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The president drove through them

Today I witnessed an amazing sight.

Admittedly, I watched it via television, not with my own eyes. But still, it was an amazing sight.

In Washington, D.C., land of Washington and Lincoln and FDR and JFK and the Bush(es) and Obama, a million couple of thousand MAGA people marched on behalf of Donald J. Trump, America’s outgoing president and a man who insists he is being robbed of a second term. They showed up by car, by bus, by train, by plane, wearing all sorts of red, white and blue MAGA hats and MAGA shirts, holding MAGA signs and sporting MAGA buttons. Love them or hate them, there is no denying the passion and loyalty. These people adore Donald Trump. They believe in Donald Trump. They worship Donald Trump.

Donald Trump drove right through them.

I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it. The president of the United States, sporting a blue windbreaker and ubiquitous red-and-white MAGA cap, drove right through his own protesters—a passenger in the rear of a black limousine. He offered a small wave, but nothing more, en route to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia for his (this is no exaggeration) three hundred and first round of golf as president. He didn’t stop to chat. He didn’t take to a podium to address the masses. He didn’t join the march to save his own skin.

He.

Just.

Drove.

Thru.

It reminded me of the scene in “Forrest Gump,” when after three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours, the title character stopped running, took a deep breath, turned and began the walk back home to Alabama. His followers—mindless disciples of the Church of Forrest—stood bewildered, until one finally cried out, “What do we do now?”

I’m not sure when (if ever) the disciples of the Church of Donald cry out, “What do we do now?” You’d have thought that would have happened long ago—after the endless lies; after learning about all the cons; after the decisive election loss (Riddle me this: If the Democrats cheated, why fall short in the senate and drop so many house seats?); after the juvenile meltdowns; after the fruitless and heartless approach to COVID.

But were I a MAGA guy, and were I using my valuable Saturday to march in defense of Donald Trump, I know how I’d feel as he drove past for yet another afternoon at a golf course whose membership I could never afford; at a golf course whose membership requirements I’d never meet.

I’d feel like a fool.

And I’d wonder what to do now.

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We have been here before

I have seen this one before.

Donald Trump.

Potential lawsuits.

Seemingly intelligent people (powerful, wealthy people) falling under his sway.

A death dive to nowhere.

I have seen this one before.

In case you don’t know, two years ago I released a book, “Football for a Buck,” that chronicled the rise and fall of the USFL (United States Football League), a spring gridiron experiment that lasted from 1983-85. The USFL remains my all-time favorite sports league—amazing uniforms, sweet names, players receiving second, third, fourth and fifth chances to make it in sports. It was wild and wacky and indisputably entertaining, and I wanted it to last forever.

Sadly it died. In large part because of Donald Trump.

He bought a team, the New Jersey Generals, after the debut season, and from that first press conference (held in the lobby of Trump Tower), Trump was the loudest, brashest, most headline-obsessed owner in all of professional sports. He bragged about his wealth, his girlfriends, his projects. He begged for headlines, then begged for bigger headlines. Mostly, though, what he wanted was for ownership of the New Jersey Generals to result in ownership of an NFL franchise.

Yes, you read that correctly: Donald Trump’s goal—a not particularly hidden one—was to force the older football league’s hand and grant him entry into the world’s most exclusive club: NFL ownership.

So Trump did everything he could. He tried buying the Baltimore Colts—and failed. He begged Pete Rozelle, NFL commissioner, for a team—and failed. Shortly after purchasing the Generals, he literally met privately with Rozelle in a Manhattan hotel suite and said, bluntly, “I will help destroy the USFL if you give me a New York City NFL team.”

Rozelle told Trump he was a conman and a fraud. “As long as I am involved in the NFL,” he said, “you won’t be.”

Then, Donald Trump decided to sue.

