Jeff Pearlman

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The decency of Sage Steele

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Because we live in this world of BAM and POW and THIS and THAT and TWEET and SNAP and CHAT and 1,001 differet things competing for our attentions, it’s become easy to overlook nuance.

So here’s a little thing that is quite big.

A few days ago the wife and I interviewed ESPN’s Sage Steele for our podcast, The Sports Parent. We were having some audio difficulties, and—while trying to get the level right—I jokingly asked Sage whether she’d take Skip Bayless’ (suddenly open) position across from Stephen A. Smith at the network. I said something akin to, “You can be the new yeller …” Again, it was just small talk. But it was snarky small talk. I was sorta taking a shot at a guy whose work doesn’t float my boat. And Sage, who’s just wonderful, didn’t bite. She said Skip was a friend and a great guy, and while she wouldn’t want that position, she loved and respected and …

It really had me thinking. It would have been 1,000 times easier for Sage to dump on Skip Bayless. I mean, it would have fit in with my tone and texture. But she didn’t. She defended a friend.

Which makes her the type of person (and friend) we’d all be better for knowing.

Here’s this week’s episode, starring Sage.

The New Independence Day: AKA: Will Smith’s best career decision

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Will Smith was offered money to be in the new Independence Day, but he felt it wasn’t enough.

Wise move.

Having recently shown my 9-year-old son the original 1996 flick, today we decided to catch Independence Day: Resurgence. That was approximately three hours ago. I am still wiping away the wretchedness from the depths of my rotted innards.

This was—no exaggeration—the worst film I have ever seen. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is a  negative infinity. Which is to say it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Not the plot. Not the actors. Not the performances. Not the soundtrack. Not the special effects. Wait. Time out. Did I say “Plot”? My bad. A plot is a storyline; preferably a developing one. Independence Day: Resurgence has no plot. What it is a lot of is this …

• 1. “The world is at peace and we all get along.”

• 2. “Fuck, the aliens are back!”

• 3. “We need to work together!”

• 4. “We only have one shot at this!”

• 5. “I love you, baby!”

• 6. “I love you, too, honey!”

• 7. “Let’s show these alien motherfuckers some fireworks!”

• 8. “Light ’em up, boys!”

• 9. “Oh, no. There are too many of them!”

• 10. “We only have one shot at this!”

• 11. “Light ’em up, boys!”

• 12. “I’ve been hit!”

• 13. “Oh, no. [Uncredited character] has been hit!”

• 14. “Light ’em up, boys!”

• 15. “They’ve turned on the photon blasters!”

• 16. “We only have one shot at this!”

• 17. “Light ’em up, boys!”

• 18. “If I don’t make it back, tell [woman’s name] I love her.”

• 19. “I love you, baby!”

• 20. “I love you, too, honey!”

• 21. “They’re retreating!”

• 22. “Light ’em up, boys!”

• 23. “The world is at peace and we all get along.”

Truly, you just experienced the entire film, for free, in 23 lines. There’s also some weird stuff tacked on. Bill Pullman in a beard, appearing (and sounding) like a homeless Charles Manson. Vivica A. Fox (looking nothing like 1996 Vivica A. Fox) handed six lines and death off a building. A young Jessie T. Usher pretending (poorly) to be a young Will Smith.

In the end, humanity wins, the aliens lose. But, truly, humanity loses.

We all deserve to be eaten.

On Buddy Ryan …

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This appeared in Sweetness, my biography of Walter Payton. Buddy Ryan died today. RIP …

If Walter Payton needed motivation, all he had to do was look around the Chicago locker room, where the fruits of a series of wise drafts were beginning to pay off. “We wanted intelligent people,” said Bill Tobin, who headed the team’s personnel department. “We didn’t care if Mike Singletary was too short or Jim McMahon had an eye problem. We looked for smarts, drive, heart.” The pathetic offenses of Jack Pardee and Neill Armstrong were long gone, replaced by cast of dynamic, talented characters and, in Ditka, a coach excited to utilize them. On defense, meanwhile, coordinator Buddy Ryan had built a ferocious unit about to take the NFL by storm.

In the waning days of the 1981 season, when Halas was preparing to fire Armstrong and his entire coaching staff, Singletary, the rookie middle linebacker, urged his fellow defensive players to send a note to the owner, begging him to keep Ryan. “[Defensive end] Alan Page wrote it, because he had a law degree,” recalled Jim Osborne, a lineman and Payton’s teammate for 10 seasons. “We knew if they let Buddy go the defense would be set back another three or four years. We all signed the letter and sent it off, hoping for the best.”

