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Utah Jazz Week Journal Part 3: Is Rooting For…

Saturday night I travelled with two buddies and fellow comedians Jim Dodge and, as of Tuesday at 6pm on the Game Show Network,Newlywed Show contestant Pat Breslin.  Both of them are Philadelphia 76er fans and we went to the game last year (along with approximately 50 other people in the emptiest arena ever for a professional, non-WNBA sporting event.  The Jazz won easily.  But this year I had a lot more concern.  The jazz had lost three straight games to the Wizards (awful), the Nets (more awful) and the Celtics (respectable, but awful because of the previous two losses).  After seeing the Jazz go 5-0 in the five games I attended last year I was unsure if they could stop from going 0-3, even if the 76ers suck.  My concern was well founded.

This is the only image I saw this week that had a member of the Utah Jazz doing anything with authority.

The Jazz sucked something awful.  They are playing basketball with the same enthusiasm that I send out booking e-mails.  Despite rooting for the team since I was 7 I am pretty much ready to write off this season.  However I was still trying to figure out the possible reason for the incredibly awful play of the Jazz.  Is it because I am a Yankee fan and at some point one has to pay a price for rooting for the Goldman Sachs of sports?  Probably not.  Or is it the fact that I am a Pittsburgh Steeler fan?  Is a 4 game losing streak the price to pay for rooting for a rapist to win one playoff game?  Maybe – what I fear is that it may be a mathematical equation then.  Perhaps x = number of rape allegations and you raise that to y, which is the number of playoff wins you want?  So if the bye week counts as 1 playoff win and the Steelers win against the Ravens is another then that would explain a 4 game losing streak.

X(Roethlisberger sex assault allegations) to the Y(Steeler playoff wins needed) power = number of Jazz losses

So bad news for Jazz fans, I am rooting for a 16 game losing streak.  The bad news is it looks like that is definitely possible the way they are playing.  The good news is the Steelers 7th Super Bowl is looking more and more likely.  The Jazz are at the Lakers for their next game.

Rooting for his team may be costing my other teams a lot in the karma department.
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The Real Audience of New Jersey

Last night I performed on a show in Hoboken at a bar & grill named Busker’s.  I have performed many times in Hoboken before (Pat Breslin, Jim Dodge and I ran a show for about 2 years at The Goldhawk) and have found the crowds almost always good.  Quick reference for what makes a crowd good:

1) They shut the fu*k up.

2) The get basic news and cultural references.

3) The do not want to fight the comedian.

Basic and simple requirements for a good audience.  Well, back to Busker’s…

So I take the stage and I am the third comic on stage (including the emcee) so by now a normal crowd is warmed up, or at least understands that they are at a comedy show.  I open my set with my bit about big n tall stores, which offends almost no one, is a clean bit and has been consistently (every time for the past year) working.  Well – it got some tepid applause and a few stares like I was either speaking too quickly or speaking the wrong language.

So then I go into my bit about breast cancer awareness month and as it relates to the NFL and more specifically Ben Roethlisburger, quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Some key point I make during this 90 second bit:

  1. Ben Roethlisberger is quarterback for the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Ben Roethlisberger raped women
  3. Michael Vick served 2 years for killing dogs, but Roethlisberger, who has “rape chicks” as a bulletpoint on his resume served no time and was suspended a measly 4 games
  4. The NFL could have spent the millions of dollars they spent on outfitting players with pink wristbands and cleats on something more productive, like breast cancer research or keeping thei quarterbacks from raping people with breasts.

When the bit was finished, once again to record low laughs – though there was some – a woman, or more specifically a stupid woman, says: “Who is Ben Roethlisberger?”  Here is the exchange that followed:

JLC: I just said he is a pro football quarterback who rapes chicks!  See you can’t listen for five seconds every five minutes because you will lose things along the way like information and jokes.

Dumb Woman: But if he raped women he should be in jail.

JLC: excellent point (crowd laughing) – you are right – see I was making that exact point, but I was using something called sarcasm, which is where I state the opposite of what I mean, but in a way that is so obvious that only the dumbest person could not pick up on the fact that I mean the opposite of what I am saying,

DW: Ohhh – just keep doing sports jokes – tee hee (not her actual laugh, but that is the laugh of a dumb chick who thinks she is smarter than you).

