splash-footballmond

I’m a big Steve Almond fan.  I think he’s one of our smartest and gutsiest writers.  His latest book, Against Football (Melville House), is surely one of the year’s most provocative titles.  Almond offers a searing analysis of America’s most popular sport, going deep where most sports writers tend to stay safely in the shallows, challenging the reader’s assumptions about what the game means, and what its massive cultural import says about our society.

Steve and I had a great conversation on my podcast1 not too long ago, and this past week I had the chance to catch up with him via email for some follow-up questions.

You’re So Hot I Want to Eat Your Underwear

Right when we got into the store I realized I forgot my phone in the car. On my way back to the car I noticed a good looking woman getting out of her car which was parked next to mine. She opened her trunk and started shuffling things around, her perfume moving through the parking lot. By the time you’ve reach my advanced age there’s no reason to gawk when you see something pleasant. You’ve seen thousands of good looking women in your day.

It’s not a big deal.

Not anymore.

I was walking behind her when I noticed this old feller sitting in his truck that had a faded NRA sticker on his back window. He saw the woman and his eyes bugged out of his head. He wasn’t discrete and ran his ancient eyes up and down her body. When she got to the side of his truck he used his side mirror to get some more. When she got to the other side of his truck he used the passenger side mirror to get even more. He still wasn’t satisfied and got out of his truck, lifted the hood, and acted like he was fiddle-faddling with the engine so he could watch her enter the store. The fucker shook his head in amazement and licked his lips.

No lie.

He licked his lips.

It was both sick and terribly sad.

I wanted to blow his dick off with a shotgun. I wanted to light an M-80 and tape it to his jerk-off hand. I found my friend who was looking at a painting with a pig jumping into a lake. I told her what I saw.

“Really?” she said, looking at me like if I lost my mind. “Poor old man. He probably has some bitchy wrinkled wife at home. If that’s the case you can’t blame him, right? Don’t get too disgusted, babe. That’s gonna be your ass in a few years.”

Nino’s Shit Pie

I like watching food shows. After spending too many years in the restaurant business I came to appreciate the art of cooking. At one point I even contemplated going to culinary school, but the thought of being around packs of bitchy whiny “chefs” for even ten minutes depressed me. So, I ditched the idea and got an English degree. Can’t say it was a better decision. I was still surrounded by bitchy whiny people. The only difference was I didn’t reek of poached eggs and sea bass when the day was done. I reeked of Kafka and Goblin Markets.

The last year I’ve watched a lot of TV. NATGEO. A&E. ESPN. The History Channel. The Food Network. The Travel Channel. I’m hooked on the Travel Channel. I’ve seen everything it dishes out at least twice.

I’ve watched hours of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Zimmern spans the globe eating things most people won’t. Frog hearts. Lamb eyeballs. Balls. Brains. Bugs. Porcupine. Lizards. Tuna sperm. Spiders and snake dick just to name a few. If you can stomach watching Andrew pop disgusting or “exotic” food in his gaping mouth (he actually does “pop” the food in his mouth and smacks when he chews), and the sight of a fat bald American wearing pastel-colored shirts then this show’s for you.

I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He’s a lush, a jackass, and a pretty good writer. It seems to me that people either love or hate him. He doesn’t wear pastel-colored shirts, but sports equally ugly button shirts, wiry gray hair, scuffed boots, and a lone earring in his left ear. Really, Bourdain? One earring in your left ear? Are we still doing the left-ear-I’m-straight thing? Jesus Christ. Throw that shit away. Or give it to your niece.

I don’t care much for Rachel Ray. Too cheesy. When she hits the tube I tune into ESPN and watch the always bitter Skip Bayless defend white athletes and stir it up on First and Ten.

I like Samantha Brown, but I don’t watch her show much. I think it’s because she looks like a girl I once dated. The apparent differences are that Samantha has a pleasant disposition, smiles, travels the world, and doesn’t have a thing for wearing fuck me boots.