“When you write something like that, you never know how it will be perceived,” added Page. “We could have been looking for work.”

A couple of days later, Halas met with the entire defensive unit. Most of the men figured they were about to be fired. Instead, Halas praised them for their loyalty. He promised to retain Ryan. Consequently, when Ditka was hired, it was with one major condition—not only did the defensive coordinator have to stay, but he would have final say on that side of the ball. “I was fine with it,” said Ditka. “But Buddy wanted to be the head coach, so he never accepted me. I was thrilled to have someone so talented on my staff. Whether we got along was irrelevant, as long as we could win together.”

The two didn’t get along. They were water vs. oil. Ali vs. Frazier. “The tension existed because they were very similar,” said Al Harris. “They were both hamstrung, hard-headed men who were convinced they alone had the winning formula.” The result of the Ditka-Ryan divide was a pair of units that—when the pads were on—genuinely loathed one another. During practices, Ryan instructed his players to hit, and hit at will. Ditka echoed the order to his offense “Don’t let them walk all over you!” Ditka would yell. “Fuck the defense!”

Although the Bears had failed to qualify for the playoffs in 1983, the team won five of its final six games to evoke genuine optimism. Even Sports Illustrated, which regularly dismissed the team, picked Chicago to win the NFC Central.

“Sometimes a seed has to be planted,” Singletary told the Sporting News. “I feel that, for the past two years, a seed has been planted. I feel it’s grown and ready to reach its potential. Whatever growth it has, it has to be this year.”

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Molly Peckler

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If the Quaz were all about conventional guests with conventional stories, it’d be the weekly home of television anchors and authors and lawyers. In other words, it’d be super dull.

But I’ve never wanted that. Hence, the Quaz has welcomed—among others—Miss Black Iowa; my high school classmate fighting MS; an American Nazi; a prostitute; an ex-priest; Styx’ lead singer. On and on and on. It’s supposed to be like a weekly literary fortune cookie. You click on the Quaz, you never know what’s coming.

Enter: Molly Peckler.

I found Molly on Twitter. She’s a self-identified “Cannabis friendly life coach and dating expert.” That sounded quirky and cool and interesting. She starts one of her video lessons with, “Hi, I’m Molly from Highly Devoted. And today we’re gonna talk about two of my absolutely favorite things—sex and Cannabis!” Even more cool and quirky. So I reached out … and here we are. Living the Quaz dream.

One can visit Molly’s website here, and follow here on Twitter here and Instagram here. Molly Peckler, spark one up! You’re the 264th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So you’re the CEO of Highly Devoted Coaching, the—in your words—“first Cannabis Friendly Life Coach and Dating Expert.” Molly, I have no friggin’ idea what that means. Do you connect couples who love getting high? Are you high while connecting couples? Is it just two random interests merged into one, like peanut butter and patio furniture?

MOLLY PECKLER: I work with responsible cannabis consumers who defy the stoner stigma. These people are smart, successful and well respected in their communities, but rather than medicating or recreating with pharmaceuticals or alcohol, they prefer something more natural with less side effects like cannabis. Many mainstream coaches, therapists and matchmakers don’t understand just how beneficial responsible cannabis consumption can be in life or in a relationship, and I provide a safe space without judgment. Sometimes clients will light up during a session, and it allows them to feel more comfortable opening up. I’m a longtime smoker, and it’s one of the reasons my husband and I are so compatible. I respect fellow smokers, and I understand where they’re coming from.

I help my clients build confidence by disrupting self-sabotage, establishing clear goals, and implementing logical strategies to achieve said goals. Many clients I work with are ashamed of their passion for cannabis, and I help them gain confidence by realizing how much cannabis has enhanced their lives. Cannabis is a great analogy for being genuine and accepting yourself for who you are. That’s the definition of confidence.

In terms of dating, I help clients gain closure and learn lessons from past relationships, identify all the components necessary in an ideal partner, and then create online and offline dating strategies to identify compatible partners. When you’re a cannabis consumer, dating is way more complex because of the stigma and judgement you can face when meeting new people. I work to overhaul online dating profile or identify groups and organizations to become involved with offline that will expose clients to the ideal cannabis friendly partner. Once you meet someone new, it can be tricky finding the right way to bring up cannabis, and I’ve developed strategies for successfully walking that tightrope as well.

