Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Nine

On the ninth day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Nine internet moments of levity

Eight Tribey moments
Seven books for reading
6.9 Non Sequiturs
Six All-Star Nods
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personality

Anybody else spend Christmas day in the emergency room after thinking that they were having a heart attack? No? Just me? Crap.  Maybe we need to update the G:TB death pool odds.   Clarence may no longer be the odds on favorite.  In the end, the hospital and cardiologist advised that I need to get more sleep, drink more water and avoid some work stress.  Apparently getting up at 4 AM to head to NYC two days before Christmas for meetings and an 8 hour deposition is not good for the overall well being.  Who knew? 

Anyway, Big Gheorghe, being the giving sort that he is, decided to offer nine items of internet levity that he thought might bring a smile to an ailing heart. As always, Gheorghe's choices were just what the doctor ordered.

1.     Raccoon Meets NWA:   This one kills me every time.

Nothing more needs to be said.

2.    Roderick On The Line:  Earlier this Gheorghemas, Dave shamelessly plugged his own podcast as one of five indispensable listens.   While I actually enjoy The Test quite a bit, as well as the other podcasts that everyone's favorite master of self-promotion listed,  I thought Dave left out some really solid podcasts. Not the least of these omissions is Roderick on The Line, which can be found here or on iTunes.  Mr. Roderick, who heads up the band The Long Winters, uses the podcast to showcase his skills as a raconteur and I laugh every time.  Here is a good introductory taste.

Also noteworthy is that Roderick recently toured with Aimee Mann & Liz Phair, which means he actually lived Clarence's and Rob's wet dream.

3.  ORF Rock:  You have seen it in the comments every Monday night and tried to ignore it.    However, if you let it, ORF Rock is like a grows on you.  Maybe it's the technical snafus, maybe it's Penny Baker's momentary flashes of cleavage, maybe it's Les Coole's rapier wit, maybe it's the idea of two well post collegiate professionals broadcasting a weekly college "radio" show on a station that is not actually on the radio (internet only)...whatever "it" is, ORF Rock is a weekly break that is worth watching and live texting if only to make fun of Whitney.  

4.     Yacht Rock Episode #5:   As the series that launched a million OBFT quotes, Yacht Rock has a special place in heart of many G:TB'ers.  This particular episode makes the list because of the inclusion of Vincent Price (the Act-tor), Skunk Baxter's love of the spirit world, and the fact that it is often the subject of late night texts from FoG:TB Greg/Joe Kickass.  Gheorghe, like most eastern Europeans, loved Michael Jackson so this one is a personal fave of the big man.  

Robert Loggia selling orange juice:  This year we lost Robert Loggia.  You may remember him as Frank Lopez from Scarface, the boss from Big, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in Independence Day, or the coach that gave Kathy Ireland a chance to play in Necessary Roughness.  

All great roles, but Big Gheorghe and I will always remember him for this classic.

If the Academy Awards forgets to include Big Bobby L in the "In Memoriam" segment there will be hell to pay.  

6.     Scott Van Pelt and Tim Kurkjian: SVP's penchant for sending Timmy K into fits of laughter has been well documented in this space.  That does not make it any less funny.  Thanks Big G for the reminder...

7.     Schlitz Malt Liquor Ads:  I don't know why these ads make me happy, but they just do.  Maybe it is the fact that malt liquor was once marketed as somehow having "more taste" than beer or maybe it is just the guy from the Average White Band singing into the can.  

8.     Buzz Bissinger vs. Will Leitch:  I don't know how I missed this back in 2008, but I was only recent alerted to this back and forth between Deadspin founder Will Leitch and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger.  Buzz's seething hatred for the faceless "blogosphere" is fantastic, totally unbridled, and really takes off about the 3:50 mark. This one is awesome if only for the awkward tension and the repeated use of "balls deep".  

Will Leitch On Costas Now by Machochip

Buzz continues to tilt at windmills, as evidenced by his recent fight with Michael Moore, but this may be the high point of "get off my lawn" journalistic holier than thou-ism.

9.     Mike Tyson on a hoverboard:  Because this is what the internet was invented for.

Thanks Gheorghe, I knew I could count on you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


The 13th Pan American Maccabi Games opened earlier this week in Santiago, Chile, as 4,000 Jewish athletes from 20 countries gathered to compete in the Olympic-style event.

While I'm a sucker for things sporting, even I don't usually pay much attention to this quadrennial celebration of Chosen athletes. But I've got a rooting interest in the 2015 Games.

