For the last few weeks I’ve been telling everyone that my beloved Chicago Bulls will win this year’s NBA championship.
And everyone’s been telling me–man, what are you smoking?
To which I say–you’re hating now, but don’t worry, I’ll save you a spot in Grant Park for the celebration.
I’ve been saying this since the Bulls brought in Rondo and D Wade to join Jimmy Butler as The Big 3. But I’d probably say it anyway. Cause…
First of all, I want it to happen. In fact, me predicting a Bulls championship may be as close as the Bulls come to winning one.
Second of all–I don’t know that it won’t happen. Yes, the experts are sneering at the Bulls. They can’t understand why they brought in Rondo and Wade. They say they’re too old and they can’t shoot the threes.
Never seen so many people obsessed with shooting the three.
But the experts aren’t always right when it comes to sports. On the contrary, they’re usually wrong.
The Big 3 are gonna lead my boys to the promised land…
For example, take Sports Illustrated’s predictions for the 2015 baseball season.
Why do I choose that as an example?
Because I happen to have a copy of the March 30, 2015 SI baseball preview issue lying raround my bathroom. Not sure why it’s still there. I found it underneath a picture book about clouds.
Not sure why the cloud book’s there, either. But let’s not get distracted.
The cover features a picture of two very happy Cleveland Indians–shortstop Michael Brantley and pitcher Corey Kluber–along with the headline: “Wait till this year.”
The magazine goes on to predict that Brantley will win the MVP and Kluber will win the Cy Young and the Indians will beat the Washington Nationals to win the World Series.
In actuality, neither Brantley nor Kluber won the top awards–Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel did.
And the Indians didn’t win the World Series. They didn’t even make the playoffs. For that matter, neither did Washington.
Kansas City won the World Series, defeating the Mets–two teams that SI predicted would not make the playoffs.
In short, SI screwed up everything.
I don’t say this to make SI’s writers feel bad. My point is that when it comes to sports predictions, no one knows nothin’.
See you in Grant Park, everybody!
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When I ride my bike, I have a habit of furiously waving cars through the intersection, as though I’m saying–“You go first, but hurry up!”
This happened the other day at the intersection of Elmwood and Oakton in Evanston, as a car waited for me to cross before making a left turn.
“No,” I said. “You go. Hurry up. I don’t have all day.”
When I got home I discovered that the driver (whose face I couldn’t see) was, of all people, Cap, one of my best friends in the world.
“I’m always looking for an old guy on his bike with a funny looking white helmet,” he told me. “Then I saw you.”
Okay, let’s get a few things straight…
Number one, my helmet’s not funny looking. Okay, maybe it’s a little funny looking. But once upon a time I thought it was cool. Obviously, styles have changed.
When I look into the mirror, this is what I see…
Number two–I’m not old. Okay, maybe a little. But who’s Cap to talk? He’s only three years younger.
The real problem is when I look into the mirror, I see a young Paul Newman looking back. Everyone else sees Rodney Dangerfield.
In Cap’s case, when he looks into the mirror, he sees a young Denzel Washington. Everyone else sees Redd Foxx.
I was thinking about this while walking to the grocery store with a granny cart. Years ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead with a granny cart. Obviously, those grocery bags are heavier than they used to be.
I was trying to look cool as I rolled that granny cart down the sidewalk. But even Denzel and Paul Newman would have a hard time looking cool with a granny cart.
To make matters worse, I had a senior citizen moment in the store, forgetting where I’d put my granny cart. I was following some other guy who was pushing a granny cart. I was about to say–“excuse me, sir, but you may have the wrong granny cart”–when I realized I’d left mine by the cheese counter.
Anyway, just to show there are no hard feelings about Cap calling me old, I want you to know we’re going to see The Magnificent Seven–the remake, in which Denzel plays the Yul Brynner character.
Don’t worry, Cap–I promise to leave the bike helmet and granny cart at home.
I’m cruising southbound on Lake Shore Drive, heading for El Dragon’s birthday bash at a bar in Hde Park, when I hit a wall of traffic.
I mean, we’re talking Wall of China proportions.
Because of a construction project, they’ve closed two lanes just south of Soldier Field and closed the drive at 31st Street.
I know this because I happen on an all-news outlet while desperately switching from one radio station to another. As I do when I’m in an agitated state, like a rat in a cage.
I should have checked a traffic report before I took off. So, once again, I have no one to blame but myself.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic the seconds seem like hours and the good music disappears?
In desperation to hear anything other than a commercial jingle, I find myself listening to the Brian Kelly show. He’s the football coach at Notre Dame–a team I’ve rooted against virtually my whole life.
