English is still dumb.

Let me get something out of the way before I delve into two more oddities of the modern English language. I have no problem with people who make grammatical “mistakes” or usage “errors” in everyday speech, and neither should you. That’s not what we’re doing here. We’re not making fun of people who don’t use “proper” English. (And, yes, all these scare quotes are intentional.) We’re making fun of people who, in trying to sound more sophisticated, muck up some perfectly good sentences in the process. The people who replace short words with long words because they’re longer. Those people. I’m convinced those people would realize how dumb they sound if they just stopped to think about the words they’re saying for two seconds, so let’s think of these as some community service.

Second-Chance opportunity

Mike Breen is my favorite play-by-play announcer in the NBA. He, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy make for extremely entertaining television, and I think they are, far and away, the best broadcasting team for any American professional sport. Breen never says anything that makes you question your sanity, he never gets tripped up on unnecessary verbiage, he never distracts you from the action, and he never fails to shift the spotlight off of himself and onto the glowing personalities of his colleagues in the broadcast booth. Which is why it pains me to pick on him before I pick on Jim Nantz or anybody else you’re forced to listen to on nationally televised sporting events — he really is the cream of the crop. Maybe this one thing sticks out it’s because Breen is so good at not sounding like a moron, but you know what they say: the loftier your high horse, the more rocks get thrown at your glass house.

A “second-chance opportunity” is what Breen and other play-by-play guys have started calling offensive rebounds. The second you see this written, your brain should burst out laughing at its ridiculous redundancy. ‘Opportunity’ is just a synonym for ‘chance,’ so what he’s actually saying is “second-chance chance.” Doesn’t that sound silly? Now, I do realize that there is some method to this madness. In basketball, when a team scores a basket after having already missed a shot and gotten an offensive rebound, that basket counts towards a team’s second-chance points, which is an officially recorded stat. Technically, an offensive rebound is a opportunity to get second-chance points, so I see where this expression is coming from. But come on. Just call it a “second chance” (since that’s what it is — a second chance at scoring a basket) or, better yet, an offensive rebound (since that’s what it actually is).

moving forward

This one is the worst. This one is the absolute worst. It has left the land of public relations office-speak and entered mainstream English, leaving its friends “positive impact,” “task force,” and “synergy” in the dust. People are moving forward in interviews, emails, press releases, business meetings, and commercials. They’re moving forward all over the place. But here’s the real question: WHERE ELSE WOULD THEY GO?

People use “moving forward” to mean “in the future.” But from the context of the sentence, everybody should already know we’re talking about the future. It’s obvious. Let’s look at an example to see how unnecessary this expression can be:

“So, as you can see, this trend is going to continue. And moving forward, we need to be aware of it.”

Remove the “moving forward” and what do we have left? The exact same sentence. Who decided this was a good idea? What moron thought, You know what would sound great here? Moving forward?

Now, that’s not to say that you can’t come up with a legitimate way to use “moving forward.” You can using it in the same way as you “move on from” or “get over” something: I’m moving forward after the passing of my pet turtle. Or you can use it in the same way as you “proceed with” or “carry out” something: I’m moving forward with my plan to adopt a new pet turtle. These are acceptable uses of the phrase, although I’d contend that there are better alternatives.

In the acceptable sentences, you may have noticed that our formerly offensive phrase was used as part of the main verb phrase. These sentences tend to take the following form: [somebody] moves forward [from/with] [something]. “Moving forward” is an integral part of the sentences, and if it were removed, the sentences would fall apart. However, when “moving forward” is used as an adverbial phrase (sometimes called a “gerundive”), as it is in our example from YouTube, it’s totally worthless and adds absolutely nothing to a sentence. The “moving forward” bit is just floating around, not attached to anything. You could put it at the start of the sentence, put it at the end, put it in the middle, surround it with commas, precede it with a dash; you can do anything you want with it. You know what I would do?

Get rid of it.

Who do you think is the MVP? Well, you’re wrong.

Welcome to America’s favorite gameshow: The NBA’s Most Eligible MVP Candidate! It’s the show where you, the MVP voter, have come to find the MVP of your dreams! Without further ado, let’s meet the eligible candidates!

Candidate #1

Candidate #1 has had one of the most memorable seasons of the past decade. He finished the year having scored 28.1 points per game, tops in the NBA. But after his superstar teammate went down with an injury in February, Candidate #1 really turned on the jets, averaging 31 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds per game over the last 28 games of the season, recording eight triple-doubles in the process. In fact, he finished the year with 11 triple doubles, the most since Jason Kidd in 2007-08.

Candidate #1 was, without a doubt, the most thrilling player to watch in the entire league. It seemed like he was on SportsCenter every night, flying coast-to-coast with a ridiculous dunk, or getting his head caved in and finishing the game anyway.

What that? You think the MVP should be have to play well enough to single-handedly carry his team to the playoffs? And you think his defense was terrible despite leading the league in steals per game? I suppose that’s a fair assessment. Better luck next year, Candidate #1. Please don’t be mad.

candidate #2

You say you like defense, huh? Well you’ve come to the right place! Candidate #2 leads the NBA in blocks by a substantial margin. But he’s no one-trick pony! Thanks to his improved shooting skills, the all-around stats of Candidate #2 are so good that his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) this season has only been matched by three players: Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. Pretty good company, huh? Not to mention, Candidate #2 was so good that his team was able to surpass expectations and make it into the unbelievably competitive Western Conference playoffs!

Well, yeah, of course they were the eight seed. That’s still pretty good! No, nobody thinks his team is a legitimate contender for the title. I guess you’re right, that’s hardly any better than Candidate #1. I’m sorry, Candidate #2. You’ll have plenty of chances to woo voters in the future, I promise.

anthony-davis-nba-los-angeles-lakers-new-orleans-pelicans-850x560

 

Candidate #3

If you like good teams, you’re going to love Candidate #3. Candidate #3 has orchestrated the league’s third most efficient offense in the league since the All-Star Break. In fact, his team has only lost seven games since that point in the season. Candidate #3 does it all for his squad: he gets more assists than most point guards, more rebounds than most power forwards, and more points than all but two players in the entire NBA. This is nothing new for Candidate #3, since he’s been considered the best player on the planet since he came into the league in 2003 and has won the MVP award four times already.

You think he’s having a bad season? I suppose you might be on to something: this is the first season since 2008-09 during which Candidate #3 has shot under 50% from the field. And, yes, he did miss thirteen games. He is getting older, so maybe Candidate #3 has been saving his best work for the playoffs. It looks like your reign as king of the MVP is over, Candidate #3.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards

Candidate #4

You want efficiency, huh? Well look no further! Candidate #4 might be the best shooter in the history of basketball. He’s led the league in made three-pointers, 50% of which were off the dribble — the highest such ratio in the league among players who made at least 1.5 three-pointers per game. He made 42.2% of those off-the-dribble three-point attempts, which is also best in the NBA. And the shooting stats just keep coming! Candidate #4 led all guards in true shooting percentage (which includes the value added by foul shots and three pointers) at 64%. The prolific shooting of Candidate #4 sometimes overshadows his excellent passing (he finished fourth in the league in assists) and much-improved defense (he led the league in steals). Thanks to the often mesmerizing talents of Candidate #4, his team has absolutely dominated the league’s most competitive conference, while ranking as the NBA’s second most efficient offense and leading the NBA in point differential, defensive efficiency, and, most importantly, wins.

Huh? You want to see what his stats were like two years ago? Why on earth… well, all righty then, if you insist. Here are the stats for Candidate #4 from this year and from two years ago:

PTS REB AST TO STL BLK FG% 3P% FT%
'14-'15 23.8 4.3 7.7 3.1 2.0 0.2 48.7 44.3 91.4
'12-'13 22.9 4.0 6.9 3.1 1.6 0.2 45.1 45.3 90.0

Now that you mention it, they do look almost identical. Did he win the MVP two years ago? No, actually, he didn’t even make the All-Star Team. That’s a good point. I suppose it doesn’t make any sense to reward Candidate #4 for having such talented teammates, especially when it doesn’t seem like he’s improved at all.

steph-curry

 

Candidate #5

Candidate #5 has not had nearly the same luxury of being able to rely on his teammates like our previous candidate could, and yet Candidate #5 led his team to the second best record in the entire NBA. Candidate #5 made the most out of his team’s depleted roster: of the four other starters on his squad, only one of them has stayed healthy the entire year. Candidate #5 is so important to his team’s success that they won 29 of 33 when Candidate #5 scored 30 or more points, and 24-22 when he didn’t. As a result, wound up leading the NBA in points scored, free throws made, minutes played, and total win shares.