I've known Jake Kaplan since he was five years old. Until a year ago, his family lived just around the corner from us. They still live in our town. His parents, Erin and Jeff, are among our closest local friends. Jeff used to work for the Philadelphia Eagles, and developed a lasting hatred of the franchise for the way it dealt with many of his closest friends in the organization after Andy Reid took over as head coach. So we bonded over that.

Jake started playing volleyball several years ago, and quickly became more than proficient. His youth club is routinely ranked among the top teams on the East Coast. He's been selected to attend several national team camps at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, training with the best players in the country his age. Now 15, he's one of the best players in our region.

And just this year, he was selected to represent the U.S. at the Maccabi Games, playing for the full Men's National Team. At 15, he's the youngest player on the squad by six years. (I'd go for a Hebrew Hammer joke here, only not many people would get it, and all the players on the squad, with the exception of the liberos, would probably qualify.) As you can imagine, his parents are thrilled, and so are those of us that know the Kaplans.

His Dad admits that Jake's probably pretty close to topping out on height, and 6'0" outside hitters aren't exactly hot commodities in competitive volleyball. But he walked into the stadium in Santiago in full team USA gear at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Pan American Maccabi Games, and there's nobody that can take that away from him.

Mazel Tov, Jaker. We're really proud of you.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Test 29: Let Freedom Rev (Art History)

I vaguely describe seven famous paintings in this episode of The Test, and the ladies attempt to identify them. I must warn you, though, things get surreal quickly: Stacey shows off a rather odd work of art that she acquired in a rather odd way, I forget my middle name, and Cunningham reveals her vast knowledge of Salvador Dali . . . or maybe she doesn't.

And there are spiders.

This is one of my favorite episodes . . . you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss thirty minutes of life good-bye, and you might even learn something. Good luck.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day is Totally Nuts

In what's become yet another G:TB tradition, we once again welcome Fat Guy in a Speedo to tell get us up to speed on the glorious bounty of football we can expect beginning today.

Brits are funny, they enjoy irony and subtle eyepokes in the collective eye of world correctness. They are the Judean People’s Front. In light of this it makes sense that the biggest day of kickball falls on Boxing Day in the UK.

Much like teachers in the U.S., soccer players in Europe get summers off. Unlike teachers in the U.S., they don’t get to go on cross-country road trips over the summer. They still work: train with their team, international play, cup qualifiers, friendlies, etc. In light of this pretty much every European league gives their players at least the holiday week off. This gives the players a rare chance or downtime with family, mental breaks as well as time to recuperate which ostensibly also gives the national team a boost in terms of cup qualifications. The Empire is a cut above their EU neighbors, they remember Agincourt, the Spanish Armada and still deal in pounds sterling bitches. Therefore, their players play three games over the week from December 26th to January 2nd. The logic is that the rest of the lazy, soft world watches the Premier League as it’s the only game in town and England works harder than the rest and so should their imported entertainment.

The Premier League is about as good as it gets this season. Much to the delight of Clarence, Leicester City is top of the table. Much to the delight of the rest of the world, Chelsea hover at the bottom. This is pretty remarkable in that Leicester City were recently promoted and should be lingering at the bottom of the table around Chelsea who won the league last season. Leicester City have a player named Jamie Vardy who recently scored in 11 games in a row, a Premier League record. This is cool for a number of reasons, one of them being that after he was cut from his youth team, Sheffield Wednesday, he went to work in a factory and played on the side for £30 a game for a local team and worked his way up through the ranks. Even cooler is the fact that he’s not the best player on the team. Riyad Mahrez scores at will and assists Vardy when he feels like it. The two of them are fun to watch and the team is entertaining as hell, always taking it to their opposition. Catch them now while you can, as the odds of this pair being sold to a team like Chelsea for £60m and flatlining forever thereafter are pretty good. They play Liverpool today, and like all things Leicester, they are feisty when they are on their game but potentially teeter on the edge of implosion.

Unaccustomed to looking up at Leicester with envy, Chelsea are down. Favored to win the league at the beginning of the season, the champions have already imploded. Inner turmoil that seemingly began with the public humiliation and firing of their team doctor has led to many losses, stagnation, player revolt and the firing of one of the world’s most winningest coaches Jose Mourinho. Mourinho is a huge asshole which is why he fit in perfectly at Chelsea. He was fired by the owner Valdemort mid-season in 2007 after winning them back to back titles for the first time in history so there is no lack of precedent here. This becomes interesting in light of Manchester United.