Kelly’s sidekick is reading texted-in questions like–“Billy, a big fan out in Oklahoma, wants to ask about your punt coverage…”
I can take no more and switch to an all-news station, where I learn that federal prosecutors are zeroing in on New Jersey governor Chris Christie for his role in closing a bunch of traffic lanes at the George Washington bridge.
That caused a massive traffic jam I can really relate to.
I almost got to hear a song by Todd Rundgren…
Christie’s aides closed those lanes to pressure a Democratic mayor to endorse the governor’s re-election campaign. Apparently, it was really important for Christie to have those endorsements–coerced or not–to prove to future presidential primary voters that he was the sort of Republicans that Democrats like.
Much irony in that Christie wound up losing this year’s GOP nomination to a douchebag most Democrats hate.
Back to the Coach Kelly show…
A surprise guest is Todd Rundgren, the rock star of my youth. Turns out he’s an artist-in-residence at Notre Dame. See, you can learn stuff while stuck in traffic.
He starts singing Bang the Drum All Day when they cut him off as the show ends.
It’s that kind of night.
It takes me 90 minutes to reach 31st street. Instead of staying in the wall of traffic heading on the southbound detour, I take the northbound lane back home.
By the time I reach my garage, it’s after 11. And I’ve spent over two hours driving to 31st street and back.
Sorry, El Dragon. Next year I’ll make sure to check out the traffic report.
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A few weeks ago, I was talking movies with my older daughter and she asked…
“Have you seen Tangerine?”
“Oh, my God, you have to see it. It’s streaming on Netflix”
So, what the hell–I always do as my daughter says.
I watched it once. Then I watched it again. Now I’m hooked.
Not just on Tangerine, but on Sean Baker. The genius who directed it.
Tangerine tells the story of one day in the lives of two black transgender hookers in L.A. Baker shot it on an iPhone.
The dude’s so talented, he could shoot a movie on my old flip phone and it would look fantastic.
After that, I started plowing through Baker’s previous movies that I would have watched years ago, had I not been so busy doing other things. Like raising kids who now tell about Tangerine.
I saw Take Out, his 2004 movie about a Chinese restaurant delivery man, who falls behind on his payments to the mob.
Baker’s genius is his ability to tell compelling stories about ordinary human beings you walk by every day and not even see–like they’re too inconsequential to notice.
Then you see them in a Sean Baker movie and it’s like–holy shit, they’re just like me.
Okay, I’m not a black transgender prostitute. But anyone can relate to life being a struggle.
For the last few days I’ve been watching Prince of Broadway, which came out in 2008.
It’s about the hustlers who come up to you while you’re walking down the street and try to sell you name-brand knock offs you may or may not need.
Like a fake Gucci purse.
I’ve run into a few of these guys over the years. Generally, they’re trying to sell me a watch. Our exchange goes like this…
Me: What’s the matter with the watch I got?
Hustler: That watch ain’t shit, bro. Not for a big-time player like you.
That’s a hard appeal to resist.
Now try hustling watches with a baby in your arms.
Great, great movie.
You’re the man, Sean Baker. I can’t wait for your next movie.
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Few people in the universe despise Donald Trump more than my wife.
She thinks he’s a rude, greedy, willfully ignorant, misogynistic, racist, utterly contemptible piece of manipulative and egotistical shit who would destroy this country if elected.
She plans to vote for Hillary Clinton as soon as she can.
So imagine my surprise when a envelope from Trump’s campaign arrived in the mail addressed to my wife.
“How did your name get on his mailing list?” I asked.
“I don’t know–but throw it out!” she declared.
Out of curiosity, I opened the envelope to see what Trump had to say.
It was a survey–like he gives a shit about my wife’s opinions.
“Directions: Please answer the following questions by clearly filling in the boxes…”
Then he added a picture of a correctly filled in box, like his supporters are a bunch of fucking morons.
What followed were several questions on the issues. You could fill in a box under a picture of Trump that made him look almost likable. Or a picture of Hillary that made her look bat-shit crazy.
Just in case some of his followers got a little confused about which box to fill.
Hey, Donnie–my wife’s for Hillary!
Here’s some examples…
“Donald Trump will nominate judges…of the quality and character of Samuel Alito and the late Antonin Scalia. Hillary Clinton favors liberal activists judges who want to…advance the Left’s radical, liberal agenda.”
First–why no mention of Clarence Thomas in the list of right wing judges? Is he “too black” for Trump’s supporters? Second, how can an agenda be “radical, liberal”? It’s one or the other. Third–ah, forget it, let’s move on…
“Throughout her political career, Hillary Clinton has receive `F’ ratings from the NRA…”
Like that’s a bad thing.
