National Anthems and Flames (and Wars Thereof)

So funny story. I remember, the last time I had this blog thingy open, thinking to myself ‘Wow, I’ve got a lot of topics I want to write about. I may need to do two posts this month.’

And here we are, six months later, with nothing new posted in the interim. Huh.

I guess getting married can have that effect. Not to mention finally finishing a screenplay I should have finished a year ago but had been putting off because I’m a lazy writer because I was waiting for creative genius to strike.

But now that I am getting back to blogging, instead of writing about one of those topics I felt so passionately about before, I’m instead going to write about something recent, because that’s the kind of minute-to-minute attention span the internet has taught me to have.

So, to review, recently two different athletes have got the internet into quite the tizzy because of their different but (apparently) abhorrent reactions when the national anthem was played.

First it was Gabby Douglas, who made the decision to stand at attention rather than place her hand over her heart during the medal ceremony at the Rio Olympics.

As an unapologetic Douglas fan, I did think about commenting on this, but really, there’s not a lot to say. She thought what she was doing was respectful. Other people thought it was disrespectful. The criticism may have been racially motivated, but also may not have been.

At the end of the day, it seems to me the main crux of the story comes from the fact that celebrities, especially celebrity athletes, are so rarely given the benefit of the doubt, or even just allowed to have lapses in judgment, even though the rest of us demand we be granted these same benefits.

Sunrise, sunset. Nothing new under the sun.

No, the event I wish to comment more in-depth on happened just last night, when Colin Kaerpernick of the San Francisco 49ers chose to sit while the national anthem played before his preseason football game.

Unlike Douglas, however, Kaepernick did intend to be disrespectful, saying afterwards “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This, too, is nothing new, but it did prompt swift and harsh criticisms from every corner of the internet. It’s this backlash that primarily deserves more discussion and, frankly, criticism.

It’d be easy (and fun) to mock the dumb posts, like this one, which hilariously tries to assert that losing a preseason game (which does not impact a team’s record and will be forgotten by next week) is Kaepernick’s “karma” for disrespecting the US. If that’s all the karma he faces, I guess what he did must not be that bad. But there’s much more troubling posts, like this one, which is also getting much more attention.

The thing is, I really don’t understand this fellow’s logic. His criticism of Kaepernick seems to begin and end with “He makes a lot of money, yet claims he’s oppressed.” Now, what Kaepernick actually said was that black people, as a group, are largely oppressed; to my knowledge he never claimed to have suffered oppression himself, so maybe this is a simple case of the fire-starting fan not reading the statements carefully enough before responding. But since he’s responding to Kaepernic and apparently some people are taking this man seriously, let’s look at the problems created by his response to the statements actually made by Kaepernick, his argument therefore being “Kaepernick makes a lot of money, yet erroneously claims that black people are oppressed.”

There are only two premises from which he could logically draw this conclusion: Either a) Because Kaepernick is well-paid, no black person is oppressed, or b) Because Kaepernick makes $126 million, he’s not allowed to be angry about the oppression others face.

The first premise is an obvious fallacy. The equivalent would be my finding one white person who was broke and trying to claim that all white people are oppressed. As an argument, it’s one step above those who say “It was cold today, therefore global warming is a myth.” Individual examples do nothing to prove or disprove general trends.

The second is much more insidious, but also more problematic. First because it raises some obvious questions right off the bat, such as “How little does a person have to make before it’s okay for them to care about marginalized groups?” If he made $125 million, would his comments be okay? Or would it have to be below, say, $500,000?

But even more problematically, it encourages our human nature that tells us we should only care about problems that affect us. Now, we all know that this is not true–after all, what would be the logical conclusion to that line of thinking? Should I ignore the plight of rape victims simply because I’ve never been raped? I’ve never been persecuted for my faith, so am I not allowed to be angry about the systematic genocide my brothers and sisters in the Middle East have had to face? Should only cancer patients do research on cures for cancer? It’s ridiculous, and we all know this. We all know, at least subconsciously, that we are responsible for making the world a better, juster, fairer place for everyone. And yet, for some reason, we continue to see this argument brought up, particularly in cases of race.

Now all of that being said, I’m far from on Kaepernick’s side here. I find it more than a bit suspect that when he was on top of the league and considered a future Hall-of-Famer, the most important social issue I heard him speak out against was a stigma against people who had tattoos. But now that he’s fallen on hard times and has been largely forgotten, he’s grown a social conscious? I’m not saying people can’t change, just that I find this particular case a bit suspect.