Manchester United are awful to watch. Louis Van Gaal used to be a good coach but seems to have lost the plot. As a fan I find myself not watching games for the first time in recent memory, even less than the short Moyes debacle. Mourinho thought he was going to be Ferguson’s replacement over Moyes. Ferguson is another successful asshole who might also be a tad racist in selecting a fellow unproven Scot over a swarthy champion Portuguese, however, racism in football deserves its own encyclopedia. If Van Gaal doesn’t win and win with style over the holiday games, we could be looking at Mourinho at United in 2016. Thanks but no thanks. I will start watching though so there’s that. (Editor's note: the Man U and Chelsea dumpster fires are glorious to behold, though the Red Devils, for all their awful, unattractive soccer, are still tied for 4th in the league and will likely finish in the top 4.)

Non-meandering Sentence of Da Rest: Liverpool have a great, shiny new coach Jurgen Klopp but lack the talent to succeed. Arsenal look great and then they look like shite, so they look like Arsenal; they are the soccering equivalent of Clemsoning and might find themselves with an unlikely title as well. City, eh. Tottenham are fun to watch but will take 5th or 6th per their wont. That’s all folks, see you in 2016. On a side note the pundits seem to think that MSU match up well with Bama, Vegas disagrees. Bama by double digits.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Gheorghemas

Gather 'round, everyone. Get the children, too. Warm holiday wishes from all the Gheorghies. We're still working on our Christmas card. Maybe next year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gheorghemas Is The Giving Season, Pt. 2

It's beginning to look a lot like springtime, as it's a balmy 69 degrees in Virginia, but it's still the holiday season -- that holiday being Gheorghemas!

As we round out the home stretch of your Gmas offerings, here comes another batch of gifts from the original gri-onch, Clarence.

For Mark and Zman: this is a dandy.

The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed
This thing looks bad-assed.  It could be all flair and no pizza shooters, shrimp poppers or extreme fajitas, but were I to judge a book by its cover (and a brief peek via Barnes and Noble), I'd say it's solid. The book is fodder for arguments of the significance of each year's selections (e.g., no tunes by the three bad brothers you know so well), but in my milieu of early to mid-80's rap, I see no egregious inclusions.  This gift is for Mark and Z, but I wanna borrow it.  Friends... how many of us have them?

For Dave:

Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists

A documentary of the world of New Yorker cartoons, the cartoon department, the cartoonists, etc. Dave has been a cartoonist since we sat in college classrooms not paying attention together.  I would play the initials game and flirt gamelessly with co-eds; Dave would doodle and make cartoons.  Later he submitted captions and possibly even cartoons to the magazine.  Enjoy.

For Danimal:

Sorry, dude.  It's not worth that much, but it's not nothing, either.

Until the next time, Happy Gmas!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Eight

On the eighth day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Eight Tribey Moments
Seven books for reading
6.9 Non Sequiturs
Six All-Star Nods
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personality

We make no apologies for our love of all things William & Mary, (And Florida. We love the Gators.) so it's only fitting that we celebrate the Tribe as part of this year-end GTB tradition. Given that we love Tribe basketball more than most things William & Mary, you won't be surprised to learn that Tony Shaver's team gets fully half the airtime, and that W&M sports nabs all but one of the spots in this list.

Pleasantries concluded, here are eight great moments from the year in William & Mary:

The Yule Log Continues

I daresay that none of the assembled Gheorghies ever took part in W&M's annual Yule Log ceremony. We weren't big on ceremony, frankly, and we weren't big on mixing with the 'normal' members of the W&M student body. But it is a noteworthy W&M tradition, even if it paints our school even dorkier than it actually is. That right there is saying something.

Deandre Houston-Carson Rising

Senior free safety Deandre Houston Carson was a consensus FCS All-American after leading the Tribe to its first NCAA Tournament since 2012, intercepting four passes and blocking two punts. Houston-Carson shared co-CAA Defensive Player of the Year honors with Stony Brook's Victor Ochi. Widely expected to be selected in next year's NFL Draft, Houston-Carson has been tabbed to play in the Senior Bowl, the first W&M player to do so since B.W. Webb in 2013.

