On this Memorial Day weekend 2015, I wanted to share a very cool, and very rare, experience I had two weeks ago.
A coalition of groups that maintain and fly vintage WWII aircraft helped organize a flyover on the National Mall of just about every still flyable piece of vintage metal we’ve got.
I was angry at myself for not hearing about, nor planning my day adequately, to get my ass down to the Mall to see it in person – since I had assembled many of these airplanes as plastic models while a kid – when I heard a noise overhead at my house, some 45 miles to the west of downtown D.C.
And there it was… the roar of freedom. Plane, after plane, after plane. I got a small sample of them with the video camera.
Like alot of people, I used to revere Late Night with David Letterman. It was the most awesome, disruptive, funny, silly, authority-challenging and downright humble TV show we had ever seen.
There were literally no rules, and Letterman himself carried this air about him that said: “Can you BELIEVE they are letting me do a TV show!?”
So why did I stop watching altogether long ago?
Because Dave changed. He became nakedly partisan and increasingly bitter. This is not even an argument.
As a conservative, a media personality myself, and someone not afraid to share my views at times (including here, of course) I am keenly aware that probably half of my listeners and fans do not share my political views.
So I try to tread lightly when it comes to what is my primary entertainment product, my daily radio show(s). I won’t back down from what I think, but I will try to be at least detail-minded and focused when I decide to speak out about something.
Letterman did the opposite. He was, in short, a hack. His interviews of Democrat politicians were fawning to the point of embarrassment. Any similar interviews of Republicans (if they happened at all) were far more chilly and distant. The cheap-shottery in his monologue jokes were transparent.
Then there was the bitterness. I get it that he felt jilted by losing the Tonight Show to Jay Leno. But for GOD’S SAKE man, you broke the bank when CBS came calling! And they refurbished your dream venue in New York City, the legendary Ed Sullivan theater! And you were beating Leno head-to-head for the first two years, before CBS lost the rights to the NFL and their prime-time lineup went to rot.
What a life! Let it go, man!
Even hard core Letterman fans until last night’s end, admit that he’s been coasting for nearly a decade. The willingness to push boundaries, to mine humor from the hardest to reach places, all just sorta faded away.
It was a helluva run though, and his earliest stuff was well worth digging up on YouTube. It was compelling, game-changing stuff in the late-night TV game. It was not unlike footage of “Skinny Jordan” with hair lighting up the NBA in the mid-80’s.
So here’s a nod to Dave at his absolute best: when he would regularly call out his corporate bosses at GE as “pinheads” and they never failed to live down to that description.
Or…. “Mr. Bent Corner” envelope, as the case may well have been.
Thirty years ago this spring, a young, hungry visionary Commissioner may (or may not) have pulled off one of the greatest card tricks in sports history.
Personally, I think he did. But I ain’t mad about it. Stern was a genius, in so many regards. Today, every overpaid NBA player in the league today (and that’s about all of them, save for the 12-15 guys that really make a difference in winning/losing) should kiss his tanned-and-retired-in-Boca-del-Vista ass for making the modern NBA what it now is.
Sports Illustrated and Chris Ballard have authored one of the best reads in regard to that first ever Lottery. How it came about. Why it looked as awkward and weird as it did that first time. And what the league currently faces with teams STILL tanking like drunks at closing time just to get a few more ping pong ball combinations.
So if Stern did rig it to make Ewing land in Gotham, so be it. He made the right call.
Stern would build on the lottery model, ambitiously elevating spectacle whenever possible. Publishing, events, licensing, home entertainment, international TV deals, All‑Star weekend: Stern wanted in on all of it. In his first seven years the league set attendance records every season, licensed merchandise sales increased 437%, salaries rose 177%, network television fees jumped six-fold and franchises tripled in value.At the time, Stern modeled the NBA after Disney. ‘’They have theme parks,’’ Stern said at the time, ‘’And we have theme parks. Only we call them arenas. They have characters: Mickey Mouse, Goofy. Our characters are named Magic and Michael. Disney sells apparel; we sell apparel. They make home videos; we make home videos.’’
For the losing teams that day, they had their chance at redemption. There were plenty of good players left after Ewing. Golden State got Chris Mullin. Detroit got Joe Dumars. Utah got some guy named Karl Malone. But because the pro game was all about the big man back in the 80’s, 4 of the top 6 picks were centers – three of them utter bums: Benoit Benjamin, Jon Koncak and Joe Klein.
Today, I’d like to see a pure lottery return, where every non-playoff team gets one ball, and we draw them out on live TV. Hell, maybe we can even bring back David Joel Stern to do the honors.
