Archive for the Ro-Sham-Bo Award Category

Brain Damage In The NFL? Look No Further Than Your Monday Night Postgame Show On ESPN

Posted in Idiot Alert, NFL Football, Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports with tags , , , , on October 18, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Who needs touchdown passes or breakaway runs when you watch guys suffer brain injuries on cheap shots?

If the announcement by the NFL on Monday that the league would begin to hand down suspensions for head shots was intended to signal an attempt to limit the potential of life-altering — or even life-threatening — brain injuries in the league, then after watching the train wreck that was the post-game show following Monday Night Football, all I can say is that the NFL looks to be way too late.  Listening to Matt Millen and, to a lesser extent, Trent Dilfer, ramble on about the “damage” the NFL’s new stance would somehow do the integrity of the game made me feel about as queasy as I’m thinking DeSean Jackson or Todd Heap felt after they fell victim to two brutal cheap shots on Sunday.

The NFL clearly (to me, at least) is planning on targeting the flagrant, illegal hits that are too often seen in the game today.  We’re living in a world where too many players think the  “immortality” of having your personal highlights replayed over and over on Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN — or on YouTube — is more important than whether or not the team wins, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a mentality among many of those players that’s it’s all important to deliver a bone-crushing hit that makes you the feature on all of the highlight shows at the end of the day.  On its surface, I don’t have a problem with that at all; hard-hitting action is a hallmark of the NFL, and it’s been a part of the game for as long as players have been putting on pads.  Clean hits that separate a player from the ball — and occasionally their senses — are something that shouldn’t be legislated away.  Hits like the one below, for example.

Now that’s a hard, clean hit.  Sheldon Brown of the Eagles didn’t lead with head, didn’t use his metal helmet as a weapon, and didn’t hit Bush in the head.

But concerning the players who do lead with their helmet — a deadly weapon — and purposely do so while aiming at another players head?  That should be completely unacceptable, and the NFL should crack down on players who take cheap shots and hit them where it hurts — with suspensions without pay.  You want to go helmet-to-helmet on another player purposely in an attempt to injure them — a fair analysis of what took place by both Dunta Robinson of the Falcons (on Jackson) and Brandon Meriweather (on Heap)?  Both players should be suspended for as long as their victims can’t play — or longer.  Clearly, 15 yard penalties and fines that amount to chump change aren’t doing the trick to keep the nonsense we saw this weekend off of the field — and if the NFL doesn’t crack down on what’s going on, then we’re going to be witness at some point to another Darryl Stingley incident — or worse, an unnecessary death on the field.

But don’t tell that to Matt Millen or Trent Dilfer.  Unlike Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy, who spoke eloquently on Sunday night at length about the problem, we instead get he circus at ESPN, where overreaction was the word of the night.  It was bad enough to hear guys like Stuart Scott completely missing the point of what the NFL is trying to do by insinuating that any hard hit, regardless of whether it’s legal or not, will somehow result in suspensions.  If you actually pay any attention to what the NFL is saying and if you possess even moderate intelligence (which would apparently make you one step ahead of what passes as journalists at the “worldwide leader in sports” these days), you’d also realize that the league is looking to do nothing resembling that overstep at all.  But listening to the garbage spewing out of Millen’s mouth and the idiocy out of Dilfer’s — and the ignorance out of both — on Monday night left me unable to mute the television fast enough.

Millen and Dilfer get their production notes before going on the air

Tweedledum and Tweedledee seemed completely oblivious to the illegality of the hits that the NFL does want to get rid of, while focusing on all manner of things that the NFL isn’t looking to regulate.  “It’s part of the game!” they kept repeating over and over.  Really?  Using your helmet as a weapon against another player’s head is part of the game that’s encouraged?  Since when?  And if so, then when did playing football morph into something closer to professional wrestling, because to my knowledge, going helmet-to-helmet has warranted an ejection in the league since all the way back in 2007? (Though, good luck finding any past instances when officials have actually enforced that).

No wonder he doesn't have a problem with taking a cheap shot at someone with his helmet as a weapon -- he's had practice doing it already

The lowlight highlight of Millen’s diatribe was his insinuation that there were people (Goodell, presumably) who had never played the game making decision about the game that were ill thought out.  Someone should remind Millen, who has all of his years of NFL playing experience to point to, that when he was in a capacity to make decisions regarding the NFL — in the capacity of Detroit GM — that he acquitted himself so poorly, that one might have thought he was dealing with brain damage already, so maybe he’s not the one to talk.  At least, maybe, without consulting with a neurologist first.  Then again, this a guy who once used his helmet as a weapon in taking a swing at a non-player — New England GM Pat Sullivan — so in turn, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.

Steve Young was the voice of reason on Monday — not surprising, considering his own history with post-concussion syndrome.  He deserves credit for speaking out in an atmosphere filled with machisimo that discourages players from speaking out against anything that might threaten the culture surrounding pro football (the same culture that has led so many players in the past to play with concussions when they should have been nowhere near the field).  Millen and Dilfer, on the other hand, get an dubious double dishonor this week:  An Idiot Alert AND a Ro-Sham-Bo Award.   My only solace is that, in the future, when these two buffoons flash onto my TV screen, it can be my signal to change the channel.