Suck it, Danimal
Running Men (and Women)

W&M's men's cross country team won their 16th consecutive CAA championship, the fifth-longest such streak in NCAA history. Meanwhile senior Emily Stites shared CAA athlete of the year honors with sophomore Regan Rome. Stites won the conference cross country title and finished third in the nation in the 10000m, earning a school-record 7th All-American nod, while Rome finished 25th in nation in cross country.

Booter Ellis!

Just today, we learned that W&M has a sophomore field hockey player named Booter Ellis. I hope she's friends with Hunter Seacat(!).

Tribe Hoops Opens Strong

W&M traveled to Raleigh to take on North Carolina State in the 2015-15 season opener. The Tribe got out to a 23-5 lead, and were never threatened as they coasted to an 85-67 win over the Wolfpack. Hopes, already sprung eternal, were raised.

Daniel Dixon, Part Deux

Junior guard Daniel Dixon burnished his reputation as a purveyor of daggers, draining a long three with four seconds left in overtime to lead the Tribe to a 78-75 win over High Point. Dixon's averaging 15 points a game on 45.2% three-point shooting, while Omar Prewitt leads W&M with 17.4 points per game, and Terry Tarpey continues to stuff stat sheets for the 7-3 Tribe.

Daniel Dixon, the First

Dixon's corner triple at the double overtime buzzer sent W&M to its second consecutive CAA Tournament final. 

Marcus Thornton Drafted by the Celtics

And the greatest moment of the year, W&M edition, was the announcement that the Boston Celtics selected Marcus Thornton, guard, College of William & Mary with the 45th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. I yelled aloud from a hotel room in Minneapolis, then watched my Twitter timeline blow up.

Thornton closed his collegiate career as W&M's all-time leading scorer, and is undoubtedly the best player to ever wear the green and gold. After a couple of decent outings in NBA Summer League action, he's averaging 15.3 points per game for the Sydney Kings while he learns his craft. He needs to work on distributing the ball, and he's not shooting a high enough percentage, but nobody can take back that draft selection.

And if he hears the phrase, 'Ewing Theory', tossed about in this space, we'll be glad to let him know that he'll always be our favorite.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Tuesday - Music Interlude Edition (Something Old and Something New)

As we eagerly await Dia Ocho from the doofus overlord, allow me to share two very disparate tunes that have wormholed their way into my soggy brain in recent days.

First up is El Vy, a side project by The National frontman Matt Berninger. I know nothing about The National, other than they are called Dad Rock or something like that. Whatevs. This song has been getting a lot of play on Sirius XMU, a station I love these days.

Next up is a 36 year-old Pretenders song that I can't get out of my head these days. Chrissie Hynde is a hip, hip lady.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Seven

On the seventh day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Seven books for reading
6.9 Non Sequiturs
Six All-Star Nods
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personal-ity

This is year three of my "seven books for reading" post, so now I've got some big data to evaluate. In 2013, I read approximately twenty-three books. In 2014, I read approximately forty-six books. This year I split the difference and read approximately thirty-three books. It's much easier for me to figure this out these days . . . thanks to T.J.'s gentle encouragement, I've finally learned to use the "labels" feature on Blogger.

It's always hard to choose the seven best, as all the books I finished were pretty damned good . . . that's why I finished them. I'm a finicky reader, and I start more books than I finish. Here are the seven most memorable.

1) Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (Carl Safina)

The most significant and groundbreaking book on the list. Comprehensive, and a bit of a bear to get through (especially the first two sections, which focus on elephants and wolves) but I promise it will be worth it, and you'll never look at your dog in the same way again.

2) Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (Carl Hoffman)

The title says it all. Rich kids and cannibals mix like oil and water.

3) Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (Sam Quinones)

Astounding journalism. America does a lot of drugs. Mexico produces a lot of drugs. God is in the details. The book inspired this song.

4) The Cartel (Don Winslow)

I can't get enough of Don Winslow, and I can't get enough of the Mexican drug trade. Part fact and part fiction, the sequel to The Power of the Dog, and a perfect companion to the previous book.

5) Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

The Australian version of Mean Girls . . . except with mean moms.

6) Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink (Juliana Barbassa)

An honest and dynamic portrait of Rio . . . if you've seen City of God, you'll love this book.

7) City of Bones (Michael Connelly)

I'm choosing this particular Michael Connelly novel over all the other ones I have read only because it features the La Brea Tar Pits. I've read a number of his Harry Bosch crime procedurals and they're all fantastic (I'm in the middle of Trunk Music right now).