This is 35 years ago, well before Donald Trump was known for suing and suing and suing and suing. As the owner of the USFL’s most important franchise (without New York/New Jersey’s TV sway, there was no league), Trump carried extra weight in league meetings. So when, in 1984, he started up with, “We need to move to fall and challenge the NFL directly,” well, the words carried weight. When he said it again and again, the words carried even more weight. Trump asked the other owners if he could gauge the fall/USFL interest of the three major TV networks, and when NBC, ABC and CBS all assured him they would never televise the league were it not playing in the spring—well, Trump did what Trump does. He lied, and told the other owners there was “amazing interest” is us moving to fall.

Now, you would think the other owners would hate this idea. Unlike Trump, whose plan was to build a stadium (or, really, have a stadium built for him) in midtown Manhattan, the vast majority of USFL teams played in cities already occupied by NFL franchises. Could the Pittsburgh Maulers survive in the same season as the Pittsburgh Steelers? Could the Houston Gamblers compete directly with the Houston Oilers? The Los Angeles Express with the Los Angeles Raiders? The Michigan Panthers with the Detroit Lions? The Chicago Blitz with the Chicago Bears? Of course not. But—because Trump is persuasive and a bully and blessed (cursed?) with the ability to have people regularly violate their own interests—he talked the other USFL owners into not only agreeing to move to fall, but to standing behind a USFL-filed anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL.

Trump held a press conference announcing the suit, and told none of the other owners. Trump filed the suit in New York City, and told none of the other owners. Trump plotted with the USFL attorneys he hired, and told none of the other owners. Trump decided he should be the star witness, and told none of the other owners.

But—with the exception of John Bassett, owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits—none of the other owners would stand up to Donald Trump. They were rich, they were powerful, they were successful. But they were also intimidated and cowardly.

So the trial happened, and shortly thereafter the USFL (winners of $3 in a laughable suit that went terribly wrong) ended operations and died.

Its owners lost millions of dollars.

And their dignity.

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Superman loved the Bucs

So tonight the son and I wrapped our Superman movie marathon by watching “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

The film is, without debate, one of the worst things ever. The plot makes no sense. The effects are laughable (you can literally see strings when Superman flies). The writing is brutal. Truly, everything about Superman IV is a hot mess, and Christopher Reeve bemoaned the project from the day he started filming.

That said …

There is a moment in “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” that sparks absolute joy. It lasts for all of two seconds, and occurs near the beginning of the film, when Clark is shown in his apartment—alongside a miniature white robot, a couch and … a Tampa Bay Buccaneers pendant!

Yes, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers pendant.

Now, intellectually, this makes no sense. We learn in the original Superman film the Clark is never allowed to play high school football in Smallville, which surely led to some resentment for the game. Furthermore, what could Superman/Clark Kent possibly enjoy in the sport? He would throw 100,000 times harder than Warren Moon, break through tackles like Bo Jackson on juiced juice, decapitate ball carriers from (I’m guessing) the linebacker slot. It’d be painfully dull for the Man of Steal.

But then it hit me: This movie was filmed in 1986, when the Buccaneers finished 2-14 behind the quarterbacking of Steve DeBerg and Steve Young. On that roster was K.D. Dunn, the former Clemson tight end who was born and raised in … Smallville, Iowa!

It all makes sense.

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Dear Students

Catherine Pearlman is a social worker and professor at Brandman University. You can follow her here.

Dear Students,

I’m writing to update you on the election policies for Opportunity Knocks High School. It may be confusing, so please read this email thoroughly. If you have any questions, don’t ask. The point of this email is to be confusing.

To Mrs. Johnson’s 6th period ESL class: Your voting place has changed. Don’t go to the gym because your voting center has moved to the community center five miles from our school. I know most of you take the bus to school. Many of you don’t have transportation to the poll place, but we can’t help with that. Please make sure to vote, though, because every vote matters (😉). Unfortunately, I am not able to translate this email into Spanish, so many of you won’t even know the polling place has changed. Sorry about that—but you not understanding this email is kind of the point. The polling place change also applies to Mrs. Ridles’s, Mrs. Mirsky’s and Mr. Baldasari’s classes, but not if you have those teachers for 3rd period.