How Do I Know That You’re Lying? Easy — Your Lips Are Moving

Posted in MLB Baseball, News/Current Events, Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2010 by thelasthonestman

That’s it?  The month is over already?  It will be, at least by the time we reach Monday.  February has always been my least favorite month, its brevity only being one of those reasons.  It’s cold, it’s dreary, and its devoid of most sporting activities: football season is over, baseball season hasn’t started yet, I don’t care much about hockey, and basketball doesn’t really start catching my interest until we get to March Madness and the NBA Playoffs.

However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of news about those out-of-season sports making the headlines anyway.  While I plan to address the NFL labor situation at some point next week, for now I’ll aim my daggers at a big story from the baseball world, where Mark McGwire is apparently unhappy with his estranged brother’s decision to publish a book that details his use of performing-enhancing drugs.

Pardon me if I don’t bring out the crying towel in a show of sympathy for the embattled former slugger.  Jay McGwire’s  book, “Mark and Me: Mark McGwire and the Truth Behind Baseball’s Worst-Kept Secret”, is scheduled for publication this Monday, and in it the younger brother of the one-time season HR king debunks McGwire’s claims that his steroid use was only to recover from injuries, and not to enhance his performance.  McGwire is apparently saddened by this, and he’s been quick to remind us that Jay McGwire’s claims aren’t the truth, and again, that he only used steroids to recover from injuries and not to enhance his performance in any way.

Mark McGwire explaining how his steroid use had no effect on his performance, and how it only was used to recover from injury

Well, we’ve heard this tripe before — in the form of  similar wishful fabrications from the other steroid cheats of the era who’ve been brought under the microscope, like Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, and others — and as usual, my only wish would be for someone to stick a towel in someone’s mouth, because I’m just tired of people like McGwire who find it incapable of simply telling the truth, for better or worse.

We all know that your performance was aided by the use of steroids. You do — I do — Tony LaRussa did — your brother did — Jose Canseco did — anyone who’s paid even the slightest bit of attention to the medical revelations over the years as to what steroids give to an athlete and how they help them to gain an advantage over fellow competitors knows.

McGwire wants us to feel sorry for him, he wants us to feel like he was some sort of a victim here, but he’s not at allthe game of baseball was the victim from self-serving, selfish people like McGwire who put their own goals and wishes above what was right and what was for the good of the game.  We’re supposed to believe that he had no choice, that the culture of the game demanded that he join in with the crowd on the steroid path because “everyone else was doing it”?  What a crock — we wouldn’t listen to that sort of lame of excuse if it were coming from our children while sitting in the principal’s office, but we’re supposed to go along with the idea that adults like McGwire and his contemporaries had no other option but to follow the crowd?

What makes that defense the most ludicrous is that there were those did show some backbone — and they were the ones — or as it’s looking more and more like, the few — who chose to stay away from the temptation of steroids.  Frank Thomas did.  Ken Griffey, Jr. was another one — despite the fact that, for the entire second half of his career, he battled numerous career-hindering injuries along the way.  You want me to feel sorry for someone — then how about those guys who did it the right way, who didn’t let the temptation of millions of dollars and the glory of the public lead them into adapting a “whatever it takes” mantra — but who are going to be forever soiled by the guilt of association they have to bear for the failings of others.

Is Jay McGwire a good guy here?  Of course, not — but in a sense he’s doing exactly what his brother did: he’s doing something not prohibited by the current law to make himself some extra green, get his face into the news, and better himself and his own situation — even if it’s not the right thing to do, morally or ethically, and even if it means he takes advantage of someone else along the way.  For Mark McGwire to find this behavior troubling shows that, even while he may not understand what the word “truth” means, he does show a nice grasp of hypocrisy.

In the meantime, until he’s ready to actually come completely clean and to admit that he knew exactly what he was doing when he was on the juice, and that he knew exactly how much his passing of Roger Maris in 1998 was due to that steroid use (just as one example), then my sincere hope is that McGwire just learns to say “no comment” again and shut the hell up.  He’s not doing himself any favors with his continuing efforts to try and play us all for buffoons with short-memories and a propensity to forgive.

Must ... remember ... B.S. ... excuses ...

It’s been pretty obvious that McGwire’s sudden conversion to telling the “truth” at all was a result of his horrible Hall Of Fame voting totals he’s received since he’s been eligible on the ballot, as well as the cold shoulder that the game itself has given him since his embarrassing performance on Capitol Hill.  Not surprisingly, given everything else he’s done to this point, his recent admissions have been — like his steroid use during his playing days — self-serving, first and foremost.  His goal, I’m sure, is to try and work himself back into the good graces of those who vote for Cooperstown — but for now, he’ll have to settle for a well-deserved Ro-Sham-Bo Award instead (for which, thankfully, no drug testing is required).  Enjoy it, Mark — if there’s any justice, that’s all you’ll ever end up ever getting.

No Freeloaders Are Gonna Take My Hard-Earned Cash!

Posted in NFL Football, Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2010 by thelasthonestman

— With the Super Bowl just a day away, we have Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti claiming this week — with a straight face — that several NFL teams are facing financial hardship, as if any of the fat cats that can afford to actually own an NFL team really knows what financial problems are all about anyway. Certainly Bisciotti — with his net worth of over $1.2 billion — doesn’t.