Before my list of all the books I finished, I'll give you something more interesting and less annoying: here are a few of the books I didn't finish . . .

1) Walter R. Borneman's 1812: The War That Forged a Nation

I really wanted to finish this book and become an expert on the War of 1812, but I couldn't read more than two paragraphs in a row before falling into a very deep sleep.

2) The Witches: Salem, 1692 (Stacy Schiff)

I was really excited to read this book, and I've never been so disappointed. After a beautifully written start, about how alienated and lonesome the Puritans were, strangers in a strange land, living in small dark smoky houses, describing events as if they were on a "low grade acid trip," this book devolves into fragmented declarative sentences of historical minutia, with no overarching structure or theme. I think Schiff's research possessed her soul and destroyed it.

3) Purity (Jonathan Franzen)

Another one I was excited about, but I'll never read Jonathan Franzen again. His characters are wooden, repetitive and despicable, and while he writes great sentences, I'm not sure he knows shit about human nature. I'd rather spend my time reading well-researched non-fiction.

4) Sy Montgomery's book The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

Well-written and fascinating, but just too much octopus.

Here's the list of the books I finished in 2015:

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (Carl Hoffman)

Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2014 Edition)

The Happiest People in the World (Brock Clark)

Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone) (Elizabeth Green)

The Fifth Witness (Michael Connelly)

City of Bones (Michael Connelly)

The Drop (Michael Connelly)

The Black Ice (Michael Connelly)

The Concrete Blonde (Michael Connelly)

The Last Coyote (Michael Connelly)

Skeleton Road (Val McDermid)

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (Jim Holt)

When to Rob a Bank and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-intentioned Rants (Levitt and Dubner)

The Husband's Secret (Liane Moriarty)

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (Sam Quinones)

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens (Benedict Carey)

The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man (Michael Tennesen)

The Son (Jo Nesbo)

The Cartel (Don Winslow)

What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)

Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut)

Joyland (Stephen King)

Tell No One (Harlan Coben)

Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink (Juliana Barbassa)

Finders Keepers (Stephen King)

The Hand That Feeds You (Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment)

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (Rick Perlstein)

The Captive Condition (Kevin P. Keating)

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (Carl Safina)

The Dick Gibson Show (Stanley Elkin)

A Doll's House (Henrik Ibsen)

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No one Has the Time (Brigid Schulte)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 6.9

On the 6.9th day of Gheorghemas big Gheorghe gave to me:
6.9 Non Sequiturs
Six All-Star nods
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personal-ity

Non Sequitur #1: I hate that Christmas is so close to the day with the least amount of sun (December 21). Hate it. Walking outside in the dark at 5 PM sucks. I may move to Ecuador (which I didn't realize until a month ago was Spanish for equator).

Non Sequitur #2: While some already know I consider myself a sexy beast, Yahoo! considers my new vehicle a beast. I haven't shared this here before, but like Tony Starke, I dabble in robotics and vehicle design when I'm not doing my day job. So let me know if you want a ride in the vee-hicle I have designed. My company can be found here. Or maybe not. If link doesn't work, go to And tell 'em TR sent ya.

Non Sequitur #3: Boz Scaggs came up a few months ago in the comments section. Turns out he is actually really funky! Before he tried to bed my female former boss in the late 90's, he was making some sweet-ass music that married the pop sensibilities of the late 70's with some genuine funk. I mean, listen to Lowdown below. I was not familiar with it and love it. I have made sweet love to far worse tunes than this.

Or Lido Shuffle, which you may recognize from the chorus:

br />

Now the Scaggs train went off the rails a bit in the 1980's and he was never as famous as he was for a bit in the 70's, but at least he had his moment.

Non Sequitur #4: I have a newly disgusting toe nail these days on what I now call Zombie Toe. A random side effect of my return to jogging recently (in the phat kicks Danimal recommended) is that one toenail rebelled against this whole exercise thing and promptly tried to commit suicide. It has not fallen off yet and continues to grow, so maybe it's just in a coma. Zombie toe looked pretty sweet when I was sporting flip-flops last weekend in the warm weather.