I’ve seen every episode of Man v. Food. Yeah, I know, the show is stupid. But I like stupid entertainment. The reasons why I like Mike Myers films are the same reasons why I can sit through hours watching Adam Richman eating giant burritos and burgers. I’ve seen him go from a husky dude from New York to a bloated dude from New York. According to Wikipedia he exercises twice a day while on the road. I doubt it. If you like cheap surface entertainment then check out Man v. Food. It’s awesome.

There are other shows.

Food Wars (hosted by a pretty girl named Camille Ford).

Carnivore Chronicles.

Hot Dog Paradise.

Bacon Paradise.

So on and so forth.

One day I saw a special on pizza. It was called Pizza Paradise. The show went across the country showcasing the best pizza in the land. Now, I don’t come from N.Y or Chicago so pizza is just pizza to me. Meat, cheese, and sauce slapped on some cardboard. Chuck on some veggies for some color and there you go: pizza.

So I was floored when some tacky jerk-off named Nino Selimaj of Nino’s Bellissima sold a 12-inch pizza that costs $1,000. Yes, you heard right: $1,000! But you won’t get greasy Italian meats and diced veggies on this pizza. Lord no. This silly asshole plops down caviar and thinly sliced lobster on his pizza. But wait! Not only do you have the luxury of shelling out $1,000 and sinking your choppers into what appears to be a really shitty-tasting pizza, but Nino himself (decked out in a suit, oily slicked back hair, and tanned wrists wrapped in mafia gold) will deliver his pizza to you in person!

Oh, joy.

Really, Nino? Will you do that for me?

Fuck.

Tonight LeBron James, arguably the best player in the NBA–hell, on planet earth–will announce whether he will remain a Cleveland Cavalier or will migrate to greener basketball pastures somewhere else. Somewhere else being either Miami, New Jersey, New York, or Chicago.

King James will announce his decision on an hour-long ESPN special entitled “The Decision.” The DVD release of “The Decision” should be available just in time for the 2010 holiday shopping season. It will make either a splendid stocking stuffer or one of the worst gifts imaginable, depending on what city you rep and where James decides to go.

I’m rooting for Chicago. If LeBron wants to win championships, Chicago is where he should go, considering the solid starting squad of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and the recently acquired power forward Carlos Boozer. It also doesn’t hurt that Forbes has the Chicago Bulls organization ranked third–behind the Lakers and Knicks, respectively–on its list of the most valuable NBA franchises. The Bulls organization is a solid place for King James to land and embark on fulfilling his championship destiny.

Processing this situation over the past couple weeks–synthesizing the talk radio babble and tweets and newspaper articles into one well-rounded perspective–has been nothing short of bewildering. Everybody has an opinion on where LeBron is going to go, where he should go, where he could go, where he won’t go, et cetera. We’re all just sitting here waiting, scratching our heads and gnawing our nails, waiting for the King to speak. And he’s been mighty quiet about the whole ordeal.

If LeBron James becomes a Chicago Bull the Bulls are a championship-caliber basketball team. If he does not sign with the Bulls, the Bulls are significantly better than last year, which doesn’t amount to much when it comes to playoff time. You need to have a superstar to win an NBA championship, end of story.

Chicago acquiring LeBron James could prove a magnificent resurrection of sorts, bringing a whole generation of guys back to the team. Guys like me, who grew up with the Bulls Dynasty, and who will likely buy new Bulls schwag and will no longer have to refer to the team as Da Bulls. Personally speaking, a renewed Bulls franchise will steal my focus away from worrying about the morbidly awful Chicago Cubs–a team that has not won a World Series since 1908. (That’s the same year Henry Ford invented the automobile assembly line and started churning out Model Ts.)

Still, I have this nagging suspicion that King James is not going to be a Chicago Bull. My basketball insecurities bristle up, and my gut instinct tells James will remain a Cleveland Cavalier. If so, loyalty is clearly more important to the LBJ brand than winning. What’s more, LeBron James is a vital component of Cleveland’s economy, if not the only thing going for that city right now. So, what kind of person would commit an entire hour of television to royally screwing his hometown team?

Uncertainty rules. One thing’s for sure: Tonight’s airing of the “The Decision” will either cast LeBron James as a hometown hero of the highest class or as one of ugliest egos professional sports has ever seen. And we will all be witnesses.