers. There's not a lot of gray area in being flirty with somebody. She's very black-and-white: ‘We're married-you can't.' " He calls their marriage "borderline boring-in a good way." And she concurs: "I don't enjoy any kind of danger or volatility. I don't have that kind of ‘I love the bad guys' thing. No, no thank you. I like nice people."
So, in other words, when you're a 48-year-old Smurf who lucked into marrying the funny hot girl, you feel obliged to point out what a good guy you are for not cheating on her. Though you probably would, if she weren't so damned uptight about it. Well played, man. Class act.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (2-10). I didn't watch the Rosie O'Donnell variety show that ran last week — I know, right? The holidays are so busy, I miss out on everything great — but, from all accounts, it was epically awful. I have to salute Vanity Fair's Michael Rowe, for this line: "The first ten minutes she talked of her over-stretched undergarments. Don't get me wrong, her Spanx girdle, no doubt, worked the hardest of all on the show, but she was tugging and pulling and adjusting so much that I swear, the front row took cover, worried that things were gonna blow wide open. This is a large woman. She could pocket-dial a phone booth. When I fast-forwarded her, my Tivo had to stop and catch its breath."
28. Seattle Seahawks (2-10). While we're swiping things from great magazines that aren't the one I work for, you might remember our own Pat Jordan and his brilliant takedown of Jose Canseco, a story that led to Canseco firing his lawyer. Well, Jordan talked to Mickey Rourke for The New York Times Magazine, and it's quite a read. Basically, Rourke lies about everything, loves Sarah Palin, is obsessed with chihuahuas and once got fired from a film because Nicole Kidman was scared of him. (The film, in an odd twist no one's talking about, was In The Cut, which eventually starred Meg Ryan, whose mother happens to be married to ... Pat Jordan! Meg Ryan doesn't talk to her mother, by the way.) The story ends, amazingly, with Rourke and Jordan bonding over the honor of letting your dogs excrete on you. I fucking love journalism sometimes.
27. Oakland Raiders (3-9). In San Francisco, I love me some Ray Ratto. He nails the genius of Tom Cable's awesome fake-field-goal call Sunday. That's the way they drew it up! For the record, every team should be required to try at least one fake field goal every three weeks. Just to drive coaches slightly more insane.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8). God, what happened to these guys? And speaking of God! My DC Talk-inspired column last week caught the attention of the Christian sports site Prayers for Blowouts, which is a much better site than many of you would probably think. For fun, I did an interview with them, in which I confess to seeing a Christian band that only covered Oak Ridge Boys songs. Christ, I miss Mattoon sometimes. Enjoy, and mock away.
25. Cleveland Browns (4-8). They're dropping like dead flies — why has the expression always been "dropping like flies?" Flies don't drop; they, you know, fly — behind center in Cleveland. Romeo Crennel must have felt just great, hearing that he needs a "miraculous" turnaround to keep his job just a couple of hours before his quarterback is knocked out for the season. Maybe Ken Dorsey will be awesome the rest of the way, win every game and, Derek Anderson-esque, convince the Browns to keep him around for another year, just so Brady Quinn can hate himself one more season. Brady's natural state, I'm certain, is standing around blankly, waiting for someone to call his name.
24. San Francisco 49ers (4-8). Vastly underrated message boards? The ones at Baseball Prospectus. They've got a combination of extreme wonkdom and social misfittery that truly brings out pearls of genius. Witness this response to a post from Christina Kahrl, wishing readers a Happy Thanksgiving:
Let's take this opportunity to give thanks to Governeur Morris, Andrew Jackson, and all the other brave North Americans who secured this continent for European culture. Without them, we might have never gotten to enjoy baseball.
And this response:
Wow, that's a brave thing to say. Aren't Hitler, Stalin, and the IRA part of European culture? Did the native cultures of America not have some positive things to add to our culture? moccasins? canoes? jewelry design? corn? (We won't mention smoking.) I wonder what was wiped out that we could have be enjoying today.
Oh, Baseball Prospectus commenters, please don't ever stop being you.
23. San Diego Chargers (4-8). It was odd to see how many prognosticators, at the season's midpoint, were still thinking the Chargers were coming out of the AFC West. Eventually, not even the Broncos could lose enough to save the Chargers. This team could lose 12 games. The Chargers! But hey, they really gelled under Norv Turner during the playoffs last year.
22. Green Bay Packers (5-7). This week in the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Neville exhibit displays Christmas of years past." There's a museum called the Neville Public Museum of Brown County — they have a Web site — and it features "a Neville exhibit featuring Christmas window displays from the old Prange's department store." We really lost something when we lost Prange's, you know? By the way, Santas are a lot freaking scarier in Green Bay.