Even if he is sincere in his statements, though, there almost certainly had to be a better way to express them. Many other black athletes have expressed similar convictions in a way that is not only much less headline-grabbing (again, I’m a bit suspicious about Kaepernick’s motives) but also much more thoughtful, and therefore more likely to promote honest, open discussion.

Kap is far from beyond criticism here, and it’s important for those who disagree with him to criticize. But. It’s equally important that any criticisms levied at him focus either on his beliefs (i.e. showing that black people, again, as a group, not as individuals are not oppressed) or his actions (i.e. showing more positive ways he could have expressed those beliefs).

Misrepresenting his argument, oversimplifying complex social issues, and personal attacks (especially the particularly childish ones hurled in the video) only serve to perpetuate the juvenile discussions and divisive arguments that are ripping our culture apart at the seams.

The only way society moves forward is if we all pull in the same direction.


Cristiano Ronaldo and Walking Humbly

Sometimes the truth hurts more than any lie could…

So I may have mentioned my emerging soccer fandom. Since the last World Cup I’ve become a fairly avid Seattle Sounders fan, but, let’s be honest, Major League Soccer is not exactly a good league (sorry, Mr. Garber), so naturally I’ve also kept an eye on some European leagues and a headline from the Spanish Primera División (La Liga) caught said eye.

Ronaldo: Madrid Teammates Not on My Level.”

The story details Cristiano Ronaldo, the star of Real Madrid, one of the richest and most successful teams in all of Europe, and his… less than charitable interview after he and his team were beaten by Atlético Madrid, specifically that he said his teammates were not as good as he was and that was the reason Real Madrid lost.

I’m not proud of how long I spent laughing at this picture.

Now there’s a certain perception that most people hold of Ronaldo, one certainly not hurt by his behavior on the field. Basically that he’s a pathetic baby who can’t handle when things don’t go his way. So if you’re anything like me, you read that headline, thought ‘Same old Ronaldo’ and went back to what you were doing (beating his team on your copy of Fifa 2016 that you play on amateur difficulty because you still don’t understand how soccer works).

Apparently not many people are like me, because it would seem that most did not go back about their day. Ronaldo caught enough heat that, within hours, he retracted his statement, saying “I am not better than any of my teammates.”

Ronaldo Messi Looks

And every day you look better than him.

And this is where the painful truth comes in, because… Yes, Ronaldo, yes you are. Specifically, you’re better than 99.99999% of people who have ever kicked a football, and no, not just on a physical level. There are 7 billion people on Earth right now, and you’re definitively better at soccer than 6,999,999,999 of them, in every way, and on some days you might even be better than Messi. And what’s more, I refuse to believe you don’t know that.

I hate to admit that. It’s taken me a day and a half to get to this post, and most of it I spent convincing myself to actually write that paragraph.

Look, I’m not here to defend Ronaldo’s first statement. Airing your dirty laundry in public has never done any good for any team and it wreaked of childish frustration at losing to the crosstown rivals and being held goalless.

But why is the way to fix that false humility?

Once the second story broke, I went back and read in full the first article on Ronaldo’s post-game comments. Look at what he actually said there:

I don’t want to say that Jese, Lucas [Vazquez] or [Mateo] Kovacic are not good players — they are very good, but … to win a competition you need to have your best players.

Our best players are injured, unfortunately — it’s a fact, the reality.

And he also claimed “Real Madrid would be in first place if his teammates were on his level.”

Can there be any question that both statements are undoubtedly true? Barcelona currently lead La Liga by a wide margin with one player at Ronaldo’s level in Messi, two great complementary pieces in Neymar and Suarez, and… eight other people who I’m sure are very good (I said a kept an eye on European leagues, okay?). Every one in Barça’s starting eleven is a very good player, but undeniably ten of them are second-tier compared to Messi or Ronaldo, so imagine if Real Madrid actually did have 11 players that good? They’d dominate La Liga in their sleep. They’d roll over in bed and score more goals than most teams could in a month. While wearing rocket boots.

And as for the claim that the backups on his team aren’t as good as the players who would start ahead of them if healthy… I mean, they’re backups for a reason.

I’m reminded through all this, weirdly enough, of Terry Crews. If you’re not familiar with the man’s Facebook page, it may surprise you to learn he’s more than just the incredibly ripped torso from countless Old Spice ads. I highly recommend checking out the videos he’s posted, but one in particular that he’s titled “Humility?” He addresses the concept of


I recommend his videos of my own free will and not because I’m scared he’d eat me through my computer if I didn’t.

humility we’ve developed in our culture, saying:

People always tell you to be humble… But are you humble going into your house? Are you humble getting into your car? No! You go into those places boldly, because they’re yours!… Let me tell you, man: God gives you stuff… It’s yours. It’s yours to use.