Candidate #5 has shown remarkable consistency in his young career, improving his game little-by-little every year. Last season, while he made small strides strides in his shooting efficiency and his passing, Candidate #5 was ridiculed incessantly for his embarrassing lack of effort on defense. This year? No too shabby! In fact, he set a career high in steals and blocks.

Holy cow, you’re picky. You want your MVP to stand out in all areas of the game? “Not too shabby” isn’t going to cut it? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Candidate #5, it looks like you’re going home empty-handed.

Candidate #6

I bet most of the viewers at home didn’t think we’d get this far, but here we are! Meet MVP Candidate #6, whose name rarely gets mentioned in these conversations. In fact, he’s not even listed among the favorites in the Las Vegas betting lines for the NBA MVP. But don’t let that fool you; he may truly be the most valuable player of all.

Let’s start with his defense. Candidate #6 has ranked in the top ten in steals per game every single year he’s been in the league, finishing first in that category six times. This year, he got fifth place. That’s pretty good. Yes, I know, calm down, I realize that Candidates #1 and #4 both have him beat in that category, and that Candidate #5 is right behind him. But getting steals is only one aspect of playing defense. Many steals come from jumping into passing lanes, an aggressive move in which you abandon your own man to try to intercept a pass. This is a major risk, the downside of which is not captured by the “steals” statistic, so strictly looking at steals is a severely incomplete measure of a player’s impact on defense. But other than blocks, typical box score stats have no way of telling us how well a player does at other important aspects of defense.

That’s why we have to look at more advanced statistics. According to a study by a bunch of nerds at Harvard, Candidate #6 was the best defensive point guard in all of basketball in 2013-14 at preventing his assignment from scoring. They used SportsVU player tracking data to calculate how often a defender’s assignment attempted a shot, and how often that attempt went in, compared to how that player normally shoots. When they’re guarded by Candidate #6, players take fewer shots than they normally do and makes a worse percentage of those shots. I’d say that pretty well sums up what you’re supposed to do on defense, right? Candidate #6 stops his man from scoring better than any player at his position.

How about his offense, you ask? Well, the box score does a much better job of describing offense than it does defense, so we’ll take a look at some traditional stats.

Traditional Stats: points per game (PTS), rebounds per game (REB), assists per game (AST), turnovers per game (TOV), steals per game (STL), blocks per game (BLK), field goal percentage (FG%), three point percentage (3P%), free throw percentage (FT%)
PTS REB AST TO STL BLK FG% 3P% FT%
Russell Westbrook 28.1 7.3 8.6 4.4 2.1 0.2 42.6 29.9 83.5
Anthony Davis 24.4 10.2 2.2 1.4 1.5 2.9 53.5 8.3 80.5
LeBron James 25.3 6.0 7.4 3.9 1.6 0.7 48.8 35.4 71.0
Steph Curry 23.8 4.3 7.7 3.1 2.0 0.2 48.7 44.3 91.4
James Harden 27.4 5.7 7.0 4.0 1.9 0.7 44.0 37.5 86.8
Candidate #6 19.1 4.6 10.2 2.3 1.9 0.2 48.5 39.8 90.0

So Candidate #6 doesn’t stand out in points, but makes it up with his assists. What? Oh, is that so? You think he sounds like the typical ball-dominating point guard. You think he gets all the assists because he never lets anybody else touch the ball until there’s two seconds left in the shot clock. Well, just cool your jets for a minute while I explain something. Being ‘ball-dominant’ is a criticism because bad things happen one player has the ball in his hands for too long. Those bad things usually take the form of turnovers, forced shot attempts, and/or generally inefficient offense. If those bad things don’t happen, there’s nothing wrong with having the ball in your hands more than your teammates’ hands. Now just sit back and relax while I demonstrate that these bad things don’t happen when Candidate #6 dominates the ball.

Candidate #6 just don’t turn the ball over. Period. He led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (AST/TO) this year for the third year in a row, and the fifth time in the last six seasons. He’s never finished outside the top three in any of his ten seasons in the NBA. In fact, Candidate #6 might be the best point guard in the history of basketball according to this measure. Among the players ahead of him on all-time assists leaderboard, the closest anybody comes to approaching Candidate #6’s career AST/TO is John Stockton at 3.72. This year, Candidate #6 is even stingier than usual with his turnovers, coming in with a AST/TO of 4.41. Just compare his turnover totals to the other MVP candidates. Candidate #6 blows them out of the water?

As for the notion that dominating the ball leads to bad shots, let’s take a look at Candidate #6’s shooting numbers compared to our already-eliminated MVP candidates.

Shooting Stats: Makes, attempts, and percentages from various distances from basket
<5 ft. 5-9 ft. 10-14 ft. 15-19 ft. 20-24 ft. 25-29 ft.
RW 4.6-8.6 (53.3) 0.6-1.3 (41.1) 1.2-2.7 (42.4) 1.7-4.4 (37.5) 0.8-2.8 (29.7) 0.6-2.0 (28.7)
AD 5.1-7.2 (70.4) 0.8-2.0 (39.6) 1.0-2.2 (46.3) 2.2-5.3 (42.3) 0.3-0.8 (35.7) 0.0-0.0 (33.3)
LJ 4.8-6.9 (69.2) 0.7-1.6 (40.7) 0.6-1.7 (31.9) 0.9-2.3 (40.1) 1.1-2.7 (41.4) 1.0-3.1 (32.5)
SC 2.5-3.9 (65.6) 0.4-0.9 (40.3) 0.6-1.1 (52.9) 0.7-1.7 (43.9) 1.6-3.6 (44.1) 2.4-5.5 (43.0)
JH 3.8-6.7 (56.3) 0.3-0.9 (31.0) 0.4-1.0 (41.8) 0.8-2.1 (36.0) 1.4-3.6 (38.6) 1.4-3.8 (36.0)
#6 1.1-1.9 (59.9) 0.5-1.0(49.4) 1.3-2.4 (52.8) 2.1-4.2 (50.1) 1.0-2.2 (43.7) 1.0-2.5 (37.8)

Overall, I’d say Candidate #6 stacks up pretty well. He excels at the mid range shots, beating out the others by a large margin from 5-9 and 15-19 feet, and finishing just a fraction of a percent behind Candidate #4 from 10-14 ft. From all the other distances, Candidate #6 more than holds his own.

So we’ve established that when he’s got the ball in his hands, Candidate #6 doesn’t turn the ball over, and he doesn’t take bad shots. What about his teammates? How well do they do when Candidate #6 gives them the ball? You mean the league leading assists isn’t proof enough that Candidate #6 does a good job of setting up his teammates? Fine.

Remember how I mentioned that Candidate #4 plays for the team with the second most efficient offense in the NBA? Well Candidate #6’s team is the most efficient: they score almost 1.1 points per possession, best in the league. Could that be a result of having better teammates? Let me ask you this: who’s the better offensive player, J.J. Redick or Klay Thompson? Klay. Matt Barnes or Harrison Barnes? Harrison. Blake Griffin or Draymond Green? Griffin, but not by a lot. DeAndre Jordan or Andrew Bogut? Bogut, by a lot. So the Warriors’ starting lineup, minus its MVP candidate, is probably superior on offense to that of the Clippers.

What about the bench? OK, Jamal Crawford or Andre Iguodala? Toss up, I’d say. Spencer Hawes or David Lee? Lee, duh. Glen “Big Baby” Davis or Marreese Speights? Speights. Austin Rivers or Shaun Livingston? Livingston. Hedo Turkoglu or Leandro Barbosa? Neither, really, but anybody is better than Turk.

So Candidate #6 has worse teammates, and yet his team’s offense is more efficient. Is it all because of Candidate #6? I’m glad you asked. If you could be so kind as to take a look at the offensive win shares stat as listed in the table below, that would be wonderful.

