Bad movie: Wild Wild West

Well, I just wrote No. 6 in the Baseball 100. That will appear on The Athletic tomorrow. It looks like maybe I really will get to the end of the list this time, though I have to tell you that it still feels SO far away for me. These just get harder and harder. I obviously want to make these last ones very special, but they are players who have been written about a million times. What’s new to say?

But I mean, it wouldn’t be too cool if I stopped now so …

The Baseball 100 will go on for another week and a half, basically. I’m not sure what I’ll do when it’s done, other than go out to celebrate (and by go out, I mean go to eat in the dining room instead of the kitchen). I am creating a plan to turn it into a book, one that will — I hope — take this whole thing to another level. But, honestly, with the world in limbo, we’ll just take it slow and see how it all goes.

I’m hoping as things clear up here I can get going again on this newsletter; I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I’ve been writing 14 hours a day, seven days a week for this Baseball 100. It’s been worth it, I hope. I believe this is some of the best work I’ve done in my life. But yeah, I’m ready to relax a little bit and write about some dumb stuff again. I also have some ideas about what MLB should do when they come back.

A Personal Note

Before I get to this week’s Bad Movie … let me put in a personal note here. Truth is, you’re probably sick of personal notes. You have probably gotten about 10 thousand personal over the last week — from your bank, your credit card company, your gym, your doctor, your dentist, your preferred airline, your hometown team, your favorite hotel chain, your high school friends who you haven’t talked to in five years, and so on.

I even got a personal note from Vice President Mike Pence in the mail! Here’s how I know it was personal: He called me Joe! THEN he asked me to give money to save the country from socialists (that’s pretty much an exact quote). I might have guessed that Mike has other things on his mind than little old me, you know, with a pandemic wrecking the nation and all, but I thought it was really nice for him to reach out.

Sure, we are all confused, and most of us are scared, and none of us has any idea what will happen next or how long anything will last. I’m not sure what there is to add.

But I did want to share a conversation I had with our oldest daughter, Elizabeth. You might remember Elizabeth from past stories I’ve written. She was a little girl when we went to Harry Potter World and were saved by Katie the Prefect. She was a middle-schooler when I took her to see Hamilton. She was not much older than that when we went on An Evening Drive.

And now? Well, now she’s a senior in high school.

Yeah, time goes by, how do you think I feel?

Anyway, in all, she’s a pretty worldly kid. She is a history buff, she’s interested in the world around her, and she has what I suspect is a pretty heartfelt understanding of what people all over are facing. But, yes, she’s also high school senior who is stuck at home with her parents. And as she comes to understand every day that the high school senior year she had anticipated won’t be the year she gets — no prom, no senior dances, no celebrating in the halls with all the kids who have survived, maybe no graduation, all of that.

She knows that this is hardly a big problem when you look around. But she feels sad, and I told her she has every right to feel sad. And there’s no one to blame.

We talked about all f this the other day. I certainly don’t know anything more than anyone else; I undoubtedly know a lot less than most. And I don’t know what to say.

But one thing you find as a parent is that saying nothing is not really a great option.

So here’s what I told her: Feel sad. Feel angry. Feel scared. It’s OK. It’s more than OK — it’s necessary.

We’re living through history. People will be studying this in schools for years and years to come — “your kids,” I told her, “will be studying this” — and what will that story be? We don’t know. But we will write this story, one way or another. The Americans who lived through The Depression didn’t know how it would end … or if it would end. The Americans who lived through World War II didn’t anticipate D-Day or know it would end in victory.

They just kept going. Hope kept them going. There’s reason to have hope. I have faith in our scientists. I have faith in the dedication of medical professionals. I have faith that, differences aside, we care enough about each other that we will pull through whatever this ends up being … together.

I’m not going to tell you that faith doesn’t get shaken a little bit each day. It does.

But then I remember what Buck O’Neil always said: There are so many more good people than not.

“Joy comes in the morning,” my friend David von Drehle wrote in the Washington Post. David has COVID-19. He has “mild” symptoms that do not sound mild except in the context of what we know the severe symptoms of this virus are. “Joy comes with the breaking of fevers and easing of fears. Joy comes with the battles bravely won or bravely lost. With the sacrifice of self to the service of others, joy comes.”

Yes. I told Elizabeth that joy comes even now, in small ways, in time we get to spend together as a family, in the little but important things we can do to help, in the way we reach out to people we love but have not had time for, in the long phone calls she has with her friends, in the bad movies we barely endure on Bad Movie Friday because, hey, we now have time to endure them. The worst, we are told, is yet to come, and we have to brace ourselves for that. But it isn’t a choice.

