Nov. 30, 2009

I’ve had a long-standing aversion to reality TV. I’m hardly a snob when it comes to entertainment, but reality shows have always struck me as a tawdry, mean-spirited genre that encourages behavior that would be considered outrageous, if not completely unacceptable, in any other context.

Now, I’ll admit that I enjoy watching bite-size clips of reality shows on weekly episodes of The Soup, mostly because Joel McHale’s derisive commentary is always good for a laugh. But aside from that, I’ve never understood the appeal of reality shows and the vapid personalities who are featured in them.

I can choose to ignore the bizarre popularity of reality programming by simply changing the channel. However, because random, talent-challenged train wrecks can potentially parlay a media stunt into an idea for a new show, reality TV is starting to inspire increasingly reckless and illegal behavior — a disturbing trend that I cannot ignore.

Last month, the dramatic “balloon boy” saga gripped the country until it was ultimately proved to be a hoax; before long, the fame-seeking parents of the non-missing child pleaded guilty to multiple charges. And in a separate incident from last week, a well-dressed couple crashed a state dinner at the White House in a frighteningly brazen attempt to gain exposure for a reality show. Not surprisingly, the security breach also caused a huge amount of embarrassment for the Secret Service, and an investigation is already underway.

If average citizens want to audition in a talent show or participate in a weight-loss competition, fine. But when people intentionally send the police on a fraudulent wild-goose chase or show up at the commander-in-chief’s residence without proper credentials, no TV executive should reward them with a single minute in the spotlight, let alone compensation for their dangerous antics.

And please note that I refuse to mention the names of these pathetic, desperate souls — as does Tom Schaller, who writes an excellent, scathing indictment titled “That Couple” (thanks to for the tip).

[ No. 553 ]

Nov. 20, 2009

As a typical American, I’m not a soccer fan, but I’ve usually struggled to explain why I don’t care for it that much.

Maybe it’s because soccer doesn’t involve much scoring, which probably explains my relative indifference toward hockey. Or perhaps it’s because we already have six major sports leagues in this country — pro football, college football, pro basketball, college basketball, baseball, and hockey — and we don’t really need a seventh. (And no, NASCAR doesn’t count; high-speed traffic and frantic car tune-ups simply do not constitute a sport.)

But now I have a clear-cut reason for disliking soccer. Earlier this week, France defeated Ireland, 2–1, in a 2010 FIFA World Cup playoff match. The game-winning goal was aided by a French player who clearly touched the ball with his hand; he openly admitted his handball violation and, to his credit, even stated that a rematch would be the “fairest solution” to the ongoing controversy. But earlier today, FIFA officials flatly rejected that notion and reiterated that the referees’ decisions are final.

I swear I’m not taking sides with Ireland just because that’s the land of my ancestors. And every sport is certainly vulnerable to bad calls. But when the most popular sport on earth demonstrates a blatant disregard for fair officiating, especially in a crucial playoff game, I simply can’t get on board.

[ No. 552 ]

Nov. 11, 2009

Although it pains me to say it, the Yankees won the 2009 World Series by defeating the Phillies in six games last week. Now that the dust has settled, allow me to make a few observations:

  1. First, on a positive note, hats off to the Phillies for a superb season, one in which they captured their second consecutive National League pennant for the first time in the team’s 126-year history.
  2. Special credit goes to Cliff Lee for his masterful pitching throughout the playoffs and Chase Utley for tying Reggie Jackson’s 1977 record of five home runs in a single World Series. Well played, gentlemen.
  3. In retrospect, thank God the Phillies won last year. If they had fallen short in a pair of consecutive World Series (and the latter to the Yankees), I really can’t imagine how Philadelphia fans could possibly cope with such misery.
  4. The Yankees have now won 27 titles, which equates to 25.7% of all 105 World Series that have been played. And after an excruciatingly long, “absolutely not acceptable” nine-year drought, I strongly doubt that their 2009 trophy will assuage Yankees fans’ insatiable hunger for another one next year. (By contrast, I certainly want my teams to win every year, but I lack the arrogance to expect it.) It’s simply never enough for some people, and I just can’t relate to that sense of entitlement.
  5. I will no longer put up with any Philadelphia-area person who states, “I’m a Phillies fan unless they’re playing the Yankees” (or any other team, for that matter). Seriously, grow a backbone and pick one team, even if it’s a franchise that I don’t happen to like.
  6. As with politics, I’ve learned the hard way that Facebook is a poor medium for debating sports. On a few occasions, I took exception to some pro-Yankee friends who mocked the local team and fans, yet somehow, I became the bad guy. Maybe it’s just me, but there seemed to be a lot of overreacting across the board. And now, I’m scrambling to find a neutral topic on Facebook that won’t jeopardize friendships. Any suggestions?
  7. As a follow-up to my 2005 payroll analysis, I’ve reached the conclusion that Yankees fans shouldn’t even be surprised that their team won the World Series this year. The following bar graph should tell you why: Graph: 2009 MLB Payrolls
  8. I’ll leave you with these two facts: the $96.9 million difference between the Phillies and Yankees is fairly close to the Phillies’ entire payroll of $111.2 million, and 22 of the 30 teams have a budget that is less than half that of the Yankees. Until we see a salary cap in Major League Baseball — and sorry, the luxury tax doesn’t cut it — this kind of gaping disparity will only continue.
  9. (Please feel free to forward or repost the graph above, as long as you leave the credits intact.)

That’s all for now. Looking forward to Opening Day 2010.

[ No. 551 ]

Nov. 4, 2009

I almost lost my mind at work last Friday afternoon.

Someone who I don’t know sent out an e-mail about timesheets (indeed, very Office Space–esque) to a distribution list that I didn’t recognize. But I must have been on it, and as it turns out, practically everyone at my employer was, too. Within mere minutes, dozens of otherwise smart people made the incredibly dumb decision to click the dangerous “Reply to All” button and typed something along the lines of, “This message was not intended for me.”

I can’t believe that our mail servers didn’t explode from the onslaught of increasingly angry messages. And based on this unfortunate episode, I can only conclude one thing.

When you reply to all and insist on the importance of not replying to all, you are a fool, a complete hypocrite, and quite frankly, part of the problem. You might as well wear a MEAT IS MURDER T-shirt at an Outback steakhouse.

[ No. 550 ]