Advanced Stats: player efficiency rating (PER), games missed (DNP), offensive win shares (OWS), defensive win shares (DWS), total win shares (WS), win shares per 48 minutes played (WS/48), true shooting percentage (TS%), wins above replacement (WAR)
Player DNP PER OWS DWS WS WS/48 TS% WAR
Russ 15 29.1 7.5 3.2 10.7 .222 53.6 20.5
Brow 14 30.8 9.9 4.2 14.0 .274 59.1 15.4
King 13 25.9 7.4 2.9 10.4 .199 57.7 15.9
Steph 2 28.0 11.5 4.1 15.7 .288 63.8 21.3
Beard 1 26.7 12.2 4.2 16.4 .265 60.5 21.1
Candidate #6 0 25.9 12.9 3.2 16.1 .270 59.6 18.6

You’ll notice that Candidate #6 has more offensive win shares than any other player in the NBA, which means that, according to this measure, he has contributed more to his team’s offensive success than anybody else has for their team. In other words, Candidate #6 the most valuable offensive player in the league. And, hey, wait a minute, didn’t we already establish that he’s the best defensive player at his position? So he’s the best at defense and at offense? Toss in the fact that he’s the only one of our MVP candidates that didn’t miss a single game this entire season, and, well–

What’s that? You’ve made your choice? I’m glad to hear it. Ladies and gentlemen, this years’s Most Eligible MVP Candidate is…

cliff_paul.0

No, no, not you, Cliff.

cp3_60016

That’s right! Chris Paul! Well, that’s all for our show. We’ll see you next time on The NBA’s Most Eligible MVP Candidate!

English is dumb.

It’s tough to tell sometimes whether the English language itself is dumb, or if it’s just the people using it who are dumb, but either way, dumb things are said all the time that apparently go totally unnoticed by everyone but me. This is going to be a regularly recurring column because these kinds of things pop into my head with some frequency. Perhaps it would be better suited for Twitter or some other medium, but whatever. It’s going to live here for now.

Attorneys at Law

You’ve seen this phrase on ads printed on the backs giant phone books and on even gianter billboards, but I bet none of you have ever stopped to think about how dumb it is. Look at it again: “attorneys at law.” It seems pretty innocuous. But hidden below its friendly exterior is a raging redundancy monster. Don’t see it yet? Have you ever heard of an attorney who wasn’t at law? How about an attorney at medicine? Or an attorney at construction? There’s no such thing. You can’t be an attorney if you’re not at law.

Trundle

This is a verb, apparently. Bill Macatee, the esteemed golf broadcaster, whipped out his thesaurus in preparation for the Masters last week and found this word, which he decided to use every single time he wanted to describe a path taken by a golf ball. Golf, of course, is far too sophisticated for such lowly verbs as “roll” (e.g., The ball rolled off the green.) or even “go” (e.g., The ball went in the hole.), and Bill took it upon himself to spruce up the telecast. I don’t think it worked. “Trundle” sounds to me like something Santa’s sleigh would do, and a golf ball kind of looks like a snow ball, and all of a sudden I’m thinking about how awesome that snow fort was that I built at Justin’s house in fourth grade and how his little sister made us look really stupid by just running around the yard to attack us from the unprotected side of the fort which doesn’t seem fair at all even though it was two against one and what were we talking about again?

 

The Oscars are as dumb as Cooperstown.

I thought about writing two posts. I thought about writing one post about how dumb it is that Lego Movie and David Oyelowo didn’t get the Oscar nominations they deserved, and another about how dumb it is that Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds will never be voted into the Hall of Fame. I was going to detail how these two systems are flawed and how they should be fixed. I was going to talk about how the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is out of touch with the modern game, how it’s absurd to limit voters to ten players, how the treatment of cheating is inconsistent, and how releasing the ballots to the public might fix a lot of these issues. I was going to talk about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (“The Academy”) is out of touch with the general viewing audience, how absurd it is to limit the Best Animated Feature category to voters who are animators, how the treatment of historical accuracy is inconsistent, and how releasing the ballots to the public might fix a lot of these issues. Instead, I’m going to kill two dead birds with one stone.

The Oscars are a lot like the Baseball Hall of Fame: people give them a lot more credit than they deserve. Winning an Academy Award at the Oscars and being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown are two accomplishments that are universally seen as career-defining moments. But they shouldn’t be.

When people refer to Jack Nicholson as “three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson,” they’re implying that the Oscars are the only things that validate his career. When Hank Aaron is referred to as “Hall of Famer Hank Aaron,” it’s as if his 755 home runs would mean nothing if not for his Cooperstown induction. Leonardo DiCaprio might go down as the best actor never to win an Oscar, just like Pete Rose is thought of as the best hitter not in the Hall of Fame. That humiliation has pushed Rose to several misinformed publicity campaigns, and DiCaprio always seems to be going after that one role that’ll win him his Oscar.

That’s not fair to them. It’s not fair that their legacies should be defined by these broken systems. And, yes, they’re broken. Roger Clemens is, by pretty much any legitimate statistical measure (I’m a big fan of JAWS), one of the three best pitchers ever, and yet the BBWAA has decided that since he might have been using performance-enhancing drugs (OK, he was almost certainly using performance-enhancing drugs) he doesn’t deserve the honor of being inducted. Lego Movie is, by pretty much any legitimate statistical measure (I’m a big fan of Rotten Tomatoes), one of the three best animated movies of 2014, and yet the The Academy has decided that since it was made by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the guys behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and the new 21 Jump Street) and not one of the usual studios, it doesn’t deserve the honor of being nominated.

So let’s stop calling it an honor, shall we? Let’s remember that the Oscars and the Hall of Fame are just a couple of stupid awards voted on by a bunch of people whose opinions I don’t care about and neither should you. Stop treating these awards like they’re special. They’re not.

Business Fish is dumb.

Facebook has new feature called “Stickers,” which allows users to convey messages to one another using sets of pre-drawn images. One of the sets of stickers features a character called “Business Fish” expressing various emotions. Yesterday my good friend, Matt H, sent several of these Business Fish stickers from which immediately sprung a coherent story, despite the stickers having been sent somewhat randomly, almost like a stream of consciousness. This is that story.

 

Chapter 1

gasp

Business Fish was not your average man. He rode the subway to his 9-5 desk job just like your average man, he enjoyed watching the big game at the sports bar just like your average man, and he liked building things in his workshop just like your average man. But Business Fish was not your average man. He was a fish.

It didn’t really bother Business Fish that he was a fish. You get used to it after a while, I suppose. When you see a fish staring back at you in the mirror every day for 34 years, you eventually come to grips with the fact that you’re a fish.

But you see, everybody else in the world doesn’t see a fish in the mirror every day. They’re not used to it. Even though most people are polite and don’t say anything, there were still these little things that got under his scales. The little things start to add up.

Especially with the ladies, although it wouldn’t seem that way at first glance. When Business Fish was younger, he often got complimented on his appearance He had a date lined up almost every weekend. He went to the gym every morning and maintained a tip-top physique. Even when he grew out his whiskers for No-Shave November, Business Fish was always a handsome fish. But for whatever reason, Business Fish never made it past the first date. Maybe it was the idea of sucking face with a cold, slimy pair of lips that scared them all off, I don’t know. But no matter how well that first date went, Business Fish found saw his follow-up phone calls go unanswered, and he texts unreturned.

The older Business Fish got, the more he settled into his job, the less often we went to the gym, the less tidy he trimmed his dorsal fins, and the less he asked girls out on dates. He became more one-track minded: go to work, make money, get a bigger house, save for retirement, etc. Those little things added up over the years and weighed him down. He was deflated, defeated, lifeless. But more than that, Business Fish felt out of place. Like a fish out of water.

That all changed one fall morning. Business Fish was walking down 48th Street to his usual Starbucks to get his usual espresso macchiato when he thought he saw a familiar face.

 

Chapter 2

hell

Sarah! There she was, walking up the other side of the street. Even across four lanes of traffic, Business Fish could tell that she was even more beautiful than she had been in high school. How could he have forgotten about Sarah? She was a quiet kid, not one to hang out with one of the popular guys like Business Fish. He had always been rather intrigued by Sarah, even though his friends seemed to overlook her.

When he saw her, Business Fish was immediately reminded of that one time in junior year when he had been wrongly accused of bullying Jimmy Kim. Sarah spoke up and told the principal that it was, in fact, Jimmy who had started the fight. It seemed out of character for Sarah, who rarely said a word in class. Business Fish never saw Sarah do anything like that for anyone else, and from that moment on he suspected that she was just as intrigued by him as he was by her.