This is the moment we have been given.

And all you can do in this crazy world is try to rise to that moment.


Bad Movie Friday!

Wild Wild West
Year released: 1999
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Will Smith; Kevin Kline; Kenneth Branagh; Salma Hayek.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 17%; Audience 28%

How long we lasted: 42 minutes.

For info on Bad Movie Friday (it was Thursday, but online school started), read here.

I don’t know how we lasted 42 minutes with Wild Wild West, to be honest. The first request to eject came about six minutes into the movie with the first gay joke. At least I think it was the first gay joke. It might have been the first race joke. Or it might have been the first sexist joke. It was hard to keep up. In any case, we had two members of the family who shall remain nameless (Margo and Elizabeth) who kept insisting that it might get better, that with the delightful Will Smith and Kevin Kline and Salma Hayek in it, it seemed almost impossible that it would NOT get better. And so they made Katie and I stick with it.

It did not get better.

I actually wanted to dump the movie during the opening credits. I’m not kidding. I was a fan of the old Wild Wild West TV Show; it used to play in the afternoons when I was growing up. And one of my favorite parts of the show was the opening credits, which had awesome music.

I mean, check it out for yourself:

I'll bet you didn’t see the guy slugging the woman at the end, did you?

In any case, that music is great. So Wild Wild West the movie starts and … what the hell is that music they’re playing? It’s not the same song. It’s not CLOSE to the same song. I mean, what happened? They couldn’t get the rights?

Instead, they had legendary composer Elmer Bernstein composed new music for it, and all due respect to the man who scored The Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven and Thoroughly Modern Millie, this them song is TERRIBLE.

No, I mean it’s TERRIBLE.

Why? Why? Why?

I mean, if you’re going to change the song (why?) go ahead and just use the Will Smith “Wild Wild West” song, I mean, it’s terrible too — winner of the Razzy Worst Original Song — but at least it makes some sense since Will Smith is in the movie.

Seriously, why would you change the fantastic music of Wild Wild West?

But that leads to the overriding question of Wild Wild West — why would you make it in the first place? You have some delightful actors. You have Barry Sonnenfeld, who was cinematographer for the Coen brothers and for fun movies like Big and When Harry Met Sally. You’re telling me with a collection of talent like that, you can’t come up with something better than putting Kevin Kline in dresses and Will Smith in Louisiana fighting a legless former confederate soldier who rides around in a mechanical spider and is kidnapping scientists to help develop some futuristic weapon.

I guess if I had to take a serious guess at why we kept watching the movie, it is that the “so bad it’s good” concept seems to me to be built around there being a certain joy that comes through the badness of it all. Like the Fast and Furious movies, I get it, they’re blowing stuff up, they’re chasing each other around, it’s a blast even if there’s no plot and absurd dialogue and unreasonable leaps of faith.

And maybe we kept thinking that at some point the actors would bring out some sort of joy from this miserable experience. At 42 minutes, alas, we had to give up that dream.

282 Happy Songs

My blog archives from roughly 2008 to 2012 are in this one massive file that I have no idea how to catalog or search. It’s a long, long story but basically those blog posts are all gone from the Internet (as far as I know) and the only way for me to find anything is to go through the days, one by one.

And I wrote A LOT of stuff back then. I mean, yeah, I write a lot of stuff now too, so that’s probably not surprising. But back then, I wrote a lot of random stuff. Like one day I’d be writing about Uruguayan soccer and the next day it would be Snuggies and the next day it would be NFL Films and the next day it would be Jay Leno and the next day it would Herschel Walker, I mean, what was even happening in my brain back then?

In any case, I went looking for this massive piece I did — you’ll see some of it in story in the not too distant future — and I came across this project I have almost no memory of doing. Apparently, at some point in 2010, I decided to create a list of “Happy songs.” I don’t know what propelled me to do it, but, yeah, it sounds like me.

In any case, I apparently put together 282 Happy Songs.

And I figure, with things being the way they are, I would just reprint the happy songs. I have not gone through this list with any particular attention so there might be some songs in here that would make no sense to me now. And, obviously, there are no songs from the last 10 years on here, so you can add those in the comments if you like.

Here then are the 282 songs along with the original rules I put at the top. I hope that maybe, just maybe, it brings you a little happiness.

The original 2010 Rules:

1. No act is allowed on the list more than once. So, there is only one Beatles song on here, only one Springsteen song on here, only one Elvis song on here. I have no doubt that Beatles fans may not have picked “Here Comes the Sun” and Springsteen fans may not have picked “Rosalita” and true Elvis fans definitely would not have picked His Latest Flame … feel free to fill in your own there.

2. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is not on here despite many requests. I despise that song … but that’s not why I left it off. There are other songs here I don’t particularly like. I left it off because, deep down, you know it, I know it, it’s not a happy song. Landlord says your rent is late — he’s suing you. Guy’s got no cash, no gal … what the hell is he supposed to be so happy about? He’s not happy. He’s kidding himself.

3. Some of these songs are not “happy” in and of themselves. Hearing them, though, makes me very happy.

* * *

7 Stars, The Apples In Stereo

100 Years, Five For Fighting

1979, Smashing Pumpkins

1234, Feist

A

ABC, Jackson 5

AEIOU Sometimes Y, Ebn-Ozn

Accidentally In Love, Counting Crows

Ain’t Even Done With the Night, John Cougar

All Will Be Well, The Gabe Dixon Band

Angela (Theme from Taxi), Avenue 4 a.m.

Africa, Toto

All of Your Love, Hellogoodbye

Always Something There to Remind Me, Naked Eyes

American Saturday Night, Brad Paisley

Anthem, Filo & Peri

Artificial Flowers, Bobby Darin

At the Edge, Jonathan Elias

B

Babylon, David Gray

Bad Day, Daniel Powter

The Ballroom Blitz, Sweet

Basketball, Kurtis Blow

Beautiful Day, U2

Beautiful World, Colin Hay

Beer, Reel Big Fish

Benton Harbor Blues – Again, The Fiery Furnaces

The Best of What’s Around, Dave Matthews Band

Birdhouse in Your Soul, They Might Be Giants

Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream), The Icicle Works

Blinded by the Light, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Version (Bruce Springsteen)

Blister in the Sun, Violent Femmes

Blue (Da Ba Bee), Eiffel 65

Blue Sky Mining, Midnight Oil

Blueberry Hill, Fats Domino

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Bossa Per Due, Nicola Conte

Brian Wilson, Barenaked Ladies

Burnin’ For You, Blue Oyster Cult

Buddy Holly, Weezer

Bust A Move, Young MC

C

Canned Heat, Jamiroquai

Cantaloupe, Us3

Cars, Gary Numan

Catch My Disease, Ben Lee

Cheek to Cheek, Mel Torme

Chevy Van, Sammy Johns

Chicago, Surfjan Stevens

Christmas in Hollis, Run-DMC

Classic Battle, Sam Spence for NFL Films

Cleveland, Luke Doucet and the White Falcon

The Coffee Song, Frank Sinatra

Come Dancing, The Kinks

Come on Eileen, Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Crazy, Gnarls Barkley

Crazy, Patsy Cline

Crying at the Discoteque, Alcazar

D

Daylight, Matt & Kim

The Devil Went Down To Georgia, The Charlie Daniels Band

Digging Your Scene, The Blow Monkeys

Do You Believe in Love, Huey Lewis & The News

Do You Remember, Jay Sean

Don’t Bring Me Down, ELO

Don’t Stop ‘til We Get Enough, Michael Jackson

Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Bob Dylan

Dream Like New York, Tyrone Wells

Drops of Jupiter, Train

Dry The Rain, The Beta Band

Duke Of Earl, Gene Chandler

E

East Asheville Hardware, David Wilcox

Elvira, The Oak Ridge Boys

Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z

Excuse Me, Amy Arena

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, The Police

Everyday, Buddy Holly

Everything’s Beautiful (In It’s Own Way), Willie Nelson

F

Fairy Tale of New York, The Pogues

Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop, Landon Pigg

Far Away, Ingrid Michaelson

Fell In Love With A Girl, White Stripes

Feeling Good Again, Robert Earl Keen

Fight the Power, Public Enemy

Forca, Nelly Furtado

Freedom 90, George Michael

Freetime, Kenna

Friends in Low Places, Garth Brooks

Forever, Chris Brown

Friday I’m In Love, The Cure

Funky Cold Medina, Tone-Loc

G

Gathering Crowds, John Scott (This Week In Baseball song)

Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, Will Smith

Gimme Three Steps, Lynyrd Skynyrd

Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac

Going To California, Led Zeppelin

Gravity Rides Everything, Modest Mouse

Groove is in the Heart, Deee-Lite

The Guy That Say Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind, Griffin House

H

Happy Hour, The Housemartins

Have a Little Faith in Me, John Hiatt

Have a Nice Day, Stereophonics

Hawaii Five-O, Countdown

Headlock, Imogen Heap

Heart of Glass, Blondie

The Heart of The Matter, India.Arie version

Heaven, John Legend

Here Comes The Sun, The Beatles

Here Comes Your Man, Pixies

Hey Ya, Outkast

Hoedown Throwdown, Hannah Montana

Hollywood Nights, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Hyperactive, Thomas Dolby