To those home quarantining due to our recent Coronavirus outbreak: You may send your votes in early. But I’m sorry to say, we probably won’t count them. We will act like we will but in the end we feel votes cast before the election are less valued than those cast by people who actually come to the polls.  

To those who voted for Ellen “the smartest most qualified student” Jones: The administration doesn’t really want Ellen to win this election. If you vote for her there’s a chance we may just provide a fake ballot box or we may end up destroying ballots. We know Ellen has a very good chance of winning this election if we make it fair, so you can’t really blame us for this.

To those who participated in the drive-thru voting we set up this morning: Thank you for voting. But we are going to have to get rid of those votes. I know we said you could vote this way, but we’ve changed our minds. Sorry.

If, after the votes are counted, it looks like Ellen received most of the votes, the school administration is going to say the election was “rigged”, there was fraud, and Ellen cannot be senior class president. We will make the whole election process look fraught with corruption. That way, even if Ellen takes office, it will be under a dark cloud, and no one will listen to her or like her.

Many students may well have people who taught them to believe that winning due to cheating is dishonorable. Yes, that is true. Winning at all costs is wrong. But we are going to make an exception to this rule, just this once (we also reserve this right in the future). Winning is winning, and this student election is just too darn important to do things the according to the rules.

If you voted for Ellen and you are upset by the outcome, please see your guidance counselor for some meditative and breathing exercises. Also, this is not an excuse for students to stop following all other school policies.

Thank you in advance for your continued cooperation.

Sincerely,

Your Principal

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William Scott of Scott & Associates of Texas just called me a “blue dick.”

William Scott: Says I’m a “blue dick.”

So a few moments ago I posted a letter, explaining my support for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the upcoming election.

I received this reply from someone named William Scott …

This confused me, because the letter said nothing about William Scott. Certainly didn’t reference him, or insult him. I don’t even know William Scott; had no idea he’s the head of the ol’ team at Scott & Associates of Texas, Inc.—a real estate advisory firm.

But now I do.

And here’s what I don’t get: Why be an asshole to someone you don’t know, who did nothing personal to you?

“Blue dick”? Really? I’m a blue dick? For wanting to vote Biden/Harris? Really? I mean, William Scott of Scott & Associates of Texas, Inc. could have DMed me via Twitter, and we probably would have had a lovely conversation/debate. He could have asked why I like Biden over Trump. Hell, he could have ignored me.

But, no. I’m a blue dick.

And, because I’m now in a blue dick sort of mood, I’ll take a little joy (truly, just a little) in knowing that, from here on out, when someone Googles William Scott and Scott & Associates, he/she will wind up at this blog post. It’ll serve as a lesson that the guy on the website with this lovely bio; the guy who has “genuine concern for his clients’ financial well-being”; the guy with a wife and three children … thinks a guy expressing (sincere, honest) support for Joe Biden (and, presumably, any Democrat) is a “blue dick.”

And while my dick is, in fact, not blue, humiliation bleeds red.

Like the heart of Texas.

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Re-elect Harley Rouda

I live in California’s 48th Congressional district, a traditional Republican stronghold that, two years ago, turned blue when a businessman/political novice named Harley Rouda shocked Dana Rohrabacher, the longtime incumbent.

In his time in office, Rouda has been—in my opinion—terrific. Is he a Jim Jordan type, barking for attention from the nearest TV camera? No. Is he the Katie Porter type, itching for fights with corporate scumbags? Not really. Is he Matt Gaetz, ambitious to the point of ugly obnoxiousness? Certainly not.

In sports terms (since I’m a sports writer by trade), Rouda is, oh, Frank Gore. Solid. Steady. Beneath the radar, but productive as fuck. You’re eating your burger, sipping your Pepsi—then you look up and the guy has 150 yards and two touchdowns.

In his two years, Rouda has been the primary sponsor of two bills that passed—the ONDCP Technical Corrections Act of 2019 and the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (To be clear, two passed bills in two years is a huge accomplishment for any member of Congress). He sits on multiple committees, and is a chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform: Subcommittee on Environment. In short, the guy rolls his sleeves up and works. He’s not insanely liberal. He’s certainly not overly conservative. Rouda is a moderate Democrat who gets stuff done.