I have an ability to disarm pretty much anyone, and that allows me to do what I love, which is to help others build confidence and achieve their goals so they can truly enjoy their lives.

J.P.: So I’m 44, and I met my wife at a wedding. And—I hate to say this, because it sounds sorta dickish—but I’m pretty happy I didn’t meet her online, or via a dating service, because now I don’t have to say, “Um,” when people ask the backstory. Two things: Do people not meet at weddings, bars any longer? And B. Do you think any stigma remains to meeting online or via dating service?

M.P.: Yeah, it’s a little dickish, but I’ll forgive you! With all of the swipe apps and dating sites out there, it’s a lot easier to meet someone on online today. Swipe apps are great for hookups, but if you’re looking for a relationship, you’ll probably have better luck on a dating site like Match where you can create a detailed profile and search for a like-minded partner utilizing their preferences. I don’t think there’s any stigma left in online dating because it’s such a huge part of our culture.

When you meet someone in person, you don’t know if they’re interested in a relationship or what type of partner they’re looking for. It’s not always something you can ask about from the first conversation. You’re also limited to the people you actually meet, so online dating gives you way more options. Dating is a numbers game after all. If you end up with an ideal partner, who gives a fuck how you met?

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J.P.: I grew up the son of a substance abuse specialist, and my mom used to scare the shit out of me with “Pot is a gateway drug” lectures. How did you get into Cannabis? What is it about it that does it for you? And was my mom 100 percent wrong? Is the gateway drug thing just pure nonsense?

M.P.: Unfortunately your mom was completely wrong, because the gateway drug talking point came from biased studies that mistook correlation for causation. Alcohol is by far the most powerful gateway drug, and when it comes to hard drugs like heroin, pharmaceutical opiates are the leading cause of overdoses. Cannabis has recently been found to help opiate addicts recover, and in states where medical cannabis has been legalized, opiate overdoses have been reduced on average by 25 percent. Cannabis has hundreds of medical benefits,especially when it comes to killing cancer cells, stopping seizures, reducing PTSD and so many others. The compassionate choice is full adult-use legalization. The drug war is an excuse to disenfranchise minorities, and now the United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world.

I’ve been a regular smoker for over a decade, and I love how cannabis gives me perspective, helps me focus, reduces stress and anxiety, and enhances connections with people I care about. I have a small appetite and it allows me to enjoy the food that I love. When I’m in pain, or recovering from a tough workout, it hits the spot better than any pharmaceutical. It helps me sleep without feeling groggy or hungover in the morning, and it makes experiences more entertaining and enjoyable. It’s also an excellent addition to my sex life.

J.P.: Under your experience you have “Utilized scientific research on developing confidence” listed. So, Molly, what can you tell me about self-confidence? How does one develop it? And what if a person just doesn’t have confidence? Like, he/she simply doesn’t believe in himself/herself? Do you need to fake confidence? Can you? Can it be developed?

M.P.: We’re all born with the ability to be confident, but we let toxic thought patterns and other obstacles like fear get in the way. The most powerful tool to gaining confidence is having a healthy relationship with your thoughts and emotions. You can achieve that in many ways, but I’ve found mindfulness meditation to be the most efficient method.If you’re present in the moment and you’re not worried about the past or the future, confidence automatically manifests.

Anxiety and lack of direction are toxic to confidence, so I help clients get everything down on paper instead of letting the constant ping pong game in their head stress them out. Once we know what we’re looking at, we prioritize and start checking off goals one at a time. That incremental progress builds quickly, and with that comes confidence. I’ve modeled this after the scrum methodology for project development. Once you know you’re in control, you can make your life what you want it to be, without letting fear get in the way.

J.P.: I’m gonna say something sorta horrible, but it’s honest: When I see an obese person in a beautiful dress or tuxedo, I see an obese person. I mean, THAT’S what I see. The weight. It’s not nice, it’s not cool—but I think it’s pretty common for most people. So my question, Molly, is can love truly be blind? Can I come to fall in love with a 500-pound woman with an amazing personality? Can a racist white woman come to love an African-American man? Or are we these surface beings with limited ranges of emotional compassion and extensions?

