The guest contestant on the "Not My Job" segment of NPR's quiz show is NFL Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice. The interview is fine, but nothing special -- although there is an ad-libbed quip by host Peter Sagal making a comparison of Rice's career that may be one of his funniest. But the treat is the theme of the contest. The twist for all of the "Not My Job" quizzes is to ask questions on a top that has absolutely nothing to do with the guest's area of expertise, yet find some odd overlap. And it's a very fun one here.
For years, a complaint I've had about TV coverage of sports is that they don't use the technology they have, but instead toss in surface gimmicks, like in baseball overlaying a strikezone. But only on rare occasions will they, for example, use a split screen, which is the easiest, most basic thing to do.
If there's a fast runner on first pace who might steal, show the pitcher and batter, but split the screen to show the runner dancing off first, or put him in a "picture-in-picture" box. Or when covering a football game, have the normal camera angle of the line-of-scrimmage, but isolate a camera on a linebacker or the wide-receiver who you expect to be a target and split the screen to show both.
But TV simply doesn't do that, except, as a I said, on a rare instance, or in replays.
Well, today, on the CBS coverage of the PGA championship, they actually entered the real world and used split screen -- the whole time! O huzzah.
On every hole, when a golfer was teeing off, they solved the eternal problem of watching the golfer or following the ball. What they did was split the screen, with two-thirds of the monitor being the golfer -- and then the other third showing the hole in its entirety. And so, when the ball was hit we could not only see it in that split screen, but they added gimmickry properly and with computer technology showed the flight of the ball. Even displaying both the distance and loft as it was in the air. And it was wonderful.
Hats off to CBS.
Yesterday, the beloved Chicago Cubs did something really classy -- the offered a special, engraved World Series ring to Steve Bartman.
Bartman, you will likely recall, is the Cubs fan who reached out to grab a baseball during a 2003 playoff game and was believed at the time to have interfered with the Cubs outfielder at a critical point in the game, with only five outs left to get to the World Series, and the team ultimately lost, of their own accord. The outfielder later acknowledged he didn't think he could have caught the ball anyway, but by then it was too late -- Bartman's life was totally mucked up, not just by far many idiot fans, but even some media. One shameful newspaper even printed his home number. The national press chided him. Jimmy Kimmel sent a pizza to his house. Gov. Jeb Bush offered him asylum in Florida. ESPN made a documentary on the story. The result is that he basically went into hiding and hasn't even made any public statement despite several efforts by the Cubs to bridge the gap. It's been the subject of a lot of humor over the years, but I've never found it remotely funny. The poor guy had his life run over by a bulldozer. And all he did was try to catch a foul ball.
But as wonderful and classy as the Cubs offering a special World Series ring to Steve Bartman is, just as wonderful and classy is that...Steve Bartman made his first public statement in 14 years and accepted the ring -- and did so incredibly graciously.
Here's what the Cubs wrote in offering the special World Series ring.
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series championship ring to Mr. Steve Bartman. We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today."
This is that gift.
But all the better, as I said, here is how Steve Bartman responded to the Cubs giving him the ring. It was his first public statement since 2003.
"Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels.
That's a fine statement.
It even went on a little bit further, as Bartman also expressed his thanks to the entire Ricketts family, the Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney, and the team president Theo Epstein, as well as the entire Cubs organization for the gift and "for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016."
And he closed with. "I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life."
The Cubs first World Series in 108 years keeps getting better. A joy to Cubs fans and an added pleasure for how annoying this must be to St. Louis Cardinals fans that it just keeps going on and on...
I only just became aware of this. I don't know how it slipped under the radar.
It turns out that last year, President and Michelle Obama had a light-hearted "feud" with Prince Harry over the Invictus Games (an international Paralympic event), which Harry started after seeing a similar event in Colorado. He sort of challenged the First Lady who with her husband sent an "in your face" video in reply. And this was Prince Harry's response. (His response includes Michelle Obama's video, which is why I haven't included it.)
This all came up because the 2017 Invictus Games are set to start soon, and the question has arisen if Melania Trump will renew the faux-feud and joking. The general consensus has been...er, no.
Here's Prince Harry's reply. Read his note first before clicking on the video to start it.
I'm not a big fan of the ESPYs and don't tend to watch them. Years back in the past, they've been enjoyable enough in that they don't especially take them too seriously, but there was still always a certain sense of importance and it's grown over the years, now in their 25th anniversary. But a TV sports channel giving out its own Best Of sports awards in the field just has always struck me as a bit unctuous. Not problematically so, since as I said, they don't take themselves too serious. But it's still ESPNs own awards done as if it was industrial and meaningful.
Usually, I just catch up on video highlights later, since there always are a few well--worth watching. And I have three such videos here.
I think they'll be fun for most people, but if you don't like sports I understand, and you're excused. The lobby is over there, and we'll be serving snacks.
