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Category Archives: News

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Ken Shetter

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I grew up in a small town knowing I’d inevitably leave my small town.

Why? Because I wanted to see what was out there. I wanted to roam, explore, check out new places and meet new people and experience life away from the comfortable-yet-suffocating boundaries that surround my place of origin.

So here I am in Southern California, a mere 3,000 miles away from Mahopac, N.Y.

Ken Shetter is not me. Or, perhaps, you. He’s the mayor of Burleson, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb of 40,000 residents and the place where he was born and raised. Why has he stayed? Love. For the people. For the land. For the potential. And why is he the city’s mayor? All the same reasons.

Today, Ken talks job experiences and life experiences; why he would be a better president than Donald Trump and why—as the governor of Texas—he will one day mandate the Houston Texas become the Houston Oilers.

One can follow the mayor on Twitter here and Facebook here.

All hail the chief. He’s the 357th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Ken, you are the mayor of Burleson, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth with a population around 40,000. And I wanna start with a weird one—at this moment we have a man with no political experience in the White House. Which has people thinking, “Who’s next?” Oprah? Mark Cuban? The Rock? So, Ken, does a small-city mayor have the experience to jump to the presidency? Can that argument be made?

KEN SHETTER: The argument can certainly be made that many small city mayors are at least as well suited as those you listed (including the current occupant of the White House) to run for president. In fact, one of the things about being a local elected official is you have to learn to be accountable to those you serve very quickly. It is not unusual to encounter a constituent with a concern, complaint or suggestion in the grocery store or at one of my kids’ school events. That kind of personal accountability, if one takes it seriously, is an important element of the experience gained from serving as a mayor. In addition, local elected officials have experience making decisions that impact people’s everyday lives to a greater extent than officials at any other level. Think about it—we are responsible for making sure you have clean running water, that your toilet flushes, that your trash gets picked up, that you have a decent neighborhood to live in, that your kids have good parks to play in and that you are physically safe. Those are some of the most important functions of government at any level. Of course, the lack of national name identification makes such a leap unlikely, from a political perspective.

J.P.: You’re in Texas and you’re a Republican. Yet, judging from social media, you don’t seem to be hard- hard- hard-core far right or a Trump backer. Sooooo … how does that play? What I mean is, you’re in a state that’s run deep red for many moons. How have you succeeded with a divergent world social view?

K.S.: Actually, it’s worse than you thought—I’m not even a Republican (gasp!!!). In my official capacity, I am nonpartisan. Our city charter requires us to run and govern as nonpartisans. While it’s no secret that I lean center-left (some would say just left), I work well with folks of all political stripes and certainly promote a number of policies that some would associate with conservatism. I have promoted strong accountability and transparency practices, been fiscally responsible and prioritize strong public safety.

I think I’ve been successful in my campaigns for two reasons. First, the city has thrived during the time that I’ve been mayor. We have doubled in size, our economy has been remarkably strong, and we’ve focused on quality of life. Second, when you govern in a nonpartisan context, you have the luxury of just arguing the merits of an idea or a platform, without getting bogged down in partisan BS. In fact, when some have tried to introduce that as part of the conversation or debate, I think it has generally backfired—turns out people like nonpartisan government. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a hometown boy—it’s harder to despise someone you’ve known since they were in diapers.

Delivering Meals on Wheels with son Alister.

Delivering Meals on Wheels with good ol’ Alister.

J.P.: What is the day-to-day life like for the mayor of Burleson? Soup to nuts? What are you doing? How many meetings are you attending? What are the main issues you need to address?

K.S.: Because I have a full-time job in addition to being mayor, most days are a mix of mayor and day job duties. We have official council meetings every two weeks on Monday nights. Most weeks I will have a few other city-related meetings and often speak to civic or student groups. Of course, every day involves phone calls and emails from city staff members and citizens. I know my day is about to get more complicated if I get a call from a staff member that begins, “Mayor, there’s something I need to make you aware of …” There really isn’t a typical day or week, but I would estimate that spend, on average, between ten and twenty hours per week on city business.

The main issue I deal with is management of our population growth, which implicates public safety resources, public works and transportation infrastructure and development policies.

Currently, the development of a public plaza in our Old Town district and the expansion of higher education opportunities are particular areas of focus for me.

J.P.: How did this actually happen for you? I mean, I know you attended Baylor. I know you have a law degree. I know you’re in your mid-40s. But when did you know politics were for you? When did the lightbulb go off?

K.S.: I am one of those weirdos who was interested in politics and public policy from the time I was a small kid. In fact, even when I was nine or ten I would get in knock-down-drag-out political arguments with family members. My goal was always a career in public service. When I was in my twenties a seat opened up on the city council and I threw my name in the hat. I intended city council service to be a stepping stone to higher office. Funny thing happened—I found serving in city government to be far more rewarding and consequential than I expected. Any time I’ve thought about running for another office, I always felt like there was more important work left to do as mayor.

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J.P.: You also serve as the president of One Safe Place, a non-profit that focuses on preventing crime and violence. Well, how do we prevent crime and violence? It seems rather impossible, considering the amount we have in this nation … every … single … day.

K.S.: It would be impossible to eradicate crime and violence, but that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands—there is a lot of good we can do for a lot of people! At One Safe Place we have several different programs (including Crime Stoppers and a DOJ federal grant program called Project Safe Neighborhoods), but for our discussion, I’ll focus on our family justice center. We serve victims of domestic violence and children who live in violent homes. The idea of a family justice center is to bring all the services a victim needs together in one place, and to integrate those services so they are more effective for the victim. There are twenty-two different partner agencies working together through One Safe Place. We prioritize domestic violence because it makes up a significant percentage of all the violent crime committed, because perpetrators of domestic violence pose a danger to the community at-large and because most of our violent criminals grew up in homes where there was violence.

To drill down a bit more, we are particularly interested in strangulation as part of domestic abuse. A significant percentage of domestic violence victims suffer non-fatal or near-fatal strangulation and that has lots of ramifications. First, there are often long-term medical consequences that aren’t immediately evident to the victim, and second, victims who have been strangled are 700% more likely to ultimately be killed. It also turns that intimate partner strangulation is a warning sign for violent behavior outside the home. For instance, there are multiple studies which have found a majority of cop killers have a documented history of intimate partner strangulation.

Sometimes my work at One Safe Place and as mayor intertwine—I’m proud to say the City of Burleson was recently the first city in the US to adopt an ordinance creating a strangulation protocol for first responders. Among other things, the ordinance requires an emergency medical response anytime strangulation is alleged or suspected.

Finally, I can’t talk about One Safe Place without mentioning Camp Hope Texas. We do a week-long outdoor adventure camp for kids exposed to violence. In addition to traditional camp activities, we have a special curriculum designed to increase our campers’ level of hopefulness, which is the key to creating more resilient kids who can overcome the traditional cycle of violence.

J.P.: I just came upon a story from 2015, headlined BURLESON MAYOR’S PRO-SAME-SEX MARRIAGE POST DRAWS MIXED REACTIONS. It was about you posted a congratulatory message to LGBT friends on Facebook—and the backlash that followed. And I wonder, did you at all see that coming? Did you debate the initial messge? And how have you seen the views of people morph on gay rights during your time in office? If at all …

K.S.: The initial post was a simple congratulatory message to LGBTQ friends, with an expression of hope for LGBTQ youth that this was one more indication they were fully loved and accepted. A citizen challenged me to justify my statement as mayor, considering what the bible has to say about homosexuality. What actually got all the attention was my response to that citizen (which you can read here). I certainly expected that the post could get a lot of negative reaction. While a few responses were downright hateful, most were very positive. In fact, the large number of positive responses served to provide further affirmation to the LGBTQ community. I even got a few responses from citizens who said for the first time they felt accepted in their own community, and they had thought that would never happen for them. It was a great lesson for me—NEVER miss an opportunity to let people know they are loved and they belong in our community.

I certainly have seen the views of people morph on gay rights during my time in office. I don’t think there’s any way the post I wrote in 2015 would have received so many positive responses if it had been written in 2003.

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Meeting with first grade students at Irene Clinkscale Elementary.

J.P.: Your last election was May 2017, and you beat two challengers—Katherine Reading and John Garrison. I wonder, how do you move past an election? What I mean is, the months leading up are filled with criticisms of your performance, your stances. Then this vote happens, and it all ends. So … can you let any bad feelings go? Can you run into Katherine or John at, say, CVS and have a buddy-buddy convo? Is it awkward? Weird?

K.S.: You don’t have much of a choice—there’s always a city council meeting within a couple of weeks of the election, and the work must go on. In terms of personally letting feelings go, the honest answer is sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. After having served in local government for almost 20 years, I’ve had lots of opponents and made lots of people mad over the years. I can almost always get over it and repair relationships … but I can’t deny there are some folks out there who wouldn’t vote for me if I was running against Satan (an actual quote from a voter in the last election) and they’re never going to feel differently.

I am happy to report there are no lingering hard feelings from the 2017 election, at least between the candidates.

J.P.: It’ the elephant here, so I’ll ask: Donald Trump. You’re in Texas. Can you explain his rise? His appeal? Because I see a lifelong conman with no convictions or moral compass. How do so many, um, not?

K.S.: I agree with your assessment and would add that I think he’s a literal threat to our democracy. My best explanation is that his victory was a combination of two things: One, there were a lot of people on the right who despised Hillary Clinton, and they thought there was only so much damage one man could do. Two, there wasn’t enough excitement on the left to turn out the vote for Hillary Clinton in places where it really mattered.

I think all the hand-wringing over the angry white voter is kind of ridiculous. Just looking at demographic forces, the focus for those wanting to elect progressive candidates should be on turning out the kind of coalition that elected Barack Obama.

J.P.: You live in a gun-friendly state. I’m terrified every time my kids leave for school. Seriously, what can we do about this? Are there ANY steps that the nation might agree upon?

K.S.: Yes! I think the most important thing we can do is pass comprehensive background checks. That’s the first and most important step to making sure we keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have them. It drives me bonkers when politicians say, “We just can’t do anything until we find common ground.” About 90% of Americans agree on comprehensive background checks. For the love of God, that is common ground.

J.P.: What’s the appeal of living in the town where you grew up? Like you, I was raised in a small town where you always saw familiar faces, did things repeatedly, drew on traditions and festivals and the such. And, to be honest, I wanted out. And left. So why stay? What is it about a small town that does it for you?

K.S.: This is a great question. In fact, I often ask teenagers, “What do we need to do to make sure you want to stay or come back after college to raise your family?” For me, the fact that most of my extended family lives in Burleson (they have for generations), and that I actually like them, makes it hard to leave. We also have the advantage of having a lot of the benefits of a smaller town while being right next to Fort Worth, which is one of the most vibrant big cities in the country.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KEN SHETTER:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): roller coasters, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, TLC, Justin Bieber, “Ocean’s Eleven,” USFL, puppies, Jeff Flake, peppercorn medley grinder, overly ripe fruit: Puppies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, roller coasters, Jeff Flake, peppercorn medley grinder, Ocean’s Eleven, TLC, USFL, overly ripe fruit, Justin Bieber

• Five reasons one should make Burelson his/her next vacation destination: In no particular order: 1. Outstanding food and music in Old Town; 2. Awesome golf courses; 3. We’ve got two great wineries; 4. We have events throughout the year that are worth the trip: free summer concerts, a big bicycle race in the Spring and Founders Day in the Fall are just a few examples. Plus, we’re always thirty minutes from something amazing in Fort Worth or Arlington (but stay in Burleson and get the added value of small town charm); 5. The Old Town Ghost Tour.

• One question you would ask Kim Jong Un were he here right now?: Do you speak English?

• My nephew Jordan won’t let me chaperone his senior prom. What should I do?: Find a single teacher and go as her date.

• In exactly 17 words, make an argument for the acting talents of the late Jim Varney: He has never uttered the intolerable, fingers-on-a-chalk-board-annoying, moronic phrase, “Git-r-done.”

• What’s your secret talent?: I grew up playing the fiddle.

• Would you consider running for governor, then insisting the Houston Texans become the Houston Oilers and switch back to their old unis? Please …: Yes, absolutely. And I would pass a law that every head coach of the Houston Oiler had to legally change their name to Bum Phillips.

• If you had to hang out with three 1980s sitcom characters, who would they be?: Coach, from Cheers, Hawkeye, from MASH, Judge Harold T. Stone, from Night Court.

• Don’t get mad at me, but I’ve gotta think you received a few “Ken Shitter” ridicules while growing up. Yes? No? How bad was it?: Actually, I got a lot more Barbie cracks when I was growing up. The “Ken Shitter” ridicules have been more common since I’ve been mayor. Like water off a duck’s back.

• I’m not sure the Reds getting Cesar Cedeno from Houston was such a great idea. Thoughts?: Well, I’m a lifelong Rangers fan, so my strongest Astros thoughts involve bitterness that they won the Series before the Rangers did.

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Hayley Elwood

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Hayley Elwood is all over social media. You can follow her on Instagram here. You can follow her on Twitter here.

But here’s what you won’t see from the Los Angeles Chargers’ team reporter: Pictures of her with her head enlarged via Snapchat filter. Pictures of her in a skimpy bikini on a beach. You won’t see Elwood partying with players, hobnobbing with celebrities, auditioning via YouTube videos to land a spot on some stupid reality TV show.

Nope.

Dating back to her days as an undergrad at UC San Diego, Elwood has prided herself on professionalism; on earning respect via hard work, knowledge, inquisitiveness. That’s why, for my money, she’s one of the best NFL team-employed reporters in the profession.

That’s also why she’s the 356th Quaz.

Today, Hayley talks about how her career has been made (largely) off of Twitter; how—as a San Diego native—she felt about the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles; how Natrone Means is better than Kevin Quackenbush and Celine Dion has herself a new employee.

Hayley Elwood, you’re the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Hayley, you work as the Los Angeles Chargers’ team reporter. And I ask, with no disrespect, what exactly that means. If you work for the team, how is there reporting involved? Like, are you digging for information, scoops, breakthroughs? Or is it more about conveying the information relayed to you?

HAYLEY ELWOOD: No disrespect taken. The reporting is conveying news that’s either relayed (hires/player signings) or gathered on own (through interviews) on the team’s website and social channels. Since the media landscape has evolved, so too have sports teams’ own digital departments. I can really only speak to the NFL, but teams have digital media departments comprised of writers, reporters, producers, shooters/editors and social media people who create content for the teams’ websites and social accounts. I spend my days writing articles and doing videos for Chargers.com. Very rarely are we the “news breakers,” given a little thing called Twitter, but we’re more of the “news confirmers” and in other ways, try to highlight stories that may be different from what you see on ESPN or another place. It’s our job to be a hub where Chargers fans can go to for news.We also get access to players that other reporters don’t given that we’re around these guys so much. So that’s nice for getting to know a player on a more personal level and finding a unique story.