M.P.: When you’re trying to find the ideal partner, you’re really looking for two things; a best friend who you also want to have sex with. Love is not blind, and you have to be attracted to your partner if you want the relationship to last. Instead of looking for specific physical requirements, look for a benchmark of attractiveness. Are they attractive enough for you to be interested? Keep in mind that attraction isn’t limited to physical characteristics. You could meet a 6 and after getting to know her, she’s now a 9 in your eyes. On the flip side, you come across a 10 who also happens to be a huge asshole, and she’ll look more like a 3.

The best friend part of the equation breaks down to shared values, passions, and sensibilities. Do you care about the same things, do you respect this person, do you want the same things out of life, do you laugh at the same things? Think of what’s most important to you and look for someone who’s on the same page.

The idea of a single soulmate is total bullshit. There are plenty of people out there who would be great for you. Now you just need to go out there and find them. If you want some help, that’s why I’m here.

J.P.: You have a video that begins with, “Hi, I’m Molly from Highly Devoted. And today we’re gonna talk about two of my absolutely favorite things—sex and Cannabis. If you’ve ever had sex chances are you’ve done it with alcohol in your system. Sober sex is great, but have you ever thought about bringing marijuana into the bedroom.” Molly, I sat cracking up watching this, because I pictured your Midwestern parents, sitting in their home, the smell of roasted chicken coming from the kitchen, DVR set to record “The Good Wife,”—saying, “Honey, let’s see what Molly’s put on her site …” So, seriously, how do your folks feel about this whole thing? Are there awkward Peckler family gatherings?

M.P.: Ha! For the most part, that’s a pretty solid representation of my parents. Luckily they went to college in the 60’s so the cannabis stuff doesn’t bother them too much. I’ve been with my husband for almost 11 years and we’ve been married for five, so the sex stuff isn’t really an issue, since my parents are hungry for grandchildren.

The fact that I’m an entrepreneur is more of a sticking point than my unique niche. I’m a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest, so my mom wants me to move to the suburbs and have a baby, like yesterday. My dad loves my entrepreneurial spirit and the fact that I’ve helped so many people, so he’s been helpful in getting my mom onboard.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? I know you’re an Illinois graduate, I know you’ve enjoyed burritos as big as your head? But what’s been your path, birth to here?

I’ve always had the ability to make people comfortable and open up to me, and my curiosity for why people do the things they do lead me to get a degree in Psychology. Four years ago I became an executive matchmaker, and that’s when I began to see how important it was to coach my clients to confidence.

I’m a woman who gets men. I know how they think and communicate, and I can help both men and women bridge the gap between the sexes. I had a lot of success and changed many lives, but I had an opportunity to jump over to a cannabis consulting firm and I had to take it. It’s always been a passion, and I’ve been personally touched by the importance of medical cannabis through a family member. I fell in love with the cannabis industry and decided to stake my own claim by utilizing my unique talents.

There is huge market of sophisticated cannabis consumers who are being ignored by the mainstream, and that group will keep growing because of changing laws, regulations and scientific research. I decided I had to combine my passions of helping people build confidence and find love, and disrupting the stigma of cannabis, and create Highly Devoted Coaching. My goal is to have Highly Devoted become a household name in the cannabis industry, and the coaching services are just the beginning.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?

M.P.: Greatest moment is definitely skydiving in Kauai on my honeymoon. It had always been a dream, and my husband completely surprised me. It was exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. I’m agnostic, but it was the most spiritual moment of my life.

Lowest is harder for me. My older brother Scott died last month, and that day was definitely my worst. He had always battled demons, and in the end, they overtook him. We had an incredibly special bond, and he shaped so many of my passions and values. There’s no chance in hell I would have created Highly Devoted if he didn’t help me embrace cannabis culture or take pleasure in bucking authority. My brother let his fears and insecurities take control of his decisions, and I’m now dedicated more than ever to help people move past their fears and make the most of the time they have.

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J.P.: What are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to dating? And what’s the biggest mistake you made in dating?

M.P.: They don’t give enough thought to the type of person they’re looking for. When you know what you want and you establish boundaries and deal breakers, it’s much easier to find the right partner. Once you realize someone isn’t a fit, onto the next. Too many people waste years in a relationship that doesn’t  make them happy.

Another huge issue is settling, and that always relates back to a lack of confidence. If you think “this is the best I can get” or “I don’t like myself, so why would a great partner like me?”, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we’re not confident, we make decisions for the wrong reasons, and the decisions we make are the only things in life we’re completely in control of.