“On the enviroment, Donald Trump has made it clear that he has promised to cut back the power of the EPA…”
Great idea. Let’s just let Flordia fall into the ocean as the globe warms up.
“Donald Trump has made it a centerpiece of his campaign to build a Wall…”
Sorry, can’t take it anymore.
I filled in the boxes under Hillary’s picture. Wrote “Go fuck yourself, Trump!” on the survey. And mailed it back.
Probably shouldn’t have done that. If Trump wins, he’ll send in his storm troopers.
But it was the best I’ve felt about the election in weeks.
For the last few months, I’ve been playing high-stakes chicken with Anup Swamy, a big shot at Sports Illustrated.
Let’s see who blinks first!
Here’s the background…
In 2013, I purchased a three-year subscription, which ends in about three weeks.
That’s where Anup comes in.
As the guy in charge of circulation, he’s been bugging me for months with form letters asking me to re-up.
At first, he was all hugs and kisses, offering to send me a duffel bag or T-shirt with the Sports Illustrated logo on it, if I renewed.
So I pay them to promote their product. Slick move, Anup.
Then he started playing tough. Telling me if I don’t renew, my subscription’s gone–forever!
My wife panicked.
“You’re gonna lose the subscription!” she claimed.
Apparently, she loves the pictures.
“You don’t understand–this is high finance,” I said. “If I send Sports Illustrated the check, they get the interest. But if I keep that money in our account, we get the interest.”
“Have you seen what interest rates are these days? You’re talking, like, five cents…”
“Five cents here, five cents there–it adds up.”
Anup made the next move, sending me an envelope stamped: LAST LETTER.
Just in case I miss the point.
“You’ve been a loyal subscriber since December 9, 1991, but the date listed on your Loyal Subscriber Rate Card is the date that the Benny Jay letter is moved to our expired subscriber list,” he wrote.
Yeah, that’s what you said the last time.
“However if you use the enclosed Loyal Subscriber Rate Card, you can renew for as little as $1.29.”
Such a deal!
“But the deal gets even better for BENNY JAY!”
I love it when they put my name in bold letters.
“We’ll send you up to 12 FREE ISSES.”
Free issues? That’s what I call making Anup blink.
With that, I mail SI a check.
A few hours later…
While cleaning my desk I find the form letter Anup sent me last month, making the same exact “best deal”. Right down to the 12 FREE ISSUES.
Moreover, in last month’s letter he referred to me as Mr. Murdock. I’m such a loyal subscriber, but he doesn’t even know my name!
In short–I got played!
Well, I got some news for SI. My subscription expires in three years. We’ll see who blinks first, Mr. Swamy
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I’ve come up with a way to ease the troubled minds of white people upset because Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.
Change the national anthem.
Instead of opening sporting events with the Star Spangled Banner, make everyone stand for the Black National Anthem.
I’m sure Kaepernick would rise for that. That should make white people happy.
What’s that you say, White America? You didn’t know there was a Black National Anthem?
Man, you gotta get out more.
It’s called Lift Every Voice and Sing. It was written by the great poet/novelist James Weldon Johnson and put to music by his brother, John, an accomplished composer.
It’s played all the time here in Chicago–grammar school assemblies, high school graduations, political rallies, church services, neighborhood meetings, and so on.
It’s been sung by Al Green, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder–just to name a few.
My favorite rendition was by the guy behind me at a meeting in 1984 at the south side office of former Congressman Gus Savage.
The dude was so off key the Johnson brothers were probably spinning in their graves. I had to bite my lip to keep from cracking up. But at least he sang from his heart.The great James Weldon Johnson…
There are many reasons to make Lift Every Voice our new national anthem.
For one, it’s got an uplifting message, starting from the first line…
“Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring…”
Plus, there’s nothing even remotely racist about the song. Unlike the Star Spangled Banner, with its weird defense of slavery.
Also, neither Johnson brother was a slave owner. Unlike Mr. Francis Scott Key.
Of course, now that I think about it, lots of white people will still be upset if Lift Every Voice is the national anthem.
I can just hear them: “Man, how come they get to have the national anthem?”
Instead of Kaepernick, you might see someone like Tom Brady taking a knee in protest.
Reminds me of a dream I had where once day we woke up to discover everything was reversed. Instead of whites enslaving blacks, it was the other way around.
Can you imagine if Donald Trump’s forefathers had been slaves?
He’d be singing a different song, that’s for sure.
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