J.P.: So you spent 2015-16 as the Lakers’ in-arena host at the Staples Center—which means you worked Kobe’s last game. I’m fascinated to hear what that was like; what you remember. Also, how would it have changed your role/approach that day had Kobe, say, shot 2 for 14 and scored six points in a blowout loss?

H.E.: That game was so insane, and there are times where I still have to remind myself that I was there. It was a “lighter” game for me given I had essentially zero in-game responsibilities, so it was one of those take-it-all-in kind of days. I just remember an immense media presence. Which, duh, it was Kobe’s last game. My usual in-game hangout spot was in one of Staples Center’s Zamboni tunnels but towards the end of the fourth quarter, they started letting media in for the post-game festivities and it just became a swarm of people. Given my role, Kobe’s performance or hypothetical lack thereof, wouldn’t have affected me that much, but I think if the score/stats had been different, the whole vibe would have been a bit more subdued. But he went out in true Kobe fashion and Lakers fans probably couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Mike Pouncey is the tall one.

Mike Pouncey is the tall one.

J.P.: You’re a UC San Diego grad, you worked for the Chargers for three seasons before they moved to LA. So, I wonder, how did you take the news of the move? Personally, I was genuinely crushed for the people of San Diego, who had loved the team for decades. But, I guess, business is business. Or … something?

H.E.: The news was interesting to say the least, especially also being a native San Diegan (we do exist!) But, for me, I got a job out of the move. I had worked my butt off for years in hopes of obtaining that elusive full-time job in the sports media industry (more on that below), so I was and am, very fortunate and thankful to have received an opportunity.

J.P.: So you’ve described your path to sports media as “atypical.” Which seems pretty fair, considering you spent 10 years working at a dance studio; considering that you held three jobs simultaneously. So, soup to nuts, how did you get here?

H.E.: So quickly on the dance studio, that was a job I held all throughout college and beyond. I grew up dancing but when I graduated high school, I traded in the tights for the computer. I went from working the front desk to managing, and it was the perfect job because it was working for a small business that had a little bit of everything. Post-UC San Diego (where I majored in communication), I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do as a career—the studio paid the bills, but it wasn’t what I went to school for.

My parents work for a local news station so having grown up around that environment, reporting/anchoring was kind of always in the back of my mind to maybe pursue. But, instead of going the small market route, I chose the freelance path. I grew up a football fan so my first real experience in the sports world was interning for EAG Sports Management. When I realized PR wasn’t for me and I figured out I wanted to be more in-front of the action vs. behind the scenes, I enrolled in some classes at Palomar College to get the more “hands on/practical” experience and was able to build a reel. From there, I hustled, and I have Twitter to thank for pretty much every job after that.

I freelanced for FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as a field producer covering high school football recruiting. I literally followed the guy on Twitter who ran FS Next, he followed me back and I sent a message with my resume. Got an interview and then a job. I started with the Chargers in 2014 which was another job I initially saw posted on Twitter. Then in 2015, I saw the Lakers tweeted an application for their hosting position. That was the craziest year because I was managing a dance studio while working for two professional sports teams. The studio was awesome because my boss allowed me flexibility to pursue other passions on the side, while I was still able to work/collect a paycheck that came with full benefits. There’s no way I could have done the freelance thing without having some sort of sustainable income. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s taken me a while to get here, but it’s paid off. So to those who may be grinding it out, just stay patient. Things will come in due time.

Interviewing Charlie Joiner, the Hall of Fame wide receiver.

Interviewing Charlie Joiner, the Hall of Fame wide receiver.

J.P.: The other day you Tweeted out the news that the Chargers hired Rip Scherer as the new tight ends coach. And I got to thinking—do you care about stuff like that? Do you have to care? Does Scherer’s background, experience, etc impact your career?

H.E.: I do care and I think if you don’t, then why are you even doing this? When you work for a team, you essentially become an extended part of that team. Whether it’s players, staff or coaches, these are people you see virtually every day. Now, what Rip does on the field doesn’t directly affect me personally, but, you always want the team to do well (always better covering a locker room after a win than a loss) and coaching certainly plays a role in that. Knowing I had to do a sit down interview with him, I obviously had to do research on his background and find unique angles to talk about. One of them? He was Ken Whisenhunt’s coach at Georgia Tech when Whiz was a player there. But now, the shoe is on the other foot with Rip working under Ken. Small world.

J.P.: A lot of young journalists read these, and I think one of the issues they often face with pro athletes is fear and trepidation. Fear of approaching, fear of asking “stupid” questions, fear of being embarrassed. Did you have that at all? Do you ever still have it? And what’s the secret to walking boldly in your field?

H.E.: I absolutely had that and still do in a way. As reps and years have gone on, I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable, but I’m not complacent. I think the second I don’t feel challenged when preparing for an interview, then something is wrong. I’ve worked with Laura Okmin, who as you know, has had incredible longevity in this business, and even she says she still gets nervous before her first game of the season.

The key to walking boldly is preparation. Know what you’re talking about, and you’ll give yourself the tools and the power to have a conversation instead of a generic Q&A. I’ve learned to phrase questions in different ways to find better answers. I’ve “studied tape,” aka watched other reporters in the business whether it be sit downs or post-game interviews, and noted the types of questions they ask. I’ve learned never to start a question with “talk about….” That’s not a question, that’s a command. Lastly, don’t ask someone something that can be answered with a yes or no, because that may be what you end up getting back.

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

H.E.: Greatest moment? Lots of good ones, but I’m still young, so it hasn’t happened yet. Lowest? Probably blanking/freezing during a live standup. It wasn’t ideal, but having it happen allowed me to check myself. I made a joke about it in the next standup that I did, and I regained confidence. The best part was that the woman who wrote the script put the part I froze on in the next week’s script so I got a chance at redemption. Luckily, second time was the charm.

J.P.: I’ve always bemoaned the fact that female journalists/reporters are routinely judged and critiqued on appearances, whereas men in the same field can look like lumpy potatoes. Do you feel like you deal with this? Do you hear the chatter, the remarks, the assholes? Does it impact you? Am I making something of nothing?

H.E.: You aren’t. There’s a definite double standard. I read this interview on Vulture.com last weekwhere Meredith Vieira talked about filling in for Bob Costas during the Sochi Olympics when Costas was dealing with pink eye. She actually became the first woman ever to solo host prime time Olympics coverage. But as nervous as she was to make sure she did a good job stepping in for Costas on her first night, she said so many comments she received on social media were about what she was wearing. Like huh? How is that okay?

With all that said, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been OK as far as not receiving comments on social media and what not, but I know others haven’t been. I’ve had to get serious about working out (on my own accord, it wasn’t like someone told me to) and in-season, I’m basically camera-ready every day at work because I usually shoot at least one video a day. Camera-ready for a woman is doing your hair, makeup, wearing the right clothes, etc. Guys can essentially roll out of bed, shower, get dressed and be good to go.It’s different for us because we get judged on appearance and knowledge.

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J.P.: On Jan. 15 you posted the news of your engagement on Instagram, alongside a photo of you kidding your fiancé. First, mazel tov. Second, how far are you willing to go, RE: sharing personal info on social media? Is there a line you won’t cross? Do you prefer to be wide open?

H.E.: Thanks for your well-wishes!  I have such a love-hate relationship with social media. Love it because of how it’s opened doors for me professionally, but hate it (at times) because it’s become such an integral part of today’s media landscape and I feel like people in my role sort of have to be more active on it. I don’t want to be wide open because I need to maintain some sort of privacy at the end of the day. I enjoy Instagram, but I try to keep a good blend of personal and work stuff on there.

In regards to the engagement, that actually happened the day prior to posting the photos. I felt like I wanted to put it out there on social because it was a part of my life that I wanted to document, but, I gave it time to enjoy on my own with calls and texts to family and friends. I think lines I won’t cross are doing things that could jeopardize me being taken seriously in this business: Doing IG stories with filters on my face, posting photos in bikinis looking off into the distance with some pithy quote as the caption. These social accounts are not only extensions of you as a person, but also as a professional. I want to go far in this business and be respected, and I think talking into a camera with dog ears or heart eyes can take away from that. Look, I enjoy having fun and maybe I’m taking it too seriously, but that’s just my m.o. If for some reason I end up doing one or any of these things, feel free to remind me of this conversation!

J.P.: You worked the Pro Bowl in the rain. Nobody tackles. The scores are often 50-43. Does this game need to be fixed? Are there improvements that can be made? Does it not matter?

H.E.: I don’t think it matters because the fans still eat it up and fans generate revenue. What’s crazy is literally how many people go to the week’s festivities and the game. I had never been before, but the last two days of practice were slammed with fans. I guess if you really love football and want to see a bunch of players in one setting, the Pro Bowl is your chance to do that? But man, I couldn’t believe how many people were there. However as for a non-game-content suggestion? Put it back in Hawaii!

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH HAYLEY ELWOOD:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Natrone Means, pinto beans, tudor homes, Migos, Kevin Quackenbush, iTunes gift cards, clean tissues, cranberry muffins, Shania Twain: Cranberry muffins, iTunes gift cards, clean tissues, Migos, Twain, Means, tudor homes, pinto beans, Quackenbush.

• Who wins in a bubble gum blowing contest between you and Antonio Gates? What’s the outcome?: Gates. Guy’s a future hall of famer.

• I never get invited to the fun parties. Any advice?: I don’t either! Maybe it’s because I don’t do Snapchat filters?¯\_(ツ)_/¯

• One question you would ask Keyshawn Johnson were he here right now?: Looking back, what did you learn from your time in Tampa and your contentious relationship with Jon Gruden that you didn’t realize at the time?

• Three things we need to know about your fiancé?: Originally from Kansas, plays guitar, has two middle names and a hyphenated last name.

• How do we solve the problems of climate change?: Start by acknowledging that it’s real. Which given the current political landscape, we’re unfortunately not going to be solving it for a while.

• Three things you always carry with you?: Phone, prescription sunglasses and hand sanitizer.

• The world needs to know—what’s the key to not dropping a microphone in heavy winds?: Work on that arm strength.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll offer you $500 million to move to Las Vegas for a year and serve as her personal minute-by-minute life MC. Meaning, 20 hours a day, 365-straight days, you need to broadcast everything she says into a toy mic. You in?: Yes! Who wouldn’t be in for $500 million?

• Why do I have so many mugs?: Because it’s always important to stay hydrated—or have ample dust collectors.

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Tai Babilonia

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Tai Babilonia is one of the greatest figure skaters in United States history.

Along with Randy Gardner, she won the 1979 World Figure Skating Championships, as well as five U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Along with Randy Gardner, she also qualified for both the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

But here’s the funky thing—when it comes to today’s magical 355th Quaz, I truly care about two things. First, that by being anointed Tai Babilonia, Tai Babilonia is owner of one of the coolest names in the history of modern society. Second, that she has been sober for nine years, and uses her battle with alcoholism to help others.

Skating, by comparison, hardly rates. Which isn’t to take away from Tai’s accomplishments. They’re impressive and wonderful, and have stood the test of athletic time. It’s just, well, athletes come and go. But perfectly-named, civic-minded heroes are as rare as gold dust on Lake Mahopac.

I digress.

In today’s Quaz, Tai digs deeply into her sobriety, as well as her lifetime kinship with Gardner. She talks skate smells, “Get Out,” giving back and why Jimmy Carter rates higher than Willie McGee.

One can follow Tai on Twitter here, Instagram here and visit her Wikipedia page here.

Tai Babilonia, to hell with the Olympics. You’re No. 355 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Tai, I’m gonna start with a random one—you’re name is Tai Babilonia. Which is an all-time fantastic name. Memorable, funky, cool, unique. How has that changed your life? What I mean is, if you were Joan Smith, or Jennifer Daniels, is your life different? Would there have been an anonymity you would have liked? Disliked? Is that just dumb? 

TAI BABILONIA: Thank you, Jeff. It is definitely unique and many think it’s a made-up fake/stage name. The story goes that when I was born my parents couldn’t think of a name and were actually fighting about it in the hospital. So my godfather, who is Japanese (and the person who introduced me to skating when I was 6) simply told my parents, “We will name her Tai. End of story.” Regarding anonymity, nah—I love the attention, always have and always will. I appreciate it and take nothing for granted.

J.P.: A couple of weeks ago Sasha Cohen wrote an amazing New York Times editorial about life after the Olympics and competitive skating. How for so many it’s a hard dose of “Who am I?” and “What am I?” She said that so much of your identity is tied into sport, and now … where do you go? How real is that? How much did you feel? 

T.B.: I will always be identified as figure skater and I’m absolutely fine with that. Randy and I had an amazing professional career that we are still enjoying to this day. For me what got confusing was being identified as Tai and Randy. Friends would even joke that TaiAndRandy had become one name. It was fine when I was younger but when I got into my late 20s and early 30s, I truly didn’t know who Tai Babilonia was and didn’t know how to separate the pair team from me as Tai alone. It got very complicated because I wasn’t sure if I could even function on my own.

It scared the shit out of me but with lots of therapy I was able to figure it all out and understand that I was very capable of venturing out on my own. It’s funny because I’ll talk about Tai and Randy in the third person sometimes. They are two separate family members to me. I know it’s crazy but you gotta do what you gotta do to get through the day.

J.P.: There has been much talk this year about “I, Tonya.” Well, 27 years before its release the TV film, “On Thin Ice: The Tai Babilonia Story” aired. So, I’m fascinated: How did you feel about it? Was it accurate? Good? You were played by Rachael Crawford. Is it weird to have someone depict … you? Did she accomplish it?

T.B.: I haven’t seen “I, Tonya” and I have no desire to. “On Thin Ice” was an interesting and surreal movie of the week project that actually came about from a People magazine cover story. NBC approached my then-manager and me and a deal was put together. It was filmed in Toronto and I was on set for most of the scenes as a consultant. Some scenes were difficult for me to watch but I would just step off set and come back when that particular scene was finished.

Casting was tricky because of my multi racial (Filipino, black and Hopi Indian) heritage. I think the casting director did an amazing job but I know it wasn’t easy. The actors also had to learn how to skate (a little bit) They had to cast three Tais—an 8-year old, a 12-year old and an 18-year old. It was all just so bazaar. I thought the Canadian actor Rachel Crawford, who played older Tai, did a fantastic job of portraying me. We spent a few days together before filming started and she would study my every move and wanted know about my life away from the ice. She tapped into my quirkiness and sense of humor, too.

The actors who played the two younger Tais did an awesome job as well. I was so impressed. Both Randy and I were hired as the skating doubles for the older Tai and Randy. See how bazaar it was? Lol! The icing on the cake was that the beautiful actor Denise Nicholas, who played my mom Cleo, was the star of “Room 222″—one of my favorite TV shows in the 1970s. And to top it off the legendary actor William Daniels played our skating coach, Mr. Nicks, and knocked it outta the frickin’ ballpark. He nailed it!  My life packed into 95 minutes. Not bad, not bad at all.

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J.P.: I just watched a very moving news piece from three years ago about your battles with alcoholism. You’re now nine years sober, and I wonder: Why alcohol? Like, what brought it on? What led you to drinking? And was there a moment when you knew you had a problem?