Non Sequitur #5: I want to start an Instagram account about lunatic youth wrestling dads and coaches. In fact, I think I will, so don't usurp my brilliance, any of you. It could double as an homage to bad tattoos and likely child abusers. I was at a youth wrestling tournament for novice kids aged 4-10 last weekend. Novice is defined as their first or second year wrestling, but there were clearly ringers in there. My kids each won once with a pin and lost once, so it went okay. I made a bet with my wife on the number of kids we'd see crying. I set the over/under at 12 and it came in at 10. Lots of sadness to be found. But with that said, watching your kid shoot in on another kid, take him down, get on his back, throw him in a half nelson, turn him over and pin him (all in less than ten seconds) is pretty sweat. I got so excited I started showing my kids old WWE footage. They love the British Bulldogs. I don't have the heart to tell them yet that their acrobatic feats were all steroid-inspired and that they're dead now.

Non Sequitur #6: The saying "not four years but a lifetime" is familiar to some, but not all of you, as a phrase thrown around by our old fratres from college. While not all of us are as prolific travelers as Whitney, who seems to have a perpetual tour of old/new friends going on, some of us do make the effort to get together and see each other, navigating through work, spousal and children's obligations. And it's almost always a great time. I am lucky enough to live in a town with several college buddies, including the esteemed Zman. As a result, we get frequent inbound visits from old friends on a quasi-regular basis. Gathering and retelling stories that now seem ancient is always fun, especially when there are drinks involved, and I hope we can all have more of that in 2016.

Non Sequitur #6.9: Long-snapper Jesse Anderson was my favorite Tribe football player this year. I don't have to tell you why. Seeing him on the field gave me flashbacks to the time when some friends of G:TB were employed by the football team in the equipment area. For a couple years, our buddy Slick from Chi-town always made sure that jersey 69 was worn, giving it to walk-ons who had no say in the matter and had to be happy they just got to wear a uniform.

Happy holidays, fockers.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

GTB Reviews the 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class

We caught up with GTB's own Whitney this morning to get his take on the recently-announced Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2016. The conversation was, as you might imagine, marked by erudition and insight. Or insults.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Six

On the sixth day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Six All-Star Nods
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personal-ity

Note: I’m a little gun-shy of expending too much effort on a post after the last one received about 8 minutes of screen time. 

That time I was heading to NY, Syracuse, for a family reunion when I met Yogi? You remember that? That’s the last time I saw Larry. Larry has received a mention or two here over the years with the last reference followed by a request of sorts from our diminutive leader to “post that shit”. So here we are.  

Back to the dad’s man cave in Oneida, NY, circa 1979 or ’80. I don’t remember the circumstances but a few of my parents' peeps were down there doing what they did best. Drinking, smoking, playing cards, and the like. Great environment for a 10-year old. And circumstances weren’t needed. It was probably Tuesday night. The news was on, and during the sports segment the name “Larry Costello” is mentioned With great exuberance, “Hey dad, did you hear that?! They just mentioned some guy on the news with the same last name as us! Golly Gee!” One of my dad’s cronies, probably Ryan responded, “That’s your dad’s cousin, Danny.” Huh? I have a relative that is on the telly? And that coaches COLLEGE basketball?! Why am I just finding out about this? 

 The old men feed me snippets of Larry’s career. When told that Larry coached a championship team in the NBA that included Kareem, I was like, “whoa! Seriously Dad? Is Donnie lying to me?” And with a chuckle, “no…he did…he’s not lying.” And then… “What?!!!! He PLAYED in the NBA too?!” Ryan or Carmola, “Yup, sure did. Was an all-star a bunch of times. Oh yeah, won a championship with Wilt.” What the heck? I’m related to a former NBA player, all-star, coach, all-star coach, champion, and potential NBA Hall of Famer and you are just telling me? 

“Do you know him dad?” 
“Well sure I know him. He’s my cousin.” 

I don’t remember exactly why he was on the news but it was either because he had just been named the coach of Utica College or because they were announcing that he was going to have his first basketball camp that summer. Either way, I was riled up Jack! 

 A quick look at Larry’s playing career 

-University of Niagara All-American; teammate of Hubie Brown and Frank Layden 
-Drafted in 2nd round by Philadelphia Warriors in '54 
-Played 19 games in season 1 before having to fulfill US Army obligation for remainder of that year and what would have been his 2nd year in the NBA 
-3rd year picked up by Syracuse Nationals (they bought his contract) who later became the 76ers, 10 years there 
-Avg’d 12 points over the 12-year career & an 84%  FT% (he could shoot some free throws)
-4.6 Assists 
-6 all-star nods 
-2 time league leader in FT 
-1 championship in his last year as a back-up; Wilt on the team – they beat the Celtics 
-Named Top 50 Players of all-time… that aren’t in the Hall of Fame 

A quick aside on the free one camp he discussed the importance of routine on the free throw line. He sat there putting one in after another while talking. Net-snapping purity. The rim was never in danger. And then one of his guys put a blindfold on him where continued to drain the next 18 out of 20. He only stopped b/c we were out of time. 