21. Houston Texans (5-7). Credit to ESPN programming, which must have decided not to outsource "Monday Night Football" scheduling to Fred Hickman this year. (By the way, isn't that the best story? John Anderson's inside joke about Hickman has instantly made him one of my favorite anchors.) Last night's horrible game will be the last one of the year, unless you count Cleveland-Philadelphia, which might be fun, if just to see Donovan McNabb looking around nervously for Rush Limbaugh. This week is Tampa Bay-Carolina, which is a much bigger game than anyone could have expected, and they end it with Green Bay-Chicago, which is worthwhile to see which completely disorienting fact we'll learn about Brian Urlacher.
20. Buffalo Bills (6-6). After that crushing loss, the Bills get to "host" the Dolphins in Toronto this weekend. You know what'll be funny? When, on "The Blitz," Chris Berman — a guy I can really only tolerate on that show — makes jokes about "sacre bleu!" and uses a wacky French accent, even though Chinese and Italian are actually more prominent languages in Toronto. But hey, Chris: All is forgiven if you slip in a deux deux deux line.
19. New Orleans Saints (6-6). So I saw The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button last week, and it's fine, if a bit distant and chilly for a movie that has a plot and main character dangerously similar to Forrest Gump. (Listen to Drew: Rent Zodiac instead.) One issue I had with the movie? It takes place during Hurricane Katrina. Essentially, Cate Blanchett's character does the Gloria Stuart thing and tells us her life story while the storm crashes around her. Because no one suffered more from Hurricane Katrina than elderly white ballerinas on their deathbed? I know, I'm being unfair. I'm just trying to get you to see "The Wrestler" instead.
18. Chicago Bears (6-6). Just asking here, but ... and no offense to our man Kyle Orton here ... but is there a better destination next year for Michael Vick than Chicago? They desperately need playmakers, Chicago's good about embracing guys who wore out their welcome elsewhere (Dennis Rodman, for example) and, as anyone who grew up in Illinois can tell you, the state requires you to torture and kill a certain number of animals a week. It's a perfect fit! Though somehow, I just sense Barack Obama would find a way to quash this. Stupid government, sticking its nose in our business.
17. The Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals (7-5). To be fair, asking this team to recover from that grueling Giants game in three days, with a cross country trip involved, is ridiculous. But I can no longer kid myself: With Denver looking better, the Buzzsaw's probably going to be the worst team in the playoffs. That said: Who cares? The Buzzsaw can clinch the playoffs this week! The last time this happened, I was 23 years old, stoned and living in St. Louis, jumping around The Sporting News' newsroom screaming, in a blatant attempt to get fired. (Didn't work, somehow.) I'd like to thank the Bills for collapsing at home this week, allowing the Buzzsaw to clinch the NFC West this week in front of their own fans. I will have champagne ready. (OK, Boone's Farm.) Making the playoffs, for this franchise, happens twice every 30 years. I am going to appreciate what I have, rather than lament what I don't.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5-1). You know, as a guy who has Kevin Kolb in a fantasy sleeper league ... I think we've seen just about enough of Donovan McNabb. Time to step out of the way, fella, and make way for a new generation.
15. Miami Dolphins (7-5). Uh ... the Dolphins' next three foes are the Bills, 49ers and Chiefs. How did that happen? They've got the Jets in Week 17 in a game that might be for the AFC East. This team won one game last year! Drew was right: Bill Parcells has more genius in his gunt than the rest of us have in all the body parts that aren't our gunt.
14. Washington Redskins (7-5). Henry Abbott, who really is doing the Lord's work over at True Hoop, broke down where Stephon Marbury might land once he's finally booted from New York. On the list: Boston, San Antonio and New Orleans. You know, whatever your thoughts about Marbury, he's clearly the smartest athlete in sports. He's getting his full salary, he'll likely end up with a title contender and he'll play well enough in the playoffs to get a better deal next year than he would have if he'd just stuck around with the Knicks all year. Who needs an agent?
13. New England Patriots (7-5). Barring lingering aftereffects from that rough one yesterday, the Pats have winnable games against the Seahawks and Raiders the next two weeks before hosting the Buzzsaw a few days before Christmas. Just in case you thought you were done with these guys.