T.B.: Yes, I’m nine years sober and I’m so proud of myself for that. It has been a long time coming and it is one of the best and smartest decisions I’ve ever made. I really had no choice, it was time to stop the madness.

My drinking started back in 1981—my first year with the No. 1 touring show in America, “The Ice Capades.” Tai and Randy (see, I just did that third-person thing) were the headliners. It was a three-year contract and we performed nine months out of the year with one day off a week. It’s showtime, baby!

I remember turning 21 on a bus ride to Pittsburgh. It was a rock and roll lifestyle and I was just doing what all the other pros skaters were doing, never knowing that I had an addictive personality and that I would one day end up falling through the cracks … falling hard. There is so much more to this chapter in my life but I think i I’ll save it for when I write my memoirs. Maybe I’ll call that chapter “Lived ToTell.”

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J.P.: You qualified for the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics. And I wonder—in hindsight—is the payoff worth the cost? What I mean is, hours upon hours upon hours devoted to the singular task of ice skating. Other kids were hanging with friends, trying new things, movies and bowling and sleepovers and dates. And you were, largely skating. Was it worth it?

T.B.: It was all absolutely worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing. (Well, maybe one thing). I knew at an early age that I wanted to make the commitment to this sport and it wasn’t to win but to work hard and be the best that I could be and Randy and I just happened to usually win. Most of my friends were skaters from the ice rink and it was great because we all had the same thing in common—we loved to skate. We had sleepovers, movies, a little puppy love dating in our teenage years. This was the norm for me. I was obsessed with skating as a child, I loved being at the ice rink to the point where I was the one dragging my parents out of bed at 4 am to get me to the ice rink on time so I could practice. The ice rink was—and still to this day is—my safe place. But once I’m outside the ice rink, it’s fair game.

J.P.: What is it like when you’re skating at the highest level, and everything is clicking? Like, you’re at your best, doing something better than everyone else?

T.B.: It’s a complete out-of-body experience. It happened to us in 1979 when we became world champions. Like you said, it all clicked. We had trained our asses off and we were in peak condition. Are off-ice training was sometimes just as intense as our on-ice training. We trained at an ice rink in Santa Monica (Sidebar: where they filmed the famous Rocky skating scene—I was there and got to watch) just a few blocks from the beach, so after our practices on ice Randy and I would go to the beach and run/sprint in the sand with weights around our ankles. Burn, baby, burn. It was truly a group effort from our dance teachers, off-ice trainers, our skating coach Mr. Nicks and, of course, the incredible support and sacrificing from our families. Everyone won that night. It takes a village.

Randy and Tai in 2013

Randy and Tai in 2013

J.P.: When you came along, figure skating was a very white sport. Then here’s Tai—part African-American, part Filipino, part Native American. Do you feel like that sorta rubbed any of the establishment wrongly? Was there any hostility? Any, “Stay in your lane” sorta thinking/expression from others?

T.B.: I never ever felt any hostility at all when I competed. I did once in a while see people look at my family (especially when we are all together) with a very confused looks on their faces. We definitely stood out among the skating crowd that was predominantly white at that time. Remember, this was in the early 1970s when you didn’t see many multi-ethnic families, especially in the skating world. People will put me in whatever ethnic box they want but I knew at an early age I had to go out on the ice and get the job done. As I got older I understood the impact I had on up-and-coming skaters of color. I’m very proud of that.

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

T.B.: For the greatest, I have a few. First, fulfilling my dream of becoming an Olympian (twice), being crowned World Pair Champions in 1979 and being by the side of the legend/barrier breaker (and the woman who is responsible for creating the pair team of Tai and Randy back in 1968) Mabel Fairbanks as she made history by being the first (and so far only) black skating coach inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1997. This was a huge for Mabel and I was so honored to walk her onto the ice so she could receive her award. The crowd went crazy and she had finally gotten the respect she deserved.

Lowest? Back in 1988 I was lying in an ambulance on my way to Cedars Sinai while getting my stomach pumped and puking my guts out. This part of my life is well documented in print and in the TV movie. I’ll leave it at that.

Back in 2012 with Measia Aaron at the Downtown On Ice outdoor skating rink at Pershing Square.

Back in 2012 with Measia Aaron at the Downtown On Ice outdoor skating rink at Pershing Square.

J.P.: Does it matter how one feels about his/her partner? Obviously you were known as a tandem with Randy Gardner. Did it matter if you liked each other? Do you have to be friends? Can you be enemies?

T.B.: Yes, you absolutely must be friends, and—more then anything—trust and respect each other. Having the same goals also helps, too. We made the commitment from the day we were told to hold hands at 8- and 10-years old and here we are today, 50 years later, still holding hands. Okay, I just got weepy. Happy Tears! #TaiAndRandy

J.P.: Can you actually skate for fun? What I mean is, can you show up at a rink, rent some skates for $10 and have a good time? Can you goof around? Hold hands and listen to Drake blaring over the speakers? Or was that taken from you? I get asked this question quite a bit. Do you ever just skate for fun?

T.B.: Yes, I do if I’m taking a friend to skate for the first time. That’s really fun. But to go out and skate now on my own for fun? At my age, no. It’s my job. I will always love skating, it’s in my blood. The less I do it the more I appreciate it. Words from the wise …

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH TAI BABILONIA:

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nope

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Camila Cabello, Peggy Fleming, Willie McGee, pumpkin scones, Lake Placid, “Get Out,” Kobe Bryant, Coupe des Alpes, Jimmy Carter, Rocky IV, the Museum of Natural History: Peggy Fleming, Jimmy Carter, The Museum Of Natural History, Lake Placid, Kobe Bryant, Get Out, Willie McGee, Rocky IV, Camila Cabello, Coupe des Alpes, Pumpkin Scones.

• Four all-time favorite books: A Snowy Day, To Kill A Mockingbird, Walking With The Wind: A Memoir Of The Movement by John Lewis and The Four Agreements.

• I just bought $15 sneakers at Costco. On a scale of 1 to 100, how big of a mistake was this?: You can never make a mistake at Costco! Never!

• One question you would ask Lil Yachty were he here right now: Does he want to learn how to ice skate? I’m serious! #LilYachtyOnIce

• Three memories from your appearance on an episode of “Hart to Hart.”: (1) Watching Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner pretty much do every scene in one or two takes. (I watched and I learned); (2) Driving a fancy brand new red Corvette in one of my scenes; (3) Oh, a scene where we’re being shot at by the bad guy and hiding behind the Zamboni with Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner.

• The world needs to know: What did Randy Gardner’s skates smell like?: A two-time Olympian and world champion type of smell :)

• Worst ice fall you ever experienced?: Being dropped on a lift by Randy in 1975. Ouch!

• Five things that make you insanely happy?: (1) My sobriety (2) My family (3) Watching my son Scout mature and become a young man (4) My longtime partnership with Randy Gardner and (5) giving back to my community, I feed the homeless once a week in Hollywood and also motivational speaking to students at local junior high schools in the Los Angeles area.

• I can’t stand Donald Trump, and now my blood pressure is super high. What should I do?: Go ice skating and just know that ‘it’ (I don’t even want to type his filthy name) will be gone soon. #Resist #Breathe

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Grant Harvey

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This is gonna sound a tad weird, but stick with me here …

A few months ago, I was desperately trying to locate former NBA forward Harvey Grant. I asked different people I knew. I called several contacts. I checked with people who had played with him. Then, after no success, I headed over to Twitter and searched—literally—”Harvey Grant.”

And now, thanks to the magic of the information superhighway, we’re here.

Grant Harvey isn’t Harvey Grant. He’s shorter, younger and less athletic. Yet because life can be awesome and fun and serendipitous, the 354th Quaz is nothing short of fantastic. Grant plays Roy on the new ABC series, “The Crossing,” which debuted on April 2 to both strong reviews and ratings. But while his acting and modeling careers have been impressive, he’s also a former University of Nevada journalism major who hates Donald Trump, knows how to make a mean pizza and doesn’t mind telling one great story after another.

So, hey, to hell with Harvey Grant. Grant Harvey can be followed on Twitter here and Instagram here.

He is the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Grant, you play Roy on “The Crossing,” a series that debuted on ABC this week. And I wonder—what does that feel like? What I mean is, obviously it’s exciting and a huge deal. But are you nervous? Can you possibly know whether the series takes or doesn’t? Do you feel helpless? Hopeful? In control? Totally out of control?

GRANT HARVEY: I’ve been making a living at acting for about nine years now, and I’ve learned to not think about this type of thing too much. I mean, if I audition for something, for example, I’ve kinda trained myself to completely forget about whatever it was I just auditioned for by the time I get to my car. That’s really the only way to survive being an actor. Because really, we have zero control most of the time. All I can truly control is doing my job the best I possibly can and then hope for the best. And when it comes to The Crossing, I’m definitely hoping for the best. For sure. It’s a great show and I’m really proud of it. That I know. But I have no clue how it’s gonna perform. No one does. It should, because it’s a hell of a good show, but who the hell knows? I’d go crazy if I was thinking about that all the time. But it’s definitely an odd moment to be in—waiting for this big anticipated show to come out. It’s like a long, drawn out calm before the storm thing, where you’re just doing yard work and reading and doing things to keep your mind off it. When things happen for me, it’s always kind of like an afterthought. Like, “Oh wow, this is happening now. Great. Awesome. Let’s do this.”

J.P.: Along those lines, how did you land the role? Soup to nuts, how did it happen?

G.H.: These awesome casting directors, Sheila Jaffe and Gail Goldberg, cast this show. They had actually brought me in for this big movie and I got really close to getting that part. And they were fighting for me to get it. Then I didn’t. Then a few weeks later they brought me in for The Crossing. They had me read for another role at first. The role of Marshall. The guy who actually got that part is one of my really good friends now, Tommy Bastow. He’s a British chap. Likes tea a lot. And strumpets. We even got an apartment together up in Vancouver while shooting. Roomies. I still need to send him his half of our deposit refund.

But anyway, yeah, I read for his role first. And I walked out of that audition thinking I had shit the bed. I was sure of it. But then a week later Sheila and Gail called me back in for the role of Roy. I also thought I shit the bed with that one. Then I got called to read for the producers. Felt a little better about that one. Then I’m told that I might get the part. At that time, the role of Roy wasn’t as big as it later became. It wasn’t a series regular part. But then a few more days go by and my agent calls me and tells me that they upgraded the role to a series regular. So then I did a screen test at ABC. I’ll never forget this—when I finished doing the scene, I started walking out of the room, which is always awkward, and as I passed by Sheila she gave me this subtle thumbs up and had this smile on her face. Right then I knew I got the part.

J.P.: There’s no rhyme or reason to this question, but in 2009 you played “Wolves Team Captain,” in Hung, a vastly underrated HBO series. I’m a fan of small role stories, so what was your small role story?

G.H.: Ha! Dude. I was a n- job, struggling actor on a couch and Central Casting called me and asked if I was a good basketball player. Apparently I marked that box when I originally signed up. But I was an OK basketball player. And I was willing to take any job I could get. So I was all about it. I remember driving to set early in the morning. I was going down the 101 and I watched this car next to me crash and start rolling—metal flying everywhere. It was surreal. A ton of cars stopped all around it. I kept on to set and played basketball all day. We ran the floor and they just shot it. I remember Thomas Jane doing all his takes in his bare feet.

With Kelley Missal

With Kelley Missal

J.P.: According to your IMDB bio, you grew up running your family’s pizza parlor in Hawthorne, Nevada. Um, what? Do tell? And, as a fellow Southern California resident, why is the pizza out here so shitty?

G.H.: It’s all about the crust and sauce. My dad opened Harvey’s Pizza in 1979. He had a great sauce and a great crust. And I think the key to the crust was the elevation. Hawthorne, about 40 miles away from Mammoth, CA, was at about 4,500 feet above sea level. That added something to the crust that you can’t really get at sea level. When my brother and I were born, and once we were old enough, we started running the place. Those were some of the best years of my life. I was this 13-year-old kid, taking inventory, doing payroll, making the sauce and the dough, taking orders. Everything. My brother and I literally ran that place.

But one of the funniest things was that my dad made the worst pizzas. Kinda like how a mechanic has the shittiest car on the block. My dad developed this wonderful recipe and establishment, but his pizza-making skills were the worst. Regular customers would whisper under their breath, “Make sure your dad doesn’t make it” if he was behind the counter. And he had no idea how bad he was at it. Like, eight pepperonis on a large pepperoni pizza with spotty sauce and mozzarella clumped up in one corner of the pie. I’m not kidding. It was horrible. But it was great. It was endearing. Everyone knew it but him. But everyone loved his restaurant. So long as he wasn’t doing the cooking.

J.P.: So you attended the University of Nevada as a journalism student. Which leads to the question: Why would you become something as lame as an actor in a potentially huge TV series when you could have been just like me? (In all seriousness, why no journalism?)

G.H.: Haha. Yeah man, I always wanted to be an actor. I always loved movies. I was always obsessed with them. But coming from where I come from, you couldn’t really say, ‘I wanna be an actor when I grow up.’ That type of thing was out of the question. But writing—it fulfilled the exact same outlet as acting and movies did for me. And I was good at it. I had a natural grasp of the English language and writing. So I ran with that. I started writing for a handful of publications. And I was getting paid, which was great. But after a couple years of that, in college, I said fuck it, and literally just left without telling anyone and went to L.A.

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J.P.: You worked as a model. I used to have people tell me my daughter should model, and my response was always,”No fucking way.” Is modeling fun? Awful? I just hated the idea of her putting so much weight on looks, appearance, etc.

G.H.: I hated it. I wanted to be an actor. But when I got to L.A., it was a lot easier to get a modeling agent than an acting one. So I went with it. I’m actually still friends with my very first agent—my modeling agent. Jami Wrenn. Love her. But yeah, I despised modeling. It’s whack. It was all so ridiculous.

I remember I was in Milan and got an audition for some tv show in L.A. I cut my whole time there short and got a flight back to L.A. to make it back for the audition. The best thing about Milan, though, was when I first got there. At the time, it was miserable. But now it’s the highlight. So I landed in Milan. The airline lost my bag. Mind you, this was right before iPhones and navigation. My Blackberry didn’t work outside of the US. And my information sheet—all the contacts I needed once I got to Milan—was in my lost bag. And I had about $800 to my name. After pacing around the airport for a couple hours trying to figure shit out, the dude in the foreign exchange booth asked me what my deal was. He spoke English. Cool kid named Peter. He offered me a ride and drove me around like a maniac through the streets of Milan trying to find this modeling agency I was supposed to meet at in the middle of the night. We never found it. He told me how his girlfriend would flip out if he brought me home to stay with them, so he dumped me at this hotel.