What is she doing here in the City? Business Fish thought to himself as he watched her stroll on into the distance. Maybe she moved back?

As soon as he returned to his desk at work, Business Fish popped open a new tab and searched for “Sarah Jameson” on Facebook. Sure enough, there she was. She and Business Fish were still virtual friends despite not having spoken to one another in over a decade.

Sales manager at Macy’s. Studied art at Queens College. Lives in New York, NY. Hmm, I wonder if… Relationshi––

“Business Fish!”

Business Fish nearly jumped out of his seat.

“Yes, Mr. Norris?”

“Meet me in my office in 5 minutes! I’ve got some new product distribution networks I want to you look at.”

“Sure thing.”

Business Fish had to push Sarah to the back of his mind for the moment while he refreshed his memory of the product distriwhatevters so that he wouldn’t look like a total idiot in front of the boss. He got through the rest of the day just as he got through any other day, but he never went more that a couple minutes without thinking about Sarah again. The shock of seeing her had awoken a sort of feeling inside Business Fish that he had not felt in a long time. It was as if he’d completely forgotten that he even had a dorsal fin, and now, all of a sudden, he could swim twice as fast.

Back at his apartment, Business Fish couldn’t sleep. Frustrated and preoccupied, he got up out of bed and walked toward the closet. Maybe some exercise will help. He dug out a pair of dumbbells and did nine pushups before falling over. That was pathetic. Before trying again, Business Fish decided he’d better rest for a minute. It’s been a while. 

He hopped back in bed and fiddled with his smartphone while he waited. He scrolled through Sarah’s profile, looking for anything he might have missed on the first read-through.

Photos from her new apartment, “Yay, first day at work!!!,” very nice. Oh, hey, wait a minute. November 18th? It’s that tomorrow?

It was. Sarah’s birthday was the very next day. [Author's note: Hey, you've got to take some liberties when you're writing a story based on 14 stupid pictures. And besides, it's about a fish-man. If you've gotten this far, I think you can handle some absurd plot-driving coincidences, OK?]

I should do something! Yeah yeah yeah, I’ll get her a cake and surprise her and work and tell I love her! Man oh man, where do I come up with this stuff? That’s genius.

Business Fish spend the rest of the night reading Yelp reviews of bakeries before he drifted off into the most pleasant sleep he’d had in a while.

 

Chapter 3

haha

Business Fish was absolutely giddy. He couldn’t sit still and he hadn’t even had his espresso yet.

He wandered around the office telling anyone and everyone about Sarah and his big plans. When he ran out of people to tell his story to, he just stood there, staring out the window in the conference room, smiling. Smiling about as creepily as you can imagine a fish smiling.

“Business Fish!”

“Mm? What what what? Sorry, I was––”

“What are you doing? You’ve got work to do! I need you to revise the multimedia content inter-dimensional transmogrification management system!”

“Ha ha ha ha! I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Norris. Ha ha ha!”

Business Fish kept laughing as he walked right past Mr. Norris and out the door.

 

Chapter 4

airport

Business Fish left the office sometime around when he normally heads to Starbucks for his coffee break. Only today he skipped the espresso so he could go pick up a birthday cake for Sarah. His research on Yelp led him to a small bakery all the way across town that specialized in decorated cakes. The bakery had received nothing but five-star reviews, except for one, which said simply, “No bacon.”

Undeterred by the one negative review, Business Fish ran down the tunnel into the subway station. Whistling his favorite song, “Under the Sea,” he passed his metro card through the scanner and walked through the turnstiles.

“It’s funny,” Business Fish said to the man behind him in line, “I was half expecting that gate to shut suddenly in front of me or something. Weird, huh?”

 

Chapter 5

no

Business Fish was swing open the door to the bakery when he noticed a particularly disturbing sign pasted on the door right in front of his nose.

NO SMOKING. No pets. no rollerblades. no fish.

He was flabbergasted. Never before in his life hd he seen something that so blatantly and so viciously attacked who Business Fish was as a man and, more importantly, who he was as a fish. Growing up in an affluent neighborhood, Business Fish had rarely been exposed to discrimination against his kind. Rarely, but not never. It was the little things, like the one time he wasn’t invited to Kevin’s birthday party at the roller rink because Kevin’s mom didn’t want him associating with a fish, or when he couldn’t rent skis on the class trip to Moose Mountain because they didn’t have any helmets that fit.

“Hey mister, yir lettin’ all the cold air in, come inside, would ya?”

“I’m–I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

Business Fish walked sheepishly through the doorway.

“What can I do for yuuuuhhhhhaaaaaiiiii’m going to go get my manager real quick, now you stay right there.”

Business Fish watched as the lady behind the cash register — whose eyes had just tried to jump out of her head — ran into the back room. Quickly she reemerged with a large man with a mustache. Picture a giant version of Mario.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I–I–I’d like to buy a cake… please?”

“Let me see some identification.”

“To buy cake?”

“Hand it over, pal!”

Business Fish turned all his pockets inside out and dumped the contents of his briefcase all over the floor, but his wallet was nowhere to be found.

“I must have left it at home or something, I never do this I swear, but I really don’t understand what the big deal is, I mean I just want so buy some––”

“Uh huh, and how exactly do you expect us to believe you’re not a fish if you don’t have your ID?”

“Well… I mean… I am a fish.”

“So you admit it!”

“Well yeah. I thought that seemed pretty obvious.”

“Get out of here, get out of my bakery! We don’t serve your kind in this establishment!”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes! Get out! Go!”

Business Fish, still stunned and, frankly, confused, turned to walk out the door. But as he started to comprehend the gravity of the situation — if he couldn’t get the cake, how would he tell Sarah he loved her? — those emotions that had been ignored and repressed suddenly welled up and came bursting out of him like a deep sea shark erupting towards the surface to catch a lounging bather.

“Now wait a minute, let me say something. There is nothing wrong with being a fish; in fact, some great people in our history have been fishes. They say that Albert Einstein might have been a fish, and I’m pretty convinced Jim Carey is a fish in disguise, I mean have you seen that weird laugh he does? That looks just like me when I’m eating. So, what I’m trying to say is that this is a totally unfair policy and I’m not going to stand for it.”

“We can chose to sell our cakes to whomever we want. So goodbye, Mr. Fish.”

“I will not stand for this! And how did you know my name?”

The cashier lady decided it was her turn to chime in.

“Go away, ya weirdo!”

 “NO!”

Business Fish lunged over the counter and dove towards the huge rack of cakes on the wall. He took the first cake that he could get his hands on before fat baker Mario man came charging after him. Unfortunately for his profit margins, the baker tripped over the cashier lady and went tumbling into the cake rack, spilling them all over the floor, while Business Fish slipped out of the bakers hands like a freshly-caught, still-squirming catfish.

 

Chapter 6

mad

Business Fish’s cellphone rang.

“Hello?

“No, Mr. Norris, I don’t ha–

“I can’t, Mr. Norris, I have to get ‘Happy Birthday Sarah’ written on the cake and get to Macy’s before it closes.

“Fired? What do you mean?

“That’s outrageous, I can’t believe you wou–

“Yeah, well up yours!”

 

Chapter 7

sick

Business Fish was standing there waiting for the bakers to finish decorating his cake, which, by some miracle, was still intact. He had nothing to do for several minutes, so he decided to check Facebook on his phone.

Oops. I must have left it on the floor of that other bakery when I was looking for my ID.

Left to its own devices, the mind of Business Fish began dart from topic, like seal that was dropped in the penguin exhibit at Sea World and can’t decide which penguin to eat first.

I wonder if she likes chocolate. Should I get a vanilla one just in case? What if Macy’s closes before I get there? I hate the Macy’s Day Parade, why does everyone always watch that worthless TV show? I could use some turkey right now. Mmm, and some pumpkin pie. Should I get pie instead of cake? No, let’s stick with cake, no turning back now. But what if she doesn’t like cake? What if it’s not actually her birthday? What if she didn’t actually like me back in high school? What if she doesn’t even remember who I am? This is a really bad idea, maybe I should jus––

“Excuse me, are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Wait a minute, what do you ask?”

“Well, you were were sort of shaking almost like you were having a seizure, and you skin looks all cold and slimy.”

“The ‘cold and slimy’ thing is pretty common for guys like me who are, you know, fish.”