Something I did not know prior to my “research” and perhaps the highlight of my findings, at Niagara University Larry played 69 minutes and 40 seconds in a 6-overtime game. That’s all but 20 seconds. His number had been 24 to that point. After that feat, the school switched it to, TR, guess what number?….. 69. No joke. The # is retired and hangs in the rafters. Correction, it hangs in some room next to Calvin Murphy's jersey and other memorabilia. 

His numbers aren’t earth shattering by any stretch but he could man-up the shite out of a guy on D. And I can actually speak to this because I attended 3 of his camps. Coaches play in pick-up games with other coaches, players, and even the campers. I watched him play with guys that could run the rock - college players and younger coaches, and like I said, the older kids in camp. He was quick as a cat and relentless to boot. Annoyingly so If he had been masked you would have guessed he was half his age. He didn't play to "have fun". His mission was to stop you. To get the ball back for his team. There was absolutely no way you were going to get by him. 

Bob Cousy: “People ask me who gave me the most trouble. It wasn’t Oscar (Robertson) or Jerry (West). It was Larry. He had this animal determination.” He added in another interview that Larry was also the guy he hated guarding the most. 

Here's a pic of Cousy guarding Larry...couldn't find one of Larry playing D. Slacker. 

He replaced his Chucks with some wingtips and began coaching. The Bucks hired him at 37 years old to lead their brand new expansion team in 1968. As expected, his first year was brutal. After that, not so much. Though he did have Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor to help. But still. No expansion team in history of modern league sports won a championship faster than those Bucks of 1971. 

He coached a total of 8 years for Milwaukee, appearing in 6 playoffs and 2 Finals, winning the one. In the loss, they took Boston 7 games in which they lost a double overtime game 6, ending a five-year run in which the Bucks averaged 61 wins. He resigned in ’76 after the team got off to a 3-15 start. He gave coaching another shot two years later when the Bulls hired him (he coached high school in between). That didn’t last long. After going 20-36 the team dumped him. In 10 seasons his WL was 430-300 with a playoff record of 37-23. 

Here he is. And look, he's coaching. 

He had no ego. He was very unassuming. He was just a competitive son of a gun that loved to coach. So what did he do after retiring from the glitz and glamour of the NBA? He coached the Milwaukee Does of course, in the Women’s Basketball league albeit briefly (Does Nuts?) followed by 6 seasons at Utica College not far from where Danimal grew up. Like I said, an ego he did not possess. With a 1,500 student population, UC brought him in to take them from D-III where he coached for one year before making the leap to D-1. In that first and painful year they won 4 against 22 losses. In his next season they played 20 of their 22 D1 opponents on the road. Oof. He did have one winning season, going 15-13 in his 4th year. Final record there 64-94. It was a tough gig, but he loved it. My dad and I went to a couple of games each of those first couple of years before we moved south to Virginia.

When my dad told me Larry would be attending that reunion in Cazenovia in 1996, I was pretty excited. He and his wife attended and they hung out for quite a while sipping water (he never drank) and engaging in chit chat, more familial stuff than playing or coaching days. Bummer. He had his ring on. One of my nephews who had become familiar with Larry, through me of course, was in awe. Larry noticed the kid's curiosity and let him try it on. We’ve got a picture of that somewhere. 

I’d ask my dad why he quit so young (as an NBA coach). He said he got sick of the personalities, the egos, the demise of defense, in not so many words. I encourage you to read some stuff on the guy. He was old school before old school. And in one last little vignette, way off topic, my dad tells me of a day he and a couple of his buddies were eating lunch somewhere after having just stolen some poor schmuck’s hubcaps off of his Chevy. So there they sit amused, recapping the events when Larry walks in, exasperated, “Some assholes just stole my fuckin hubcaps!” 

