Category Archives: Pop Culture

CBS, NFL Take Wrong Turn

Medical Grass


GORDONVILLE — So here we are.

The national holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday.

But there is not much to celebrate here in the mythical town of Gordonville, where Main Street has been gentrified with used record stores and all-night diners.

Last year? Yes. This year? No.

When the game ends, and the Lombardi Trophy is handed to the winning team (my prediction is the Patriots in a walk), it will officially end the reign as champions for our Eagles.

A year ago, and unlike Super Bowl 39 (I don’t believe in Roman numerals, as we are not in Rome, although the fall of that empire and our own is eerily similar), I didn’t attend in person.

I was at the best place in the world. A house of a friend with a roomful of diehards totally fixated on the game (with the local broadcast on the radio and the volume of the TV, with the irksome network crew, turned down).

I get chills now – I am, right now – thinking about how the room erupted when Brandon Graham stripped Tom Brady and Derek Barnett fell on the ball.

When Brady’s Hail Mary pass fell to the ground, I made my way out of the room and sat by myself and cried like a baby for a good five minutes.

What can top that?

Not much, not even another Eagles’ title – although they are more than welcome to win it all again whenever they’d like before I am in my rocking chair with two or three marbles rattling around upstairs.

So here we are.

The following year.

There will still be plenty of those Super Bowl parties, which I abhor almost as much people who make snide global warming remarks whenever it’s below freezing where they happen to be drawing air that particular day.

These are really the polar opposite of what I experienced last year, as barely anyone in those rooms will give two hoots about the game while dipping their chips in guacamole dip.

There will be men – I’ll let women slide on this – who barely know who is playing, and couldn’t name you more than 5-10 players on either team.

Everyone will drink their foreign lagers and play their block pools and only shut up to watch the commercials.

And they will see commercials for all kinds of nonsense, like people buying each other $50K vehicles for Valentine’s Day. There will be ads for beer and online sports gambling, while some sort of nonsense scrolls under the screen about drinking – and gambling — responsibly.

It seems like anything and everything is fair game.

But it’s not.

CBS, the network broadcasting the game this year, rejected a 60-second ad for medical marijuana.

Read that again, and let that sink in.

There will be ads for ailments such as adult acne and leg pain, with side effects so severe that that they may led to any of the 21 conditions approved for the use of medical marijuana in our state (and 29 others, including the District of Columbia).

Puritanical much?

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th), who teamed with State Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48th) in a successful bipartisan effort to legalize the use of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, couldn’t help but note the irony.

“Preventing people from hearing about the benefits of medical marijuana, while at the same time happily advertising booze, dangerous drugs and fast food is a strange and disturbing choice,” said Leach. “Apparently the network doesn’t think their viewers are smart enough to handle a simple message responsibly, which is truly sad.”

Again, to make it clear, this has nothing to do with recreational use – although an entertaining one with Grateful Dead fans would be a hoot – but for medical marijuana.

The ad reportedly featured three patients whose suffering has been eased by medical marijuana.

The 60-second PSA-style ad (CBS is charging $3.2 million for 30 seconds) reportedly shows some uncomfortable stuff:

-A Colorado boy who suffers from Dravet syndrome (his mother says her son would have dozens to hundreds of seizures a day and medical marijuana saved his life).

-A Buffalo man says he was on opioids for 15 years after three back surgeries and that medical marijuana gave him his life back (even though he lives in Buffalo, where shoveling snow is not ideal for back health).

-An Oakland man who lost part of his leg in military service says his pain was unbearable until medical marijuana.

Funny how the NFL, which is surely the neck that turns the head that is the network in these final decisions, hoists the pomp and circumstance of the military but backs off from the other side of the story.

This is the same circuit that is on the precipice from allowing the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, which is in the only state where prostitution is somehow legal.

So here we are.

The Eagles are no longer World Champions and a major network – with a league where officials are borderline incompetent — can’t get over itself.

I’ll watch again, because that’s what I do.

It’s wired in my DNA.

But there are no tears of joy this year.

There is no joy in Gordonville.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 3, 2014.

Celluloid Heroes In Waiting

fleetwood mac


GORDONVILLE — I have a love-hate relationship with Queen.

Not the Queen, as in Queen Elizabeth.