And it’s easy to forget that. While Crews mentions only physical possessions there, his thoughts extend to gifts and talents, as well, and his video is a response to a stranger at the gym telling him to relax and not make the other people look bad.

Pride can be deadly. I know this, firsthand, and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say it can eat away at you from the inside. But we see that, and we over correct, especially in the church. We take the command to “walk humbly with your God” and use it to mean that we can’t be proud of our accomplishments or skills. That we should deny the gifts we’re given. Ignoring that thinking poorly of yourself still puts the focus on yourself, and missing the point that some of the faith’s great heroes weren’t exactly shy about their gifts.

If I’m worried another patron at the gym is going to make me look bad, he’s not the one who needs to be humbled. It’s me.

Similarly, if the soccer-watching world bristles at the idea of Vazquez and Kovacic being told they aren’t as good as the players ahead of them on the bench, let alone Ronaldo, the fault is not with Ronaldo.

It’s in us.

Yes, Ronaldo’s first press conference was wrong-headed, and the context and medium of a message absolutely reflect on the message itself.

But the cure for wrong-headed impudence is not wrong-headed meekness.

Perception is Not Reality

I couldn’t put my finger on it for sure. But it definitely happened.

There was definitely a time it was not okay to like Brett Favre.

With his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and, perhaps more significantly, inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame (and his #4 retired), it seems like that time has definitely passed.

Actually that’s probably not fair. It seems like it’s been past for a while now. But with his recent inclusion in the most exclusive club available to football’s greatest, it seems that the time for hatred has officially ended.

But the weird part is I sometimes feel like the only one who remembers it existed at all. But, I mean, that can’t possibly be true, can it? I can’t be the only one who remembers when Favre was as easy to mock as Michael Jackson (back when it was okay to mock Michael Jackson) and the general internet consensus was he’d been reduced to a washed-up has-been who couldn’t play any more and probably never could if we’re being honest, and also he sent pictures of his dick to everyone. Or at least to one person.

Although actually to say that was only one time isn’t really fair, either. Well, okay, the dick pics only came up once, but much like Favre’s famous indecision regarding his retirement…s, the football-watching world could never seem to make up it’s mind about Favre.

Remember back in 2005 when Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers? For the next two years,!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/super-bowl-rodgers-renaissance-football.jpg

Without a doubt the dorkiest picture of two professional football players known to man.

all the reports ranged between saying Favre was gruff and unwelcoming to the rookie to flat-out calling him a terrible teammate. The fact that these two years happened to coincide with two of the worst in Favre’s career to that point is probably coincidence. Then, 2007, redemption. Favre led the upstart Packers to a surprising 13-3 record, putting up some of the best numbers of his career. Sports Illustrated declared him sportsperson of the year and did an article on what a mentor he was to Rodgers and the other QBs. Suddenly, Favre had become a good teammate.

For one year. The next year Favre got traded to New York, had a strong start to the season, but faded down the stretch as his new team missed the playoffs. ESPN officially declared him “locker room cancer.” The old reports resurfaced. Favre and Rodgers never got along. Favre never made Rodgers feel comfortable. Favre ripped the head off of kittens and ate the placenta of unborn children.

The thing is, the actual facts of those reports hardly changed at all, if you pushed deep enough to actually find them. Favre didn’t go out of his way to help Rodgers take his job, what Rodgers was obviously brought in to (eventually) do, but if Rodgers came to him looking for specific help, he’d provide it. We can debate all day about whether Favre should have made the younger player seek him out or if he should do more to be a “good” teammate, but the simple fact is the reports stayed virtually the same year-to-year, while the judgments and narratives in those news stories varied widely.

And that’s a pattern that holds true not with the little things, t00. Late in the 2009 season, Favre (now with the Vikings) had a Monday night game at the Chicago Bears. Leading up to the game, the story was the freezing cold conditions, and how Favre hadn’t won such a game in almost two years.

The Vikings sleepwalked through the first half, spotting Chicago 16 points, before ultimately falling behind 23-6 midway through the third quarter. But led by Favre and Adrian Peterson, nearly pulled off a comeback for the ages, coming all the way back to tie the game at 23, falling behind again, only to put together a 68-yard drive that ended when Favre hit Sidney Rice for a touchdown on fourth and goal with 16 seconds left in the game.Rice TD

Just before that score, one of the game’s announcers commented on all the claims that Favre could no longer play well in cold weather, saying “There’s nothing wrong with that guy in any weather after how he’s played tonight.”