At camps he paid me little attention. He’d ask about my dad and family and there was the one time he did introduce me to Billy Cunningham during a pizza night. That was cool. In the years since I’ve had the opportunities to introduce myself to guys that played with or would know him including Billy Cunningham again at a golf club in NC, Raftery, former Celtic great and HOF'r Sam Jones in church this last year and George Mikan (and this I’m not positive of but definitely a well-known former NBA’r who played in Larry’s time) at another golf club in NY. When I introduced myself to Mikan it must have been the early 2000’s. He asked about Larry and how he was doing. I told him he passed away the year or two prior. He was shocked and became borderline upset, expressing his sincere condolences. I was like, hey broh, it’s all good. But it was truly touching. I don’t really have a point here other than that all of these guys had mad respect for him, as did his family and the entirety of Upstate New York. See you on the other side, Lar.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Five

On the fifth day of Gheorghemas big Gheorghe gave to me:
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personal-ity

We have entered what many are calling The Golden Age of Podcasting. This is odd, because the technology and the means of distribution for podcasting have been around for quite a while. All you need is a microphone, a laptop, and a method of streaming an mp3 over the internet. Simple stuff. So why the increase in popularity? There are an abundance of hypotheses. The boom could be because podcasts are just getting better. It might be because of Serial. Or perhaps because podcasts are so cheap to make. And they can reach a niche audience. Commercials and product placement are more effective on podcasts than they are on the radio. It may be technology: cars and phones work well together now, so people don't have to listen to the radio or SiriusXM. There are apps to pull in all you favorites, and you can subscribe on iTunes. So there are a plethora of reasons, Jefe . . . a plethora.

In other words,  it's a fantastic time to walk the dog (that's when I do the bulk of my podcast listening-- my commute is only a few minutes).

Here are five podcasts for listening. These are all good shows, but I've selected specific episodes, curated for the niche audience of Gheorghe:The Blog. Each one gets the Official Dave Seal of Approval. Enjoy.

1. Planet Money Episode 667: Auditing ISIS

I love Planet Money. It's short, informative, and entertaining, and it makes me feel smart. It's rarely over my head, but I always learn something new.

"Auditing ISIS" goes above and beyond the normal episode-- and it doesn't have all that much to do with economics. It's more about how terrorists think and operate. The Planet Money team analyzes a municipal budget that was smuggled out of ISIS territory. One month of detailed expenditures, disbursements, and collections from the ISIS controlled Deir ez-Zour province of Syria.

You'll learn how ISIS spends its money-- mainly paying their fighters, and how ISIS fighters spend their money-- mainly on hamburgers and chocolate and Ferraris. You'll learn how ISIS makes its money-- oil smuggling and black market antiquities and "licensed" confiscations (the ISIS term for looting). You'll also hear the firsthand account of one man's experience living in this economic nightmare.

2. Radiolab American Football

I'm guessing that neither of the nerdy hosts of Radiolab (Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich) can throw a spiral, but they do a great job on this comprehensive, funny, controversial, and historically informative episode on American Football. They visit the brutal ghosts of football past-- including Pop Warner and the undersized Carlisle Indians-- and then return to present controversies and future speculation. Highlights include an interview with a Georgia football mom who is firmly on both sides of the concussion issue and her gigantic and talented eight year old son, who decided to spurn the sport in favor of soccer, because he felt like a bully when he ran over opposing players, and wishes he could do some "synchronized swimming." His mom's reaction to this revelation is priceless.

"La Mancha Screwjob" is another fantastic Radiolab with a sporting theme: the episode uses professional wrestling to discuss reality, illusion, and the fascinating meta-reality that lies somewhere between the two.

3. 99% Invisible Game Over

This is the closest thing to live audio from an actual apocalypse. The fact that it's not exactly that makes it even better.

I am also to partial to The Modern Moloch-- which is an account of how automobile lobbyists won the battle in America and heavily influenced the design of our cities so that they favor the automobile and punish the pedestrian. Zman will hate this one.

4. This American Life Petty Tyrant

This American Life can be hit or miss for me . . . and most of the time it's a miss, but this episode is fantastic. It's the story of a public school maintenance man from Schenectady, NY whose ruthless rise to power rivals Richard III . . . and once he gains total control, his reign is fearful and intimidating, and his fall is appropriately epic.

5. The Test The Moral of the Story (No Napping on the Job)

The most important podcast on this list is obviously The Test. Whitney guest stars on this episode, and I am also partial to Stacey Demands (More) Numbers and all the other "number sense" episodes.

Once you listen to all the episodes of The Test twice, then you might want to check out season two of Serial. The first episode is compelling on many levels and promises the same slow drip of information as the first season, some of it dredged from the past, some of it culled from recent events, and some of it ongoing.