Well, we’ll all make sure to break out the hat to start taking up a collection for poor fools souls like yourself, Mr. Bisciotti.  This posturing by the Ravens owner shouldn’t come as any surprise — he was one of the owners who three years ago derided the CBA that the NFL and the Players Association signed then was a “bad deal”.  Yet despite that, Baltimore president Dick Cass admitted that the club is “doing well compared to other teams around the league. But just because we’re still doing well in revenues, that doesn’t mean we’re generating a lot of profit.”

But if you are generating profit of some amount, then where’s the problem?  Since when does owning an NFL team mean that you’re supposed to be guaranteed a “lot of profit” instead of profit period (or any profit at all)?  And let’s not even go into the reality that, in the cases of almost all of the groups that own NFL franchises (or sports franchises in general), that “losses” on the books — sometimes nothing more than manipulated numbers by a team’s accountants — are often creatively written off at the end of the year.  Or better yet, let’s not forget how much the value of professional sports teams increases by on a regular basis.  Bisciotti’s Ravens, for example, were purchased for $600 million in 2000 and have already increased in value to a staggering $960 million, according to Forbes — the team’s not exactly running you into the poor house, is it Mr. Bisciotti?

Bisciotti relaxing in his luxury suite during a Ravens game

I can’t think of too many people who’d have a problem with turning a tidy $360 million profit on their investment in less than 10 years the way Bisciotti has, but let’s face it — the reason someone gets into the business of professional sports has never been to make money.  It’s always been more about ego than anything else, and even if Bisciotti (and other owners of professional sports franchises) manage to only break even in the time they own a particular franchise, none of them are counting on revenue from their teams to live on — and all of them are still going to rake in a mammoth profit when the time comes that they decide to divest themselves of the venture.

None of that seems to matter to the out-of-touch people who populate the ownership ranks of professional sports, however.  These are the same men who have, over the last several decades, weaseled and extorted huge sums of money from the cities and states that their teams play in in the form of aid for the construction of cash-cow stadiums and other kickbacks like tax breaks — usually under the threat of moving their franchise away if their demands aren’t met.

Make no mistake in thinking that the nonsense being spewed by Bisciotti is anything more than propaganda that you’ll here a lot more of in the upcoming months, as the owners begin their campaign to paint themselves as the “good guys” in their upcoming war with the NFL Players Association, a conflict which — as imbecilic as one would imagine, considering the obscene amount of money that everyone in the NFL, players and owners alike, are raking in — is looking inevitable.  A lockout in 2011 is looming — and even though Commissioner Roger Goodell is claiming otherwise, the fact that the NFL will take in $5 billion of television money in that year even if no games are ever played should tell you that — just like we’ve seen from his Wall Street and banking brethren of late — if his lips are moving, he’s probably lying.

With so many average, hard-working Americans watching their livelihoods put at risk by a faltering economy, I’ve got no tolerance for the greedy league stooges and shills like Bisciotti crying financial hardship — and neither should you.  If he NFL ends up shutting down in 2011, I’ll have no sympathy for any of the main participants (owners and players alike).  While the Lombardi Trophy gets awarded tomorrow, I’ll present a Ro-Sham-Bo Award to the Ravens owner today — hopefully, he’s not under the impression that there’s a lot of profit ahead for him in owning it.

Quick Notes For Thursday — And The Ro-Sham-Bo Award Returns

Posted in NBA Basketball, News/Current Events, Politics, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by thelasthonestman

While I’ll be here tomorrow with your NFL Conference Title Game picks, a few quick notes for today:

— It’s been since early summer that I gave out a Ro-Sham-Bo Award, the last “winner” coming before my fall hiatus.  As a reminder for those just joining us, the Ro-Sham-Bo Award is inspired by South Park (and Ro-Sham-Bo legend, Eric Cartman) and is given out to the person or entity who most deserves, in my humble opinion, to be kicked in the nuts (symbolically, if need be) due to their sheer idiocy, incompetence, arrogance, etc.  Consider it my own little contribution to pointing out the sad fact that our planet is sometimes home to some really stupid people and things (a link to previous winners is here).

The lack of Ro-Sham-Bo goodness lately was a result of me just not getting around to restarting the “honor”, but if I was waiting for a great candidate to revive the award in 2010, I couldn’t have asked for a better one than the announcement of the formation of the All-American Basketball Alliance — which just so happens to be a basketball league intended for white players only.

Eric Cartman wearing the officially licensed apparel of Moose Lewis' AABA

Actually not just whites only, as the league membership requirement is that players are “natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race” only; sorry, Dirk Nowitski and Steve Nash — you’re not invited!  The league is being headed by Don “Moose” Lewis, who claims that “There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing … I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.”

I hate to break this to you, Don — but I’m pretty sure that nearly no one plays real fundamental basketball anymore, no matter what race, creed, or color they happen to be.   And the formation of any league with the requirements of this one sounds like something you might have read about in an 1810 newspaper, not a 2010 one.  Instead of handing out an MVP award for this nonsense, we can give out 2010’s initial Ro-Sham-Bo Award to Lewis instead — and hope this “league” doesn’t get any further along than it is already (a safe bet, since no town or city so far wants anything to do with it).

Thanks to my friend and regular reader Steven for pointing this story out to me.

