Football, baseball, and the movies

Posted: Jan 02, 2006 9:05 AM
Whenever I speak to a group of writers, I can bank on someone’s asking where I get my ideas. My usual glib reply is that I count on ideas finding me because I’m just too darn lazy to go searching for them. In a way, that happens to be the truth. More often than not, I’ll be driving down the street and some odd thought will pop into my head. Then the trick is to remember it long enough to jot myself a note.

After a while, I’ve got a bunch of these little pieces of paper collected, all of them filled with scribbled, somewhat cryptic, messages to myself. As a rule, if I don’t turn them into an essay within a week or so, I find I never will. On the other hand, I hate just tossing them away. Instead, periodically, I salvage some for a smorgasbord. So, here are a few Swedish meatballs for you to munch on.

Somebody, I’ve decided, should do something about the scoring system in football. I’m already on record as being opposed to touchdowns counting for six -- actually seven -- points. It misleads people into thinking that football has more offense than baseball when in fact a 28-14 game means there were only six scores, not 42.

And speaking of extra points, isn’t it high time they got rid of them? The kick is nearly automatic, and all it does is waste everyone’s time. Let them run it in or pass it in for a point, if they must, as they presently do for two points.

Furthermore, it makes no sense that a 20-yard field goal counts the same as a 50 or 60-yarder. For that matter, I’d award bonus points for an 85-yard punt return or a 92- yard run for a touchdown. And why should a one-yard plunge by a 260-pound fullback count for as much as a 70-yard reception? I might even award points to the defense for goal line stands.

While on the subject of sports, I’ll try to explain why I am the only person I know who likes George Steinbrenner. Mainly, I appreciate the fact that he takes his role as keeper of the flame as seriously as he does. In everything he does, from maintaining Monument Park in centerfield as a memorial to former Yankee greats to staging the classiest old-timers games in baseball to hiring the very best broadcasting crew, he expresses his respect for the game. Those who whine about the money he spends on players seem to overlook the fact that it’s his dough. Also, unlike all the other money- grubbing owners in professional sports, when Steinbrenner decided to build a new stadium, he didn’t blackmail the taxpayers into footing the bill. As usual, he’s paying for it out of his own pocket.

Another thing I like about the man is that, no matter how much he’s willing to pay for talent, he refuses to negotiate when it comes to facial hair. He forked over $135 million for Jason Giambi, but the goatee had to go. Frankly, I don’t understand all the silly-looking beards that have sprouted in the major leagues over the past decade. I really don’t know what it is with these guys, but they must be the only people in America who think the Amish are a bunch of hotties.

Finally, it occurs to me that while most Americans are aware that in their values and their politics, Hollywood’s liberals are quite different from themselves, they don’t know the half of it.

For instance, most people are unaware that although movies are a business, there’s probably no other commercial enterprise that’s run on such an un-businesslike basis.

Consider, if you will, that the majority of movies lose money. What’s more, an average 12-year-old could probably predict which of them will definitely fail. So the question is, why produce them? Well, part of the reason is that far too many of the people who develop movie projects aren’t developing them for the general public, but for each other. When they get together for lunch or cocktails, they don’t want to appear square. It would kill them to say they’re green-lighting a family flick, even though year in and year out it’s G-rated movies that dominate the market.

Instead, these black-clad young executives, men and women alike, prefer to boast that they’ve got something dark and edgy in the works, something, they love to say, that really pushes the envelope.

As a result, at any given time, you can count on there being half a dozen movies dealing with dope addicts in production, even though “The Man With the Golden Arm,” made back in 1955, was probably the last druggie movie to make a dollar -- and that one starred Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, not Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe, for crying out loud.

So, why, if they consistently lose money, do they keep producing these grungy movies about heroin addicts, hookers, and other assorted lowlifes? For the same reason that normal people make home movies. They just like to see themselves on screen.