When you organize a golf trip, you assume and plan for things to go wrong. Guys that fail to post. Tee-times that are somehow screwed up. Lost clubs. Arguments. Injuries.
In fact, any number of things can – and will – go wrong if you plan and execute enough of these middle-aged weekend rodeos.
None of that for us this time. A bogey-free scorecard.
Somehow, we nearly pulled of the perfect trip. The weather was incredible. The courses were elite and in prime condition. Hell, a few of us played some sporadically decent golf!
Here’s a few photos to enjoy. For anyone who has never been to Pinehurst (or technically Southern Pines) in North Carolina, you simply must go. There is no setting quite like it anywhere else. Firm sandy turf conditions on rolling hills. Towering loblolly pines framing nearly every hole. And fantastic weather in the spring and fall (you might want to avoid July and August).
The courses we played were Pine Needles (site of ’01 and ’06 US Women’s Open) and newly restored Mid-Pines (which is a mini version of Pinehurst #2, only far more interesting and dynamic in terms of elevation changes). Along with the Dormie Club which opened in 2010, designed by the legendary tandem of Coore and Crenshaw while they were in the area restoring ol’ #2 for the 2014 US Open.
The only regret about this trip, is that it goes by in a BLINK after all of these years. Those guys who have been on every trip so far (there’s only 3 of us!) agree that time seems to keep on speeding up once we roll into town. I guess getting old does that to time, makes it accelerate in your mind.
But luckily our group has remained mostly intact, infused with some new blood additions to keep it fresh and vibrant. I hope we can make it 25 years in a row someday. I have had people reach out to me and describe their golf trips which are going on 30 years steady.
Of course, by then, our format of 36-36-18 will have been reduced to 9-Holes/Fishing/Early Bird Buffet.
Until then, we press on, undaunted by mediocre golf and aching knees and backs.
“What are you playing?”
“You’re over here, in the straw. I think you’ve got a shot…..”
If you haven’t read the entire Wells Report, you are missing out, people! This is the wacky hi-jinx caper that will keep you in stitches right to the last paragraph. I mean that! Who knew Ted Wells could write such good comedy? Move over, Dave Barry!
For starters, when reading it remember this: everyone on the Patriots side have assumptions and explanations are false or unbelieveable. The assumptions and explanations of the Wells team are always right. Always.
There is an army of VP’s and Game Ops coordinators swarming all over the stadium at game time, in haphazard communication with each other about certain game ball procedures.
The science rests on a “control set” of measurements before the game that does not exist, as Walt Anderson wrote down the exact ball readings of exactly 0-of-54 balls tested. (12 game balls and 12 backup balls for each team, plus 6 K-Balls). He thinks the Pats balls were “at or around 12.5 PSI” and the Colts balls were “at or around 13.0 PSI” but as you’ll find, Walt “thinks” alot of things.
The report breezily dismisses a WTF! reading of a Colts ball PSI as a likely “anamoly” due to an unproven “transcription error” that is pure conjecture. Meanwhile, McNally’s “anomoly” of going to the locked bathroom is not equally dismissed as some kind of obvious error, void of nefarious intent.
The report doesn’t explain how balls can be easily deflated by a single person in 1:40 in a locked bathroom, but 22 game balls cannot be tested and recorded with a dedicated note taker by TWO trained officials in a 13 minute halftime. They also don’t question why, if this matter was so critical, that a slight delay in starting the second half was worth it, in order to complete the testing of the last 7 Colts footballs. (Max time: 2 minutes).
The report goes to tortured lengths to NOT say definitively that Anderson was aware of the SPECIFIC charge of under-inflation levelled by the Colts prior to the game. Every reference is to merely “following pre-game protocol.” Why was this? Shouldn’t a specific threat, be listed as a specific point of pre-game emphasis? Having worked in “the real world” for a bit: Anderson is either lying, or didn’t check his email. Both offenses, fireable.
Anderson’s best recollection is that he used the “logo gauge” before the game, a recollection that is then promptly ignored by Wells and Exponent thanks to a convoluted deviation formula rushed in to save the day.
Blakeman and Prioleau can neither remember with certainty which of the logo/no-logo guages they used at halftime. The Wells team and Exponent makes a mathematical guess that again, favors the League not the Patriots.
Then this one is a f***ing WHOPPER:
It is clear that the halftime testing undertaken by the game officials and other NFL personnel was not performed in a laboratory setting or under ideal circumstances for forensic data collection and examination. We nevertheless conclude that the game officials and other NFL personnel participating in the halftime measurements acted responsibly and created a reasonably reliable record of the measurements.