A man with Einstein hair and three-inch think glasses turned around as soon as he heard Business Fish say, “fish.”

“Fish?! You might have pescian flu!”

“I might have what?”

“Here, take this mask, put it on.”

Business Fish, not wanting to anger the crazy guy, put on the mask as instructed.

Chapter 8

congrats

 

Having overcome his fears, Business Fish finally arrived at Macy’s. The store was more overwhelming than he had remembered, so the “finding Sarah” step of the process turned out to be a little more complicated than he had anticipated. He walked up to the first employee he saw.

“Where is Sarah?”

“Who?”

“Sarah, you know, the… um… the… uh…”

“How about a last name?”

“Oh, right. Jameson. Jameson’s her name.”

The employee had to call her boss, who didn’t know who Sarah was and couldn’t just look her up in a directory or something, but he said he could talk to Janice who might know where she was, although Janice might not have come to work today because her niece had pescian flue or whatever. By this point, Business Fish had lost his patience.

“You know what? That’s OK, I’ll just find her on my own, I think my cake is getting cold. Er… warm. Or something.”

Business Fish wandered around the store looking for Sarah. He found her almost immediately. She was manning the cash register in the kids’ clothing department, which seemed unusually crowded. The line at her register had to be at least five people long. Business Fish decided that the best course of action would be to get in line, and to give the cake to Sarah when he got to the front.

In front of him was a mother and two kids: a boy who appeared to be around seven years old, and girl who might have been three. The little girl sat in the cart facing Business Fish while her mom scolded the brother for not helping unload the cart. Business Fish noticed that the girl was looking at him as he walked up to get in line, so he smiled as he tried to peek over people’s heads for a better glimpse of Sarah. Business Fish realized that he hadn’t decided exactly what he would say to Sarah, but the line was long enough so he didn’t have to worry about it for a couple minutes. More pressing at the moment was the fear that people would ask him what he was doing in line with a birthday cake, since Macy’s doesn’t sell cake [I assume]. His solution? Business Fish yanked off shoes and placed them sneakily on the conveyor belt.

Meanwhile, that little girl was still staring at him, like a shark locked in on its target. He smiled at her again, but Business Fish had never been a big fan of kids.

What’s your problem, you little brat? Huh? What are you looking at me for? Do I look weird to you? Yeah, I’m a fish, deal with it. Stop staring, all right? Hasn’t your mom taught you that it’s rude to stare? What’s wrong with you? Seriously, stop it, it’s creeping me out.

Eventually, Business Fish lost his cool.

“Uh, Miss? Would you tell your kid to stop looking at me?”

“Are you serious? You can’t handle a three year old looking at you?”

“Just make her stare at someone else or something.”

“Well, you are the only… uh…”

“The only what? Just say it already. The only what?”

“… fish?”

“YEAH THAT’S RIGHT! I’M A FISH! I’M A MONSTER, OK? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANTED TO SAY?”

Everyone in the entire store froze. The silence was unbearable. Thankfully, it was Sarah who finally said something.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the store.”

“Wait, what? No, Sarah, please, I––”

“How do you know my name?”

“It’s me, Business Fish, from high school!”

“Business Fish? The name sounds familiar, but I just can’t place the face. I’m sorry, I’m going to have to call security.”

“Wait, no, no, no, no––”

“Yes, we have an unruly customer on here on the first floor, checkout line number four––”

“But I brought you this cake!”

Sarah stop talking, puzzled, and slowly put down the phone.

“Cake? Why?”

“I wanted to say congratulations!”

“Huh?”

“No, wait, I mean, happy birthday!”

 “Aw, that’s really––”

 

Chapter 9

bow

“Is this the guy?”

Two security guards seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

“Yes, but he was just––”

Before Sarah could finish her thought one of the security guards had given Business Fish an impossibly swift kick straight in the gut, almost like an electric eel darting out of its tunnel in the reef to strike an unsuspecting pray. Business Fish doubled over in pain.

 

Chapter 10

run

Business Fish grabbed his shoes, slipped them back on, and ran as fast as he could in an arbitrary direction. He saw no possible escape route other than the “Employees Only” door straight ahead. He directed that was his only choice, so he went for it. Business Fish crashed through the doors, nearly killed an old man carrying so many shoe boxes that they were stacked several feet above his head, and burst into what appeared to be the break room.

“Who are you?”

Business Fish bided time as he tried to catch his breath and come up with semi-plausible story.

“I’m… I’m… I’m… I’m from corporate. Did Janice tell you I was coming today?”

“Uh, no?”

“Huh. I made it very clear to Janice that my visit should be kept a secret from the on-floor staff, but that she should warn the rest of you so that the necessary documentation would be ready for inspection.”

“I’m sorry, what is it you’re doing?”

Business Fish tried to remember all the nonsense Mr. Morris used to say. Luckily his memory is better than that of a goldfish.

“Well, you see, Mr. Morrissssssson, Morrison, yes, Mr. Morrison down in D.C., he sent me to do a pseudo-surprise inspection of the product distribution networks within the tristate area and the sales data management system being implemented here. In order best evaluate the sales process, I feign the typical consumer experience by making a purchase under the guise of an ordinary customer. Unfortunately, due to severe miscommunication, the purchase process when horribly wrong and the store security tried to have me removed from the premises while I was in the checkout line. In short, I’ll need to dispatch one my colleagues at a later date to return to this story and reattempt the evaluation.”

The security guards finally ambled into the break room. Picture a couple of characters in the spirit of Chief Wiggum and Paul Blart.

“Ayuhh, you guys seen a snazzy looking fellow come in here? He had an interesting look to him, like he had some sort of weird skin condition. Oh hey, wouldya look at that! You’re dead meat, like a rainbow trout swimming upstream in grizzly bear territory. You’re coming with us, bub.”

One of the other employees spoke up.

“It’s OK, Rodge, we got things under control.”

“You sure? We can get rid of him no problem.”

“No, no, it’s all right, really. He works for corporate.”

The guards left the room, but not before a quick detour to the box of donuts sitting on the coffee table.

Chapter 11

oh

Having wriggled out of that situation like a bass flopping out of a fisherman’s net, Business Fish needed to modify his plan to tell Sarah that he loved her.

I need to modify my plan to tell Sarah I love her. Hmm. Well, it is still her birthday. Ohh!! I know what I forgot!

“Hey, you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Do you want a promotion?”

“Absolutely!”

“Good. Go get me my cake. It should still be somewhere around the checkout line four on the first floor.”

“OK, sure, whatever you say, boss.”

“Quickly, please!”

As the nerdy-looking Macy’s employee scrambled out the door, Business Fish turned to another employee at random.

Chapter 12

wake

Business Fish realized that the ringing he was hearing was not the fire alarm. It was his bedside alarm, and the stupid thing tried desperately to make sure Business Fish didn’t sleep through work.

What happened? Where’s Sarah? What’s going on?

Business Fish, feeling completely lost, wandered aimlessly around his room and tried to get a grip on the present situation, like a beta fish dropped in a new tank. But you, astute reader, have already figured out that I just used the oldest trick in the book. THE WHOLE THING WAS A DREAM. The only question remaining is when the dream started.

Business Fish saw the weights lying on the floor, left out after he’d tried to do pushups the night before. He turned on his phone to find that it was still showing him reviews of local bakeries on Yelp.

Disaster averted, I guess?

A notification popped up on the screen: an email from Mr. Morris.

Fish make sure your not late 2day we have alot to discuss on demographic optimization

___________________________________________________________
Michael Morris
Regional Manager, Doxanomics Documents
mmorris@doxdocs.com
201-555-4421

 

Chapter 13

coffee

By 9:08 Business Fish was in a meeting with Mr. Morris, even though he felt like a zombie. The rest of the morning went by in a blur, and Business Fish didn’t really snap out of his stupor until he sat down at Starbucks with his espresso –– a double one, this time –– and tried to make sense of his ridiculous dream.

What does it all mean? I stole a cake, got fired, screamed at a three year old and her mother, and for what? It was all a total disaster.

Business Fish checked his watch: it was about time to get back to the office. He decided he should just proceed like nothing had happened. Go with the water flow, follow the school, etc.

Chapter 14

come on

“That’s the most ridiculous dream I’ve ever heard.”

“I know.”