I

I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down, Elvis Costello

I Don’t Know a Thing, Lucy Schwarz

I Got You (I Feel Good), James Brown

I Gotta Feeling, Black Eyed Peas

I Know I’m Not Alone, Michael Franti & Spearhead

I Only Have Eyes, The Flamingos

I Second That Emotion, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

I Will Follow You into the Dark, Death Cab for Cutie

I Will Survive, Cake Version

I Won’t Say I’m in Love, Susan Egan (from Hercules)

Ice Cream, Sarah McLachlan

If I Can’t Change Your Mind, Sugar

If I Only Had a Brain, Harry Connick Jr.

In a Big Country, Big Country

In Da Club, 50 Cent

In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel

I’m A Believer, The Monkees

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Proclaimers

Insomnia, Craig David

It’s A Great Day to be Alive, Travis Tritt

It’s A Miracle, Barry Manilow

It’s Not Unusual, Tom Jones

I’ve Been Everywhere, Johnny Cash

J

Jackie Wilson Said, Van Morrison

Jai Ho, A.R. Rahman

James Brown Is Dead, L.A. Style

Jerk It Out, Caesars

Jesse’s Girl, Matt the Electrician Version

July July!, The Decemberists

Jump, Van Halen

Just Breathe, Pearl Jam

Just Can’t Get Enough, Depeche Mode

Just One of Those Things, Nat King Cole

Just the Two of Us, Grover Washington Jr.

K

Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight, Amos Lee

(Keep Feeling) Fascination, The Human League

Kids In America, Kim Wilde

King of the Road, Roger Miller

Kiss the Girl, Samuel E Wright

L

Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton

Let Go, Frou Frou

Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye

Let’s Fall in Love, Diana Krall

Life in a Northern Town, Dream Academy

Life in Technicolor, Coldplay

Linus & Lucy, Vince Guaraldi Trio

The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Tokens

Little Red Corvette, Prince

London Calling, The Clash

Love of Mine, Richard Julian

Love Plus One, Nick Heyward and Haircut 100

Love Will Keep Us Together, Captain and Tennille

M

(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame, Elvis Presley

Mayor of Simpleton, XTC

Me and Julio Down By The School Yard, Paul Simon

Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin

Melt My Heart To Stone, Adele

Melt With You, Modern English

The Metro, Berlin

Minnie the Moocher, Cab Calloway

Missing You, John Waite

MMMBop, Hanson

More Than A Feeling, Boston

More Than This, Roxy Music

My Girl, The Temptations

N

The Natural, Randy Newman

Near Wild Heaven, R.E.M.

New York, New York, Ryan Adams

Night Fever, Bee Gees

Night Parade, Robbie Robertson

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Tony Bennett

No Such Thing, John Mayer

No Woman No Cry, Bob Marley

Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor

O

One Fine Day, The Chiffons

One Thing Was Missing (That’s You), Janet Jackson

Ooh Child, The Five Stairsteps

One Man Guy, Rufus Wainwright

The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage, Panic! At The Disco

Our House, Madness

P

Paradise City, Guns N’ Roses

Perfect Way, Scritti Politti

Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, The Smiths

Pretty In Pink, The Psychedelic Furs

The Promise, When In Rome

Pulling Mussels (From the Shell), Squeeze

Q

Quiet Town, Josh Rouse

R

Ray of Light, Madonna

Regulate, Warren G

The Remedy (I Won’t Worry), Jason Mraz

Rich Girls, The Virgins

Right Here, Right Now, Jesus Jones

Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin

Rock and Roll All Nite, Kiss

Rock Lobster, The B-52s

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Bruce Springsteen

S

The Safety Dance, Men Without Hats

Save the Last Dance for Me, Ben E. King

Save it for Later, The English Beat

Secret Agent Man, Johnny Rivers

Send Me On My Way, Rusted Root

(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty, KC & The Sunshine Band

Skinny Legs, Lyle Lovett

Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder

Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana

Smells Like Teen Spirit, Tori Amos Version

Snow (Hey Oh), Red Hot Chili Peppers

Somebody’s Baby, Jackson Browne

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Spaceman, The Killers

The Spirit of the Radio, Rush

Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand, Primitive Radio Gods

Starry Eyed Surprise, Paul Oakenfold

Such Great Heights, The Postal Service

Sultans of Swing, Dire Straits

Summertime, The Sundays

Super Freak, Rick James

Surrender, Cheap Trick

Sweet Kentucky Ham, Rosemary Clooney

Swing Life Away, Rise Against

T

Take Five, Dave Brubeck Quartet

Take it to the Limit, Eagles

Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Steve Goodman

Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk), Parliament

Tenderness, General Public

This is the Last Time, Keane

These Are Days, 10,000 Maniacs

Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper

Tighten Up, Archie Bell & The Drells

This Must Be The Place, Shawn Colvin version (Talking Heads)