But with Queen, the rock band suddenly mythologized in a biopic film focused on the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury.

Queen has some of the best songs I ever heard – including “Under Pressure” and “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” – but some of the worst, too.

On my list of all-time songs that make me feel like I have Lyme Disease all over again, there are three Queen – yes, three – Queen songs.

And topping that ignominious list (which also includes Queen songs “Bicycle Song” and “Somebody To Love”) is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which happens to be the title of the movie that was just nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Rami Malek, who has been stellar in every role he has played).

Its critical and box office success has me thinking about other musical acts and artists whose stories would potentially show well on the big screen.

The Beatles and Elvis? Too many to count. Dylan? In 2007, there was a flick called “I’m Not There” with six different actors – including a woman and young black boy – portraying six sides of his public persona. Kind of killed that one for now. Rolling Stones? Eh, maybe, but not yet. It would kind of kill the mystique. Ditto for Led Zeppelin. The Doors? Been there, Oliver Stone done that (with Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison better than Morrison could have himself). The punk era was covered in “Syd and Nancy.” Johnny Cash? Check.

This doesn’t mean we are without options.

Consider a sampling of five that did make the cut?

1) Fleetwood Mac – Drama, drama, drama. Heck, just the drama around the making of the top-selling “Rumors” album, with the songs all about the members of the band breaking up with each other – Lindsey Buckingham with Stevie Nicks and John and Christine McVie getting divorced, all while Mick Fleetwood lurked in the shadows — would be enough without spreading it out over a period of years. People having to play and sing background vocals about how they should “go their own way” would be worth the price of admission.

2) Carole King – It used to be commonplace for Broadway musicals to successfully transition into feature films. The 1960s alone saw likes of “West Side Story” (1961), “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “Oliver” (1968), but there hasn’t been anything noteworthy since “Chicago” in 2002. For example, “Jersey Boys” (2014) was just average. “Beautiful,” the story about singer-songwriter Carole King is a script with terrific music screaming out to be adapted for the big screen. So adapt it already, will ya?

3) Otis Redding – You may only know him as the “(Sittin’) On The Dock Of The Bay” dude, but there is so much more to his story. For one, his greatest success, the aforementioned No. 1 hit, did not top the charts until after his death in a 1967 plane crash when he was just 26. Although his gospel-inspired singing style inspired many more popular contemporaries, as well as a litany of soul singers to follow, he is only mentioned as an afterthought. A movie delving into his interesting life could bridge that divide. The Georgia native quit school at 15 to help his family by pursuing a music career, and was a married father a month before his 20th birthday. His breakthrough came in 1966, when his version of “Try A Little Tenderness” reached No. 25. As time went on, he began writing a lot of his own material on a beat-up acoustic guitar. The batch of songs included “Respect,” which became Aretha Franklin’s signature anthem. With a gregarious persona, Redding was large in stature (6-1, 220 pounds), athletic and a sharp-dressed man (200 suits, 400 pairs of shoes) who was close to his family and successful entrepreneur. With the right actor in the lead role, this could be a stellar period piece that could introduce more of his lesser known music to the world.

4) Frank Sinatra – Yeah, sure, you are not supposed to mess with the Chairman of the Board. However, he has been dead since I was 30 (1995). That’s a long time ago. The only real dedicated screen time has been a character loosely based on him — Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather,” which apparently drew an assault by Sinatra on Mario Puzo after the book was published. There have also been a few cheesy movies about the Rat Pack, but that’s about it. Let’s just pick a period of Sinatra’s life — like when he has down and out and came back, or his second run of popular success in the 1960s – and start filming tomorrow.

5) Bruce Springsteen – Don’t sigh, don’t moan and groan. You knew this was coming. It actually goes to the point about Carole King and Broadway, as the curtain just fell on Springsteen’s “Bruce on Broadway” run. The show has since been released on Netflix and, to be honest, was hard to get into at first. A lot of his spiel was verbatim from his autobiography or from stories I have heard him tell before. While the Netflix version picked up momentum toward the middle (we still haven’t reached the end), it occurred to me that his words and music are so visual that that maybe a movie of his life – with some selective narration over it – would be a logical next step to cement the legacy.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 27, 2019.