But this Peter guy was awesome. He talked down the price for me. So I got to bed about 3 am and then had to be at the agency at 8 am. Still didn’t know where it was. I walked out of the hotel in the morning and it was right around the fucking corner, that’s where it was. As soon as I walked in there the head model agent guy looked at me and said, “Your face doesn’t look the same good as it did before.” What a fuckface. So I went out on all these castings with all these other assholes who were, like, better looking versions of me, and I hated it. I hated it. It was a zero-talent venture. And I was in the same clothes for a week, doing this. I didn’t book one job over there. When I got back to L.A. I was dead broke. These five girls let me sleep on a couch in their laundry room for a while. I’m grateful to those ladies.

J.P.: I once spent a day on the set of a TV show called “Love Monkey.” It starred a bunch of people you’ve heard of, but it didn’t last long. And I was pretty psyched for the experience. Then I arrived and watched the same scene shot 25 times in a row. I said to Jason Priestly, “This all looks pretty boring.” And he said, “Brother, you have no idea.” So … the TV show experience? Fun? Boring? Repetitive? Amazing? What?

G.H.: Bahhhh. Champagne problems. The waiting is why we got trailers. It might sound cheesy, but I’m never bored on a set, whether I’m in my trailer or in my chair or on my mark. I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. And I love every second of it. I really do. There’s a lot of waiting around if you’re an actor. That’s part of the job. But that’s because, while an actor’s waiting, there’s 100 other people busting their asses to make sure the next shot is correct. They’re out in the cold, literally working for hours on end, while I’m in my trailer watching a movie or playing Mario Kart. I’ll be profoundly disappointed in myself if I ever consider waiting around on a set boring. It’s fun. It’s fun all the way.

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J.P.: A few months ago on your Instagram account you featured an image of a Denver Broncos player with a raised fist, and you wrote, “I’ll gladly take a knee and raise a fist with sons of bitches than stand up with “very fine people.” Any day, all day.” And I wonder—how concerned do you need to be about taking a stand? You’re a young guy, blooming career. Is there a line you can’t cross? Have people ever said, “Grant, be careful about this stuff”?

G.H.: Well my mother definitely monitors my Tweets. I’ll be so enraged sometimes, especially over the last year, that I’ll unleash on Twitter, and then I’ll get a text from Mom, who lives back East, who starts her day at about 5 am, telling me that it’s a bit too much. And she’s right. She really is. I have to be cautious about what I put out there. But when it comes to things like racial injustice or an idiot president or homophobia, I’m standing my ground. I’m happy to go on record speaking out against that shit. All my life, most of my friends have been the guys getting pulled over for no actual reason and I’ve got multiple family members and tons of friends who just so happen to be gay. I’d definitely be taking a knee and raising a fist.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your acting career? Lowest?

G.H.: That’s tough. Well, If I had to pick one, I guess the greatest moment would be my first big gig. At the time, I was sleeping on a couch in some apartment with the grossest bathroom ever. So I’d go to the gym everyday, more to shower than to work out. And then one day I came back to the apartment and I had a voicemail from my agent telling me that I had booked my first show. That was pretty great. I still have the voicemail.

The lowest moment—hands down—was immediately after I got my first straight offer for television. Which means I didn’t have to audition. They just offered me the part. The last conversation I ever had with my dad was me telling him about that. It was an episode of Criminal Minds. So right before I was about to start the episode, my dad, who my brother and I were extremely close with, died unexpectedly. I got a call one afternoon from my brother and I just heard, “Dad died.” I’ll remember that for as long as I live. But the crazy part about it was that the episode had already begun shooting. It was too late to replace me. So get this—my role in the episode was a guy who kills his entire family at a dinner table before sitting across from his dad and letting him see his dead family, and then killing him, too. I think the ep is called “A Place at the Table.” I flew back and forth from my father’s memorial and shooting that episode. Brutal right?

J.P.: So I’m not sure if you saw this, but Jim Carrey recently sorta gave up on Hollywood. He just seems tired of it all. The red carpet. The inane interviews. The posing, the preening. Just a general vapidness that really got to him. He’s got years in the game that you don’t. But … do you get it at all? Like, can you see where he’s coming from? Or is it craziness?

G.H.: Yeah, I hear him. First of all, he’s an incredibly intelligent dude. He’s also achieved a level of success that few ever will. I think those two ingredients combined offer a person a unique glimpse into the world. I mean, who the hell knows how we’d be or how we’d think if we were in his shoes. I just hope he does some more acting in some low-budget indies. I think he’s got something special to offer there.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH GRANT HARVEY:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Harvey Dent, Steve Harvey, Harvey Weinstein, Hurricane Harvey, Harvey Grant, Bryan Harvey, Harvey Kuenn, Harvey Korman: Bryan Harvey, Harvey Korman, Steve Harvey, Harvey Grant, Harvey Kuenn, Harvey Dent, Harvey Weinstein, Hurricane Harvey.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Michael B. Jordan?: Michael B.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Every time I’m in a plane I do.

• One question you would ask Mario Soto were he here right now?: Where’s Cincinnati?

• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Jonathan Rosenthal on “Starcrossed”?: It was brief.

• Five reasons one should make Hawthorne, Nevada his/her next vacation destination?: Well Harvey’s Pizza isn’t there anymore. But… there are a bunch of good people there. At least five. Stop through and meet them at Joe’s Tavern.

• Three memories from playing “Pete McCrone” on CSI?: 1. George ran lines with me in his trailer and we drank cokes and ate sandwiches; 2. The dude who punched me is Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad; 3. Ted Danson is as cool as you’d think he is.

• You have a clover tattoo. What’s the story behind it?: Dad was Irish. My brother and I both got the tat. it says “we are” below it. Our dad’s alma matter is San Jose St. When he was there, their school slogan was “we are.” So it stuck with dad. By the time he was saying it to Brian and I, it basically meant “I love you.” He said it all the time. When we’d get off the phone, get out of the car or hug him goodbye. It’d always be, “we are.”

• Are farts more funny or gross?: Funny. But I’m sexist with this one.

• If you win an Emmy for 2018, can you thank me in your acceptance speech? And my Uncle Marty—he’s really nice: No.

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Dave Vescio

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There are interesting people in the world, and then there are I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-I-n-g people in the world.

Dave Vescio is I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-I-n-g.

No, scratch that. He’s I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G.

If the face or name seems familiar, that’s because Dave has devoted much of the past decade toward an acting career that has seem him master the art of the villain. But film is merely a small part of the narrative. In Dave Vescio, you have a man who served in the U.S. Army. A man who has battled alcohol and drug addiction. A man who served time behind bars in Fort Leavenworth prison. A man who works as a fighter in the #MeToo movement. A man whose Twitter bio reads, in part, “I went from Ex-con to Cult Movie Icon.”

Again, a truly fascinating man.

One can follow Dave on Twitter here, and visit his IMDB page here.

Dave Vescio, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Dave, you have one of humanity’s craziest Wikipedia pages, but I wanna start with this: “best known for his villainous roles in film and television.” I’ve never had a Quaz “best known for his villainous roles in film and television.” So I ask—what makes you seem villainous? I’m sure you’ve pondered this one. Is it face? Voice? Scowl?

DAVE VESCIO: Ha, ha, thanks, because that Wikipedia page rarely says anything about me and what it does say about me, I am like OK, whatever. As for your question, well, I only play movie villain roles, but, there’s a reason for this. One, I am a real-life villain who was sentenced to 10 years to a maximum hard labor federal prison called Fort Leavenworth. I was a middle man in an LSD drug cartel getting ready to sell military weapons and I was actually facing 67 years in total. So I would say it’s my whole being that sells that and still sells it to this day. And the reason I only play movie villain roles is because my mission statement as an artist is to educate the world on what real life villains are really like, so, they know how to protect themselves against them. I do that with my Twitter page, with my film art and with my press interviews. It’s a full circle you might say; I turned my lemons into lemonade and my shit into sugar.

J.P.: So you served in the U.S. Army (25th Infantry Division) as a combat light infantry soldier, and while an enlistee became addicted to alcohol and drugs. I’m naïve, but a part of me would think the discipline and regimentation of the military would make addiction less likely. Clearly I’m wrong. So … why? And how did that happen?

D.V.: Well, I am infantry, and we did have a saying in the infantry, “Work hard and play harder.” And I would say most of us were addicted to something, from sex to drugs to alcohol to exercise to wife and kids to God knows what. And when you live in the jungle for weeks on end in the mud and in the rain, with nothing on except for your boots and your camouflage uniform, doing training missions (meaning, being hunted like an animal and hunting others like an animal) over and over again with barely any sleep at all and barely eating and drinking, for every single month of every single year, your mind, body, and soul definitely take a beating, it definitely takes a toll. So we infantry soldiers need to release that somehow someway, which is with our addictions, meaning, with our play time. So, I just pushed the limits way too hard in the end. But, that’s me. I am always pushing the limits of everything. I always have, and I always will. You only live once in this body, so, I always say live it to the max. Push, push, push, until you can’t handle it anymore, then push even more! Plus, I was taught as a kid that they should be able to write a best selling biography about your life after you die. So, I’ve always wanted to have a biography written about me and probably still do to this day.

J.P.: You have served time in Fort Leavenworth prison for a drug charge. A very tight and specific question: What is it to be an inmate at Leavenworth? I mean, I think people who have never been behind bars have this idea in our heads. But is it worse than one would imagine? Better?

D.V.: First off, the only movie that I have ever seen that totally captured what a hard labor maximum prison is really like is “Shawshank Redemption.” So, honestly, it was just like that. So, no matter what your crime was, everyone and I mean everyone lives together (except for the death row inmates and we had those as well). So, living next to you day in and day out are murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, arsonists, bank robberies, computer hackers, to etc. And yes, we had rapists and child molesters living in general population, until there was a death threat made on their life, and then that’s when they were finally put in special quarters. And Fort Leavenworth was a hard labor prison, so, everyone had to work five days a week for eight hours a day or you went to the hole, so, up to you. And if you have ever seen photos of Fort Leavenworth it was surrounded by thirty to fifty foot tall concrete walls with armed guards carrying M-16s locked & loaded ready to kill at any moment, and we all knew that as well. So, you either follow the prison rules and stay out of trouble or face the consequences of these armed guards and/or get sent to the hole for days on weeks or months on end, because these guards were not kidding around at all.  And you always had to keep an eye on the back of your head at all times because a lot of these inmates were lifers, meaning, they were sentenced to life in prison, so, they just had nothing to lose, so, they didn’t care about the rules, and were willing to break them at any time. And a day in prison feels like a week, a week feels like a month, a month feels like a year, and a year feels like a decade. Time just goes by so fucking slow in prison.

J.P.: You said in an interview that you were raised in a military family where “you don’t really feel or share your emotions with others.” You added that your time in the Army mirrored that life approach. I imagine it had to be insanely hard to go from that to emoting as an actor. So how did you shed your old skin? How did you learn to freely emote?

D.V.: Wow, you really did your research on me. Thanks for that, Jeff.

And yes, it was very, very hard to go from a life of not showing any outer emotions to always showing it as an actor. Very hard indeed. Shoot, it’s still hard to this day and I have been a film actor for thirteen years now. As for how did I do it? Honestly, just practice, practice, practice. I am always working on my craft and on my instrument every single week of every single month of every single year. And when I say instrument, I mean doing yoga, stretching, vocal warm ups, meditation, connecting chakras, exercising, to massaging my face muscles. Acting is a craft like any other art form, and you only get better at your craft, the more you do it, and the more you keep your instrument in tune as well. And our body and our voice are our instruments. It’s no different than any other musical instrument. But, at the same time, I was taught all of this in acting school by acting teachers. It’s our foundation as actors. It’s what everything is built upon.

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J.P.: Why acting? What drew you to it? Why? When did you know you had some talent?

D.V.: First off, I don’t believe in the word “talent”. Anything can be learned if you’re willing to put in 10,000-plus hours of hard work and are willing to find mentors and teachers who will push you to the freaking limits. I have turned almost all of my hobbies into professions because I was willing to work harder than my competition ever was, and I still work harder than most of them. As for why acting? I don’t know. I think it chose me to be honest. I took an acting class for the hell of it in my late 20s and just fell in love with it on the first day in class. Then it took me another seven years to find the acting that I love the most, which is film acting, and that’s when I decided to dedicate my whole life to it day in and day out. But, to answer your question, I honestly don’t know. I just know that if I don’t act professionally in films then I rather be dead. If I don’t practice it each week somehow someway then I rather be dead. It’s either this or death for me. But, at the same time, I wake up every single morning working my ass off trying to be the best of the best in film acting and in the business of acting as well. I am always hustling, always promoting, and always trying to make my mission statement come true, somehow someway. Once again, it’s this or death for me. So, I choose this over death!

J.P.: You were in a 2011 Film, “Hick,” that has a huge cast and a 5 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And I wonder—does that matter to you? Do you think the critics are wrong? Is it a good film people misunderstand? Is it a shit film people perfectly understand? And do you care when your movies are panned? Do you take it personally?

D.V.: I give two fucks what any critic or any person ever thinks about any of my indie films. Especially “Hick.” The film is based on a true life story about a 13-year-old girl who runs away from home and the real life consequences of what could and did happen to this poor little girl (which turns out to be the woman who wrote our screenplay—Andrea Portes—when she was a little girl). And these movie critics and the whole Hollywood film business has always had a problem with movies that talk about child rape and child molestation. From “Lolita” in 1962 to “Hounddog” in 2007 to now “Hick” in 2012.

For some reason, I live in a culture that just does not want to talk about child sex crimes at all, and because of that, these sex crimes continue to happen to these poor little boys and girls every single day, of every single week, of every single year, of every single decade in the U.S. and all around the world. And a good portion of these sexually traumatized boys and girls will now turn into sexual predators themselves because of these horrible crimes that happened to them. It’s a vicious cycle that will never end until we as a culture can start talking about it out loud, freely, without being booed or criticized for doing it in the first place, just like we’re currently all talking about adult sex crimes right now. Because if we as a culture can end slavery, then we as a culture can also end sex crimes as well. It’s all up to us and it has always been up to us, if we can all stop sticking our heads in the sand pretending it’s not going on all around us to our friends, associates, and family members.

So, that’s why I still promote “Hick” like it just came out yesterday, because it’s a huge a problem in the U.S. and all around the world that still needs to be resolved. And the other question that I have for the movie critics who did not like our film—why is that? Do you personally think these fucked-up criminal thoughts yourself and are trying to hide it from us all? Or did this happen to you as a child and you just don’t want to talk about it out loud, so, you rather say bad things about the film, so, you don’t have to hear about it ever again? Because it really does make me wonder why the movie critics for decades have always been against child sex abuse story lines. It makes me wonder indeed …

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J.P.: You said in an interview that you enjoy showing “the actual truth of these villainous characters to the world.” What does that mean? Do you feel like people too often assign “bad guys” black-or-white personality characteristics? Is there an undiscovered depth that we miss?