12. Minnesota Vikings (7-5). Speaking of Buzzsaw matchups — because I'm the only one who ever will — the Vikings head to the Pink Taco in a couple of weeks for a game that's looking like it'll decide who has the No. 3 seed in the NFC. That's no small beans, because it means you could avoid the Giants for an extra week. Gus Frerotte vs. Kurt Warner. I love football.
11. Denver Broncos (7-5). I have no particular issue with Hillary Clinton, other than that she claims to be a Cubs fan. But do I really want to see this woman on my television screen again every day for the next four years? I think it'd be awesome if she was like, "I'm not running for anything, fuck it" and started wearing low-cut dresses to her press conferences. By the way, here are some people who have been Secretary of State: Cordell Hull, Bainbridge Colby, Elihu Root, Hamilton Fish and Hugh S. Legaré. So, you know, big shoes to fill.
10. Dallas Cowboys (8-4). Were you working on Thanksgiving? Here's guide to what your day was like. Some highlights:
3:00 p.m. Call your mother. Tell her you're going to be a little late tonight. She's very proud that you have such an important job that they can't spare you even on a holiday. Realize you have always hated her.
3:30 p.m. Take a break from ESPN to call girlfriend. It goes straight to voicemail. Suddenly you miss her a lot. Why did she have to go away for the weekend?
4:40 p.m. Vow to stop reading the internet and get back to work and really crank this thing out. Dinner officially started at 4 but it always gets going late. You can make it if you put one solid hour of work in right now.
4:50 p.m. Scroll through cell phone numbers. Compose a mass text message to everyone who you don't know for certain is out of town. "Hey! You still in town. Let's get together tonight to recover from our families." Realize this is the saddest thing yor've ever written.
9. Baltimore Ravens (8-4). It's a flex game! Look! Watch it flex! By the way, I've got a chapter in the paperback version of the book — coming out right before the Super Bowl! With all new material! — about the Bissinger-Costas business. I've found that anytime I watch "Sunday Night Football" with anyone, they keep looking at me every time Costas comes on, like I'm secretly scowling or something. At least Bissinger has the good manners to stay off of television every week.
8. New York Jets (8-4). You know what's fun about weekly magazines? Writing stories for the magazine on Wednesday that are completely dated by Monday, just because you finally started believing in the Jets right before they laid their biggest egg. Stupid passage of time ... hey, what was I saying about the Columbus newspaper?
7. Atlanta Falcons (8-4). I know that writing this is going to curse them to get killed tonight, but hey: How about those 6-0 Illinois Fighting Illini! Mike Tisdale is the 2008 version of Jack Sikma ... discuss. (By the way, it's possible that the Big Ten could win the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and the Arizona Cardinals could make the playoffs ... in the same year! The apocalypse is upon us!)
6. Carolina Panthers (9-3). Time for some more "Chinese Democracy" love. Another great song is "Catcher in the Rye," which supposedly has a lead guitar part from Brian May. The song seems to have nothing to do with the book; in fact, it seems unaware that there is, in fact, a book with that same title. It reminded me of Warrant's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which was similarly clueless. The best part is that the Warrant song is actually about this guy's uncle, who is named Tom, who happened to have a cabin. Outstanding.
5. Indianapolis Colts (8-4). The Colts don't score an offensive touchdown, and still they win. It's a good thing Peyton Manning is a low-key, elusive presence on my television screen, or I might start to become annoyed with this team. (You see, he's in a lot of commercials. How old is that "joke?" Five years? At least?)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3). Underplayed angle: The Buccaneers are closer than anyone's been in a while to becoming the first team to host a Super Bowl. They're probably going to end up with the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, which means they're a win over Arizona or Minnesota, plus an upset of the Giants (hey, it could happen!) away from pulling that off. The next two Super Bowls after this one are in Miami and Dallas. So if it's gonna happen, I think we'd all prefer it to happen now.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3). Seriously, doesn't it seem like the Steelers play a contender every week? I figured they'd have to have exhausted them all by now, but nope: It's Dallas this week, then Baltimore, then Tennessee. Meanwhile, my math might be wrong here, but the Broncos play the Lions four more times.
2. Tennessee Titans (11-1). Hey, it was nice that they let Vince Young run around for a while, wasn't it? It's good to let the sad kid run around for a while. It's like giving the fat kid a chance to play soccer when the score's 8-0 already. Come on, it'll make him feel better! I encourage you to play around on Young's official Web site for a while, if you can ever get the damned thing to load.
1. New York Giants (11-1). I'm really not sure how I can possibly improve on the fact that Plaxico Burress shot himself in the thigh while drunk. When that happens, you just have to figure it's not your year. At least he avoided his driver.