Oh—one more point: Harley Rouda is good people. Hell, the Roudas are good people. Over the years I’ve developed a nice friendship with Harley’s wife Kaira, a fellow writer who appeared on my podcast way back when. And they’re truly decent, and kind, and empathetic, and righteous. They’re honest and upfront and real. Harley and Kaira actually remind me a lot of Noam and Catie Bramson, the mayor and first lady (if that’s the right terminology for such a thing) of New Rochelle, N.Y., my old hometown. Folks you’d want as your neighbors. Folks who give a shit.

Which leads me to Harley’s opponent—Michelle Steel.

Now, I want to start by saying something important, especially in these hyper-partisan times: I have no personal beef with Michelle Steel. I mean it. I have no reason to think she isn’t an attentive mother, a loving spouse, someone who believes in what she’s doing as chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. I disagree with approximately 99 percent of her positions, but that doesn’t make someone a sinister person.

That said …

As I have written about, oh, 10,000 times, not all that long ago Michelle Steel stood before a Tea Party group and bragged—literally bragged—about pulling her daughter from college because she expressed empathy for the idea of gay marriage. Here’s the clip. It’s one of the purely meanest things I’ve ever heard a public figure boast—my kid decided a man should be able to marry another man, so I yanked her from school. And I just … I dunno. Maybe character isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. As is kindness. And compassion.

So … can one have character, and be kind, and compassionate—and be so disgusted by gays that you’d take such an action?

No.

Later, in that same speech (which the Steel campaign quickly yanked off of YouTube), Michelle Steel said, in her opinion, there were only two political parties: Republicans and communists. Meaning, if you identify as Democrat, you’re actually a communist. Again, here’s the link. Which leads to the question: How would Michelle Steel, congresswoman, work with Democratic peers if she considers them all to be communists?

Along those lines, Michelle Steel is, well, sketchy. She refused to debate Rouda—which is amateur hour nonsense. She once left an OC Board of Supervisors meeting (with constituents waiting to address her) so she could greet Donald Trump at John Wayne Airport. She was a COVID skeptic for the longest time, and has uttered some absolutely inane statements about the outbreak (two words: species discrimination). Her chief medical adviser is Dr. Jeff Barke, whose insanity is worth Googling. Her husband is Shawn Steel, a truly grotesque, serpentine, Mitch McConnell-esque man who dwells in the devil’s basement of the GOP political machine and has been linked to efforts to influence the Trump administration on behalf of China.

Again, I have no personal beef with Michelle Steel. But throughout this campaign she has repeatedly lied, exaggerated, attacked, avoided. She has referred to Rouda as a “con man” in myriad Tweets and press releases, while refusing to acknowledge that—especially in relation to OC’s COVID response—she’s the one running the con.

Lastly, she refuses to criticize Donald Trump—for anything. She speaks up about being a safeguard of anti-Asian stereotyping, but utters nary a peep when the president calls COVID “Kung-Flu.” She talks a good game about women and progress, but the “grab ’em by the pussies” line failed to stop Steel from leading the Pledge at a Trump rally.

This is not a hard one.

Michelle Steel is not worthy of serving in congress.

Harley Rouda is the real deal.

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A letter about 2020

Wrote this last night. Sent it to hundreds of people.

Had to.

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The pettiness of Shaq

If you happen to be someone who read my latest book, “Three-Ring Circus,” you know Shaquille O’Neal is one of the all-time great teammates in NBA history. He was giving, he was compassionate, he was decent and warm and loving. I’d argue—strongly—he was better to fringe contributors than any superstar in modern sports.

Which is why the above interview is so depressing.

In the immediate aftermath of the Lakers’ latest NBA title, a video went viral of Dwight Howard—backup center—expressing profound emotion after winning his first championship. It was a legitimately beautiful site: A faded-yet-still-productive former star genuinely overcome with love and bliss upon fulfilling a dream. Is the 2020 Dwight Howard the 2005 Dwight Howard? No. Not even close. But does that take away from the achievement? Should it reduce his feelings? No.