This first is the opening monologue by Peyton Manning. It's pretty funny, and he does (not surprisingly) a solid job. There are a few points where the targets of his jokes are stone-faced, but I have a feeling they cleared some jokes ahead of them and are in on it, much the same way Matt Damon seems unmoving at Jimmy Kimmel's slams at him. Those this video says 13-minutes (and is), the monologue is only 10 minutes. Still, that's a long time to do such a good job for someone who's not a professional comedian.
One last thing -- for some reason when ESPN released these videos, they did something bizarre with a sparkly-star universe in the background and the image smaller in a box in the center. Don't ask me to explain in. It's distracting but their choice.
This second clip is a lovely Icon Award presented to the legendary Los Angeles Dodger announcer Vin Scully, who retired at the end of last season, after 65 years behind the microphone. There's a very good presentation by Brian Cranston (who grew up in L.A. listening to Scully), a nice montage of Scully highlights, and then a not-surprisingly gracious speech by Vin Scully, who'll be 90 in four months and looks in high-announcing form.
Why the headline of this says that Scully "trolls" Cranston is utterly beyond me. He repeats on thing Cranston says, but that's more a case of he had clearly planned it all along, and the two men didn't compare notes. Other than that...not a clue.
And finally, the ESPYs give a Best Moment in the entire world of sports, and there's only one choice they could go with. The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years.
There is a very nice montage of the minutes building up to the Best Moment, and some fun joshing around by lifelong Chicagoans Bill Murray and Nick Offerman, joined by David Ross -- the beloved journeyman catcher who oddly just finished second in Dancing With the Stars. I'm not quite sure why they didn't have any of the Cubs starters or longtime stars on stage, though doing it this way did keep the moment far lighter. For Cubs fans, this is all fun, though it probably goes on a bit longer than necessary for most people, especially Chris Dunn, though that's part of the reason for including it here...
The other reason, of course, is that how could I not?!
I don't generally watch shows like America's Got Talent, or Little Big Shots, though occasionally I see a video that stands out. And this is a yowzer.
It's from Little Big Shots, which seems to be about little kids, but this is the opposite, a woman named Johanna who is 91 years old -- and does gymnastics!!! They've sub-titled this edition, "Forever Young." That doesn't do it justice.
Now, normally, even at that, I might admired it a lot, but not necessarily even watch. But given all the time I've spent the last few years at the independent living residence where my folks lived, with most people there generally in their late-80s and 90s -- and some in their 100s -- my perspective on the video and lady is very pronounced.
People walk very slowly -- very slowly. A great many use walkers, some motorized carts. A couple years ago, one of my dad's friends in his late 80s was extremely proud to point out that when he dresses, he's able to put his pants on standing up, without holding on to anything and not loosing his balance. (This really is impressive.) My dad was 96 when he passed away, and for his last couple years was able to get around very slowly with a walker, but even that was difficult and tended to be fairly immobile. (It was less a pure physical issue, but more related to congenital heart disease. But that's one of the realities many face when hitting their 90s.)
Which is why I don't just link this video merely stands out, but I watch it in near-disbelieving awe. I particularly like that the director had the good sense to periodically cut to host Steve Harvey for his reaction. And there's nothing show-biz here, as might be the case when he's reacting to some cute little kids. No, this is pure reality. You can see it in his face and eyes, and how he turns to others to respond. And you know it's his reaction because it's how you most-probably feel. It's like -- what???!!
I like too that they bring someone out at the end. I won't give it away, but I was glad to see that the woman, Johanna, immediately recognized the surprise. And glad to see the person's reaction was just much in awe and said all the right things.
Happily, I had tickets to a second Cubs game during this visit to Chicago and headed back to Wrigley Field on Sunday. And equally happily, this time they won, 7-5. O huzzah.
I have two criteria on a successful day at Wrigley Field. The first is, of course, did the Cubs win. So, I'm one out of two on this. The second is -- did I avoid spilling any mustard on my shirt and pants. (I use a lot of mustard on my hot dogs...) And here, I went two for two. So, joy!
But the greatest joy of the trip has been two separate visits. One was on Saturday to my cousin Elinor Miller (who I wrote about here when I attended her 100th birthday -- she's now 101) and the other to a dear friend who lived in the same building as my folks, Adeline Cohn (who I wrote about here when I attended her 100th birthday -- she'll be 101 in three weeks).
Both lovely ladies are still pretty sharp, which is impressive. Adeline actually gets around reasonably well, with a walker. Elinor is a bit more frail, but very alert and a pleasure. Both are a pleasure.
One thing you get used to, though, when talking to those who are over 100 years old, is preparing yourself to hear the same story over and over. And over. It's not uncommon to hear the same tale 8 to 10 times over the course of a meal. That's fine, as I said, you prepare for it. The trick is the various ways you respond -- sometimes, as if it's the first time. Sometimes, you listen for a while and then say, "Ohh, wait, is that the one where..." and go on. Usually, you smile and say, "Really? Interesting." And ultimately, it's sort of charming, and overall a joy.