But on the Vikes’ first drive in overtime, Peterson fumbled the ball. The Bears recovered it, and rammed a touchdown drive down the Vikings’ throats, winning the game.

The next time the Vikings came to Chicago, in 2010, to play another game in freezing weather, the story told by all national news writers was, again, “Favre can’t play in cold weather… Favre hasn’t won a game played in freezing temperatures in three years.”

You could chalk it up to what Matthew McConaughey, portraying Jack Lengyal, said in We Are Marshall: That “Winning is everything and nothing else matters.” But it’s far more likely that in the word of professional football, perception simply is not reality.

Perception trumps reality.

Addressing the Caldwell Situation

So there’s something I don’t admit publicly very often.

I’m a Detroit Lions fan.

And since the Lions has just finished an awful season (again), there are significant questions about whether they’ll fire their coach (again).

But this wasn’t just any bad season. It obviously isn’t the worst Lions season in recent history, but it might have been the most frustrating. I’m so mad, I actually might be happier if Detroit had lost at Green Bay in Week 10 and finished with a worse record. Because at least then they wouldn’t have wasted what should have been a historic moment, ending a 24-year-long road losing streak to Green Bay, on a meaningless season.

They could have done it last year. In Week 17. With the division on the line. For a franchise record 12th win. And with the game tied halfway through the third quarter. And instead, they let the Packers, who had struggled all season when facing top-flight defenses, roll up 30 points.

No. Even when the football gods finally choose to smile on us, the Lambeau curse is finally broken in the midst of late-season surge that

Embedded image permalink

I will never get over this!

all became meaningless three weeks later after Rodgers flopped like a Cristiano Ronaldo and those cheese eaters got an unearned extra play. And also because the defense let the Rams run all over them a week later. But, mostly, the first thing!


All right, I never claimed to be a well-adjusted person, the point is this season sucked. And after what seemed like such a promising offseason, such a terrible real season should leave the Lions with one very clear answer as to what to do with Caldwell.

They need to keep him.

Despite the 1-7 start, and the 7-9 final record, there are four very important reasons getting rid of Caldwell this year would be a terrible decision.

Reason One: That Second Half Surge

Yes yes yes, as everyone has said, as I said just a few paragraphs ago, the fact that the Lions went 6-2 after their bye week meant, in the grand scheme of things, nothing. The Lions still missed the playoffs and couldn’t even get to a .500 record. And the strength of schedule in the second half definitely helped (6 games against playoff teams in Weeks 1-8, compared to 2 games against the Packers in Weeks 9-17).

But that doesn’t mean we should just ignore that resurgence. A lot of teams who start 1-7 would quit on their coach. This same team has quit on lesser coaches in the not-too-distant past. That Caldwell kept the team focused, and improving, in an otherwise lost season is a good indication that last year’s 11-5 record is closer to what we can expect in the future than this year’s 7-9.

But more importantly than all of that, the improved record over the final 8 games can be largely attributed to promoting Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator. Matthew Stafford never looked fully comfortable in previous OC Joe Lombardi’s offense. This was supposed to be the year he took a major step forward after spending all of 2014 learning the offense and playing it safe. Instead, with Lombardi, Stafford was heading to another mediocre season (13 TDs, 11 INTs, 64.5% completions, 84.1 rating after week 8). When Cooter had a chance to implement his offense following the bye week, Stafford transformed into one of the best QBs in the league almost overnight (19 TDs, 2 INTs, 70% completions, 110.1 rating in weeks 9-17).

Stafford needs to stay in Cooter’s offense. It seems he has finally found someone who can curb his problems with incompletions and interceptions without sacrificing his offensive proficiency. The last thing he needs now is to have to learn a fourth offense in his young career. And the best way to be sure Cooter stays around is to keep his boss around. Caldwell needs to stay.

Reason Two: An Inexperienced GM

Yes! The Lions seem to have finally changed their ways. After firing General Manager Martin Mayhew, they broke recent trends and chose not to promote from within and instead searched far and wide before bringing in Bob Quinn from the New England Patriots.

Right now, these all appear to be good signs and indicate that the Powers that Be recognize that there are systemic problems in the franchise and are attempting to address them.

But none of this changes the fact that Quinn comes to Detroit with no experience as a GM, and while his experience with the ever-consistent Patriots is certainly what made him an attractive hire, it’s worth noting that he joined the Patriots in 2000, the same year as Bill Belichick. The Patriots have not hired a new coach since then, or even looked at another

Okay, they’ve probably looked at other coaches

one. Not only has Quinn never made this kind of decision before, he’s never been a part of it. Or observed it. Or, probably, even thought about it.