Translation: We understand that Riveron, Blakeman and Prioleau’s Chinese Fire Drill act in the lockeroom, met no standard for science, but we are still using those numbers for…. SCIENCE!
Oh, and the line about “created a reliable record of the measurements?” I’m sorry, did you just get knocked out with a billy club and wake up? YOU JUST SAID TWO PAGES AGO THE COLTS BALL THAT READ WEIRD WAS “PROBABLY A TRANSCRPITION ERROR!”
“Reliable record of the measurements,” my ass!
The post-game measurements of the footballs included just 4 randomly selected footballs. The Wells report does not explain whose decision that was, or what the rationale for it was? Ah, doesn’t matter. You say in the report the timing of the post-game measurement was so unsound, that that data is un-usuable. But that OTHER data? Oh, that’s GOLD, Jerry. GOLD!
So in otherwords, you have the starting PSI of Walt Anderson’s “best recollection” at an assumption of an EVEN 12.5 PSI for all 24 Patriot balls, and 13.0 for all 24 Colts balls. You have no reliable post-game measurements (by your own admission) and haphazard half-time measurements with uneven samples.
You have statements that – to use your words on guys like Jastremski and McNally – “are not plausible” (i.e. “ran out of time” or “likely transcrption error”).
You have glaring contradictions such as..
“We reviewed Farley‟s original notes and the written statements he prepared, and have confirmed that the pressure measurements transcribed on the original notes and the written statements are identical”
…when you said earlier that Farley was probably a f***-up and made a clerical error, cross-recording incorrect readings that your “scientists” magically “controlled for” using “data analysis.”
You have Anderson saying he …
But if he says all balls were 12.5 on the number to start the game…. WE BELIEVE HIM!
You have a missing K-Ball, that got into the hands of a petty thief on your payroll who had to be fired.
And you have the following men running around involved in arguing, chasing, taking, squeezing, measuring, collecting and recording the PSI of the footballs during the game.
Johnny Grier – Game Supervisor
Scott Miller – NFL Auctions Supervisor
Greg Yette – K-Ball Coordinator
Stephen Gostkowski – Kicker
John Jastremski – Ballboy
Tom McNally – Ballboy
Akili Coad – Director of Football Ops and Compliance
Dave Schoenfeld – Patriots Equipment Manager
Eric Kerzner – “Guy to Assist in Football Ops” –
Alberto Riveron – Backup Referee #1
Clete Blakeman – Backup Referee #2
Dyrol Prioleau – Backup Referee #3
Troy Vincent – Executive VP of Football Ops
Dan Grossi – NFL Director of Event Security
Mike Kensil – VP of Game Ops
James Daniel – Kencil Assistant? (Walked intercepted Brady ball into lockeroom for testing)
Berj Najarian – Belichick’s “Chief of Staff” (Went looking for balls at halftime)
David Thornton – Colts Director of Player Engagement (First took intercepted Brady Ball from D’Qwell Jackson)
Brian Seabrooks – Colts Assistant Equipment Manager (Took ball from Thornton)
Un-named – Colts Equipment Intern (Measured ball with “digital” gauge, but reported it as “approximately” (huh?) 11 psi)
Sean Sullivan – Colts Equipment Manager (Squeezed ball and thought it “felt soft”)
Danielle Lee – NFL Game Ops Representative (Radioed to Coad, Daniel and Kensil to alert them of Colts complaint).
Jon Scott – VP of Colts Equipment Operations (Called Ryan Grigson)
Ryan Grigson – Colts GM – (Got call in pressbox and was ready to storm down and kick some ass!)
Pete Ward – Colts COO – (Followed Grigson like a toady)
John Farley – Dude who wrote down PSI readings, and may have f***ed one of them up, and was wrong about who owned the gauge being used!!!
Now… pour all of that horseshit into a grinder, bill the NFL a few million for the work, watch Roger Goodell sprinkle some of his magic ego-dust on it and… POOF.
Tom Brady, four game suspension.
That is a staggering amount of manpower devoted to “Ops” “Compliance” and “Security” and yet it all reads like a Benny Hill skit. A real executive would dismiss the charges, put the Patriots on double-secret probation going forward, immediately implement new, simpler game ball “ops” – AND FIRE THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF HALF OF THE PEOPLE LISTED ABOVE!
As one last add, you must – I mean MUST! – read the “Ballad of Golden Boy” as I call it, or more specifically the narrative on what happened to magic “K-Ball #1.” It. Is. Pure. Comedy. Gold.
And not to spoil the ending, but the last paragraph, Page 139 underscores with a thud, why all of this matters ZERO to competitive advantage.