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The Stretch Run to the Playoffs by Ben Galli

A look at what the last month of the regular season has in store.

                Suppose you don’t give a shit about sports. Not in a mean or arrogant way, you just don’t. You don’t watch the games or the analytical talk shows and you don’t even know who the giant guys in suits on the shows are. You walk into a bar and it’s packed and you’re like, “What’s going on? Is it the 4th of July? St. Patrick’s Day? Was school cancelled for tomorrow and these are all a bunch of hammered teachers? Where did all these people come from?”               

                And it turns out they’re all there to watch some kind of sports thing you’re supposed to know about. You can’t shake the feeling that a solid chunk of these people have to be pretending to care about the total strangers playing the weird game between commercials on thirty-five screens, but you can’t find any of them.

                Then you get on Pencilstorm and that’s what they’re talking about – sports. And it’s not like an average room where you can simply agree with the largest male about whatever he says with regards to sports and everyone will accept you. It’s writing.

                People are going to be able to re-read and figure out that you’re just sitting here, not blogging while the other guys blog. You can’t nod your head through an entire blog post. And guess how long sports go on? Forever.

                Normally what I do is I act like a pretentious asshole about it. Call your favorite team, “your favorite group of total strangers,” tell theatrical stories about not knowing about the sports you’re so excited about. And you know, it’s not so much that people don’t like that, it’s more that they don’t care because you’re not sports. You just pop out of their minds like soap bubbles.

                And then what you’re left with is people who don’t care for sports, but who like pretentious assholes. That’s a pretty narrow market.

                Remember when The Dark Knight made about $158 million on its opening weekend? Pretty cool compared to the second place movie  - Mamma Mia – which made almost $28 million. Still, that seems like a lot of money for Mamma  Mia, and the reason it did so well is simple.

                Mamma Mia is the opposite of The Dark Knight. It was a good move releasing it against The Dark Knight, because everyone who wasn’t jacked about seeing The Dark Knight was really keen to strap on a pantsuit and drink in Mamma Mia.

                So that’s really the question I need to ask myself here – What is the opposite of Sports?

                And I know the answer. Downton Abbey. So I’m going to blog about that.

                Downton Abbey is one of those shows that people are really proud of watching, like the way people tell you that they heard something on NPR as opposed to just having heard it on the radio or the news. NPR equals Smart. Usually they tell you what they heard like it’s a story about their own smartness.  “Saturday I was listening to NPR while I made my own organic suet for the woodpecker and I heard XYZ.”

                There even used to be bumper stickers for NPR that read “Get out of your car smarter than when you got in!” And I’m pretty sure they phased those out because of all the parking lot asskickings and cinderblock/windshield collisions.

                That’s Downton Abbey, it’s like a fucking intellectual gang sign. You down with the D. A.? You know it, dawg.

                The first thing I learned about the show is that a fun thing to do is find people who love it, and then talk to them eagerly about it but call it Downtown Abbey and then when they correct you, just cock your head and say, “No, I just checked this morning, it’s Downtown Abbey.” Or better yet, “Listen you’re stateside now, so say it right, okay? Last warning.”

                Oh my goodness it’s like throwin’ a firecracker in a hen house, yessir.

                Now. It turns out that not watching sports does not make me intelligent, because I simply could not pay attention to this show the first several runs I made at it. It’s dry. Leftover pork chop with no gravy dry. You turn it on and it’s playing NPR music at you and showing you a roughly Sherlock Holmes-era setting but without murder or Sherlock Holmes. No car chase, no explosions, no heists – why isn’t this thing a book sitting around in a library someplace?

                Instead it’s just showing me what all these people do. And most of them scrub a lot. But you can tell the show is smart as shit so you don’t want to fast forward through the scrubbing because maybe they reveal something important and smart. So you try to plow through the talking and scrubbing and Lord of the Rings accents and it’s like when you try listening to Talk of the Nation on a long drive out of town – you can crash your car that way.

                Eventually I used the Clockwork Orange Method, and my overall impression was like when Catwoman blarneyed past Alfred to go try and steal something from Bruce Wayne, and you realize that cane’s real, Bruce Wayne is so out of shape he need a cane, and you’re thinking, my God, this is going to be a long ass movie.

                Except here it’s not Crap I Have To Watch Him Retrain To Be Batman Again, it’s just how many characters are prancing around, and how many of them talk. Do I have to learn all of their names? Do they all have to speak Hobbit?

                But I’m getting the hang of it now. The whole opening scene is the delivery of a telegram containing news that the Titanic sank. The telegram take a Billy-From-Family-Circus-style journey all across the grounds from the telegraph office through the manor all the way to Lord Grantham, who is basically King Shit. And even though he has the same title as a certain Dark Side Jedi, Lord Grantham is an all right guy.

                Like when they tell him the Titanic went down, and they reassure him that they got most of the ladies off of it first, it occurs to him that there were hundreds of poor people below deck and that they weren’t included in the term “ladies” even if they were ladies. So okay, you don’t need to have a doctorate to get that message – We Like Lord Grantham. Got it.

                But I doubt he’s the good guy, because he’s the Lord. You can’t say, “I’m pulling for the Lord of the Manor,” because what are you pulling for? That he’ll become a God King? I’m not seeing much of a journey ahead of him.

                And yes, here’s the answer – Bates. He’s a grizzled, limping, well-spoken fellow who has just been hired to tell all the servants what to do, even though his leg is injured from the war. Turns out not much has changed – even a hundred years ago, people don’t like it when you get hired above them.

Pick out the good guy.

There’s a Mean Girls thing going on.