Hiring a new coach is always a gamble. Asking a new GM to take that kind of a gamble when we already have a coach one year removed from an 11-win season does not make sense right now.

Reason Three: The Other Teams Have a Head Start

When the Lions made massive, sweeping changes this season, they announced they were going to wait to hire a new GM before they made a decision on their coach. And that’s fine, that makes sense.

But when they waited until yesterday to bring in their new GM, they gave all the other teams who fired their coaches a free week to research, scout, interview, and form relationships with all the hot coaching prospects.

Even if Quinn and his staff get to work right away, they’re probably not going to get their first choice.

And this is especially true, because…

Reason Four: That Second Half Surge

Okay, so when I said earlier that the Lions 6-2 performance over the season’s last eight weeks accomplished nothing, that wasn’t quite true…

It pushed the Lions to 16th on the NFL Draft Board.

Any new coach who comes in is going to want to bring in his own players and reshape the team to suit his preferences. While it wouldn’t be impossible for the Lions to do that this summer, it’s definitely a lot harder when you’re drafting in the middle of the pack and (presumably) getting middle-of-the-pack college players.

I would vehemently disagree with anyone who would say that the Lions should have folded during the second half of the season in an attempt to get a higher draft pick, but there’s no denying that by not doing so they made any new coach’s job that much harder.


So imagine this, hot, young, head coaching prospect. There’s a franchise out there that might be hiring. This franchise has, in the Super Bowl era, made the playoffs 11 times with a 1-11. Their star wide receiver is probably going to retire and

Come back to me, Calvin! I can’t live without you!

leave you with a gaping whole on your roster. Hiring you means they would have just fired their most successful coach since 1952. You won’t get your first choice of players this April. And to top it all off, waiting for their call means ignoring the six other franchises blowing up your phone for a week (or longer).


In what world do you wait to see their choice? In what world do you answer that call if it comes?

There are a lot of tough decisions coming for this franchise. Despite their strong showing in the last eight weeks they are definitely in rebuilding mode. But this choice should be pretty clear.

The Lions need to keep Jim Caldwell in 2016.

Power Ranking Horror’s Best Villains

So I just finally got the chance to watch Sinister the other day. I’m pretty behind the times on my horror films, I suppose, but I figured this one was worth checking out. It struck me as significant for a couple of reasons, notably for being Scott Derrickson’s only critical success (relatively speaking) as a director and one of the few movies in which Ethan Hawke’s acting looked tolerable. Having watched it, I found another reason it stands out, at least to me: Although the movie was quite scary at points, the movie’s villain was not. At all.

And that got me thinking, ‘What makes for a good horror villain?’ It’s always seemed to me that the quality of villain is inversely proportionate to how far out of his way a normal person would have to go in order to become a victim. And, of course, you can’t start a line of thinking like that without eventually composing a list like this.

So, just in time for Halloween, presenting a completely new, never-been-done-before-don’t-even-bother-asking-Google idea, the definitive power rankings of the best horror villains!*

*Author’s note: this list was assembled almost at random using the first eleven horror villains I could think of. This list does not necessarily represent the opinions of Word Press, Hero McPiePants Productions, the WNBA, or this author.

As a general rule I’m going to ignore any sequels for this list, so we’re dealing with only the originals (except for the times I don’t feel like it). I’m also including only villains from movies I’ve actually seen, so Leatherface, for example, is out because I’ve never watched the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I did try to watch the 2003 remake but it was so stupid that halfway through I tried to gnaw my face off. I’m proud to say the resulting struggle was more entertaining than anything in the film.

So now that the legal disclaimers are done, let’s kick off the bottom of the list, with… Bughuul
Film: Sinister (2012)

There are horror villains who stalk their victims. There are horror villains who wait patiently for their victims to come to them. And then there’s one guy who leaves a box of homemade movies in the attic, hoping the next family who moves into that house will find them, watch them all, get scared, and move away, where he finally possesses one of their children and kills them. Oh yeah, they also have to have small children, or the whole plan kind of falls apart. Using this method, is it any wonder he’s successfully victimized only six families in five decades? Props to Derrickson for making a compelling movie about a boring villain, but next time just choose a more interesting monster and make your job easier.

#9 (tie): Samara and Aparat
Samara: The Ring (2002); Aparat: “Rap Rat” Creepypasta

Is it cheating use two for one slot? Of course not, I make the rules, I can do what I want. Besides, they’re very similar in their behavior. Samara is much better known, but Aparat was much more terrifying, at least to me, so I figured this was a good compromise.