Tiny Dancer, Elton John

Today, Zero 7

To Nem Ai, Luka

Too Darn Hot, Ella Fitzgerald

Try a Little Tenderness, Otis Redding

Turn the Beat Around, Vicki Sue Robinson

Turning Japanese, The Vapors

The Twist, Chubby Checker

U

U Can’t Touch This, MC Hammer

Unbelievable (I Am Jen/JCPenney Remix), Sleepy Rebels

Uncle Walter, Ben Folds Five

Under The Boardwalk, The Drifters

Under The Milky Way, The Church

V

Valentine, Nils Lofgren

Video Killed the Radio Star, The Buggles

W

Walk on the Wild Side, Lou Reed

Walk Like an Egyptian, Bangles

Wake Up, Arcade Fire

Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves

Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn

What A Wonderful Word, Louis Armstrong

The Way Young Lovers Do, Jeff Buckley

We Close Our Eyes, Go West

We Got the Beat, The Go-Go’s

We Will Become Silhouettes, The Shins

West End Girls, Pet Shop Boys

When All is Said and Done, ABBA

Where Its At, Beck

What’d I Say, Ray Charles

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Jake Shimabukuro

Whip It, Devo

Who Can It Be Now?, Men At Work

World, New Order

Wouldn’t It Be Nice, The Beach Boys

Wrong Impression, Natalie Imbruglia

Y

You Are My Sunshine, Sara Gazarek

You Belong With Me, Taylor Swift

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones

You Might Think, The Cars

You Send Me, Sam Cooke

You Shook Me All Night Long, AC/DC

(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, Jackie Wilson

You’re So Damn Hot, OK Go

You’ve Got a Friend In Me (Wheezy’s Version), Robert Goulet∂ƒ

Bad Movie Thursday: Bewitched

Bewitched
Year released: 2005
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Stars: Nicole Kidman; Will Farrell; Shirley MacLaine; Michael Caine and a whole bunch of other people you know like Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 25%; Audience 28%

How long we lasted: 23 minutes.

The idea was not exactly to watch a bad movie. The idea, formed by our 18-year-old daughter Elizabeth, was to pair a 1960s housewife meal (she made brisket and potatoes au gratin) and a 1960s housewife movie.

See, ever since this craziness began, one of the things we have been doing for sanity’s sake is trying to perfectly pair dinner and a movie together. On the first night, we made a Godfather spaghetti sauce (“A little red wine!” Clemenza said) and watched The Godfather, the first viewing for our 15-year-old daughter Katie. It was great, though I will say the only version we could find was Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut which adds a few unnecessary minutes to a movie that — and I say this with the deepest love, it is after all one of my five favorite movies ever — long enough.

*On my night, we ate hot dogs, popcorn and shelled peanuts and watched “A League of Their Own.” I could not recommend this more.

In any case, Elizabeth thought it would be fun to cook all day and then for us to watch some Bewitched television episodes, which goes against the spirit of this pair a mean and a movie idea.

Then I said, “Wait, isn’t there a terrible Bewitched movie?”

With that, everyone decided it would be fun to watch the terrible Bewitched movie.

Were we right? Well, I’ll get that.

Before we get to the movie, though, I should make an announcement: Based on Bewitched, we as a family decided that we are now instituting Bad Movie Thursday into our schedules until further notice.

Here are the rules of Bad Movie Thursday.

  1. Every Thursday we as a family will watch a bad movie, roughly in the 25% or below range on Rotten Tomatoes.

  2. It has to be a movie with some ambition, meaning there needs to be a couple of stars in it, maybe a well-known director.

  3. It needs to have, at least the potential, of being a “fun” bad movie. That is to say that some depressing bad movie like “Persecuted,” about an evangelist getting framed for murder would not qualify. It has to have a CHANCE to be so bad it’s good, which means it probably needs to be a comedy.

  4. We will watch the movie for as long as we can bear to watch it.

I assume that I don’t need to tell you about the television show Bewitched, but I’ll give you a quick primer. It ran EIGHT seasons from 1964 to 1972, and it was about a witch named Samantha, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, who married a non-magical advertising man named Darrin, played by Dick York and, later, by Dick Sargent.