And here’s what bothers me most: If Shaq believes Dwight Howard is unworthy of such feelings of accomplishment, where does that leave Mark Madsen and Devean George? Where does it leave Ty Lue and Slava Medvedenko and Ron Harper and Lindsey Hunter and Jelani McCoy and Samaki Walker and Mitch Richmond? All those men won titles alongside Shaq and Kobe Bryant. But, because they weren’t essential contributors, should they view their rings as tarnished? As lesser?

It’s an arrogant way to think, and it makes Shaq seem small and petty.

Which he is not.

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The Trumps have COVID—and I’m confused

So apparently Donald and Melania Trump have COVID.

And I’m confused.

How am I supposed to feel about this news? Am I supposed to be sad, because Donald Trump is the president and every life is precious? Am I supposed to be happy, because Donald Trump is a sack of shit who treats most people like discarded chips of suitcase bile on the bottom of an airport luggage belt? Am I supposed to take the information at face value, because who would lie of such a thing? Am I supposed to be skeptical, because Donald Trump lies about seemingly everything?

Is it OK that I want to scream to his most devoted COVID-denying admirers, “WELL, NOW DO YOU FUCKING SEE? DO YOU FINALLY FUCKING SEE?” Is it OK that I wouldn’t be shocked were this to be some sort of “Dave”-esque hoax—a way for Trump to leave the election without losing? A way to propel Mike Pence? A way to save face? Is it OK that there’s something oddly satisfying in having the leader of the COVID-is-no-biggie movement come down with the no-biggie disease?

Does it make me a bad person that I would shed nary a tear should Donald Trump die? Which isn’t to say I’m actively rooting for his demise. I’m not. But when someone takes such much pleasure in the misery and destruction of others, well … am I really here to root that guy on?

In short, I don’t know how to feel.

What I do know is, in 2020, there’s something awfully warped about the world; about the nation; about a people no longer able/willing/comfortable bonding over the well wishes for a president.

We are broken.

And sick.

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We needed joy

Poppy: She’s home

So if you follow me on social media, you might know that Norma, my beloved dog of 12 years, died three months ago.

It was, sincerely, the deepest of cuts. I’ve clearly lived a charmed life, because the accompanying pain was as raw, as suffocating, as nightmarish as any I’ve ever experienced. Norma was my sidekick, my writing partner, my friend. She was an eternal optimist, because dogs are eternal optimists. There was no COVID to Norma. No Donald Trump. No fires. She just wanted a carrot to chomp on.

Then, one day, she was gone.

The months that followed were tough ones, because the months that followed were tough for us all. Just one dark moment after another after another, to the point where I’d wake up some mornings and think, “Why even? What’s it all for?”

Enter: Poppy.

She arrived yesterday. From 2 1/2 hours away in Santa Barbara. She’s a 2 1/2-month old bernadoodle (the wife is allergic to most dogs, so we needed a non-shedder), and we all friggin’ love her. She’s soft, cuddly, playful, spunky. She wants to be around people, and makes these funny dog expressions and sounds that spark joy. She is not Norma’s replacement (no dog can replace the Nooms), but she’s a great new pet who—I believe—fills a gap we have missed.

Mostly, though, she’s good news.

And, God, did I need good news.

This week, my book came out—and it’s gone very well. And now Poppy is here. And she’s a tremendous reminder of the importance of having things to look forward to; of keeping life fresh and new and as vigorous as possible. COVID has certainly made that so much harder, but it’s important to never stop trying. Also, it’s important to find happiness. To seek it out. I don’t know what happens in November with the election. I don’t know what happens with COVID. With schools. With kids in cages and the Supreme Court and climate change. But I am fed up with 90 percent unhappiness.

Poppy isn’t a cure-all. But she’s a bundle of love when I require a bundle of love.

She makes me happy.