At their usual sports bar, Business Fish and his pal, Steve, were in their usual seats, which had the best view of the big TV. They weren’t paying any attention to the game.

“You know, this could be good for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m just saying, you haven’t really been yourself lately.”

“How?”

“Well, I mean, when was the last time you had a date?”

“Oh come on.”

“No, I’m serious! You used to be the man, man!”

“Stop.”

“All right, whatever, but you gotta admit, it’s probably time to shake things up a bit, you know?”

“Like how?”

“I don’t know. I think you gotta figure that one out.”

Feeling that that topic of conversation had run its course, Business Fish glanced up at the TV, checked the score of the UNC–Duke game, and mentioned something about coach Roy Williams being underrated. Conversation turned to the usual, harmless, sports discussions that seem to exist for the sole purpose of being a distraction from more important things. The dream did not come up again, ignored, but still looming over their thoughts: a manatee in the room.

When the game was over, they got up out of their seats and walked toward the exit. As they grabbed their coats off the hooks, Steve stopped and looked over Business Fish’s shoulder.

“Is that her?”

“Who?”

“Sarah!”

Business Fish turned around and, sure enough, there she was. Sarah was seated with three friends at one of those tall tables with those chairs that make you feel like you could tip over at any moment.

“You know you have to go talk to her.”

“I know.”

Apparently what Steve had said to Business Fish earlier in the evening had actually made a difference.

“Excuse me, do I know you from somewhere?”

“I, uh… Business Fish?”

“You’re Sarah, right? From high school?”

“Yeah! You didn’t beat up Jimmy Kim again, did you?”

“Oh yeah, you see that guy passed out over there? I did that. Anyway, listen, can I buy you a drink or something? I’d love to chat with you and catch up on… well, life, I guess.”

“Um, sure!”

“Great, there’s a couple of seats right over here at the bar. Let’s go, come on!”

A message for people who attend tennis matches

Let me get this straight. You just paid like a billion dollars for a ticket to the Australian Open. There you are the Men’s Finals. As soon as the stadium goes silent when Novak Djokovic is ready to serve, you scream at the top of your lungs, “LET’S GO NOVAK!”

I’m sorry, what is wrong with you? Did you pay all that money to watch tennis, or to hear yourself speak? Better question: did EVERYBODY ELSE pay hundreds of dollar to watch tennis, or to hear you speak? Did I turn on the TV to watch tennis, or to hear you speak? Just shut up, you idiot. Cheer when the points are over, and then sit there quietly like a reasonable human being. God.

You’re dumb if you think the NFL cares about Deflategate.

Bill Belichick is probably lying. Tom Brady is probably lying. But here’s the thing: they know it doesn’t matter. They know there’s no way to prove who deflated the footballs, so there’s no way to blame any one person individually. The blame gets dissipated over the entire organization, and then, because no one person did it, it’s almost as if nobody did it. The footballs were systematically and consistently altered to match the previously-stated preference of their star quarterback, and therefore to impart a competitive advantage. It was the perfect crime, and the league can’t pinpoint the criminal even though the proof is sitting right in front of them.

Which, of course, is ridiculous. Why is the league even bothering to figure out who did it? That would be like Al Queda asking Barack Obama which soldier killed bin Laden. No, they’d want to punish the entire country. They’d want revenge on the citizens who put the man in power who deployed the troops who were controlled by generals who lead a mission to kill bin Laden. Why look for the peon who executed the master plan of Bill Belichick?

Does it matter if Belichick knew about it? No. He’s responsible for his organization. Does it matter if deflating the footballs was in his master plan? No. Does he even have a master plan? Yes. It’s called, “Win at All Costs.” Making the footballs easier to throw and catch seems like a logical extension of everything the Belichick Patriots have ever done. All’s fair in love and war, and football is war, so if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

As Richard Sherman so astutely put it, the New England Patriots played the risk-reward perfectly. Like many of the things that come out of Sherman’s mouth, this was genius. Let’s take a look at how his quotation explains both sides of things: the risk, and the reward.

The Risk

The only risk that the Patriots took by deflating the footballs is that they would get caught and punished. Clearly they didn’t think there was too great a chance of getting caught, since apparently they’d been doing this at least since Week 7, the last time they played the Colts. If that’s the case, the blame falls on the NFL for not doing a better job of enforcing that rule.

The Patriots also didn’t think the punishment would be severe enough to outweigh the reward. It’s not like the NFL is going to kick them out of the Super Bowl, so whatever punishment, short of the forfeiture of a playoff game, is insufficient. The blame, once again, falls on the NFL for not putting in sufficiently deterrent punishments.

Another risk you might throw in there is the public perception of the team, but it’s clear they don’t care about that. For reference, see Spygate, Aaron Hernandez, the trick plays against the Ravens, or any Bill Belichick press conference ever.

THE Reward

Now here’s where the Richard Sherman explanation really shines. There has to be a reward that outweighs the risk. We established that the risk wasn’t really all that risky, but it’s not nothing. So the reward must be greater than… not nothing. If there were no reward, i.e., competitive advantage, they wouldn’t have taken the risk. The fact that the Patriots deflated the footballs proves, with one hundred percent certainty, that they believed that there was a significant advantage to be gained from doing so.

Update: I THINK WE FOUND THE REWARD.

The big picture

Here we are getting caught up in the details of this stupid story, interviewing Bill Nye the Science Guy, voluntarily listening to Bill Belichick speak, and the NFL absolutely loves it. Ben Collins at SBNation summed it up nicely:

Yes, the problem with the NFL is deflated footballs. That’s the one. It’s not the complicated stuff we have chosen to forget because we ran out of energy as the league stalled and stalled until the clock ran out. It’s not the commissioner who ignored a domestic violence crisis, then hired the same company that negotiated the league’s latest TV deal to conduct an “independent investigation” to absolve the NFL and commissioner of any wrongdoing. It’s not the concussion problem, either, or the Pro Bowler on trial for allegedly murdering three people over two seasons.

Everybody’s got ESPN on the TV 24-7, waiting with baited breath from the latest update from Chris Mortensen or Adam Schefter, listening to Tom Brady joyfully lie through his teeth, and watching Bill Belichick make such a mockery of the whole thing that you can’t help but imagine him bursting into laughter the minute he walks off that stage. If the NFL really cared to stop this from ever happening in the future, they would punish the entire Patriots organization by putting the Colts in the Super Bowl. Instead, they’re searching for the soldier who committed a crime that will go unpunished, when, in reality, the entire country is to blame.

Everybody at the airport is dumb.

Sometimes I go through stretches of time — minutes, hours even — when I forget how dumb everybody is. But whenever I need a reminder of the astounding stupidity of the people around me, I go to the airport. Holy cow. Forget the blog, I could write an entire book with all the good material provided by the people at airports.

That’s not to say I never feel like an idiot at the airport; one time I forgot about the unfinished water bottle in my backpack. But that’s an honest mistake, a careless blunder. We’re not here to list isolated incidents of idiocy. No, no, no, what we’re going to talk about is the stuff that stops you in your tracks and makes you look around in disbelief. This is a special kind of stupidity. This is the kind of stupidity that is so pervasive and yet so blatantly obvious that you fear it must be contagious, because what person in their right mind would think this was a good idea. The, “Really? Does nobody here have a brain?” kind of stupidity. I call it systematic stupidity.

Systematic stupidity is not exclusive to airports, but that’s where it seems to be most prevalent. The airport is like one long systematic stupidity exam; every step of air travel quizzes the traveler on one thing or another that a reasonable person should be able to do — you know, common sense. Packing, leaving for the airport on time, checking in, going through security, waiting to board, and getting to your seat; these are all a bunch of little tests of your common sense. And as you fail these tests one by one, I’m standing right behind you, laughing. Every wrong step you take is on display for the world to see.

Of course, it’s not entirely fair of me to laugh. For some people at the airport, this could be their first time on a plane; I should give them a break. And even for experienced travelers, the airport can be a very stressful place; I should put some blame the airlines for not making this an easier process. Last but not least, I suppose I can’t blame people for being idiots. It’s not their fault. But it sure does seem like there are a lot of dumb people out there, all congregating at the airport. The Newark Airport is their Mecca.