I see so many people jump into relationships with people they know aren’t a good fit because everyone else they know is pairing off, getting married and having babies. Do what makes you happy, not just what other people think you should be doing.

Finally, don’t get emotionally involved until you’ve done your due diligence, otherwise your life will be filled with emotional roller coasters . Your initial focus should be learning whether or not they are looking for the same type of relationship, they have integrity, they’re emotionally available, and you’re on the same page when it comes major life events.

My biggest dating mistake was not communicating when I was unhappy about something and then having it build and build until I exploded at my now husband. He helped me to open up my lines of communication and nip problems in the bud before resentment took over.

J.P.: A few months ago I read an article about Ted Cruz, and how he once sponsored a bill to make the sale of vibrators and such illegal. Then his college roommate chimed in with a Tweet noting that Ted used to masturbate all the time at Harvard. Why do you think so many conservative people go out of their way to demonize sex, drugs, behavior they deem “immoral”?

M.P.: Conservatives are worried about living up to other people’s completely unrealistic expectations. They demonize others to make themselves feel better, but it never really works because they’re always living a lie. We’re human, and we’re hardwired to want sex, and we use certain substances to blow off steam. That’s it, and as long as it doesn’t hurt people, you shouldn’t give a fuck. Conservatives never want to accept reality, and they ruin many lives in the process. This is the perfect example of fear and insecurity shaping our choices and actions.

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• Five keys to great sex: Self-confidence, trust, emotional connection, generosity, an open mind.

• The next president of the United States will be?: Hillary, although I would prefer Bernie. As long as it’s not Trump, I’m satisfied.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): iPhone 6, Carson Wentz, raspberry scones, New Edition, bird feeders, Queen Elizabeth, Chris Brown, “The Fault in Our Stars,” HBO, Nolan Ryan, crying, your left ear: HBO, my left ear, Raspberry Scones, iPhone 6 (don’t think less of me), crying, Nolan Ryan, bird feeders, Queen Elizabeth, New Edition, The Fault in Our Stars, Carson Wentz, Chris Brown.

You’re married. How’d you meet your husband?: We lived in the same apartment building our senior year in college and fell in love over a bowl of weed. While falling in love over said bowl, we realized we were in the same first grade class, but he moved away to Minnesota in the middle of the school year. He was the first crush I can ever remember, so I’ve always had excellent taste.

• Death scares the shit out of me. You? Why or why not?: It really doesn’t. I’m married to my best friend, I’m following my passion and helping people find happiness around the world, and I recently moved from from the endless winter of Chicago to Southern California. I love my life, and I don’t have any major regrets. No matter when I go, I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ll have left a positive legacy. I just hope my husband and I kick the bucket around the same time.

• Four reasons one should make Chicago his/her next vacation destination: You’re visiting  mid July-mid September. Otherwise, be prepared for miserable weather. 1. The food is excellent, encompassing cheap eats like deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s to a 20-course tasting menu at Alinea. Bring your appetite and don’t even think about counting calories. 2. The sports. Unfortunately the Hawks got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but the Cubs and White Sox are two of the best teams in baseball. Could 2016 finally be the year the Cubs break the curse? 3. The Midwestern hospitality. For the most part, people are really warm and down to earth. 4. It’s gorgeous. Lake Michigan and the beach are beautiful, and the architecture is stunning. Take it all in on an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River.

• I never liked the Yankees adding Ken Griffey, Sr. and Dave Collins to replace Reggie Jackson. You?: Absolutely not. Despite Reggie’s constant feud with Billy Martin, he was and will always be Mr October.

• Three all-time favorite books: When I was growing up, The Catcher in the Rye really did it for me, but my favorite always tends to be what I’m currently reading. Right now, that’s Presence, by Amy Cuddy. I was also hugely inspired by Michael Neill’s Supercoach.

• Stinky farting by a guy during sex—understandable or an automatic ending to the evening?: Farts are funny, and I love laughing during sex. Not a deal breaker at all, but I’m a pretty weird chick.

• In exactly 16 words, make a case for orange pens: According to Color Psychology, the color orange conveys cheerful confidence. Highlight your confidence with orange pens.

I don’t believe in God

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I don’t believe in God.

I occasionally wish I did, because it’d sure cut back on my worries. But I don’t. And that’s OK.