This Dick for Dick move was the most absurd in television history. Dick York and Dick Sargent looked absolutely nothing alike, I mean NOTHING alike. There is something surreal about the way the show just goes on with the second Darrin as if nothing’s going on, as if you’re the one going crazy.

In any case, the movie Bewitched is not, despite what you might hope, just a goofy remake of Bewitched. That might have had a chance at being so bad it’s good, the way the Flintstone movie did.*

*I admit, I have not seen The Flintstones in more than 20 years so it’s possible that I’m misremembering it as so bad it’s good. Maybe that’s our next choice.

No, instead, it is a story about making a remake of the television show but — and here’s the big joke — they mistakenly cast a REAL WITCH to play Samantha. I have no earthly idea why this decision was made. I mean if you’re going to make a remake of Bewitched, why not just lean in. I mean, you’re making Bewitched for crying out loud, you can probably leave artistic aspirations behind at that point.

You might think this plot is ridiculous. Unfortunately, it isn’t. You WANT a movie plot for Bewitched about a real witch playing a fictional witch to be ridiculous. Instead, it’s … exhausted is the better word. It’s like they made a pretty funny trailer, and that was OK, and then they had to turn that into a movie, and nobody had any idea how to do that. So they decided at some point, “Yeah, let’s just film something.”

I love every actor in this movie. And I didn’t like ANY OF THEM in this movie. That’s an amazing trick to pull off. Nicole Kidman who is so awesome turns off every part of herself and plays the witch who doesn’t understand how anything in the real world works (one of the jokes is that she didn’t watch Bewitched when she was young because “It’s insulting to our kind”). Michael Caine plays her father because apparently Michael Caine would play YOUR father if you needed him for your home movie.

I’m told Shirley MacLaine plays Samantha’s mother Eudora, a key figure on the old TV show, but I couldn’t say so for sure because we just didn’t make it that far.

And then there’s Will Farrell. God, I love Will Farrell. I think he’s one of the funniest people in the entire world and has been for two decades. So what happened? Farrell plays a nearly-washed up obnoxious actor with an insane ego which you would think would be right in his wheelhouse, but there was nothing in the character for him to hold on to, nothing that gave him any chance to bring joy. He wasn’t fun to hate, and there wasn’t anything about him to like, and 23 minutes into the movie the girls — Elizabeth, Katie and my wife Margo — shut the movie down, and that was that.*

*Katie actually said she COULD have kept watching but preferred to stop.

One of the things that we hope to unravel in this Bad Movie Thursday experiment is what makes something so bad it’s good. I think an underrated part of the alchemy is that the movie projects it was fun to make. There is unbridled happiness that comes from watching people having fun.

I got no sense at all that Bewitched was fun to make. I could be wrong, maybe it was a blast, but it sure seemed that behind the eyes of every actor you could sense a thought bubble that said: “Wow, this isn’t any good, is it? Why are we doing this, again?”

Bewitched final verdict: So bad it’s unwatchable.

Just Trying to Keep Up

Let’s begin with the expected apologies — I haven’t done the newsletter for a couple of weeks because, no exaggeration, I’ve been working night and day on the Baseball 100. It has been so much more of a bear than even I expected. On Thursday, my essay on Josh Gibson ran … and I can tell you that it pushed the word-count on the project to 237,526.

Word counts for some books:

Ulysses, 265,222

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 216,020

Crime and Punishment, 211,591

Moby Dick: 209,117 words

The Fellowship of the Ring: 187,790

Great Expectations, 183,349

Dune: 187,240

There are still FOURTEEN MORE of these essays. Ulysses is in my sights.

I didn’t expect these to be as long as they are. I didn’t expect these to be as deeply researched as they are. I didn’t expect these to be as NEW as they are; I was really hoping to rely on past efforts a lot more than I have.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s been an absolute blast. They are longer and more in-depth and more lovingly written BECAUSE of how much fun they are to do. And I’m as proud of this as just about anything I’ve ever done professionally. I’m still hoping/planning to turn it into a book. I’m just trying to figure out how to do that in a way that offers something new.

But, I will tell you since we’re friends that it has taken up every ounce of my being. And so there has been no time for anything else (other than a couple of PosCasts! Now on The Athletic podcasting network!)

The idea, as you might remember, was to time these 100 essays in 100 days so they ended on Opening Day.

Well, as you might have heard, some stuff has happened. It has been dizzying (and impossible) to keep up with the way that COVID-19 has altered the world and America and our communities as we know them. Sports seem like just about the least important part of it all, but it’s the part I know at least something about so, yes, MLB has announced that they are canceling the rest of spring training and pushing back Opening Day at least two weeks. There’s every reason to believe it will be longer than that.