— Speaking of basketball, it’s a sport that I don’t talk a lot about here — mainly because I just don’t follow it with the zeal that I do baseball and football.  It’s not that I’m not a big fan, but it’s more in a casual sense.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been putting a lot more effort into my basketball knowledge in the last two years, because I have — playing in a fantasy basketball league will make you do that — but I usually don’t want to talk at length about a subject I’ll only be showing my ignorance in (cue the obligatory “But why would that stop you now?” joke here).

Porn star or Magic basketball coach? Only his fluffer knows for sure.

That said, a web site I’ve discovered called Basketbawful has been incredibly entertaining reading for me (again, thanks to Steven for initially finding the blog and pointing it out to me).  The blog is an enjoyable look at the worst that can be found in the NBA on a regular basis (hey — I wonder if Moose Lewis is a fan?), and it takes humorous pokes at everything from the New Jersey Nyets to Ron Jeremy look-a-like, Stan Van Gundy.  For those of you like me who like your sports to sometimes be a little less serious, this is a great read that’s updated daily.  I recommend it highly, and not only will you be entertained —  like myself, you’ll find yourself learning more about the NBA and its players along the way.

— Another strong candidate for a Ro-Sham-Bo award this week was former North Carolina senator and presidential candidate John Edwards finally admitting what was one of the worst-kept secrets in political circles:  that he is the father of a two year-old girl with former campaign videographer, Rielle Hunter.

Edwards had at first steadfastly denied having an affair with Hunter, after the news of which broke in the pages of the tabloid, the National Enquirer.  Even after his presidential bid went up in smoke and he finally copped to the affair — which continued even as his wife Elizabeth was diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer that doctors have told her is incurable — Edwards was vehement in denying that Hunter’s child was his own.  Today, finally, he’s fessed up to the truth (though he had essentially done so already in private, having apparently provided child support for his daughter starting a year ago).

Pictured here: Rooms John Edwards will never be able to cheat on his wife in

Edwards is saying — or at least his personal advisor, Harrison Hickman, is (since Edwards isn’t talking himself) — that Edwards only want to be a “good father” and a “good person again”.  Well, good luck with that, I guess.  When you’ve got a person who lied to his wife, lied to his family, trashed his marriage vows, and essentially abandoned (on an emotional level, at least, a life partner at the moment they were/are facing their own mortality), then as far as a scale of behavior by human beings go, you’ve only can go up from there.  Forgive me if Edwards’ conversion to the truth rings somewhat hollow — and I’ll say a private thanks that someone with his decision-making process will never get within a thousand feet of the Oval Office unless he’s got an invitation (or takes a White House tour).

I Know Enough To Exploit It

Posted in Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Television with tags , , , , on June 2, 2009 by thelasthonestman

cartman and his mother

Let’s get this straight before we start — I do not watch reality TV.  And I most certainly do not watch Jon & Kate Plus 8, the reality show on TLC that details the lives of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their sextuplets.

But I don’t have to watch the show to know about them and the mess they’ve made of their lives, thanks to the controversies around the couple — allegations of infidelity at the forefront — now beginning to seep into the daily news sources that I peruse on a regular basis.  It’s an assault on the senses that isn’t just limited to the tabloids in view when you’re in line at your local checkout, but now even “reputable” news sources are covering this mess of a family.

One can almost insert their own punchline and come up with some new names for the show if they choose to keep it going at this point:  How about these:  Jon & Kate Plus 8 = Ten Children & No Adults, Jon & Kate Plus 8 … Plus The Mistress and the Boy Toy, or Jon & Kate Plus 8 Minus Half Of The Stuff Following the Divorce?

Are those in bad taste?  Well, they couldn’t be in any more bad taste than the show itself at this point, which — no matter what the original intent of it was — has evolved into what will be either a sham display of togetherness solely for the sake of higher ratings, or a uncomfortable, close-up at the disintegration of a family in real-time — again, all in the name of higher ratings.  Of course, the other intent involves a weekly paycheck for the duo — not to mention, a continuation of this “couple’s” fifteen minutes of fame.

If you watched this reality show, you were dumber for the experience -- though still not as dumb as Paris and Nicole

If you watched this reality show, you were dumber for the experience -- though still not as dumb as Paris and Nicole

From my own perspective, I’ve often questioned what type of person puts themselves on display in the genre of the reality show to begin with.  I’m not talking about reality shows that happen to be about a celebrity, as those are an entirely different scenario altogether (and more a case of said celebrity trying to promote themselves, which is half  of what being a celebrity is all about in the first place).  I’m talking about those shows focusing on “regular” people.  As an example of those, my wife loves to watch ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette — me, I can’t stomach these shows, as I’m completely convinced that almost all of the participants are in it for nothing resembling true love, but for everything resembling self-promotion and the pathetic attempts to create some form of celebrity for themselves.

The show Jon & Kate Plus 8 — which started airing in 2007 (three years after the couple’s sextuplets were born) — may at one time been born of honest, well-meaning intentions.  Maybe there was a time when there might have been some positive aspect to a viewing audience being granted a close look at the lives of a couple in the unusual position of raising eight young children (though what that might have been, I’ll admit to being at a loss — but I’ll play along).  But whenever that time may have been, it’s long gone now, as it’s clear to everyone watching that the couple — and by extension, their family — are facing huge issues in the future as Jon and Kate Gosselin struggle to save their marriage.