D.V.: Yes, I think Hollywood has always used the whole black and white personality characteristics in most of their films. Shoot, in the old days, the good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black. What the fuck was that all about!? And nowadays, it’s one’s facial / body look instead. Like for me, TV will never hire me to play the villain, and they are very honest about all of this by telling me and my agent that I just don’t look like a villain at all. Ha, ha, which is so fucking funny, because I am a real-life villain. Ha ha, dumb-asses. So, yes, I am truly bringing another layer to the art world. But, I’m not the only one. There are others like me who truly want to reveal to the world what real life villains are really like, such as Ted Levine in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List” and Michael Douglas in “Wall Street.” Those are some of my favorite movie villains and those actors truly captured their character’s reality, plus, researched the hell out of those roles as well. So I’m definitely not the only actor doing this or have been doing this.

J.P.: I’ve asked a good number of women in Hollywood this, but no men: How do you feel about the whole #MeToo movement? Are you surprised? Have you seen men in the business treat women like shit?

D.V.: I love the whole #MeToo movement. But I have always been vocal about raising awareness for crimes against women, children and other minorities since 2009, I believe. But, yes, I am surprised—surprised indeed. I just never thought I would live in a world that would erupt like it did and will continue to erupt this coming year. And never did I imagine that these powerful men and women could be brought down for good by the press and by us social media followers who are rapidly spreading the message to our friends and family members. But, I fucking love it! Love it indeed! And who’s next to fall?  He-he!

As for your last question, the only thing I have ever seen is women being treated as sex objects on set and some of them being very uncomfortable for doing it in the first place. Meaning, being asked to reveal their body for certain skimpy bikini/underwear scenes, nudity scenes, or sex scenes, which were written in the script prior, but, honestly, did not need to be shot at all to tell the actual film story. And I do remember seeing these male directors and male crew members getting off on all of this shit. Which was legal for these filmmakers to do this kind of bullshit, but, I do hope that with the whole #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that this kind of sexual harassment behavior will end for good. Because at the end of the day, it’s just sexual harassment and demeaning women and having power over them. So I truly do hope this kind of bullshit ends soon. Because I always did feel bad for these female actresses who did these kinds of scenes because they thought they had to or else be fired for refusing to do them even though they did agree to do those scenes prior, plus, I also knew that most of these women would never have film/TV careers ever again because of those sexualized scenes as well, and most of them don’t to this day.

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

D.V.: Greatest moment of my career? Hmm, that’s a tough one, because my career is acting and activism rolled up into one. I would say where I am at in this very moment in time. This would definitely be my greatest moment in my career because I have another highly controversial art film coming out this April. It was created by the world-renowned artist Paul McCarthy called “Coach Stage Stage Coach,” plus, I am still raising awareness for crimes against women and children every single day in the digital world as well.

Now, my lowest moments were the times that I quit acting for good. That’s happened to me three times so far. And those were definitely my lowest points in time, because I just wanted to die and be over with it all. Like I said before, either I act or I die. So, I act, because film acting is really the only thing that makes me happy in the end.

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J.P.: How do you muster emotion when acting? Fear? Sadness? I mean, it just seems hard to emote when you’re not, literally, feeling what you’re emoting. So how do you do it?

D.V.: That’s a good question. I would say as I said before, just practice, practice, practice, meaning, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse the scenes until I truly know them/feel them. And using sense memory that just happened recently, because it’s still alive and kicking inside of me, because it hasn’t resolved itself just yet. And to pick an action that is fun to do in the scene, meaning, picking something that is fun for me to cause fear or sadness inside of me. Something that I know that I can do over and over again, because in reality, I’ll have to do it over and over again for all the different film takes that I’ll have to do. But, I love crying on set and I love being in lots of pain on set. I truly want my characters to feel the pain of being punished and killed for the crimes that they committed, meaning, I truly have to feel those pains as well. It’s why I do all of my own stunts. Because I truly want to feel it for real, and when I do feel it for real, then you the audience feels it for real as well. To me, that’s true acting in the end and that’s my job as a professional actor: to make it so, so real for you the audience, that you don’t know what is real or not, so, the story can affect you a way that it’s supposed to affect you, meaning, for real. And that’s when the film’s true message comes across very loud and clear to you and sticks with you for days on end, if not years on end.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DAVE VESCIO:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Kelly Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell, Space X, Kyle O’Quinn, cheddar chunks, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, “Patti Cake$,” Joe Montana, Oklahoma State: Holy crap, I don’t even know what some of this is. But, I was never into pop culture really. So, I would say Space X, Malcolm McDowell, cheddar chunks, Joe Montana, Oklahoma State, “Pattie Cake$”, Kelly Clarkson, and I have no clue who Kyle O’Quinn is or Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

• The world needs to know, what was it like working with Sabrina Culver in “Wolf Mother”?: We actually didn’t work together on set and that’s the curse of being a movie actor versus a theatre / TV actor. Most of the times I don’t meet all the actors in our film until the movie’s premiere. But, she is great …

• Five reasons one should make Somerset, Pa. his/her next vacation destination?: Ha ha, that’s funny, since I only lived there for a year when I was born. But, I still do have family there though. So I would say the top five reasons are: the mountain views, the ski slopes, the sunsets, the cool brisk air, and the peace & quiet of being in a small little country town in the middle of nowhere.

• Three interesting things about your father: 1. He was a fighter pilot who fought in the Vietnam War and served another 20-plus years for his country. A true patriot in the end. 2. A highly successful entrepreneur who still works nonstop at the age of 70. 3. And one of the only two people on this planet who were there with me from the very beginning of my acting career and who still support to this day with my art, my activism, and with my future dreams. Very rarely do you find people who support your dreams, and very rarely are they your own parents (because my mom is the other person as well).

• Two memories from playing “Leon’s Foster Father” in “Truly Blessed”I have no fucking clue. That was so long ago, and such a small little role. I honestly don’t know. But, let me think. Well, that’s where I met the horror film actress Serena Lorien at and we still talk to this day. And I think I died in that scene. But I honestly don’t know. Sorry.

• Is Carmelo Anthony a Hall of Famer when he retires?:  Who the fuck is Carmelo Anthony? Ha ha!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I actually almost did die in a plane crash. And no, I am not talking about my movie “Air Collision.” No, back in 1999, I almost did die on a plane flying from the U.S. to Ecuador. We almost ran out of fuel and visibility was zero, meaning, we couldn’t even see the blinking red lights on the wings of the plane. So, I just remembered being told by the pilot to put our heads between our legs and if you believe in God then to start praying to Him now. But, in the end, we landed safely, and I actually got off the plane and kissed the freakin ground. I will never forget that moment, very scary indeed!

• I loved “Creed.” Now they’re making “Creed II”—where young Creed fights Drago’s son. This seems like a very bad idea. Am I wrong?: First off, is Sylvester Stallone guilty of sexually abusing those women? If so, I don’t see this movie ever being made. So, we will see … but, if he is not guilty, I can see it being a good idea. People just love remakes or similar story lines, and if you think about it, we actors, writers, directors, and producers have mostly repeated what has worked before. Very, very rarely do you see an original screenplay or even an original play being made. And what did Pablo Picasso say, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” So, that’s professional art for you!

• Without looking, how many songs by Nas can you name?: I honestly don’t listen to music at all, so, I couldn’t tell you. Sorry.

• What’s the best thing to do with a moldy onion?: Throw it away. As fast as possible. Because that thing will smell up the whole freakin fridge. Trust me, I know!

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Vinny Marino

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Wanna have some fun? Ask Vinny Marino—offensive coordinator of the Bryant University football team—to name every place he’s worked as a coach. In order.

Seriously, it’s a wondrously dizzying endeavor, not unlike asking a Baskin Robbins clerk to list the week’s 31 flavors. Since graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1992, Marino has been employed a ton of schools, from Boston College and Davidson to Georgetown and, beginning in 2017, Bryant.

What inspires him … what drives him—is love. Love for the players, love for his fellow coaches. Love for the smell of the field, the sound of pads hitting pads, the sight of a perfect spiral soaring through the air. Where will Vinny be in five years? Who the hell knows. The NFL? Alabama? Bryant? Such is the life of the assistant college coach—a wayward-yet-cherished gig that Vinny wouldn’t trade for gold.

Anyhow, I actually bumped into Vinny via Twitter, and a short-lived DM argument turned into a lovely dialogue. He’s a good guy, and someone genuinely worth rooting (and playing) for. You can learn more about him here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Vinny Marino—welcome to the Super Bowl of Q&As. You’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Vinny, so you’re the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Bryant College—as well as the former Boston College recruiting coordinator. And I wanna start with this: What is recruiting in the age of social media? I mean, you and I grew up with a coach calling, then visiting. How has it changed? And is it better? Worse?

VINNY MARINO: Social media has certainly influenced recruiting in a big way, some positive and some not so positive. Calling is still a very big part of recruiting. Talking to a prospect is still so important and valuable for a coach to get to know a prospect and vice versa. Getting recruits on campus now earlier in the process is a bigger deal than years ago. It’s a great way to show recruits and families the campus and program earlier in the process. The whole recruiting process has been sped up with technology—i.e. emailing and video systems. Social media has allowed coaches to contact players via twitter mostly and move the process along faster. Recruits usually will have a HUDL highlight video on their Twitter page so it is much easier to see them on video.

All of this has helped the process move along faster and easier for sure. Schools have “recruiting” departments dealing with just social media so that will tell you how big of a part social media has become. It lets schools customize their graphics to appeal to the recruits, which kids today think is really cool. It’s hip. Social media has made in impact because most recruits will share their plans, when before it was kind of kept quiet. Most recruits want to get on Twitter and share their recruiting. It promotes a ME culture—which can make it harder for sure. Recruits put out on social media when they get offered a scholarship, offered a visit (official/unofficial) or were on a certain campus. Most kids want the limelight and people to know what is going on in the recruiting process. They want views. That certainly can make the recruiting process more challenging for sure.

 J.P.: So you’ve coached at a loooong list of schools. Bryant, BC, Columbia, Georgetown, Davidson, UCnonn, Rhode Island, Richmond, Holy Cross, Western Carolina and Bowdoin. I think I’ve got them all. And I’ve gotta say—it seems like a hard life, in regards to settling down, feeling comfortable, feeling at home. So … is it? And what keeps you going?

V.M.: It is certainly a hard life. It can make having a relationship tougher for sure. A coach’s wife/girlfriend certainly has to understand it’s your passion and they have to be bought in. You definitely have to have support. There are certainly a lot of highs and lows in coaching and it helps to be able to share them with someone. I love coaching and it would be really hard for me to do something else. I have a passion for it and that is what keeps me going. I have always had the philosophy that you better love getting up in the morning and doing what you do. If not, you will not be happy. You have to be happy first before you can make someone else happy.

 J.P.: Besides your time at BC and UConn, all your schools have either been I-AA (as I still call it) or lower. And I wonder—is the difference in talent obvious? Like, if you’re standing on the sideline of a BC practice vs., say, a Bryant practice, what are the noted disparities? Speed? Size? Is it visible to the average eye?

V.M.: There is definitely a difference between FBS and FCS (1-AA). There are a lot of great FCS players who probably could play on an FBS team for sure. Recruiting is not an exact science so players will “slip” through the cracks. It happens all the time. Also, some FCS players develop later and have very high ceilings, therefore,they have great FCS careers. I really believe a big difference between an FBS and FCS program is the numbers (in most cases). There tend to be more players who can play and provide more depth in the FBS programs than in FCS programs. FBS teams have a better chance of having their second team being closer to their first team. It really is about depth. You have 85 full scholarships for FBS vs. 63 scholarships (they can be broken up).

That being said, the talent difference in certainly noticeable. The players usually are bigger, stronger and faster. But not in all cases. More players in the NFL will come from FBS programs than FCS programs. I think the combination of size, speed and strength is noticeable. A lot of FCS players have one or two of those qualities as opposed to all three.

With Doug Flutie at BC back in 2014

With Doug Flutie at BC back in 2014

 J.P.: I know you graduated from UConn with a degree in economics, then got your master’s in physical education from Western Carolina. But—how did this happen for you? When did you develop your love for football? When did you know this would be your path?

V.M.: I have always loved football ever since I was a little boy watching my uncle coach our high school team for so long. I loved his passion and how he demanded excellence from his players. It stood out to me at a young age. I then went to UConn and was a backup quarterback and holder. I had great coaches who treated me so well and made my experience a great one. This was another major factor in me getting into coaching. I went to UConn thinking I was going to be a lawyer and after my first semester, I wanted to be a college football coach. The rest is history, as they say.

 J.P.: I don’t want my son playing tackle football. I just think, knowing what we know, the physical risks aren’t worth it. Tell me why I’m wrong.

V.M.: I certainly can understand parents hesitancy or flat out resistance to letting their sons play football. I really believe football is the greatest sport and greatest team sport to be played. The characteristics that are brought out playing such a team sport and such a demanding sport are off the charts. Sports in general teach great life lessons for sure, but football takes in to the next level as far as pushing through adversity, sacrifice and teamwork. The sheer number of how many players there are make it different. Players in most cases have to beat out a bunch of guys to win a job. The camaraderie of a football team is really amazing. I say that a football team is the biggest fraternity on campus. You are brothers and usually have each others back in most cases. Players in most cases overlook a lot of things for their brothers. I love that part of it.

On the concussion side of the issue, the game is still a contact sport but it has been made safer and will continue to be made safer. Teaching to make the game safer has gotten so much better. That, to me, is such an important piece. How you teach tackling and hitting is so important and that has gotten so much better. I really believe the positives outweigh the negatives. The negatives are big, no doubt. But the joy of playing the game and with who you play it with is such a great experience.

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 J.P.: You and I DMed briefly about Delaware and Tubby Raymond. When I was there, the offense was the Wing T—and it was effective and beautiful. Yet now almost no one uses it on the college level. You’re an offensive coordinator. Why?

V.M.: That is a great question. I am not an expert by any stretch of this subject. I don’t have a Wing T background. It certainly can be a very effective offense, as has been proven on the high school and college levels. My guess is there is a “sexy” factor to it. There is not a big dropback pass component to it, with a lot of big plays down the field. That is “sexy.” People like to watch football games and see points being scored and big, exciting plays taking place. That is my opinion. It’s a very good question.

 J.P.: When you were at Columbia you coached Craig Hormann, the quarterback who signed with the Browns. So what made Craig an NFL prospect? Like, what were the things that separated him from your average Ivy QB? And did you think he was NFL material?

V.M.: Craig Hormann had an NFL arm and he had NFL size. He was also a very intelligent young man who had a really good feel and understanding of the game. Those are qualities that NFL teams like in QBs. It was really a shame when he hurt his knee in the winter of his junior year. He was progressing nicely and had a very high ceiling. He just missed too much practice time and training because of the injury, and that hurt his development to a degree. His arm strength was tremendous. He could make all of the throws. In the Ivy League that is impressive. That’s not easy to do.

 J.P.: What does it feel like to be on the staff of a really awful team? Like, what was your worst season, W and L-wise, and how did you endure? What do the weeks feel like? Is it hard staying up?