At this moment, the NBA season is suspended, the NHL season just did the same, tennis tournaments are canceled for the foreseeable future, March Madness is canceled. the PGA Tour insists on going on for the moment with no fans in the stands, all NCAA spring sports are canceled, it is so unlike anything in my lifetime I don’t even know what to use as a comparison.

We’re bunkering down just like everyone else. My hopes for you and your families are that you be safe and stay safe and that we all work together to get through this.

Again, this is the unimportant part — but I do wonder what our lives will be like without sports. For so many of us, sports fill our worlds with so and joy and laughter and fury and sadness and wonder and all the emotions that make life rich and colorful and unpredictable and happy. Sports will be back, of course. But it will feel empty for a while.

I actually thought, briefly, about pausing the Baseball 100 until baseball returns. I am NOT doing this — I realize this might bring up some bad memories of Baseball 100s that died in the past — but I did think about it because it just seems like there are so many other things to worry about, to think about, to do. I thoroughly understand that fewer people are going to have the time, will or interest in reading about old ballplayers.

But we’re going to keep going. In fact, we’re going to add something to it. We are going to do is slow down the pace of the Baseball 100s. That is to say instead of them appearing every … single … day (including weekends, man, what was I thinking?), they will now appear at The Athletic every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. By doing it this way, the final 13 (No. 14 will appear tomorrow) will last for four weeks, which I’m hoping will take it to right about the beginning of baseball.

But here’s the thing: In between the Baseball 100s, my plan is to write a different (hopefully shorter) essay every day about some random baseball player. And I do mean: RANDOM. Some will probably be great players who didn’t quite make the Baseball 100. Some will probably be not so great players who did something unusual. Some will probably be players who are entirely random, as if picked out of a barrel.

I say “probably,” because I’m not going to choose the players. You are. Well, you and some of my friends around the game will choose them … I’m taking requests. If you would like to make your request below in the comments, that’s great. If you want to email me with your requests, that’s good too. If you want to hire a skywriter to write the name in the sky, sure, go for it.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me here. Be well. Be prepared. Wash your hands. I now wash mine while humming the Final Jeopardy theme.

Oh, and try a Cosmic Crisp apple. They’re delicious.

The Astros Experience

OK, so our older daughter, Elizabeth, is overcome by Senioritis and ready to leave for college and our younger daughter, Katie, is taking driving lessons, and the other day I went for a painful stretching session at the gym, and, no, I’ve never felt older.

Yes, age, as Satchel Paige probably said, is a matter of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.

But I do mind. Ow.


In the Athletic

We are up to No. 38 on the Baseball 100. A couple of people have said, “Wow, you’re almost home free.” Well, that’s not true. But I can now confirm that this thing will definitely go deeper than my previous effort, which ended at 30.

But that’s all I can guarantee.

It is looking like we will be announcing a new PosCast format in the next week or so. I can’t go into details just yet, but let’s just say that we’re keeping the nonsense. In fact, I guess it’s fair to say that we’re expanding the nonsense.


Astros Talk

I do not believe that the Houston Astros used a buzzer system to steal signs in 2019. I just don’t. I’m not saying they were morally incapable of it or that they deserve benefits of doubt or even that Jose Altuve’s bad neck tattoo excuse makes sense — all that stuff is hypothetical and emotional.

But I do not believe they used a buzzer system. There is no tangible evidence that they did. Major League Baseball looked into it and determined they didn’t. The charge that they did use a buzzer comes from shadowy whispers and dubious video study; nobody has put any weight or factual force or behind the charge.

No, I don’t think the Astros used buzzers.

And I do think that it is time for Major League Baseball to forcefully, explicitly and unequivocally say exactly that, to say that the Astros did not cheat in 2019 and all statements to the contrary are false and irresponsible unless they come with new evidence.

We are in the middle of the feeding frenzy portion of this Astros cheating thing. Every crisis has one. It’s the point where everybody — the media, the others in the industry, everybody — piles on and tries to push the story as far as it can go. One person suggests taking away the 2017 World Series, the next person suggest barring the Astros from postseason play for three years, the next person suggests giving all the players involved a one-year suspension, the next person suggests it should be a five-year suspension, the next person suggests pulling the Astros off television, the next person suggests taking the Astros away from Houston, on and on, there will be no end to the wrath, not until this portion of the crisis fades.

And it is the responsibility of MLB to try and get to the point where the crisis starts fading. There’s only so much the commissioner Rob Manfred and his people can do … but my argument here is that they have to do EVERYTHING THEY CAN to get baseball moving forward.