But one has to wonder if that — or the well-being of their children — is even at the forefront of what this couple views as their priority list at this point.  You could be forgiven for thinking that continuing their runs as “celebrities” is more important for either of them than anything else.  It’s what their own family members are not only thinking themselves, but are starting to say publicly.  Kate Gosselin’s brother-in-law has expressed his concern over his nieces and nephews being turned into a “commodity”, with their every actions televised for the world to see.  Her sister-in-law has gone as far as to call the entire show “staged”, which would make it less of a look at a family and more of a fictionalized sham designed to maximize ratings and create a perception of the couple that is little more than a Hollywood creation.  Even the Pennsylvania Department of Labor is getting into the act, investigating whether or not the show is violating child labor laws by using the children in the show.

It's all the media's fault -- that's why we're smiling for this picture for the network!

It's all the media's fault -- that's why we're smiling for this picture for the network!

Meanwhile, with a world of controversy swirling around them, the couple has decided to blame — wait for it — the media for their problems.  “It kills me”, says Kate, talking about the exposure of the couple’s marital problems in the tabloids.  Husband Jon claims innocence in regards to the accusations of his marital straying, also pointing the finger at the media as a supposed culprit — as if the media were the ones forcing him out at 2 AM with women other than his wife.

Granted, as I’ve said, I’m not exactly the foremost authority on the reality show genre — but didn’t they invite the media into their lives in the first place when they decided to do this show?  Weren’t they the ones who wanted the cameras there to record their lives in the most minute details?  Oops — I guess I missed the part where the deal involved only those things that made them look good, or those things that put money into their pockets.  Silly me.

I don’t have any sympathy for this pair of fame-grabbers — if their priorities are so out of whack as to lead them into the personal messes they seem destined to enter, then so be it.  They’re getting what they deserve, even if their fame is now a double-edged sword that’s turned out to not be what they expected it would.  My sympathies are for the children, who really have never had a “normal” childhood up until now — and who certainly won’t have one as the media circus around the couple intensifies.  They’re the ones who are the innocents in this, and the emotional trauma they’re likely going to be subjected to is something no child should have to bear.

Coming up on next week's episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8

Coming up on next week's episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8

Obviously, if Jon and Kate Gosselin really cared about their children, they would have told TLC to take their cameras and shove them — contractual commitments be damned — while retreating out of the public eye, giving them the opportunity to focus on saving their marriage and protecting their family from harm.  But of course, they’re not doing that, but instead are plowing ahead with a new season of the show, exposing their children to the prying eyes of a viewing public that’s watching each week with the mindset of a racing fan who tunes in only for the horrific wrecks.  And what a wreck this might end up being for everyone involved.

You see, Jon & Kate won’t walk away — even if it’s in their family’s best interests — because if they do so, their time as “celebrities” and all of the perks that provides, will come to an ignominious end.  And their actions are showing to the world that fame, money, and celebrity are really what matters most to them both.  If there were any justice, the show’s ratings would collapse, leaving the couple and TLC with a failing show deserving of cancellation — but of course, we live in a world where justice is sadly lacking more often than not;  Jon & Kate Plus 8 drew a huge audience for its season premiere, numbering almost 10 million voyeurs (more than double the ratings for the previous season’s finale).

But while the show may never win an Emmy, and the stars won’t win any “Parents of the Year” awards anytime soon, they can take pride in receiving this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo honors (with an dishonorable mention going out to their sponsor, TLC).  And while they might be tempted to give the media some credit for this distinction dishonor, I can assure you — they earned it all on their own.

When You Don’t Have Something Good To Say — Then Say It In A Wrap-Up Instead

Posted in News/Current Events, Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award, Sports, Television, The Wrapups on May 28, 2009 by thelasthonestman

We’re getting ready to go into the weekend, but with my Friday pretty much spoken for already due to other commitments, I decided to get something up for your enjoyment today.  As is always the case with my wrap-up entries, here’s a handful of things not worthy of their own lengthy musings, but still worth mentioning:

The NBA is NOT going to let me lose in 5 games -- just you wait and see.

The NBA is NOT going to let me lose in 5 games -- just you wait and see.

— If I were a betting man, I would be putting everything I could on a Cleveland victory tonight in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  It’s been clear to me that, sadly for Cavaliers fans, Orlando is the better team right now, or at least they match up with Cleveland in a way that even LeBron James’ brilliance hasn’t been able to overcome.  Indeed, if not for that tremendous buzzer-beater by King James at the end of Game 2, this series would already have ended in a sweep.

So why my love for Cleveland tonight?  Let’s face it — the NBA wants a Cleveland-Los Angeles NBA Finals, and with it, a Kobe-LeBron match-up.  And in the past, what the NBA wants — it tends to get, usually with the help of some questionable officiating to nudge things along in the preferred direction.  Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist?  Maybe — but I’ve also seen too many NBA games over the years — particularly crucial playoffs games — influenced by incompetent (or shady) officials in a way that has been an embarrassment to the league.

No matter what David Stern or any other NBA executive might say publicly, the league is counting on the Kobe-LeBron pairing; a Orlando-Denver Finals might cause Stern’s head to actually explode if it somehow came to pass.  But it won’t.  Not unless both the Magic and the Nuggets manage to completely outclass their opposition in the remaining games ahead.