V.M.: Being on a really bad team stinks. That being said, I have been on some teams with bad records but we weren’t that bad. We lost some heartbreaking games or we played really well against teams who were just flat-out better than us. As long as the kids worked hard and prepared hard for each game, it was easy to stay up because the players actually weren’t giving up. It’s when the kids stop practicing hard and preparing that gets you down and frustrates you. I have been on a 1-9 team a 2-8 team. The 1-9 team was my last year at Columbia in 2011. I actually thought the kids kept hanging in there and playing hard. We beat Brown the last game of the season in overtime. I was frustrated because we were crushed with injuries but not bad attitudes. We kept fighting. One of the 2-8 teams was a team that was tough to be around. They stopped playing and preparing. It stunk. So not fun. We had taken over a mess and years two and three are usually where the warts show and it did. Tough time.

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

V.M.: The greatest moment was winning the Motor City Bowl vs Toledo when I was at UConn in 2004. First bowl game and bowl win for UConn.  What a great night, although I was sick as a dog.

The lowest was probably in 2003 when I was at UConn and we went 9-3 and weren’t selected for a bowl game. I was so disappointed. We were such a good team. I felt so bad for the seniors.

 J.P.: You’re approaching your 50s, and I wonder—does it get harder to relate with athletes? Do you have to try and stay up to do with things? I dunno—Meek Mill and Fifth Harmony and the new iPhone? Or is it just … football?

V.M.: I’m pretty hip and cool. LOL. It is a little different but I am a people person so I think I relate pretty well with them. Ultimately, players want to know you are making them better and if you are that stuff takes care of itself. I do enough stuff and say enough things for them to know I am not too old. LOL It definitely is important, though, to relate to players outside of football. Players better know you care about them. That’s for sure.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH VINNY MARINO:

• Delaware has a running back named Thomas Jefferson. What are the coolest athlete names you’ve ever been around?: My good friend and teammate at UConn (and we coached together at UConn as well) is named Lyndon Johnson. Pretty cool. That is probably the best one.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Stephon Marbury, Coppin State University, Crayola Crayons, waffle fries, Sheena Easton, Frita Batidos, Desmond Howard, strawberry milk, Halle Berry, “Shakespeare in Love.”: Waffle fries, strawberry milk, Halle Berry, Sheena Easton, Desmond Howard, Stephon Marbury, Crayola Crayons, Coppin St, Frita Batidos, “Shakespeare in Love.”

• Which is better—the Michigan helmet or the Ohio State helmet?: Michigan

• The world needs to know—what was it like coaching Muneer Monroe?: Coaching Muneer Moore was awesome. Such a hard worker, attentive, easy to coach. Wanted to get better every day. He had zero ego. He just wanted to learn and play. One of my all-time favorites I have ever coached. He is such a great person.

• Five reasons one should make Smithfield, R.I. his/her next vacation destination: 1. Bryant University; 2. Nice summer weather; 3. Blackie’s tavern; 4. J’s Deli; 5. Bryant University has a great campus with great people

• Biggest accomplishment as a football player at UConn?: As the holder I had a really good hold off a bad snap on the game winning field goal vs Villanova in 1990.

• Can I borrow $22.18?: No you can’t. I hate change.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I was actually taking a flight out of New York to Tampa recruiting for Columbia when we had smoke on the plane and had to make an emergency landing in Newark. Thought we were going down and I was going to die. Really scary. Still a little jumpy on flights.

• Who wins in a cherry pit spitting contest between you and Cher?: Me. I am not a Cher fan so somehow I will not let her beat me.

• In exactly 21 words, can you make an argument for Chad Pennington: Greatest Quarterback to Have Ever Walked the Earth?: There is NO way possible I could do that even if you said I have 121 words to use. And I liked him. Thought he was a really good quarterback.

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Martin Wisckol

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If you live in California’s Orange County, and you follow local and/or national politics with even a passing interest, odds are you know the work of Martin Wisckol.

Why? Two reasons. 1. He’s been covering the game forever for the Orange County Register. 2. He’s ridiculously productive and equally good. Martin’s reporting is dogged, and his writing his precise. He seems to have a unique understanding of both politics and the men and women dumb enough to seek office. Although his paper is often accused of leaning right (the editorial page certainly sympathizes Republican), I’ve never heard anyone disparage Martin’s work. It’s that good.

Regrettably, it’s also coming to an end. I learned earlier this week that Martin is now the Register’s coastal environment reporter—which (to be honest) bums me out. Honestly, I’ve learned more about Orange County Democrats and Republicans from Martin’s writing than anyone else on the scene.

Anyhow, today Martin steps up as Quaz 351—and it’s a terrific one. He talks Trump-Hillary, Crazy Dana Rohrabacher, the sanity of the newspaper writer and why the genre will likely survive. One can follow Martin on Twitter here, or visit his Facebook page here.

Martin Wisckol, you are the big 3-5-1.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Martin, until this week you were the politics editor at the Orange County Register, which seems like a really fascinating gig when geography is considered. In other words, you’re in a strong red zone that’s suddenly oozing purple. And I wonder, do you see Orange County as a future Democratic hotbed? Was 2016 just an aberration, what with Trump running? Both? Neither?

MARTIN WISCKOL: There was a Democratic surge at the top of the ticket in 2016, when Hillary Clinton became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the county since FDR in 1936 (Roosevelt won all but eight electoral votes nationwide, a record).

But there is an underlying trend that is a more important signal of where things are likely headed in OC, as I’ve detailed in numerous stories.

Republicans’ advantage in the county’s voter registration peaked in 1990 at 22 percentage points. By 2010, it was half that and shrinking fast. By the 2016 general election, it was 3.8 points. It’s now 3.3 points.

While Democrats may not surpass Republicans in voter registration in 2018, it appears to be only a matter of time until they do. Several reasons why:

Latinos are 34 percent of the county’s population and 18 percent of its registered voters, with their electoral growth trend expected to continue as more become citizens and more reach voting age. Of those Latino voters, 53 percent are Democrats, 21 percent are Republicans and 26 percent are independents or third party members, according to a 2016 Political Data Inc. analysis.

In 2002, county voters under 35 were 42 percent Republican and 29 percent Democrat. By 2016, voters under 35 were 36 percent Democrat and 26 percent Republican, with the rest independent or third party.

Republicans have the biggest advantage among older voters, which is not a growth demographic. Additionally, among women, county Democrats now have a slight advantage in registration.

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J.P.: I’ve mainly covered athletes, and they tend to be narcissistic, arrogant, dismissive. I mean, those are generalizations, but with a lot of truth. You’ve mainly covered politicians. So … who are they?

M.W.: Certainly there’s some shared ground, although it’s more important for politicians to not display those characteristics since it has more of a bearing on whether they get the job.

Qualities I often use in sizing up politicians are veracity, diplomacy, dignity, consistency, intelligence, thoughtfulness, respectfulness, open mindedness and congeniality. When somebody takes a position that seems inconsistent, how sincere and logical do they sound about their change of heart?

Politicians often act like righteous idealists yet almost all will compromise, for reasons good and bad. That’s the nature of politics. The best ones are the most convincing. There’s the old joke: The secret of politics is sincerity. When you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

There are politicians on both sides of the aisle whom I largely trust and whose company I enjoy. There are others are less pleasant. That doesn’t mean those I largely trust and like aren’t just better at hiding their flaws and unlikeable traits while projecting sincerity.

J.P.: I have a friend who works in political media, and he never seems particularly upset about Donald Trump—or any political figure. I mean, he knows Trump is crazy and sucky. But he seems oddly chill about it. I, meanwhile, lose my shit every other day. How about you? Do you think, in covering politics, that proximity somewhat results in less alarm?

M.W.: I think I nurture a healthy appetite for outrage and I think that’s important for the job. Hypocrisy, cheating, lying, stealing – there are certain things that society overwhelmingly agrees are wrong and should be exposed.

On the other hand, I’m a professional and my job is to leave my personal biases at the door – and those I can’t leave at the door, be aware of them so I can be careful they don’t imbalance the stories I write. This is not something new – this is not something I’m saying because Trump is president. I’m speaking in generic terms.

I am digesting this stuff — talking to people about it, researching it, putting it into story form – all day, every day, for more than 30 years now. I think I’m learning how to be efficient with my emotions and not allow them to distract from the task at hand or unnecessarily sap my energy.

Look, Trump won the presidency and despite his poll numbers, he’s got a lot of followers. If 40 percent of people thought I was a great writer, I’d be next to you on the New York Times bestseller’s list. My job is to understand what’s going on and relay that understanding in stories that readers find helpful to their world views, activism and political decision making.

J.P.: You work for a newspaper with a sinking circulation and a cloudy future. So, I’ll ask, how does the Orange County Register survive? What does it look like five years from now?

M.W.: Let’s be clear that most newspapers are in the same boat.

I have cocktail conversations about what this paper or that paper should be doing to thrive. There are plenty of opinions in the newsroom, some of which contradict each other. The bottom line is that papers need to maintain or increase readership and revenue stream as they transition to digital.

If I knew everything required to do that, I’d be talking to you from my Fijian beach house. But I know one essential component: Good journalism. The Register has some very talented reporters who consistently produce top-shelf, groundbreaking work on a range of issues, including homelessness, carelessness and malfeasance in the criminal justice system, immigration, drug rehab scams and, if I may say so, politics. This is the heart of newspaper work – whether or not there is a print product – and the heart of the Register is strong and healthy. Let’s hope the other organs can keep up.

J.P.: Just read your bio—which includes the sentence, “Wisckol started his career writing about surfing and jazz.” Um … what?

M.W.: Most my life I’ve been an avid surfer and jazz fan, and still am. As I discovered a facility to write, I started sending stories to the magazines I read – surfing and music publications. Incredibly, many of them were purchased. As time went on, I became attracted to writing hard news – not too many people make a living exclusively from performing jazz, let alone writing about those who perform it – and that evolved into a focus on politics.

I still write about jazz from time to time. I reviewed the Playboy Jazz Festival again in 2017, for instance. How cool to see John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette and John Medeski in the same band! In box seats and get paid for it!

J.P.: Back in the mid-1990s you were a writer in the Sun-Sentinel’s Miami Bureau. I checked your old bylines—and fuck. You were all over the place: Corrupt politicians, drug busts, swearing ins, murders. So what was that experience like? And what was the craziest thing you encountered?

M.W.: Unbelievable news town. A Caribbean Latino city that didn’t seem to run by the rules of U.S. cities. Just when you thought nothing stranger could happen, your beeper went off, you made a call and … oh my fucking god, let’s go.

I was on the press stakeout of the houseboat where Gianni Versace’s killer committed suicide – I lived three blocks from Versace’s beachfront mansion in South Beach. And there was a lot of insane political stuff. But my favorite story while I was there – I don’t think I even worked on it – was when a Brinks trucked crashed on an overpass and spilled $3.7 million dollars on Overtown, the poorest neighborhood in the city. It was raining money. I think they recovered $20,000. Magic realism.

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J.P.: As you know, I’m very involved in the local political scene—and I’m hard-core left. And many people I know hate the Register, because they view it as this hard-right propaganda affiliate. I say that with no disrespect. It’s not my take. But I wonder, do they have an argument? Is it based on anything you’ve scene? And is it possible to be a completely objective political reporter?

M.W.: I think it’s mostly an unfortunate misperception by people who’ve never read the paper regularly – or at least not in the past 30 years.

Until 40 years ago or so, the libertarian agenda of the owners regularly spilled into the news pages, but those days are long gone and the paper’s won a ton of major awards since — including three Pulitzers.

The op-ed pages have continued to promote a libertarian-flavored conservatism, but that’s one or two pages in the paper. There’s a firewall between the newsroom and the op-ed pages, and in my 20 years at the paper I’ve never sensed pressure from the publisher  to tilt a news story. However, the op-ed pages may contribute the characterization you describe.

Additionally, you have to consider how most daily newspapers work. They serve their regional audience. The Orange County Register, for instance, writes about surfing and the Des Moines Register doesn’t.

When I arrived at the paper in 1998, Republicans had about a 16-point advantage in voter registration and dominated the political landscape. It still called itself “America’s Most Republican County.” There were often more interesting and significant battles within the GOP than between red and blue. There was a lot more Republican activism, representation and visiting dignitaries. So naturally, I was writing more about Republicans than Democrats.

But no one has so thoroughly and consistently documented the county’s political shift – and the reasons for it – than I have. Not to brag really – the lead politics reporter of the county’s biggest news source should be doing that. And this past year, with all the congressional challenges and the resistance movement, I suspect I’ve written more about the left than the right. The action has been steadily shifting from right to left.

I get grief consistently from both sides of the aisle. Neither party is immune to the blame-the-press virus.

Also, if you and I agree that the Register is a filthy, right-wing propaganda tool, it gives us something to bond over – even if I’ve never read it. And since that helped me bond with you, maybe it’ll help me bond with other lefties so why don’t I start trashing it when I’m around other lefties?

J.P.: I feel like every journalist has a money story from his/her career. What’s yours?

M.W.: There are many stories I’m proud of and which have made a difference in the world around us in tangible ways. But the one that made me feel I had arrived, that I was a journalist with a future was a seven-part series I wrote with another reporter in 1991 for the now-defunct Times-Advocate in Escondido. My editor was Logan Jenkins. You might know his son, Lee, a star sportswriter at that magazine you used to work at. His dad, now a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, was a great editor. I wouldn’t be the journalist I am today without him.

We spent four months hanging out on a predominantly Latino block in Escondido, Grape Street – La Calle Grape, as the residents called it and as we called our series. There were people immigrated in the 1950s and there were people who arrived the day before. There were nice, typically suburban homes and there were overcrowded apartments. People with businesses and people struggling to eat. There was a birth, a death and a quinceanera while we were they. These people became our friends – we played volleyball with them and ate and drank and went to their events with them. We broke the story in seven basic themes: Home, language, school, work, crime, religion and leisure.

The ill-feeling a lot of whites had toward Latinos was strong. There was a deep division, probably deeper than we see now because there are a lot more Latinos now and most people I know have Latino friends. I think our series, which won a bunch of awards, exposed a humanity that everybody could relate to. For whites, it offered a better understanding of who these people were. For Latinos, it allowed the the opportunity to see themselves, mostly, portrayed as decent, hard-working people trying to do right by their families – at a time when they usually made the news only if they were involved in a crime.

I can’t find the series online any more, but Logan Jenkins talks about it in this column.

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J.P.: I’m not asking whether you like or dislike him. But, as a political insider, I ask—how do you explain Donald Trump’s appeal? When I look, I see this gross lifelong conman who has never shown a moment’s empathy or compassion. Truly, I can’t think of a public figure I’ve more loathed. And yet, a solid 35 percent of this nation backs him. What am I missing?

M.W.: As qualified as Hillary Clinton may have been on paper, she was not a charismatic candidate who projected trustworthiness. It didn’t help that people distrusted her within her own party, that there were signs that the Democratic establishment gave her advantages not shared with Bernie Sanders.