When the dumb people congregate to pray to the Deities of Dumbness (The Saviors of Stupidity? The Idols of Idiocy?), they perform a particular series of rituals. I must admit that I haven’t read the all the liturgy, but the rituals are done in such a public manner that I can’t help but pick up on some aspects of this bizarre cult. For what I’ve gathered, practicing members strive to attain a few fundamental ideals, which can be summarized in a series of commandments. This is my best guess as to what these commandments must be.

Thou shan’t leave anything at home.

The first commandment is an exercise preparedness. What if we need that thing while we’re gone? We’d better bring it with us, it preaches; that way we have it. Dumb people adhering to this commandment can easily be spotted carrying pieces of luggage larger than they are. The culmination of this line of prayer is the long-anticipated ritual of checking luggage. The check-in counter is one of the most sacred places of worship for dumb people. In some stupid sects, parents reward the child who packs the heaviest bag.

In addition to their checked luggage, particularly devout dumb people go so far as to bring a carry-on bag that is too large for the overhead compartment. This is the model idiot, the one who extends the that-way-we-have-it mentality to the plane ride itself.

Thou shalt be, like, totally unprepared to go through security.

Going through security is a cleansing experience for dumb people. So that their soul feels fully refreshed, dumb people want to prolong the experience as much as possible. While standing in line watching dozens of people hand their boarding pass and driver’s license to the TSA agent, a traveler might feel the temptation to find those documents ahead of time, in order to speed things up. Dumb people resist that temptation. They pride themselves in the time it takes them to rummage through their wallets and purses to find their IDs once they’ve reached the front of the line.

These idiots also take great care to ensure that their pockets are fully stuffed and have not been emptied prior to arriving at the scanner. It is something of a rite of passage for young imbeciles to go through the scanner a second time, having “forgotten” about the keys or the spare change in their pockets.

Thou shalt remain close to the gate at all times.

Thought of as the “eternal light,” the gate is an everlasting source of spiritual nourishment for dumb people. Systematic stupidity emanates continuously out of the gate and into the terminal. For this reason, dumb people are commanded to stand as close to the gate as possible. To an untrained eye, it may appear that these idiots are standing in line before boarding has even started. You may find yourself waiting in an unmoving line for several minutes after your row has been called, only to realize that the dumb people around you are there strictly for religious purposes. It’s not their turn at all. A quick, “Are you in line?” or “Have they started boarding?” will sniff out a practitioner from a gentile, and should save you some embarrassment.

Thou shalt be first to disembark the plane (even if thou hast not a connecting flight) for thou art the chosen people.

This is the granddaddy of them all. Even the most lenient, reform, progressive dumb people observe this one. It’s kind of like how some people only go to mass on Christmas; if you’re only going to do one religious thing, you’d better make it count.

So instead of making use of the eighteen thousand things stuffed into their carry-on, dumb people are commanded to spend their time on the airplane meditating. They focus their meditation on one thing in particular: an exit strategy. Since dumb people have to be the first ones off the plane, they have to be mentally prepared to leap to action as soon as the wheels touch ground. Watch as the idiots whip off their seat belts, jump out of their chairs, fling open the overhead compartments, yank their bags to the floor, rush to the front of the plane, and… stand there for 10 minutes while they wait for the doors to open.

What’s especially interesting is that another peculiar ritual can trace its roots all the way back to this very commandment. Since dumb people have to take the time to meditate on their exit strategy, dumb people like to spend as much time in their seat as possible. This means that they not only want to be the first ones off the airplane, but they also want to be the first ones on the airplane. No, they aren’t afraid of gate-checking their bags. No, they don’t just really really want the overhead space (although they do really really need it for their enormous bags). No, they don’t think they’re going to get to Atlanta before everybody else if they get on the plane first. And no, they don’t especially like the uncomfortable seats on the airplane better than the comfy ones in the terminal. They just need to get to work on their strategizing, that’s all.

There are several themes common to good exit strategies. Unbuckle your seatbelt before the plane has even landed –– get that mental preparation started early. Be sure to smack people on the head with your bag as you get it down from the overhead bin –– non-believers should be punished for their sins against stupidity. If you can’t reach your bag, demand that somebody else get it for you –– you’ve got no time to lose. If you can’t get into the aisle right away because you’re stuck with a window seat, stand up and painfully crane your neck against the ceiling –– let everybody know you mean business. And, most importantly, do not wait for people in front of you to go –– even if that means disregarding the flight attendants, running over an old person, or separating a mother from her child.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It hardly seems fair for the dumb people to cut in line. The people who have to rush to make connecting flights should have priority. Or, at the very least, passengers should file out front-to-back. But you’re forgetting something: we are not dealing with the world of common sense. They fail the common sense exam with flying colors. They exemplify and perpetuate systematic stupidity. These are extremely dumb people. They’re the chosen ones.

Professional athletes don’t owe you anything.

Stop criticizing them for a lack of ‘focus’ or ‘effort.’ I hear this a lot, often from tennis fans, and it’s really been getting on my nerves. People will watch a player who has shown immense talent fail to live up to expectations that media has created for him or her, and they’ll be disappointed. They’ll say things like, “Man, what a shame to see talent like that go to waste.”

I was reminded of how dumb people are when I saw a post in the tennis forum on reddit. It was a discussion on Nick Kyrgios, a 19-year-old Australian who made waves at Wimbledon this year by knocking out Rafael Nadal on his way to the quarterfinals:

“I am an Australian who has always supported him live here at the Aus Open, but I just wish Nick Kyrgios wasn’t SO COCKY! Photobombing Serena, flirting with Vika [Victoria Azarenka] and other antics = Mark Phillippoussis [sic] 2.0? Anybody else think these signs might be worrying?”

I was dumbfounded (get it?), so, naturally, I kept reading:

“I support him fully and I don’t want him to become the next Bernard Tomic.”

Ah, so there’s precedent. For those who don’t follow tennis like I do, Bernard Tomic is the most famous professional tennis player never to surpass 27th in the world rankings. (Fact checking for the previous sentence included, and was limited to, googling whether Anna Kournikova ever got higher than 27th. She did.) Tomic was extremely successful as a youngster, winning all sorts of junior tournaments, and was supposed to claim the tennis-superstar-from-Australia throne left behind by Lleyton Hewitt. Tomic’s parents are from Yugoslavia, and moved to Queensland when he was three years old, which explains why there’s an Australian named Bernard Tomic.

Tomic has shown flashes of brilliance on the top level, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011 as an 18-year-old (sound familiar?), but he hasn’t gotten that far at a grand slam since then, and has only won two tournaments in that span. His inconsistent (read: not very good) results have been portrayed by the media as being a result of a lack of dedication to the game of tennis. Media often cite his partying, legal troubles, fancy cars, and bad on-court attitude as examples thereof. The Courier Mail, a prominent Australian newspaper, summed up the nation’s feelings on Tomic in an article entitled “It seems Australians love to hate Bernard Tomic — but is that fair?”

“Australia loves nothing more than a bad boy turned good story — but he is giving us nothing to work with. In this case I believe we have the chronicles of a bad boy gone lazy.”

This is dumb. Tomic is a professional tennis player. Currently, he is the 56th best male tennis player in the world. Until you’re the 56th best in the world at anything, you have no right to speak to how he should behave in this situation. Obviously you can’t condone illegal behavior, but other than that, leave the kid alone. I think I’m going to punch the next person I hear say something like, “If I had that much natural ability, I would work so much harder.”

Yeah, sure you would. Get back to me when you’re getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars at an extremely young age for playing a game that you happen to be really good at. It’s completely unfair of you to impose your own desires on another human being who has his or her own personal motivations. Has it never occurred to you that, oh I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t like tennis very much? Maybe he plays tennis because it’s a job and it’s a good way to make a living, not ‘for the love of the game’ or whatever idiotic cliche people ascribe to athletes who look like they’re trying really hard to make up for a lack of natural athleticism. Telling Tomic to take tennis more seriously, i.e., to like tennis more, is like telling every tall person you meet, “Hey, you should play basketball!” It’s ridiculous. Maybe he’s perfectly happy having made $2,413,735 at the age of twenty-two, and not particularly motivated to train hard everyday. He has no obligation to live up to any sort of expectation others have put on him.

Also, this is tennis we’re talking about. Besides sponsorships, tennis players are paid strictly according to performance; as in other individual sports, there are no contracts that players might feel obligated to live up to. Contracts might be a valid counterargument in the context of another sport, but it would only hold for baseball and basketball, where contracts are guaranteed, but even in those then I’d contend that players are not paid for performance, they’re paid for past performance. They’re playing for their next contract, not their current one.