The Lakers are safe — they’ll probably lose Game 6 but will win Game 7 in Los Angeles.  Cleveland, however, is looking at a daunting task — coming back down 3-1 in a series will require a Herculean effort, particularly since, as I’ve said already, the Magic look to be the better team to boot.

Not to say they won’t get some help from the officials — at least enough that the series won’t end tonight.  Back home for Game 5, the Cavaliers would be a favorite anyway, but I’ll repeat myself by saying that I’d put anything I could on Cleveland winning tonight, no matter what type of odds I had to lay.  The true test of the NBA’s — errrr — interest — in who wins this series will more than likely come down to Game 6 back in Orlando.  I’m willing to predict now that I’d be absolutely stunned if that game (assuming it happens) doesn’t have some of the Usual Officiating Suspects working the game, and I’m already calling the game out ahead of time as a candidate for one of the worst officiated contests you’ll see in the playoffs (which when you’re talking about the NBA, the league with the worst officiating of all the major sports, is saying something).  To win, Orlando’s going to not just have to be better than Cleveland — they’re going to have to be a whole lot better.  Can they be?  We’ll see in the next few days.

Meanwhile, with an always interesting take on the NBA and its officiating problems, check out this column by Bill Simmons on ESPN.  As always, it’s an entertaining read.

Better this than a steady diet of reality television

Better this than a steady diet of reality television

— It’s taken every bit of resolve I could muster not to publish a Ro-Sham-Bo Award entry mid-week, instead of waiting until Monday to unveil  it.  The piece is already partly written and I could have easily finished it for publication either yesterday or today — but I managed to resist the temptation and held off.  I almost wish I hadn’t said on Sunday that I wouldn’t be handing out the hardware this week due to the holiday — I could have just given out a belated set of honors and gotten this piece up.

But this will give you something to wait for, and trust me when I say, I’m not going to have any less venom for this upcoming week’s losers winners.  The beauty about the Ro-Sham-Bo pieces is that they tend to inflame my own passions so much, taht not striking while the initial idea hits me usually does nothing to lessen the intensity of my commentary — or the fun I have in putting the piece together.

In the meantime, until Monday, here’s your only hint about the subject matter:  it has to due with Reality Television, which as a rule, I absolutely abhor.  And by the time Monday is over, you should have a good idea why.  If you’ve been watching some of the past week’s current events, you probably have a good idea as to who I’ll be discussing, but that shouldn’t keep you from tuning in next week anyway.

It's like Robin Hood robbing from the rich to give to the poor -- except in reverse

It's like Robin Hood robbing from the rich to give to the poor -- except in reverse

— So Congress recently enacted some even tougher limitations on issuers of credit cards.  What does that mean to you, the good customer who’s paid their bills on times and has never missed payments or threatened to go into default?  Well, more than likely,  it means that it’s you who’s going to get screwed — again — by lenders trying to make up for a string of their own bad decisions.

As this MSN article details, there’s going to be a lot of changes ahead for people who use credit cards, and unfortunately, any of the good that might have come from the bill President Obama signed will get wiped away by the credit card issuers attempt to squeeze more money out of the people who really don’t deserve that type of treatment: the customers who have done the right things when it comes to using credit responsibly.  Get ready for high annual fees, jacked-up interest rates, a loss of rewards programs, and other new charges — even if you’ve never missed a payment or have done nothing but pay your bills on time.

We can lament the unfairness of all of this — after all, it’s not your fault or mine that so many of these lenders made the decision to issue credit to risks who clearly shouldn’t have gotten it in the first place — but the lending institutions have already essentially made it clear that they intend to make up for these losses on the backs of their good customers.  So — what to do?

As the article I linked to advises, clear away as much of your debt as possible as a start.  Then, stop using the cards of companies who plan to take advantage of you, the responsible consumer.  If they can’t or won’t treat you better, then they don’t deserve your business.

From my end, I’ve already detailed my own battles with Bank of America and Chase National when it came to their raising my APR without cause and basically attempting to bend me over to make up for their losses elsewhere.  Currently, those accounts remain open, but with no balances attached — meaning there’s no interest for them to collect from me on any given month.  There are no annual fees (so far) on either account, and my wife and I are not even using them for our day-to-day transactions like we used to (that spending now is done on a different account or with our debit card).  Essentially, their greed cost them the substantial business they were getting from me.  However, since I’m worried about their closing our accounts due to inactivity (another tactic currently being used by credit card companies), I do plan to begin using each of them again shortly — to pay 0.01 a month on my television satellite bill on-line (an option I believe is available).  That way, my account will actually begin to cost them money to maintain — proper justice, in my eyes, for my crappy treatment from them.

If you’ve been unfairly treated by your card issuers, then find a way to stop giving them your business.  If enough of their “valued” customers begin to desert them, then hopefully the message that treating their best customers like crap isn’t the way run their business will start to sink in.

— I’ll try to be back over the weekend with another edition of my fantasy baseball column and then again on Monday with my Ro-Sham-Bo entry.  We’ll see you back then.

In This Nancy Drew Mystery, Nancy Goes To The Beach And Gets Sand Trapped In Her Shoe … This Could Explain How Kyle Got It In His Vagina.

Posted in Personal, Rants, Ro-Sham-Bo Award with tags on May 18, 2009 by thelasthonestman

So better late than never, we have the background behind the mystery I alluded to a couple of weeks back regarding a dispute between me and a financial institution.  While the situation was handled properly in the end, that won’t stop me from still ridiculing the two guys who did absolutely nothing to resolve matters for me — the Dumb and Dumber duo of Kyle and Darren: Customer Service representatives for Wells Fargo.