The American Empire is declining and a lot of white people are feeling the pain. There are jobs losses, stagnant wages and the perception — partially based in fact — that special opportunities are given to ethnic minorities and immigrants.

All the politicians running for the GOP nomination – voters saw them as more of the same. That’s why they nominated Trump, despite establishment Republicans’ misgivings. Then you put him up against Hillary Clinton and it was change versus status quo.

So now you have a guy who says things that aren’t true, who insults our allies and overlooks the human-rights abuses of some enemies, who makes petty personal attacks and says things that many find racist and misogynistic. Significant portions of the population don’t seem to be terribly bothered by these things. At least it’s not politics as usual?

If the economy goes south, I think you’ll see those polling numbers worsen. There’s often a correlation between the economy and the president’s popularity. But right now, the stock market is doing well and unemployment has bottomed out. And a lot of people are going to have fewer taxes taken from their next paycheck.

I’m reading a book called, “The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others.” It begins with a good example of Trump’s appeal and goes on to explore why other factors often trump data in our decision-making process. There’s a bottomless well of psychology and sociology to explain Trump’s appeal. Whether or not you like Trump, he’s a fascinating phenomenon to examine.

J.P.: My local congressman is Dana Rohrabacher. And, even though I’m not a fan, I don’t ask this looking for you to share any of my takes. So … what has he been like to cover? What’s he like as a subject? As a guy?

M.W.: Until not too long ago, the Register had a D.C. bureau, so my interactions with the iconoclastic congressman had been pretty sporadic until 2016. A lot of his views and statements were for years dismissed as “Dana being Dana.” But the Russia stuff has helped change that – people taking a closer look, especially Democrats who realize that after 29 years in office that he might be vulnerable.

He can sometimes be surprisingly easy to get on the phone. While House members like Ed Royce and Mimi Walters seem to prefer emailing statements on the question du jour, I’ll sometimes get Dana calling me directly. The best that way is Rep. Lou Correa – I can almost always get him on the phone on short notice. I really appreciate his accessibility. Rep. Alan Lowenthal is also reasonably accessible by phone.

Royce and Walters can be very measured and careful in their prepared statements and when I speak to them. Within that context, Dana’s candidness can be refreshing. He also seems to give his press secretary the longest leash to speak on the record on his behalf, among OC representatives.

Dana seems to operate in Washington as something of a lone wolf. He’s not part of the power structure the way Royce and Walters are. Despite being the longest serving California Republican currently in the House, he’s never held a committee chairmanship. He also gets less PAC and special interest money than most Republicans. While he’s the only OC House member to have somewhat defended Trump’s lewd Access Hollywood comments, he’s also voted from Trump-backed bills fewer times than any other Southern California Republican, according to fivethirtyeight.com.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MARTIN WISCKOL:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Lil Pump, teriyaki chicken, “Silence of the Lambs,” Tony Romo, suitcases, the number 27, London Breed, Staten Island, Birmingham Stallions: Suitcases, Staten Island, 27, “Silence of the Lambs,” teriyaki chicken, Lil Pump, Tony Romo, London Breed, Birmingham Stallions.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No.

• Five all-time favorite Milwaukee Brewer outfielders: Hit me when you want to talk Tigers.

• The world needs to know—what went on at those Florida Press Club shindigs?: There is a tale unfit for public consumption, but what I can say is they misspelled my name on an award plaque. Robs a bit of the glamour from the honor but a good check on how serious you take yourself.

• How likely is it for Jerry Brown to run for president in 2020?: Paddy Power will give you 66/1 if he wins the nomination.

• Did William Miller and Penny Lane wind up marrying?: I thought he married Nancy Wilson.

• How often do you think to yourself, “Taylor Swift’s outfit—totally loving it!”?: Umm … the shorts aren’t really working for me.

This is one of my all-time favorite TV news moments. Do you find it more funny, embarrassing or disgusting?: That’s funny.

• What’s your all-time favorite movie?: If we forego popular choices “Casablanca,” “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “Chinatown,” it comes down to “Pandora’s Box” or “Naked Lunch.”

• In exactly 14 words, make an argument for Diet Dr. Pepper: There are times when Diet Dr. Pepper will do just fine, like this one.

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Dayna Steele

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Dayna Steele is a Democrat running for a congressional seat in southeast Texas.

I need to repeat that, because it sounds sorta bonkers. So … Dayna Steele is a Democrat running for a congressional seat in southeast Texas. She’s never held a political office. She never really thought about holding a political office. But then, stuff started to change. Ted Cruz. Donald Trump. The attacks on immigrants. The attacks on LGBT rights. The anger from the right, often crossing the lines of decency, of bigotry, of hate.

And now, here we are. Best know for her longtime career as a Houston-based rock radio DJ,  Steele finds herself in the heart of a heated campaign against arch-conservative (Trump worshiping) incumbent Brian Babin, who scored an A+ rating from the NRA and thinks climate change is some sort of wacky hoax. Will Steele win? It’ll be tough. Should she win? If decency and compassion matter, absolutely.

Today, Dayna talks about entering a race for the first time; about the discomfort of asking for money, the passion of the campaign trail, her love of Sammy Hagar and dislike of Rush. One can visit Dayna’s website here, and follow her on Twitter here and Instagram here.

Dayna Steele, you are the 350th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Dayna, you’re a Democrat. In Texas. Running for Congress. As I sit here in my Southern California home, I’m thinking, “Um … what?” Because Texas sorta feels like a lost cause to progressive thinking. Tell me why I’m wrong.

DAYNA STEELE: What you do is state your position and your solution. You find like-minded individuals and you get the word out. Texas isn’t as red and as redneck as people are led to believe. What we are is a “do not get out and vote” state. That is changing. According to a Gallup poll just last week, Texas is not longer red and is back in play for elections. This year. National news also is touting the fact that the Democratic candidate for Senator, Beto O’Rourke is kicking Ted Cruz’s behind in fundraising and grassroots.

J.P.: A couple of hours before I started typing this two were killed in a shooting at Central Michigan. Before that, of course, was Parkland. I’ve read your position on guns—“ We need a stronger background check system for all gun sales, once again allow CDC research on gun violence, ban bump stocks and more” … but I’m not seeing the majority of registered Texas voters feeling your take. The belief, fortified by years of NRA conditioning, is that once they take one gun, they’ll take another. Dayna, how do you sell reasonable gun control to those who don’t buy it?

​D.S.: Less than one percent of gun owners are members of the NRA and many of those members are horrified at what the organization has become. I am a native Texan, a Democrat who has owned a gun before and also enjoys going to the shooting range with my son. I am asking for common sense while still protecting the 2nd Amendment.

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J.P.: How do you explain Donald Trump’s rise? Everyone has their takes. What’s yours?

​D.S.: Democrats just assumed that had that on in the bag. Or people just assumed it wasn’t worth the effort in a “red” state. And the party spends more time pointing out what is wrong than what we want to do for people. Name calling and finger pointing is just like kicking an ant bed, making the ants mad and spreading them even more. Instead I like to concentrate on what’s important in my district, what people are talking about. Democrats, Independents and Republicans. What I hear is Medicare For All, publlic fiber optic broadband Internet (HUGE areas without coverage or at least really bad service), Harvey recovery help, and better public schools. ​

J.P.: Your background is super funky: Rock radio personality in Houston-turned online retail entrepreneur-turned author. I wanna start with the music—how did that happen? How does one become a radio personality? What was the climb?

D.S.: On a dare in college. The guy doing the daring was talking about the new student radio station where I was a freshman, Texas A&M University. He was a deejay at the Top 40 station in town and very cute. I thought if I auditioned, he would be impressed and ask me out. He did not but once I put on those headphones, I knew I was home. I did it for the next 22 years. And he and I are still friends! Never did get that date but that’s OK, because things worked out just fine.​

J.P.: You wrote a book two years ago, “Surviving Alzherimer’s,” that really was a collection of your Facebook posts as your mother faded away from the awful disease. I’m gonna throw a curveball here: My wife and I often talk about people who share all their struggles on Facebook. Sometimes it comes off as wonderful. Other times, needy. Other times, desperate. Other times, enlightening. Why did you choose Facebook posts as your outlet? And what is it to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s?

D.S.: It simply started as a way to let our friends and family all over the world know. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it over and over. ​I was so surprised by the hundreds of people who started reaching out with their stories. I realized they wanted to talk and I was giving them permission to talk, vent, cry, laugh, whatever helps you get through this horrible experience. It was also quite cathartic for me. I used a lot of dark humor to get through it and so many gave me permission to laugh and share.

The first half of the book features the best posts with the best comments—funny, insightful, helpful. The second half are resources I wish I had from the beginning, including a list of question you and your wife should ask each other now and keep the answers somewhere safe, written down.

J.P.: You spent a ton of your life interviewing rock stars, from Ozzy and Sammy Hagar to Bono and Keith Richards. On and on and on. And I wonder—besides mere talent, what separates the OK from the good, the good from the great? Was there a reason some singers/bands soared, while others eternally played the Stone Balloon and Milford Crab House?

D.S.: ​That’s the first book! “Rock To The Top: What I Learned About Success From The World’s Greatest Rock Stars” It’s work ethic, networking, appreciation and so much more. And working those ‘talents’ each and every day in everything you do. I’ve summed it up before by saying the biggest rock stars always called when they were scheduled to, or showed up. They were prepared, had something to say, were entertaining. they could sell themselves and the product but also make your show good.  All success comes from helping others become successful.​

J.P.: Running for office means money groveling. Tons and tons and tons of money groveling. So … how do you ask for money? And do you hate it as much as I would?

D.S.: ​I do hate it but it is a necessary evil. Hoping I can change that from the inside. I’ve never been able to ask for money starting with my allowance as a kid. But I’ve gotten pretty good at it for the campaign. ​Why? Because for 17 dead in Parkland, a $31,000 dining room table, deported DREAMers, women’s rights being attacked, racist attacks, the decimation of equal rights … I’m preaching to the choir here but you get the point. I have to ask for money, I have to drive hundreds of miles and give hundreds of speeches. I have to for all of us. And no one even ran on the ticket in 2016. Our very democracy is at risk daily.

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J.P.: From afar, I just don’t get the appeal of Ted Cruz. I know you’re not a fan, but can you explain why Texans seem to like him. Like, step outside your own feelings. Clearly he’s doing something right, no?

D.S.: He panders to the religious right who finally feel like they have a champion. But I am hearing and seeing a growing distaste from moderate and even conservative Republicans who understand separation of church and state is essential for a democracy by and for the people. ​And again, people just got complacent and thought, “How much harm can he possibly do?”

J.P.: You have kids. I have kids. I think we’re fucked on climate change. I mean, you and I will die with the earth largely intact. And maybe our kids will. But theirs won’t. And, truth be told, I think it’s too late. The oceans will rise, the earth will get hotter and hotter. Fucked. Agree? Disagree? And what to do?

D.S.: Agree, but I refuse to give up, we can at least try to save what we can. We owe it to them.​ I don’t give up that easily.

J.P.: How do you approach people you know don’t—instinctively—want to vote for you? The lifelong Republican? The #maga guy? Like, do you try? Or sometimes do you just say, “No point with this one”?

D.S.: ​So many grew up listening to me, we just talk about radio. My hairdresser loves Trump, so we talk about our kids. I interviewed people for a living, like you said, so I just interview them and give them a chance to talk and vent. I don’t get mad, I don’t yell, I don’t name call., I listen. I won’t change many of their minds but I will change some. I am hearing more and more often these days, “I can’t vote for you because I have to vote Republican, but I’m rooting for you.” And then they hug me. That’s a start …​

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DAYNA STEELE:

• How did you meet your husband?: ​Blind date with an astronaut to a CSN show. He was a NASA pilot and came with some other folks. June 3, 1990. We’ve been together ever since.

• Five all-time favorite bands/singers: Sammy Hagar, Led Zeppelin, Frank Sinatra, Melissa Etheridge, CSN​

• Five all-time least-favorite bands/singers: Rush (only because they were so rude to a radio promotion winner one day), anything disco. Otherwise I’d be hard pressed to say. I love all music and what it does to my brain.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): The Alan Parsons Project, Oklahoma State University, Lois Lane, Troy Aikman, Tina Turner, Ronald McNair, 12 inches of snow, finger food, Thurman Munson, Flavor Flav, ladybugs: Ronald McNair (If you are talking Challenger astronaut, he was my neighbor. His widow Cheryl is who fixed me up with the above mentioned astronaut that led me to Charlie), ​Tina Turner, ladybugs, finger food, Lois Lane, The Alan Parsons ProjectFlavor FlavOSU, 12 inches of snow, Troy AikmanThurman somebody.

​• One question you would ask Candy Maldonado were he here right now: ​What do you think of the outrageous salaries players are getting now?​

• What happens after we die?: ​I don’t waste time worrying about that. I’m doing the best I can here and now.​

• Five reasons one should make Seabrook, Texas his/her next vacation destination: ​I am a helluva cook. Come to my house. There’s wine.​ And NASA. I’ll take you on a tour.

• I still think the Mets were better off with Danny Heep than Mike Scott. You?: ​Who?​

• In exactly 11 words, make a case for the Whopper: Anything served through a window is probably very bad for you. ​

​• Who is the nicest celebrity you’ve ever spoken with?: ​Robert Plant was very cordial when I hung up on him. The next week Mick Jagger was equally charming when I put him on hold. But I would have to say Sammy Hagar. His manager was my mentor and I spent a lot of time on the road with them. Sammy is a brilliant business guy with the biggest heart for people and causes.  ​

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Amy Bass

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There are certain books that are guaranteed to sell, and there are certain books that a guaranteed non-sells.

Example: David Maraniss’ amazing biography on Vince Lombardi was going to do enormous numbers. It’s a legend, it’s a legendary writer, it’s football, it’s Green Bay. Odds of success: 100 percent.

Example 2: Dustin Diamond’s “Behind the Bell” was going to shit the bed. It’s Dustin Diamond, it’s nearly two decades after his mediocre TV show’s non-prime, it’s a cover straight out of Quark XPress. Odds of success: Not good.

In between these two disparate lands are books that could sell. What I mean is, they’re put forth by excellent writers; they focus upon riveting topics that—if lightning strikes—might very well capture the attention of thousands upon thousands of readers. I’m talking about Seabiscuit and The Boys in the Boat. One was about a horse no one heard of. The other was about the 1936 U.S. rowing team. Both are off-the-charts huge.

When I heard that my friend Amy Bass was writing a book about a Maine high school soccer team and its influx of Somali refugees, that’s exactly what flowed through my skull. This could sell. This should sell. It’s a tremendous read, it’s beautifully done. But it’s not Vince Lombardi, or  Babe Ruth, or Jackie Robinson. It’ll need buzz.

Well, here we are. Amy’s fantastic book, “One Goal: A Coach, A Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together,” came out yesterday, and it’s kicking some serious ass. The wife and I watched with great glee as it flew up the Amazon rankings, and beamed with pride as Amy appeared on The Today Show. Or, put different: There are people you root for in this business, and Amy Bass is one of them.

