There has been a concerted effort by friends and loved ones to get me to start a podcast. As you might know, I have successfully avoided this. I have nothing against podcasts as entertainment or art form or however people see them. I have something against ME doing a podcast. I suppose this goes back to my brief but still tragic time as the co-host of a radio show. I clearly remember one time when I was arguing with my my co-host whether football was better indoors or outdoors. But that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was that I was taking the “outdoor” point of view … and I was STILL utterly unconvincing. If you can’t go on radio and make a pretty air-tight argument that outdoor football is better than indoor, you probably don’t belong on the radio. And I did not. I quit within days. That was 13 or 14 years ago. I haven’t come back and will occasionally get a thank you letter for that.
Those friends and loved ones insist that a podcast is not like radio — it is more controlled, more personal, less pressured and so on. It can be as short or as long as you like. It can be edited. “It’s really a lot more like writing,” one friend told me. I have not believed a single word that they have said.
But lately, I have to admit I’ve been giving it more thought. This is in part because one good friend refuses to let it go (and seeing this post will REALLY set him off). But it’s also because I have been noticing that I’ve been having fun conversations with people that probably would be fun for other people to hear. Sometimes I write about these conversations, but I never quite remember everything that was said, and, of course, I don’t take notes.
Wednesday — NDA* — I had breakfast with the great Michael Schur, executive producer of Parks and Rec and Ken Tremendous of Fire Joe Morgan fame. And the conversation was great. I can say this without hesitation because I had nothing to do with it. We were just talking about sports, and Michael was very funny on numerous topics.
*Name Drop Alert.
I can write about some of what we talked about … and I will. But I have to admit that I’m not sure I can capture some of the funny immediacy of conversation, I’m not sure reading about it will be quite the same as hearing it. I actually think some combination — audio (or video) and words — might offer an even cooler overall experience.*
*Then I hear my own voice on this interview I just taped and think again. I laugh at people’s jokes during interviews. Not all jokes — not the unfunny jokes — but at the funny jokes I laugh, and it’s kind of awful and …
Anyway, some of the stuff we talked about:
The chains in football: Yes, it’s a pretty worn down gag already about how absurd the chain gang is. Twenty-two people crash into each other, an official kind of guesses where he should spot the ball, it’s about as imprecise as it can possibly be … and then they measure the thing to a hundredth of an inch. I mean, it’s ludicrous. And as I have pointed out before, what often happens then is that they throw the football across the field and re-spot it … I say bring the chains back out. Sometimes you will see a center move the ball up a couple of inches before he snaps it … I say bring the chains out yet again.
But Michael brought up a great point I had never thought about: Chains? Really? That’s the measuring device we are using? When was the last time anything was measured by chains? What was that, about 160 BC? “Spartacus, he’s about 20 links tall now.” Chains. You have to be kidding me. It’s so much a part of football we NEVER think about it, but it’s absolute ludicrous. This is the most successful sports league in America, and they’re measuring with perhaps the least precise measuring tool available. It’s like the Flintstones. Seriously: How do they keep the chains in a perfect straight line? If they’re not in a straight line, then you might be measuring less than 10 yards. How hard do you pull the chain to make it exactly 10 yards? They couldn’t use a tape measure or a laser or something?
We were just imagining someone explaining football to a foreigner and saying: “And then, to be sure they moved the ball 10 yards out, the officials bring out chains to measure the distance?” And the foreigner might reply: “Chains? This is America? Isn’t Apple and Google in America? You still use chains to measure distance?”
Louis CK: The funniest stand-up in comedy, and nobody at the moment is even close. This thing goes in cycles. Pryor had it for a long time. Carlin was like the Gary Player of comedy, re-emerging every few years to be the best. Eddie Murphy had his day. Seinfeld was the best in the business for a good while. Chris Rock had the title for quite a few years. There are others. Now, we both think, it’s Louis CK, whose ironically named concert film “Hilarious” is sincerely hilarious.
Would you have been better off not being a sports fan?: The question is really more like this — has being a fan of your professional sports teams brought you more joy or more pain through the years. Michael is, of course a Boston fan, and so if you had asked him the question in 2000 or so — before the Patriots won any of their Super Bowls, with the Red Sox mired in their 80-plus year slump, with the Celtics actually quite bad and 15 or so years removed from a championship — he feels sure the answer would have been yes, he would have been better off having his memory erased and his sports fandom surgically removed. Of course, since then the Celtics have won an NBA titles, the Patriots won three Super Bowls and had a perfect regular season and the Red Sox won two World Series and look loaded in 2010. So, he’s happy now.
And my teams … well, my teams have never won anything. Ever.
But, for me — I would not trade it in. There’s something about sports pain that actually makes you feel strangely alive. The moment when Brian Sipe threw the interception, when Elway completed the touchdown pass that tied the game, when Byner fumbled, when Jordan made his shot, when Mesa blew the lead, when LeBron and the team would not go down fighting … I would have loved if none of those thing ever happened. But they did happen. And they are now parts of my life, indelible parts of my life. Sports loss is not like real loss. You can hold on to it. I wouldn’t trade them in … not for blank and empty days without my teams.
Rob Lowe: Legitimately funny, Michael says.
There was a lot of other stuff about NFL parity, about Jim Harbaugh, about Belichick benching Wes Welker for a series, about Los Angels traffic, and a bunch of other things. I’m forgetting it now. Of course, I wasn’t taking notes. I guess it’s time to wonder: Maybe it should have been a podcast.