So if I found the story of Aparat so scary, why’d I rank him so low on this list? Because he, like Samara, is only interested in killing people who watch his VHS tape. Just a few years ago these two probably would have ranked much higher on this list. But seriously, guys, it’s 2015. Even I don’t remember what VHS tapes are.

Oh, also, I think speaking Aparat’s name aloud was another way to incur his wrath, so hopefully you aren’t reading this list out loud to anyone, and if you are, good luck with that.

#8: The Blair Witch
Film: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Was The Blair Witch Project an impressive film, given its shoestring budget? Absolutely. Was it influential on the horror genre, even to this day? Undeniably. But is it, objectively, scary? I don’t think I’m alone in saying not really. But even if you do find it scary, it can’t possibly be because of the antagonist. To fall victim to her(?) you have to specifically seek her out, let her lead you in circles for days on end, follow some random noises into a decrepit old house, and then… something happens. Something we never find out about. It could be anything from giving you millions of dollars to turning your internal organs into waffles. Spooky

Seriously, lady, the kid who made Marble Hornets did you better than you did, and he makes videos for free on YouTube.

Also, the villains from Marble Hornets will not be appearing on this list because I didn’t think of them until too late.

#7: Jason Voorhees
Friday the 13th Parts 2-A Billion (1981-2009…and counting), we’re ignoring the original film here because no one cares about an old lady killing a bunch of teenagers. That said, it’s by far the best film in the series.

There’s not much to say about Mr. Voorhees. On the positive side of things, he can absorb any amount of damage and is unstoppable… if you ignore all the times he’s been stopped, of course. But on the other hand, he’s bound to Camp Crystal Lake. He can only massacre the teens who, like clockwork, show up at his camp every year. He remains unable to leave its borders. I mean, if you (again) ignore the dumb films… The really dumb ones… The ones where… Look, it’s a crappy franchise. Shut up.

#6: The Spirit of the Mirror
Oculus (2013)

There’s a lot of good things to say about The Spirit of the Mirror. It can manipulate its victims’ perceptions of reality, is basically impossible to kill, and the mirror eats dogs! That said, it’s also not a very… adaptable villain. It’s entirely reliant on victims locating the mirror, buying this priceless artifact, doing no research about any previous owner, ignoring any early warning signs, not noticing when their dog is eaten, and eventually dying a slow, horrible death. In the age of the internet, it’s hard to imagine this thing keeping its secret for long. It’s only a matter of time before it gets its own Wikipedia page.

#5: Ghostface
Scream (1996)

Having exhausted all of the passive villains, we’re finally to the ones who actually, y’know, do something. On the downside, that means starting with the worst of them, the Ghostface killer (not to be confused with the Ghostface Killah, who’s scary for completely different reasons). Without a doubt Scream is a seminal slasher film. There’s a reason it’s the highest-grossing slasher in US history. That said, it’s a little hard to take any horror villain seriously when he fails to kill Jamie Kennedy. Had he only been able to do that, we would all have been spared the much greater horror of Kickin’ it Old Skool. A man can dream, though… The Lamia
Drag Me to Hell (2011)

Pros: Relentlessly pursues victims, can attack anywhere, essentially all-powerful.

Cons: In order for him to come after you, you have to shame an old gypsy lady. They’re shockingly hard to come by these days.

#3: Michael Myers
Halloween (1978, definitely not 2007)

The Grandfather of all slashers, Myers did it first (except for maybe Leatherface, depending on how you count) and did it best (except for maybe Leatherface, because, again, I haven’t seen it). As lethal and indestructible as Jason and as tenacious as, Myers exceeds both in viciousness. He kills people because they’re there. In order to become his victim, no one has to come to the camp he was killed at, or have an affair with his mother, or have sex on screen (though plenty do). If you have the audacity to live, chances are pretty good you’ll end up on his hit list.

#2: Jigsaw
 Film: Saw (2004), Michael Meyers is big, strong, and terrifying, but y’know what’s really scary? A middle-aged cancer patient! Okay, fine, that’s a bad comparison, but consider this: Meyers may relentlessly stalk his victim, but he can still be slowed down by doors, walls, and other obstacles. On the other had, Jigsaw, despite suffering from terminal cancer, can be anywhere at any time, regardless of the logical problems that creates. His other mysterious powers include the ability to find a seemingly endless number of deserted warehouses, the ability to retroactively form contacts with the police, and the ability to sedate himself for hours at a time with no training. The gore probably has its place, but it’s how realistic the Saw films are that make them truly terrifying!