Fans, apparently, fear that the 19-year-old Kyrgios is on his way to becoming the next Tomic or Mark Philippoussis, another outrageously-talented, oft-criticized Australian tennis player whose performance never quite matched the hype. Well I’ve got a message for the critics: not everybody wants to be the best ever. Some are content being merely a star, and there’s no shame in that.

You’re dumb if you think the Browns should start Johnny Manziel.

The Cleveland Browns lost a heart breaker on Sunday 24-25 to the Indianapolis Colts, and many are blaming their quarterback, Brian Hoyer, for the loss. In fact, I can hear the cries of Browns fans right now. Bring in Johnny Football! Hoyer’s been terrible! And who can blame them? Hoyer has, in fact, been terrible: completing 14 of 30 passes with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions last week against the Colts, giving him 49.7% with 1 TD and 8 INTs over the last four weeks. Pro Football Focus has rated him as the third worst QB in the entire league so far this year.

But as tempting as it is, Browns’ head coach, Mike Pettine, has to leave Johnny “Football” Manziel on the bench.

Brian “All I Do Is Win” Hoyer is the best option for several reasons, but most immediately relevant is that he gives them the best chance of winning. The Browns have far exceeded everybody’s expectations and accumulated a 7-6 record, good enough for last place in the amazingly-competitive AFC North. And although they have a 3% chance of making the playoffs, they’re not done yet, sitting just one(-ish) game out of a playoff spot.

So how could Hoyer possibly be the best option? Anybody would be an upgrade, especially a Heisman Trophy-winning first-round draft pick! Nope. Wrong. You’re all dumb.

Quarterback is clearly the most difficult position in the NFL. From what I’ve learned, the leap in difficulty level between college and the NFL for quarterbacks is greater than for any other position. Don’t believe me? OK, how well have the other rookie QBs done this year? Blake Bortles (taken well ahead of Manziel in the draft) is last in the league in ESPN’s Total QBR rating, and on a play-by-play basis he’s been far and away the worst QB in football according to Pro Football Focus. The other rookies, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, and Zach Mettenberger, are also in the bottom half of the NFL by those two measurements. Translation: they’ve been overwhelmingly underwhelming.

What about second-year quarterbacks? Just as bad. Geno Smith, E.J. Manual, and Mike Glennon have all been mediocre at best. Not until we get to third-year quarterbacks do we start to see some promising results. Of the eight players from the 2012 draft class who have started games at QB this year (Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, Austin Davis, Colin Kaepernick), three are currently rated as above average this year (Luck, Tannehill, and Wilson), and all but one (Davis) has had at least one such season in the NFL.

Granted, there is some selection bias there. Bad quarterbacks get weeded out of the league, younger QBs get a longer leash, bad teams are more likely to start younger players, have bad coaches, be behind in games and put their players in more difficult situations, blah blah blah. Fine, I didn’t do a particularly scientific study, and if you were convinced Johnny Football should be starting in Cleveland next week, I probably haven’t changed your mind. So how about I keep throwing some more anecdotal evidence in your face?

A few quarterbacks stand out as those who have been consistently among the top-10 in the league for the past decade or so : Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Philip Rivers. Let’s take a look back to see how these franchise quarterbacks performed in their first few years in the NFL. Yippee, story time!

Aaron Rodgers, a late first-round pick, famously backed up Brett Favre during his first three seasons. Rodgers took over in 2008 and was an immediate success, although it took him until 2009 to reach superstar status. His first full season as a starter was easily his worst in every major statistical category.

2008 season (year 4): 64% completions, 7.5 yards per attempt (YPA), 28 TDs, 13 INTs.
2009-2013 average season (years 5-10): 66%, 8.4 YPA, 34 TDs, 9 INTs.

You probably don’t remember this, but Peyton Manning was really bad as a rookie, despite being the first overall pick in the draft out of Tennessee. He had more interceptions than touchdowns for the 1998 Indianapolis Colts, who finished the year 3-13 during Jim Mora’s first year there as head coach. He turned it around in years two and three, though, finishing in the top-6 in passer rating both years. Peyton had a down year in 2001, his fourth season and first under new head coach, Tony Dungy. Peyton improved each of his next three seasons through 2004, when he set the record for most passing TDs in a season and became fully entrenched as the superstar we know him as today.

1998 season (year 1): 57%, 6.5 YPA, 26 TDs, 28 INTs.
1999-2003 average season (years 2-6): 64%, 7.5 YPA, 30 TDs, 16 INTs.
2004-13 average season (years 7-16): 67%, 7.9 YPA, 36 TDs, 12 INTs.

Drew Brees was taken out of Purdue by San Diego with the last pick of the second round in the 2002 draft. He played in only one game as a rookie, was very mediocre when he took over as a starter in 2003, was even worse the next year, but finally broke through in 2004, his fourth season out of college and his third as a starter. In the ten seasons since, Brees has never finished outside of the top-12 in passer rating.

2002-03 average season (years 2-3): 60%, 6.1 YPA, 14 TDs, 16 INTs.
2004-13 average season (years 4-13): 67%, 7.7 YPA, 33 TDs, 15 INTs.

Famously taken by New England with the 199th overall pick in 2000, Tom Brady backed up Drew Bledsoe until the second game of his second season, when Bledsoe went down with an injury. Brady came up big in the postseason, but he was nothing more than a solid NFL QB leading a talented, well-coached roster. Brady never finished better than 6th overall in passer rating until 2007, when Randy Moss came to town and he and Brady broke Peyton’s records. Tom’s been terrific ever since.

2001-06 average season (years 2-8): 62%, 7.0 YPA, 25 TDs, 13 INTs.
2007-13 average season (years 9-15): 65%, 7.8 YPA, 35 TDs, 9 INTs.

The 4th overall pick in 2004, Rivers was swapped for Eli Manning on draft day, and wound up as Drew Brees’s backup in San Diego. When Brees was traded to New Orleans in 2006, Rivers took over as starter in his third season in the league. He was good but not great for two years, but caught his stride in 2008, his first year under new coach Norv Turner, starting a streak of three consecutive years with a passer rating over 100.

2006-07 average season (years 3-4): 61%, 7.1 YPA, 22 TDs. 12 INTs.
2008-2013 average season (years 5-10): 65%, 8.1 YPA, 30 TDs, 13 INTs.

I hope that by now you’ve noticed a tend: it takes a while to learn how to be a good quarterback. Of these five superstar QBs, Peyton was the only one who even started as a rookie, and he struggled mightily despite being universally regarded as the best QB prospect since Dan Marino. Even the guys who didn’t play right away usually struggled out of the gate.

You might bring up Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson, but they are definitely exceptions to the rule. Luck played in a pro-style offense in Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and was considered the best QB prospect since Peyton, and statistically he was barely average his first year (54%, 7.0 YPA, 23 TDs, 18 INTs). Meanwhile, Russell Wilson has been playing under offensive guru Pete Carroll with an absolutely stacked roster, so he hasn’t had too much pressure on him up to this point.

Speaking of coaches, look at the guys whom our stars got to play for: Mike McCarthy, Tony Dungy, Marty Schottenheimer, Sean Payton, Norv Turner, Bill Belichick. Every one of these them is either an offensive genius or an experienced, well-respected, head coach. Or both. Coaching is far more important for the success of a team and its players in the NFL than in any other professional sport, and it clearly helps a QB to have some consistency on a year-to-year basis. Obviously it’s also easier to retain your position as head coach if you’ve got a really good QB, but who’s to say whether the chicken or the egg came first on that one? And I’m still waiting for somebody to call Mike Pettine a genius.

My point is that QB is way too difficult in the modern NFL for rookie QBs, and that Johnny Manziel has practically no chance of playing well in any of these last three extremely important games. He’s going to look over matched, get blamed for the loss(es), and never be given another chance, even though I’ve clearly demonstrated that it takes several years to learn how to play QB in the NFL. Brian Hoyer has been around for a few years, has backed up Brady in New England, and undoubtedly understands a pro offense significantly better than Manziel at this point. The Browns should stick with the guy who’s gone 10-6 as a starter for them over the last two season.

Just go don’t blame Johnny when everything blows up in his face. Or me. Because I told you this would happen.