Kyle and Darrin at the company Christmas Party

Kyle and Darren at the company Christmas Party

A little bit of background is in order here.  My business dealings with Wells Fargo have been limited, but beneficial for both parties.  In the process of remodeling my house, I’ve needed to replace furniture in several rooms along the way; in fact, my wife and I had utilized various hand-me-downs and donations from our families over the years, putting off the purchase of new furniture until after the remodeling was actually completed.  A little more than a year ago, we had broken down and bought some badly-needed living room furniture to replace our worn-out, twenty-five year old set.  We had found a beautiful set we liked at Rooms-To-Go, and what made the purchase and even easier decision to make was that the store was running a promotion at the time we were shopping — no interest and no payments for one year.  Simply put, so long as we paid the furniture off before the promotional period expired, we’d have no interest to pay.

Since we were still allotting money to various other stages of renovation around the home, this option made plenty of sense, as it allowed us to get the furniture home immediately, while the plan was to pay in full for it several months later, when our finances would accommodate the large purchase better.  And that was exactly what we did, as I made two large payments to zero out the balance two months before the promotional period had ended.

Our financing wasn’t actually with Rooms-To-Go, as it turned out — but with Wells Fargo, who I assume handles all of the financing for the furniture store’s customers.  This didn’t present any sort of headache, as I was able to make my payments on line without any issues.  So far, so good — right?  Well it was — at least until the day I headed out to the mailbox and found a surprise waiting for me.

As it turns out, Wells Fargo had sent me a Visa card with a substantial limit attached to it.  Not a offer for a credit line, but an actual pre-approved, ready-to-be-activated card in hand — all I needed to do was to call the number on the back and I was in business.  Now I hadn’t actually requested this credit line, and I made a call to Wells Fargo to find out why the card had been shipped to me.  It was explained then that the credit line had been given to me because of my excellent standing with Wells Fargo, and that I was under no obligation to activate the account;  it was simply there for the taking if I wanted to take advantage of it.

While I wasn’t surprised by their explanation for my receiving it  — after all, I did already show the ability to them to make a large purchase (the furniture) with no problem paying it back quickly — I didn’t feel the need to actually open the account.  I already had lines of credit that I used, and I didn’t see the need to add another one to them.

Over time, however, I got extremely frustrated with some of the other lending institutions I had business dealings with.  Readers of the site from the beginning probably remember my earlier frustrations regarding some shady practices involving APR’s and Bank of America and Chase;  in those cases, my wife and I simply paid our balances in full and stopped using the accounts, choosing to opt out of the APR increases.  While both accounts have remained open, we had been obviously hesitant to use them, a circumstance that made the idea of opening another account more attractive to me.  When I got a second Visa card shipped in the mail to me — and after fielding multiple calls from Wells Fargo customer service representatives attempting to entice me into activating the account — I finally decided to go ahead and do so.  I had discovered that the account was already showing up on my credit report anyway, as it turns out, so I had little reason to not take advantage of it at this point.

So a month or so back on a Friday, I went on-line and activated the account successfully.  In an incredible coincidence, I got another call from a Wells Fargo representative who was inquiring to me about activating the account no less than five minutes later.  She had been making a courtesy call to me, and after I told her I’d just activated the account minutes before, we both had a good laugh about her timing.  She thanked me for doing so, we discussed the possibility of using Wells Fargo for the refinancing of my home (something my wife and I had been looking into doing, in order to take advantage of dropping rates), and we went on our ways.  Later that day, I used the card for the first time, purchasing a new cell phone for my wife.

Here’s where the fun begins.

I told my wife a diamond-studded phone was going overboard, but she just wouldn't listen

I told my wife a diamond-studded phone was going overboard, but she just wouldn't listen

On that Sunday — two days later — my wife attempted to make a purchase at Office Depot totaling under $15 — and she was declined.  This completely befuddled us, as the total purchase cost of the phone and these office supplies was nowhere in the vicinity of the credit limit I’d been given on the account.

I made a call to the customer service number on the back of the card, but to no avail, as there was no human to answer questions at that time of day on a weekend.  When I checked the account on-line, however, I did discover that the credit limit had been mysteriously lowered to $0.  While this didn’t make any sense, I figured there had been some mix-up somewhere that I’d be able to easily fix the next morning.

Wrong.  And this is where my real story begins, with a Wells Fargo customer service representative named Kyle.

When I called on Monday morning, Kyle was the first guy I talked to.  After getting all of the appropriate information on me and my account, he casually informed me that my account had been closed due to inactivity.  Incredulous, I informed Kyle that my account had just been opened on Friday, and that it had been used to make a purchase that same day.  Inactive?  Did not using it Saturday as well count as inactivity somehow?

Talking to this guy would have been more helpful

Talking to this guy would have been more helpful

Kyle went on to tell me that there was nothing that he could do about the situation, and he tried to use as an explanation that the decision to close my account had been made sometime on Friday after I’d used it.  When I told him that my purchase had been made late in the afternoon — past 5:00 Central time — and that it was practically impossible for any decision like that to be made after that time headed into a weekend — was I to believe that there were actually people in that capacity working then? — Kyle changed his story, now claiming that the decision had been made prior to my opening the account on Friday and actually using it.