It all just seems too simplistic. Listen, and you go to heaven. Fail, and you go to hell. It also strikes me as absolutely bonkers. There is this higher being, and he sees into all of our hearts. He knows what we’re thinking; how we feel. And if we’re sincere in our love, we’ll spend eternity in a happy place. And if we’re insincere, we’ll burn alongside the devil.

I have been told, repeatedly, to count my blessings. But why should I? Really. Why should I be thankful to a higher being for all I have (and, indeed, I have a lot) when so many have so little? Am I supposed to be thankful to God for the meal on my table when I know there are millions who won’t eat as well? Am I supposed to be thrilled by my soft bed when I know others are lying beneath bridges? Earlier today the wife and I learned of the horrible passing of a 17-year old girl; the daughter of a friend of a friend. What have I done better than the parents of a deceased child? How is it fair that she’s gone and I’m still here? I know … I know—”You just have to have faith” and “Everything happens for a reason.” Well, I call bullshit. What am I supposed to have faith in? That God just wanted another angel close to Him? That, even though I can’t see it now, this child passed for a purpose? Am I supposed to blindly accept that this was merely the way it works? Seriously? Well, I don’t have to have faith. Truly, I don’t want to have faith. Faith, to me, is the easy way out. Faith in the afterlife; faith that I’ll see my grandparents again on a cloud; faith that all is OK and part of God’s plan.

No. No, no, no. There is no God’s plan, and I won’t be joining Grandma and Grandpa on a cloud. I won’t be floating in heaven or stewing in hell. I’ll simply be dead and gone, as the majority of the world’s all-time citizens are dead and gone. I don’t believe there’s en entity that sees into my heart. I don’t believe I’m being tested.

I don’t even see the point. Wouldn’t we all be better served appreciating the brevity of existence? If I know I’m going to heaven for eternity, what’s the rush to live passionately today? Why smell the flowers and taste the chocolate and fly to Paris? The promise of a blissful eternity is the elixir to the despair we all feel from time to time, wondering whether this is as good as it gets. But, in actuality, this is as good as it gets. We live, we die. There are highs, there are lows. But, truly, it is what it is.

I don’t believe in God.

I just don’t.

Cinematic presidential addresses …

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So over the past two nights I watched the original Independence Day with my son. While the film is dog excrement, few can argue with the final Bill Pullman-delivered presidential address, featuring the fabulous line, “We will not go quietly into the night!”

Which led to me start thinking about cinematic commanders in chief, and they finest pulpit moments. I offer these dandies and ask you—which is the best?

• 1. Independence Day, starring Bill Pullman as President Whitmore …

• 2. Dave, starring Kevin Kline as President Bill Mitchell …

• 3. The American President, starring Michael Douglas as President Andy Shepherd …

• 4. Mars Attacks!, starring Jack Nicholson as President James Dale …

• 5. Armageddon, starring Stanley Anderson as President (Yes, just “President”) …

Independence Day: Dumb

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I’ve written about Independence Day before, because it’s a film I loved upon first viewing in 1996, then—with each passing exposure—came to hate and hate and hate even more. It’s just a very bad movie. Sloppy. Dumb. Poor acting. Even worse writing.

Yesterday I found myself watching it with my son, because, well, who doesn’t view Independence Day for the 865,432nd time? And a new little piece of awfulness struck me. I feel compelled to share …

So the flick’s most famous line comes when Will Smith opens a downed alien ship, is greeted by a gross looking creature, punches it in the head, watches him fall to the floor and says, “Welcome to earth!” It’s your typical machismo magic, and it f-u-c-k-i-n-g drives me insane.

First, Smith pops open the hood and is greeted by the alien. He has tentacles, and he’s sorta nasty, and the human’s bewildered facial expression shows this well …

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Second, Smith sees that the alien’s face is an actual skeleton, covered by bone …

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Third, Smith rears back to punch the alien …

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Fourth, he connects, and the alien falls back into the space ship …

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Fifth, Smith celebrates by sitting atop the ship, smoking a cigar. He utters the worst line of all time—”Now that’s what I call a close encounter.”

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Now, there are so many things wrong with this it’s almost impossible to list them. But I’llgo with the two biggies.

• 1. You don’t knock something out by punching bone—you break your own body. Had Smith actually slugged the alien in the head, he would have shattered his fist. Then the alien would have wrapped its tentacles around Smith’s body, dragged him into the ship and consumed him for dinner, piece by piece. Which, oddly, would make for an interesting ending.

