Monday, April 4, 2011

On The Week's Top Five

1. A New Format

There are some things happening in my professional life (announcement coming soon) that may alter the already limited amount of time I have to dedicate to this blog. Therefore, I am at least temporarily resorting to the tactic that every blog resorts to when it realizes that writing coherent and complete thoughts is a far more difficult proposition than they realized: I will resort to making lists.

2. Very Tough Love

This might be one of the best episodes of This American Life in the history of the show. And in a weird way, it reminded me of college athletics.

3. Amateurism: 

How did a story about a draconian drug court judge in Georgia remind me of the hypocrisies of college sports, so documented by Frontline and Real Sports in recent days? Well, in the midst of his reporting, there is a moment when Ira Glass is discussing whether the stringent policies such as those favored by this particular judge actually work, and he refers to studies that found that low-level offenders tend to respond to such punishments by rebelling against the system. Which, it would seem, is the inherent problem with the NCAA--the perception is that the institution and its member schools are making more money than they ever have while simultaneously locking down student-athletes under a system of labyrinthine and indecipherable rules developed to stem decades of misconduct. And so the natural instinct, for both athletes and institutions, is to rebel, to attempt to subvert the system rather than allow it any credence at all. The best thing the NCAA could do is give a little--find a way to offer athletes a small stipend (as Joe Paterno has been advocating since the 1970s), or to offer them some sort of deferred scholarship money upon their departure from school.

Of course, I don't expect them to do it unless they are forced to, but given the pending lawsuits and the rising ire of fans and media and the players themselves, perhaps we have finally reached the moment when they have no other choice but to acknowledge that pure amateurism is an unachievable ideal. 

4. Joel Kinnaman

I had no idea who this guy was until last night, when I watched the premiere of AMC's The Killing. Kinnman is from Stockholm--at first he reminded me of an incredibly suave and charismatic version of Gareth from BBC's The Office. Then he showed up in two scenes--one in which he interacted with the main character's teenaged son, and another in which he flirted with a pair of teenaged girls in order to forward his investigation--and I thought, There is no way this dude does not become a major film star. Until he stars in a failed comic-book adaptation and winds up acting in B movies alongside Billy Zane, I will adhere to this prediction. In the meantime, I highly recommend The Killing, though given my track record for recommending television shows in the past year (Rubicon, Terriers, Lights Out), I suspect it will last only one season.

5. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

You know those books you have on your shelf for years that everyone says you must read, and you keep thinking, I'll get to it eventually, and you watch a documentary based on this book, and you say, I'll get to it eventually, and you read an excellent book clearly inspired by this one, and then finally you start reading it, and you say to yourself, Why did it take me so long to read this? This is that book.


Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Fruchtman said...

Educated guess - Joining the writing staff of a new venture that's right up your alley, a venture that also happens to be run by a professional friend of yours?
Either way - congrats.

EricP said...

Michael, as Penn State alums, I think you know as well as I Coach Paterno's kiss of approval means the kiss of death to the NCAA. See, stipends and Division I-A playoff system. That's right, I'm old school with the verbiage.

Also good to see you writing something/anything in this space, but best of luck on the impending venture!

Thanks as well for not recommending Justified, AKA my fave show and heading for season 3 next year!