With this reply, my next question, obviously, was in asking why Wells Fargo had actually allowed me to open the account in the first place if the decision was already in place to close it?  And worse yet, if a decision had been made to close my account prior to Friday, why in God’s name was someone from Wells Fargo calling me on Friday to get me to open the account?  How, I asked Kyle, did that make any sense?  Realizing that his conflicting stories on the chain of events had out him in an impossible situation, Kyle began to dodge my questions entirely, instead repeating over and over that there was nothing he could do to assist me, and telling me that if I wanted to reapply for the credit line, he could do that with me over the phone.

Well, since I hadn’t necessarily even wanted the credit line to begin with, I wasn’t going through the hassle of reapplying for it — but it was a matter of principle for me at this point, and I certainly wanted some sort of explanation for the left-hand-doesn’t-know-what-the-right-hand-is-doing sort of business practices that Wells Fargo was apparently engaged in.  So I politely thanked Kyle for — well, for absolutely doing nothing to help me — and got myself transferred to a supervisor — which is where Darren enters our tale.

After a lengthy delay on hold (where I assumed Darren was being filled in on the ludicrous chain of events so far), I got to go to round two of my battle with the ignorant customer service reps.  I calmly explained the situation to Darren and told him I just wanted a few simple explanations to my questions:

1)  Why were representatives of Wells Fargo calling me — persistently — to open an account if another group of representatives from the company were planning to close it??

2)  Why, if the decision was already made to close my account, was I allowed to even open it in the first place after said decision was in place?  And if that wasn’t the case, then how could an account open and used within 48 hours be “inactive”?

3)  Why had the previous representative I talked to given me conflicting accounts of the decision time-line, and why had he refused to address or answer any of my questions about these conflicting decisions?

Darren’s answer to me?  Basically, it was to go fuck myself.

Words for Darren to live by

Words for Darren to live by

He may have not said it in so many words, but throughout our conversation, the level of disdain he showed for having to deal with me over the phone, and the pompous attitude he carried throughout our discussion might as well have been the same thing.  Darren also refused to address any of the inconsistent or baffling decision-making process that had apparently taken place — except to say that the pleasant young woman I had talked to on Friday (the one who’d called me to activate the account) was clearly an incompetent who didn’t have all of the information or the facts, and that she clearly hadn’t known what she was talking about (a key point to the eventual resolution, so don’t forget this).

Darren also offered no solutions other than allowing me to reapply for the account, and he took the opportunity to chide me for me being unrealistic about my demands, telling me “We are in the business of making money, you know.”  I reminded him that, according to what I’ve seen every day in the financial sections, Wells Fargo hasn’t been doing too good of a job at that at all.  Needless to say, Darren didn’t like that comment, nor did he like it when I reminded him that idiotic decision-making processes like this one were a large reason why banks like Wells Fargo have been taking a ton of taxpayer money to bail themselves out — and it made practices like this inexcusable.  “Well, that’s your opinion,” was his curt response.  “No — it’s pretty much everyone’s opinion,” was my answer to him.

I decided not to go over Darren’s head to his supervisor, but instead I tried another tactic:  I called back the woman I had talked to on Friday — and boy, was I happy I did.  As it turns out, she wasn’t an “incompetent who didn’t have all of the information or the facts” — but rather, she was the Assistant Branch Manager of the local Wells Fargo office.  As it turns out, not only had she known what she was talking about, but she was absolutely appalled at the treatment I’d gotten from the two idiots I had talked to already — and she was not surprisingly pissed at having her “ignorance” as the cause for the whole problem.  After getting the names and the employee identification numbers of Kyle and Darren from me, she assured me she’d get to the bottom of the problem promptly.

The good news out of all of this?  The local Wells Fargo rep turned out to be the hero of the piece, reactivating the account for me with the full credit line and apologizing for the behavior of the two morons I had to deal with.  While I never got a complete explanation as to why the misunderstanding had occurred, she agreed with me that Kyle and Darren had handled it completely incorrectly — and that she had reported their actions to the proper people so that it would hopefully never happen again.  My business relationship with Wells Fargo was salvaged thanks to her going the extra mile, and while the whole scenario could have ended with me bad-mouthing Wells Fargo to anyone who’d listen, I now can say I’m fine with the way the whole situation was handled in the end.

The moral of the story?  When you’re faced with an idiotic situation by a company you’re dealing with, if you have a valid point to contest, then someone with the company should be willing to help you — you just have to find the right person.  Think of the most of the first couple of levels of customer service reps as being the pawns on a chessboard — they’re not really powerful pieces, and they can be sacrificed to achieve the ultimate goal if necessary.  You need to get to king and the queen if you want to get some results, which will probably result in you spending a lot of wasted time on the phone wading through those people who will be completely unhelpful — but the results will be well worth it, as I can attest.

But what about Kyle and Darren?  I don’t know how much trouble they actually got into, and I frankly don’t care — I wasn’t looking to get anyone in hot water, but it was their actions that would have been responsible for that, and nothing I did.  While neither of them is likely ever going to be competent enough to be eligible for an Employee of the Month award, they do have this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo Award to split.  And I promise, guys — I won’t rescind it in a couple of days either, no matter what anyone else says.