Take a look at this Twitter poll I did:

Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here — it’s a stupid Twitter poll with only my followers and it does not have any credibility. But 88% of the people in this poll — in this feeding frenzy part of the crisis — voted that they think the Astros definitely or probably used a buzzer system.

Now, what are the chances that 88% of the 4,350 people who voted on Twitter feel this way but, say, only 30 percent of actual baseball fans do. I’d say the chances are pretty small. Fifty percent of fans? Again, I’d say pretty small but let’s go with it; if 50% of baseball fans think that the Astros cheated in 2019 (based on only the flimsiest of accusations) that is an enormous problem for the game. Everyone knows baseball’s most precious commodity is credibility. If someone believes the Astros cheated in 2019, they also believe one of two other things.

  1. MLB is too incompetent to catch them.

  2. MLB does know but is covering it up somehow.

Both are very bad.

And that’s why I think it’s imperative for MLB to come out and defend the 2019 Astros. You have baseball players all around the league just saying, point blank, that they think the Astros used buzzers. You have players all over the league screaming that MLB should withdraw the immunity they gave the players and punish them. You have an endless stream of media questions and stories about it. Social media is overwhelmed by it all.

There are many who think that MLB did not punish the 2017 Astros hard enough — I would agree but nobody can say that there were no punishments. Three managers lost their jobs over it as did a general manager. There were fines and draft-pick penalties. The players were given immunity, and you can argue about that. The Astros did not get stripped of their 2017 title, and you can argue about that too.

But I think sooner or later people will move on from 2017.

They will not move on from 2019, though, not as long as people believe that the Astros got away with it. Yes, MLB has sort of, kind of, halfway, cautiously suggested that they believe, at least at this time, that the Astros did not cheat in 2019. The commissioner said at one point in his report that the investigation “revealed no violations of the policy by the Astros in the 2019 season or 2019 Postseason.”

And the other day Manfred said: “I can tell you the evidence on this issue was as consistent in the direction that nothing was going on as the evidence was consistent in the direction that there was inappropriate behavior in '17 and ‘18.”

But people aren’t buying it because MLB is not putting any thunder behind the statement. Whatever force was behind the convoluted “evidence on this was as consistent as evidence on that” statement was lost entirely because it began with Manfred saying “Can I tell you for 100 percent certain that it didn’t happen? No, you can never know that.”

I don’t think that’s right. Sure, you can never know anything for sure, but you can come pretty damn close to knowing. MLB needs to be confident enough in the veracity of its investigation, in the truthfulness of its witnesses and in basic common sense to say to everyone (perhaps in a joint statement with the MLBPA):

We all know that the Astros cheated in 2017. It is regrettable and it has hurt the game immensely. The Astros have been punished for that. People will disagree on the terms of that punishment, and we respect that, but we believe that we have been both firm and fair.

However, MLB will not stand for unsubstantiated allegations thrown against the Astros in subsequent years. MLB has investigated and found that the Astros definitively did not use buzzers or any other form of sign-stealing equipment in 2019. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, they are more than welcome to present it. But for people, particularly those inside the game, to unfairly throw around charges based on nothing but speculation and anger is irresponsible and goes against what MLB stands for.

I will make this as clear as day: The Astros did not illegally steal signs in 2019.

It would take some courage for the commissioner to do that — he would be sticking his neck out there a bit. But that’s what the situation calls for: Someone sticking their neck out there. for the game.

Now, you might say: Well, maybe he doesn’t believe that. And if that’s the case, then baseball has an even bigger problem. If MLB even slightly suspects the Astros of cheating in 2019, they must get to the bottom of it because sooner or later that will come out and the damage could be irreversible. There is no room for ambiguity on this.

But I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think the Astros used buzzers. I think this is a made-up story that sounds somewhat plausible while the Astros’ trustworthiness is at an all-time low — there is almost NOTHING you could charge the Astros with at this moment that would give people pause. Did the Astros actually cause global warming? Sure. Wouldn’t surprise me.

And look, I don’t like what the Astros did any more than anybody else, and I think they’ve handled it about as poorly as possible. I would have preferred a stiffer punishment for 2017. I would have preferred owner Jim Crane to take responsibility and reshape his franchise beyond just firing a couple of guys named in the report. I would have preferred that the Astros didn’t retain essentially the same front office that might have been behind the whole thing.

But I don’t think the Astros used buzzers, and I think Jose Altuve’s homer off Aroldis Chapman was real and genuine, and in my view, it’s time for Manfred and others in MLB and the MLBPA to stand up and say so.

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