#1: Freddy Krueger
Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

If the measure of a horror villain’s quality is how unavoidable he is, no one else can ever compare to Freddy Krueger. There’s no haunted house to investigate, no enchanted item to mistakenly disturb, no old woman with mysterious powers to offend, no place to run. If you fall asleep, you’re dead. As the film wears on and the protagonists become more and more sleep deprived, he becomes increasingly dangerous by his very nature. He can’t be avoided, placated, or destroyed. He’s the best horror villain of all horror villains.

On the Burning of Our Football Program

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take in Iowa State’s drubbing of the Hapless–er, I mean, Kansas Jayhawks. It was a lot of fun and good to see the Cyclones get a win (the quality of the opponent notwithstanding). Despite my Nebraska loyalties, I’ve been a part-time ISU fan for a long time. After all, my favorite football game of all time happened October 1, 2005, when the Huskers and Cyclones battled to a double-overtime Nebraska win.

While nothing beats being in Memorial Stadium for a Husker game, the overall game experience was great. My girlfriend’s father, with whom I attended, knew a lot about football and was a great conversationalist, and whoever runs the PA system at Jack Trice Stadium does a lot of fun things to keep the crowd in the game.

But while I loved the experience overall and hope to get to another game soon, one thing I definitely cannot say I enjoyed was the fans. While they were friendly enough to me (though it certainly helped that I was wearing the right colors), it made me more than a little uncomfortable the way they talked about their coach (one of the most successful ISU has ever had), their starting quarterback (the team’s leader, and best player, for about four straight years now), and their offensive coordinator (who was in the middle of producing over 500 yards of offense).

And I really don’t mean to call the Cyclone fans out in this, because it’s hardly an attitude native to Ames.

Ohio State fans are already whining about their team, despite being undefeated. San Francisco 49er followers started to complain early and often last year, in spite of three straight trips to the NFC Championship game. Heck, reading the comments of Texas fans in the last days of Mack Brown is about like reading the diary of a middle school girl who’d just been dumped (“He said we’d win games together, and he said we’d be national champs forever, and it wasn’t true! And now my life is ruined!”).

I guess that’s just how sports are. The entitled whining, the undue scrutinizing. That is just what football fans do.

But that’s not what the best fans in college football should do.

As bad as I felt for Rhoads listening to the grumbling from delusional fans who don’t understand why it might be hard to win more than a couple of games a season in a place like Ames, I’ve been outright disgusted by Husker fans over the past day and a half.

There’s a lot of reason to be frustrated right now. We’re 2-3 and we could easily be 5-0. But. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and it can’t all fall on the coaches. But. This is a staff trying to adjust to a new program, a new culture and environment, and players they didn’t recruit. But. Let’s not pretend this was the worst loss Nebraska’s had. It’s not even the worst loss in the past decade. If Pelini and his staff could turn the 2009 season around after losing to Iowa State at home, there’s every reason to believe Riley and his staff can turn this one around after losing to Illinois on the road.

But they can’t do it without our support. If you don’t believe fan support absolutely can impact a program, look no further than the aforementioned Pelini regime. Losing the fanbase caused him to go from a hot up-and-comer (in 2011 Bleacher Report ranked him #11 on their list of best coaches in the nation) to a loud-mouthed buffoon in just a few years. Once he lost support of the fans, he was always on the defensive, always trying to justify his employment. It made it all but impossible for him to learn from his mistakes or grow as a coach. And so he didn’t.

The worst thing we can possibly do right now is repeat that scenario with Riley. I don’t know if he’s the man we need for the job, and neither does anyone else. I do know that if we run him out of town before we get a chance to find out, the rest of the football world is going to spend the next year shit-talking our program. I know nobody, coaches or recruits, will want to be a part of that kind of toxic atmosphere. I know the condition of our program absolutely cannot improve if we can’t shake those aspects of it.

The title of best football fans is not something we can just claim. We need to earn it. To defend it. We haven’t been doing this for several years now. I include myself in this.

After this week the game against Wisconsin has suddenly become a lot less important to the division championship, and a lot more critical to our program than anyone could have predicted. Let’s show up in full force and full throat. It’s time to earn that plaque we hang in our stadium the way we expect our team to earn championships.

Fantasy Booking: Suits

Some days you sit down intending to write about education, and what comes out instead is a ramble about how a legal drama needs to be more like professional wrestling.


So I discovered this show called Suits recently, and by “discovered” I mean I pulled a Christopher Columbus and found something millions of people already knew about.

As is my wont when I get really into a show, I started researching it, mostly how well it’s been received. I’m only a little over two seasons in at this point (the fifth season just started airing) but I was really shocked to see that pretty much everybody else in the world thought the second season was significantly better than the first.