Today, Amy talks book writing, refugees in the age of Trump, shoes that smell like peaches and three keys to surviving dull meetings. You can order One Goal here, follow Amy on Twitter here and visit her website here.

Amy Bass, your one goal has been fulfilled. You’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Amy, so I wanna start with this: Your upcoming book, “One Goal,” is strictly a commercial effort. And you’ve spent much of your adult life in the world of academia. So, writing-wise, does this call for any sensibility shifting, or writing adjustment? Do you have to think of things differently?

AMY BASS: I’m the daughter of writers; I grew up in a very word-intense, literary, household. My dad would get home from his job as the arts editor/writer/columnist for The Berkshire Eagle, eat dinner with us, and then disappear into his cellar office to work on one of his many novels. He always, always, called me a writer before he called me a scholar or a professor. He saw me as a writer. My mom, now in her 80s, just published her third novel and still churns out a column every week. So this all felt very right to me. But it doesn’t mean I knew exactly how to do it. The first thing I did? I bought a book about writing. Which everyone around me thought was hilarious. “One Goal” is my fourth book, so I guess I’m expected to know how to do this. But I went into this project with the intention of relearning a whole lot of things, rethinking a lot of things. As a historian by training, I already knew how to dig – how to assemble evidence to prove something. But I wanted to make sure I knew how to tell a story. Historians tell stories, to be sure. And I’ve dabbled with crossing over, from my work with NBC Sports to my writing for places like CNN and Slate. But this felt like a whole new game. So I started reading about writing – it was the first step of this project. And my copy of Jack Hart’s Storycraft, which is about writing narrative non-fiction, now sits on my shelf looking like it’s done some serious battle, dog-eared and worn. It provided a lot of security, a lot of backup, when I needed it. But I think there was only one time that my editor told me I sounded “too academic” – something he undoubtedly was nervous about. I never stopped believing that I had to prove myself.

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J.P.: Your book comes along at a time when, obviously, immigration is a huge topic in America. And it seems like one of the takeaways is the power of exposure—you hate/fear until you know. So how much of the unease in Lewiston to the Somali refuges would you say was hate, vs. fear? And how long did it take for that to dissipate?

A.B.: Well, exposure speaks to the unknown, which I think adds a third element to your question: hate, fear, and the unknown. I do think they’re all linked, deeply embedded to a point where we don’t know where one begins and another ends. I think fear is a huge factor of hate, but I don’t think it is the only factor. Just because a person might stop hating and fearing something or someone on a very local, very personal level – really get to know someone – doesn’t necessarily mean that his or her worldview has changed, or that some kind of a big picture take has opened up. I think we live contradictions like that all the time. When Trump’s presidential campaign hit Maine, for example, and he made political hay out of the Somali population that was based on air – literally without fact – his intention was to create fear and intimidation, to capitalize on what already existed. And it had an impact. “You’re okay here,” someone might tell one of the championship soccer players I’m writing about, “but no more.” So it doesn’t dissipate as much as there’s an ebb and flow to it – an embrace that might be followed by a pushing away. My very earliest pitches about the book put that front and center: I wrote, and somewhere in the book some kind of line like this still exists, that amidst the play-by-play sports action, what I wanted to do more was put fear into a context. I wanted to situate soccer in the midst of this rising tide of hate as a way to think about community and sports and immigration and religion and race, and so on and so forth. This is a soccer team in one of the whitest states in America with a roster that looks like the UN. It’s a microcosm for so many questions America is dealing with today.

J.P.: How did you actually find this story? And what made you transition from, “Oh, that’s interesting” to “That’s my next book!”?

A.B.: Facebook! I went to Bates College, which is in Lewiston, Maine. I have a lot of friends who are still in Maine, and one posted a short article about the soccer team to Facebook. I messaged her: I was riveted. The terrorist bombings in Paris had just happened, the first of which was at Stade de France, where a soccer game was going on, and reaction to Syria and its refugee crisis was everywhere. In the wake of Paris, a bunch of U.S. governors started giving statements about “not in my state” in terms of taking in refugees. And then here was this soccer team. I put together 900 or so words that ran for CNN, and the reaction was … well, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I thought I was immune to the comments section at this point, but this was different. So much hate. So much fear. So many vulgar assumptions, based on so little reality. But then an editor reached out and asked if I’d been thinking about a book. I still have the email. “I’ve thought of little else for the last 48 hours,” I replied. And off we went.

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J.P.: I used to see you in the New Rochelle, N.Y. Starbucks … oftentimes at a nearby table. What was your approach toward the literal writing of this book? Did you report it all, then write? Did you write as you went along? Do you always write in cafes? Can you write at home? What’s your ideal time of day?

A.B.: So back then, when we were side by side, I was working on another book, one that is still on the backburner. Poor thing. So neglected. ONE GOAL halted everything – there has been very little else since for me since it started. And the process for writing it is probably not what I would teach my MFA students at The College of New Rochelle. I started with a mad reading and research scramble – reading everything ever written about Lewiston, its sports teams, this soccer team, and then watching whatever I could find on You Tube. I wanted to make sure that when I headed up to Lewiston for the first time for the book, which I think was February, 2016, I was prepared. And I think it paid off. The first time I really sat down with Coach McGraw, we could really talk soccer. He would say “Hey, like when Ben scored four!” and I’d be able to respond “Oh yeah, the second half of the Lawrence game – that was cool!” So I moved back and forth between my life in New York and my work in Maine for months and months. I don’t want to ever add up the mileage on this book. I would report, transcribe, write, repeat. I learned to back off from an aggressive agenda and just hang in Lewiston, letting people find me, get comfortable with me. I had a really rough shell for the book based on the secondary research early on. In fact, I kind of forgot I had done that before I started the heavy reporting and interviewing – it was almost a relief to find it when I really sat down to write. And yes, in cafes – I rarely write at home anymore – and starting mid-morning and pushing through until I drop. My first book? I never left my bedroom. If I showered, my day was over. Now? I have to leave. And I used to need total silence, and now it’s earbuds and music, often the same songs on repeat, that make me get it done. My mom, who is one of my best editors, told me recently that my writing has a rhythm to it, a beat. And I think that has to be connected to what I’m listening to at any given moment.

J.P.: I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where I really, really came to love the people involved. I mean, I gained friends, bonds, etc. But from reading your blog posts, it seems like you feel something deep for some of these kids. And I wonder, how does that impact the process? Would it cause you to rethink words? Critiques? Maybe go easier? Anything?

A.B.: Well, I now root for the Lewiston Blue Devils as hard as I root for the Red Sox, so we can just throw any kind of objectivity out when it comes to games, no question. But I think there’s a few things at play. First, the best way for me to get at this story was to be immersed.  And I was patient about it, so much so that I would occasionally have these “whoaaaa” epiphanies about where I was and what I was doing. Like the moment I stopped and realized I was in the locker room before a game, and no one batted an eye. It was just assumed I’d be there. Or the time one of the assistant coaches said to me as we walked back to the sideline from the halftime team huddle, “If you’d told me a year ago that you’d be on the infield with us, I would’ve laughed at you.” And I was thinking, me too! How did this even happen? And then I think there’s the subject at hand, the big picture. Writers report on tough stuff all the time, and then they have to move on to the next thing to write about. I actually had a back-and-forth about this a while ago with John Branch, whom I revere. He had just written this poetic, heartbreaking, gorgeous, piece for the New York Times about the Las Vegas massacre, which he was on the scene reporting, and his daughter’s soccer team. There was a devastating, personal, connection between the two. So, I mean, how do you move on from something like that? But he does. My husband works in television news, and I will never forget the day he came back from a shoot at Fresh Kills landfill after 9/11 – the look on his face, how he threw his clothes away before he entered our apartment. It was one of those stories for him. But he had to move on. But me? These players, these families, this community? Yeah, they’re in my heart, because to do this ethically and not fake it, I had to really get to know them. And also? Think about what we’re talking about here: displaced peoples, refugees, which are at the heart of this story – there are some 60 million of them on this planet. And we are living in a moment when the President of the United States – the President — called many of the places they are fleeing or have fled “shitholes.” So what do we want this story to be? Do we want these people to cease to exist? When their own places, their homes, are destroyed by forces outside their own scope of power, do we want them to fade into the ether and use profane language to describe their homelands? Or do we want to be humans, and recognize that whatever happens to them is part of all of us? Because that’s humanity, right? So did thinking like that have an impact on my storytelling? I hope so. I don’t think it’s bias. I think it’s passion.

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J.P.: I’m gonna ask you a question I ask myself all the time: So you bust ass and write this book. Then you bust ass and promote it. It becomes your life. So … what if sales are just … meh? I hope you sell 100 million copies. But it’s all so out of our control. So do you prepare for the worst? The best? Neither?

A.B.: I think the best we can do is make sure we’ve used all our powers, all our efforts, to give the book a shot. I don’t think you can do more than that. And I laid it all out there – wrote and researched harder and faster and with more passion than I ever have before. So I’ve done what I could, I am doing what I can, to give it a shot. I always think that the best day in the writing process is the day before publication – it’s exciting, thrilling. And the worst day? Publication day. Because then it is completely out of your hands. Through this entire process, I have felt so incredibly honored, there’s really no other word for it, to be able to tell this story. I just really hope that the people who trusted me to tell it like it. That’s what I want.

J.P.: So you teach at the College of New Rochelle, which went from all-women to coed a couple of years ago. I’m always riveted by dynamics. How did that shift the dynamics? Besides the mere visuals of having more men around. Can you feel a change? Sense things that have shifted?

A.B.: You know, it’s early days, so I don’t know that I have anything profound to say about it yet. The School of Arts & Sciences was the only single-sex school at CNR – so schools like Nursing and Graduate were always co-ed. So the visuals haven’t changed quite as much as you might think. But I think we likely still need a little time to really grasp the shift, and what it means.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your teaching career? Lowest?

A.B.: I love teaching. Love it. A good class is like a runner’s high – it’s just awesome. Greatest moment? Impossible.  I had a great class last Friday on the Salem Witch Trials and the processes of history. Students were excited and enthusiastic and just so into it – that’s what you want. I have a drawers full of the notes and letters they’ve sent me over the years, and I love looking at them, thinking about the number of names and faces that have sat in front of me, with me, doing the hard work. But if I had to pick one, it was probably when Dr. Erica Morin invited me to speak at Westfield State University. Erica was a student long ago when I taught at Plattsburgh State University, and she went on to graduate school and then nabbed a tenure-track job in the history department at Westfield. Her introduction of me that night, during which she got really emotional about my impact on her life – it ruined me. And my mom was there, of all things! My mom never goes to stuff like that, but she lives close by and she met me at Westfield and was sitting there as Erica went on and on. It was awesome. So, low point. I think the single worst day I’ve ever had in the classroom was after the presidential election of 2016. It was awful. It was a first time anyone in the class had voted for a president. They were crushed and – argh, this was awful – they were scared. And there was nothing I could say. I still have a really hard time thinking about it.

J.P.: Back in 2016 Donald Trump came to Portland, Maine, and said that Somali refugees were making Maine more dangerous. You wrote a CNN.com column that was, unambiguously, angry. Do you think Trump doesn’t get it, or is simply lying?

A.B.: Did I come off as angry? Sigh. I was so sad. So, so sad. And angry. So that’s fair. One of the really difficult parts of this book’s journey has been its increasing relevance. I mean, you want your book to be timely, to be relevant. But it’s hard. I’ve gone into absolute panics about “we have to publish this RIGHT NOW” because I thought things couldn’t get any more dramatic and then? Yep. Something new happens. Walls and travel bans and profanity and just on and on and on. And I’m to a point where I don’t care if Trump is lying or doesn’t get it – I don’t care. What I care about is the country, the world, I’m raising my daughter in, that you’re raising your kids in, and that these soccer players will raise their kids in. That’s what I care about. Regardless of where this stuff is coming from in that man’s head, as well as the people he surrounds himself with and the people in Congress who support his agenda, it is not coming from one iota of humanity or charity or kindness. I have a screenshot on my computer of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweet after the devastation in Puerto Rico came to light – when he told Trump he was going “straight to hell…No long lines for you…They’ll clear a path.” Alongside snapshots of Lewiston’s Great Falls on the Androscoggin River and the Blue Devils warming up before a summer game, I look at that tweet a lot. I listened to “Hamilton” a lot while I was writing this, because as a historian it was fascinating to me how Miranda rewrote a piece of American history that still shapes so much of who we are – and who we are supposed to be – as a country. And that tweet? Yeah. I’m angry, too.

J.P.: Along those lines, I’m losing my shit. Every day there’s some Trump awfulness. How are you staying sane? I’m being serious.

A.B.: I don’t know that I always am. I think I have some pretty serious unhinged moments, and many of them catch me by surprise. I lost my mind watching the footage of the father who tried to attack Larry Nassar in court recently, and I think that speaks volumes to just how fragile an edge we are all balancing on. I find sanity in the fight, no question. I marched in the first Women’s March with my daughter, who was then 9 years old. That mattered to me. And I think likely that’s the real root of staying the course. ONE GOAL is dedicated to my daughter, but it’s dedicated to a few other kids, too, kids in Lewiston, with a hope and a wish for what I think will take us in the right path. To welcome all. Everywhere. Always.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH AMY BASS:

• What do your exercise shoes smell like? Peaches.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Lisa Kudrow, Maulid Abdow, New York Jets, Anderson Cooper, fake holiday cards, Chance the Rapper, Michael Dukakis, Ellen, the new Diet Coke cans, “The Post,” Swirl Coffee and Tea: Maulid AbdowSwirl Coffee and Tea (RIP), Chance the RapperLisa KudrowAnderson CooperMichael DukakisNew Diet Coke cansEllen, Fake holiday cards, New York Jets 

*I haven’t seen The Post. But “I, Tonya” would’ve ranked right behind Maulid.

• Five reasons one should make New Rochelle his/her next vacation destination?: 1. You might run into Mariano Rivera at Starbucks; 2. You might run into Christopher Jackson (or General Washington, as we like to call him) at school pick up; 3. The rum punch at Alvin & Friends; 4. Davenport Park; 5. The Metro-North station that will whisk you into NYC in no time at all.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Linda McMahon? What’s the outcome?: I’m a lover, not a fighter.

• Three secrets to surviving long, dull meetings? Doodling; writing the alphabet vertically on a piece of paper, coming up with a category, and then filling it in (a-z band names from the 80s, go!); coffee.

 • In exactly 21 words, make an argument for House Party II: As terrible a movie as this sequel is, and it’s bad, you should never overlook Queen Latifah because she’s Queen Latifah.

• Who should the Democrats run in 2020?: Kamala Harris, Deval Patrick, Sherrod Brown, or Chris Murphy. Any combination will do.

 • What’s your all-time favorite quote?: I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” – e.e. cummings

• How did you meet your husband Evan?: In Australia at the Olympics in 2000.

• One question you would ask Joel Skinner were he here right now?: What did you think about Chief Wahoo?