• 2. The planet has pretty much been destroyed. Your soon-to-be fiance is presumably dead. Los Angeles is gone—meaning all your friends and relatives are toast. Your entire flight battalion has been extinguished, including your closest chum, Harry Connick, Jr. So it would be more than a tad odd to greet this news by smoking a stogie and saying, “Welcome to earth.”

Anyhow, the film is brutal and unwatchable. But, luckily, the sequel comes out tomorrow. So, hey.

Guns and Courage and Cowardice

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When I drop my kids off at school, I oftentimes wonder whether some crazy person with a gun will shoot them.

I picture it in my head: A bunch of children standing around, waiting for the bell to ring, when POP! POP! POP! POP! I get the call. I rush back to the school. There are people crying. There are piles of bodies. Police. Rescue workers. Priests. Rabbis. And there, lying motionless, is one of my children.

It is my greatest fear.

Of course, because we are America, and because so many of our Republican political leaders are paid for and owned by the National Rifle Association, we do nothing about gun violence. Columbine happens—nothing. Virginia Tech happens—nothing. Sandy Hook—nothing. South Carolina—nothing. Orlando—nothing. The tragedies occur with jarring regularity, the president gets angry, people talk of change. For a moment, it seems like logic and reason will capture the day. And then, ultimately, the NRA reminds its puppets who’s manning the strings, and we go back to blaming mental health; go back to saying we actually need more guns; go back to the nonsense; go back to Tweeting about Taylor Swift and Derrick Rose and the Kardashian’s latest bullshit. It’s us, as a people, at our worst. There have been nearly 100,000 gun deaths in the U.S. since Newtown 3 1/2 years ago, and we remain in an eternal holding pattern.

Now, I’m not saying anything is about to change, but today—for a rare, glorious moment—I spotted people at their best. A large number of Democratic representatives held a sit-in on the House floor, demanding votes on gun-control legislation. The scene was pretty bonkers—flustered and agitated Republicans standing to the side as their Democratic colleagues sat, sang, bellowed, fought. Hell, it’s still going on as we speak, and I couldn’t be prouder. The leader is John Lewis, the civil rights era icon who asked, bluntly and powerfully, “Do we have the raw courage to make at least a down payment on ending gun violence in America?” Meanwhile, Paul Ryan—the GOP speaker—gaveled the House out of session so C-SPAN cameras could not broadcast his party’s slavery to the bullet. It mattered not—cell phone videos told the story.

And here’s what gets me: All this isn’t about a vote. It’s about allowing a vote. In other words, the Democrats aren’t protesting the Republicans voting against gun safety. They’re protesting the Republicans not even allowing for a vote on gun safety. And why is this happening? Two reasons: A. The NRA doesn’t want anything related to gun restrictions to touch the planet; B. With elections coming, a large number of Republicans do not want to be on record voting against sensible restrictions, such as more thorough background checks or the ol’ assault weapon ban. So, instead of leading, they cower and hide and accuse Lewis and Co. of grandstanding.

Only it’s not grandstanding.

It’s courage.

Derrick Rose to the Knicks

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When I first learned of the Derrick Rose-to-the-Knicks deal, my eyes lit up. “Holy shit!” I thought. “That team is about to be super explosive!”

And, indeed, the thinking makes sense. Derrick Rose is one of the NBA’s elite point guards. Now pair him with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis and you’ve got the makings of an explosive combination. Look out world, New York is back!

Of course, what followed my initial take was a second, more stubborn pondering: This trade is brutal.

And, indeed, it may well be brutal. The Knicks now own a 27-year-old injury-prone guard who has been limited to 127 games over three seasons. They’ll be paying him $21 million in 2016-17, which isn’t exactly chump change. Worst of all, they surrendered Robin Lopez, one of the NBA’s better centers, as well as Jerian Grant, a potential future standout.

So, yeah, no good.

But then … I had a third thought, comprised of two words: Why not? Look, the Knicks suck, and they have sucked for a long time. They’re boring, they’re flat, they’re damned by Carmelo’s contract and attitude. Madison Square Garden hasn’t been a scene in forever. So maybe, just maybe, this was worth a shot. Rose will be playing for a new contract—and nothing inspires players more than finances. He’ll be refreshed, recharged, playing in a fantastic arena in an even more fantastic city. Maybe he stays healthy, the Knicks win 50 and suddenly New York basketball matters again.

Then they sign Rose to a six-year extension and his leg falls off.

But, hey.

Showtime Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life