Even though I disagree with that opinion, once I thought about it a bit I can’t really pretend I don’t understand why. The storytelling in the first is a bit… shit, really. Even though the show’s Wikipedia page says it had 12 episodes, thinking back on it I can only remember… two. There’s the first episode, explaining how the two main characters came to work together, and then there’s the one where they win their case because a random side character makes a casual statement that leads to an epiphany and they form a brilliant argument that legally probably makes very little sense.

It wasn’t exactly wildly original storytelling is what I’m saying. But it didn’t need to

And when this is the guy inspiring your epiphanies...

And when this is the guy inspiring your epiphanies…

be. What made the show work was not its plots, but the dynamic between the characters. The first episode sold us on the idea of a snappy, wisecracking legal super team: Harvey, the experienced, jaded lawyer who makes a living knowing what you’re going to do before you know, and Mike, the rookie who still wants to save the world and makes up for his lack of experience with the fact that he’s memorized every court case in history. Both the characters and actors played off of and balanced each other perfectly, and the fact that they never lost worked in the show’s favor because it made you want to be them. They were the legal system’s Superman…s. Supermans.

Moving into the second season, the show ditched the first’s episodic formula in favor of slow-developing, overarching story lines, which in theory was probably a wise move. However, as a result of this, the legal team that’d spent the first season as the smartest guys in the room spent basically the entire second season two steps behind the new antagonists.

In a lot of ways, it’s not hard to see the logic behind this decision. The idea of creating some drama by throwing our heroes a loss or two is not a bad one on its own. What was a bad idea was to keep those losses coming, consistently, for an entire season, because this really hurt the show in two unintended ways.

First, Harvey became absolutely insufferable. Harvey’s basically every cocky lawyer

Ugh. This guy. Probably still wears his high school letter jacket, too.

Ugh. This guy. Probably still wears his high school letter jacket, too.

character you’ve seen on every TV show ever. His brazenness works in season one because it’s absolutely well founded and he backs it up by being the best lawyer in town. But as soon as season two makes it clear there are better lawyers, his swagger immediately goes from charmingly abrasive to regular abrasive. He becomes that guy at every college party bragging about how awesome he was in high school.

Second, it showed us that these guys were not Supermen, they were losers. And this really hurts the drama at the end of the season. In one of the last episodes, Harvey gets a lawsuit he needs to win to protect the future of his firm. As soon as this storyline was brought up, I was fed up with it. The writers had just spent the better part of a year convincing me that Harvey couldn’t win a case to save his life. Now suddenly I was supposed to believe he could win one to save his firm?

And this is where the show needed to take a page from the best booked stories in professional wrestling.

I’ve mentioned my love of professional wrestling before and I’ve caught flak for it in the past. I will freely admit the claim that it’s little more than a soap opera is fairly accurate. But I love it because when it’s well done, it tells the most basic story of a hero overcoming incredible odds better than any other medium I’m familiar with.

Because it’s scripted, and more show than sport, wrestling often gets unfairly stigmatized for its storytelling. But even though the stories are basic, making them compelling is more difficult than it might initially seem. Push a face too often or too hard and fans get tired of him winning all the time. That’s been John Cena’s problem for years since he’s been WWE’s top (sometimes only) babyface for a decade.

Of course, when your heel looks like this... Yeah, good luck building any challenger to look like he has a chance to win...

Of course, when your heel looks like this… Yeah, good luck building any challenger to look like he has a chance to win…

However, fail to book a face to look appropriately dominating and fans lose interest quickly. In the run up to WrestleMania 31, the WWE had a laundry list of booking problems, but their biggest by far was that their heel champion, Brock Lesnar, had been getting pushed in exciting, high-octane matches in which he would beat people within an inch of their lives, while Roman Reigns, the babyface and (alleged) contender was booked in slow, plodding matches that saw him struggle to beat second-tier opponents. No one cared about his shot at Lesnar, because, in storyline, Lesnar should have kicked Reigns’ teeth in from bell to bell. The writers never gave the fans a reason to care.

I still really enjoyed season two of Suits. Mike’s development was still very well done, and I had enough positive positive feelings about the characters

Although if Gabriel Macht could look more like the Rock, it might help.

Although if Gabriel Macht could look more like the Rock, it might help.

from season one to stay invested. Even so, I still can’t get over how much better it could have been had they “booked” Harvey appropriately; had they just gotten their WWE on a bit more. If I’m going to care about a character’s big case, first I have to believe he can win it. And by the same token, someone with the swagger of the Rock can’t back it up with the winning percentage of Dolph Ziggler.