It's also something I highly recommend. Not only do you learn a lot about history -- family and otherwise -- but it teaches you patience.
This is something I've been trying to get across to the elves taking care of the homestead. Thus far, it hasn't kicked in.
By the way, it's rare that a menu at an independent living residence for seniors has a biting political joke in it. But this one tonight when I had dinner with Adeline did. It was clear, though I suspect subtle enough to slip through. One of the dessert items was "The World's Greatest Chocolate Cake." I had to order it, just so that I could tell if it was better than the one Trump had with the Chinese ambassador. It was. But hats off to the pastry chef for his pointed sense of humor.
Actually, now that I think of it, this trip hit the trifecta. When I went to the residence where Adeline lives, I saw another lady I like (though don't know nearly well), Rita Braver, who is a remarkable 103 years old! She's a major Cubs fan -- tying this tale all together. She's still very sharp, and seems to get around okay. We of course talked about the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years, and as you might imagine she was overjoyed. That's a LONG time she's followed them. I quipped about how after the World Series, you'd see people thrilled about how they've "waiting my whole life" to see this. As I noted to Rita, some people have not just waited their whole life, but one that almost overlapped the entire 108 year drought. She laughed and agreed. And repeated how thrilled she was to see the World Series win.
So, three 100-year-olds on this trip. That's sort of a thrill, as well...
Today was "Go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field Day." I always judge a visit to Wrigley as a success by one of two criteria. The first is if the Cubs win. They didn't, they lost 5-3 against Colorado, but it was a fun game, down to the Cubs having the bases loaded in the ninth inning. The second criteria is if I don't splash mustard on my pants and shirt. I didn't -- so at least in part it was a successful day!
The thing that I especially love about Wrigley Field is not the grace and Old World charm of the architecture, which I do love, but it's location. In most of the world, cities build their stadium in some out of the way location where they can clear a lot of land, not just for the structure but also for parking. But Wrigley Field is in the middle of a residential, tree-lined neighborhood of brownstones. You're wandering along the sidewalk, turn a corner and then suddenly this ballpark sprouts up in front of you..
This is behind the ballpark, and that ahead is Sheffield Avenue, which borders the park behind right field. Heading off to tiyr right would be Waveland Avenue behind the left field bleachers. Up in the right corner you can just barely see the edge of famous manual scoreboard.
However, going to the ballgame wasn't the only treat of the visit to Wrigley -- or even the best. The other day, I wrote here about my cousin Diana Leviton Gondek and how she had been commissioned to do a painting for the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. And I mentioned she had recently be commissioned by the City of Chicago to make another Honor Horse sculpture as a tribute to fallen policeman, her third. They had a ceremony for it at the 19th Precinct.
Well, it turns out that the 19th Precinct is at 850 Addison -- and Wrigley Field is 1060 Addison! So, I took the L in early -- it stops a block from the ballpark -- and walked a couple blocks to the precinct station. I proudly introduced myself as "cousin of the artist," and they were all gracious, and told me to make sure to tell my cousin how much they love the sculpture.
As I told Diana, I would bring a painting of oats for it. It was most appreciative.
The elves taking care of the homestead were very disappointed they couldn't be there, too, because they wanted to take a ride on the horsey...
You may recall that last November, right after the election, I posted the audio here of an interview that NBA coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs gave, when -- near the end -- he went off on a quiet, eloquent rant against the just-elected Donald Trump. It was notable because Coach Pop, as he's called, is well-known for being taciturn and doesn't talk to the press all that much. Though when he does speak to them, he's blunt (and snarky). Popovich also is an Air Force veteran who at one point early in his career working for the CIA.
After yesterday's playoff game against San Francisco, Popovich was at his post-game press conference. A question came up, and that gave him yet another platform. He went off on a slight tangent to get a subtle, but pointed dig in at Trump, and then later returned to the subject. As always, very softly -- but blunt.
I had lunch with a friend today at the Taste Chicago restaurant in Burbank. That wouldn't mean much to most people, but it's probably the most low-key celebrity restaurant in the world -- co-owned by actor Joe Mantegna and his wife Arlene. It's a little joint that seats about 50 people and serves (as the name implies) Chicago food -- Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and Chicago hot dogs, and more.
While there, Joe Mantegna showed up -- as he apparently does on Fridays, if he isn't filming. (As do other Chicago actors on occasion.) And since my friend had directed him in an episode of Criminal Minds, he stopped by for a chat. I kept quiet for the most part, but since I knew he was a huge Cubs fan (the place has a lot of Cubs memorabilia on the wall, and a big Cubs blue W on the side wall outside, along with other items from Chicago sports), I mentioned often hearing him on Cubs broadcasts when he shows up in the booth. He smiled and said that in fact he was going to be in the booth and lead the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" next Friday, when the Cubs play the Yankees.
You have your scoop.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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