I left her alone at that point because she was too dumb to insult effectively.  Referring to Ben Roethlisberger’s rape allegations as a “sports story” is slightly less embarrassing than someone saying they never heard of OJ Simpson because they never saw The Naked Gun.  But like much of America, when someone doesn’t understand something or know something she decided to mock me and make it like it was my comedy that was defective.   I was tempted to go after her more because it is rare in life that you get a full throttle opportunity to destroy someone who represents part of the essence of what you hate in the world, but just one night earlier a club owner told me I have to make a conscious effort not to be a dick on stage.  So I took a deep breath and moved on to my next bit.  Not one line into the next bit some older, leathery skinned woman who’s claim to fame is probably sleeping with a security guard for Skid Row in 1988 let her opinion be known as to my next premise by saying, “That’s not funny.”  Here is THAT exchange:

JLC: But I have not gotten into the joke yet

Tanned Whore: It’s Not Funny

At this point I start to lose my train of thought so I jump into a verbally clean bit, but one that is highly offensive (even I will admit that), which got some laughs from some of the crowd and the other comedians.  But TW kept yapping.

JLC: God comedy is great, sometimes you tell jokes on stage and other times you want to wrap the mic cord around someone’s neck.

TW: Bring it on!

JLC: (inner thought) Hitting women is 100% wrong, despicable, evil and totally justified in rare cases – the rare case where the woman actually and literally asks for it.

Calm down – I did not assault the woman.  I would never do that – but I am in the process of hiring a female ex con as my bodyguard and instructing her that she can assault women that I feel threaten me.  Because then it is just two women fighting and that is OK, even if one of the women is over two hundred pounds and has facial hair.

JLC: You are ruining the show for your boyfriend.

TW: He’s not my boyfriend.  We’re just friends.

JLC: Lucky man -dodged a bullet.  But I guess we’ll all be able to catch you on your new Bravo series – The Real Cu*ts of New Jersey.

I was informed my show already exists on Bravo, but they call them "Housewives."

And then I walked off stage.  Probably not a good start to finding the kinder, gentler J-L.  But comedian Andy Kaufman gained fame by wrestling women so maybe there’s still an avenue open to me.

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Can Skin Color Be An “Image Problem?” The NFL…

Yesterday on ESPN.com there was a poll asking, “which sports league is has the most damaged image?”  The poll results of over 60,000 respondents were as follows:

  • NHL (hockey) – 2%
  • MLB (baseball) – 6%
  • NBA (basketball) – 33%
  • NFL (football) – 60%

Now I agree that football must be number one, but the 33% that selected the NBA make me curious, especially when compared to the 6% that thought baseball had the worst image.  Baseball is of course the sport that has been/is rife with drug abuse and performance enhancement that prompted congressional hearings.  But perhaps people just don’t care that much anymore, but having your entire league called dirty would seem to be pretty damaging.  And it cannot hurt when 90% of your league is Latino and White (a/k/a not black).

Hockey can be dismissed as statistically insignificant since the only people who picked it had to have been hocky-only fans or people just goofing around.

That leaves the NFL and the NBA accounting for 93% of the image problems.  The NBA has had its image problems, but only two incidents stick out in the last decade – the Kobe Bryant rape allegations and the melee in Detroit a few years ago.  Both bad, but the Bryant allegations stemmed from a willing sexual partner, who went to his room and then alleged unwanted forms of sex.  If true, then Bryant is still a rapist, but there is a boatload of reasonable doubt there.  As for the melee in Detroit, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson are batsh*t crazy, but they were assaulted first (via soda cup).  And who can forget Jermain O’Neal’s sliding punch during that melee – it would have made Jackie Chan proud!

But that is really all that has made headlines for the NBA recently.  Sure 10 years ago there was the “Who’s My Daddy?” story in the NBA about paternity issues and that still is a major issue, but is it more prevalent than the NFL?  Other stories from the NBA recently have been aboutgreat superstars playing great basketball.  Allen Iverson struggling with alcohol addiction would probably seem sadder if did not look like people’s image of a gangbanger. 

Now I am writing this not about the 40,000 people that answered that football was having the biggest image problem, but the 20,000 random ESPN.com visitors who picked the NBA.  How can you pick the NBA as having a worse image than the NFL (and with the recency effect I would expect these numbers are actually higher, given that the NFL has the more recent scandals, than they would be if the timing were equal)?  Here’s some “evidence”:

Who’s My Daddy

The reigning king of paternity is Travis Henry with 9 kids by 9 women by the age of 28. The New York Jets new cornerback  Antonio Cromartie had to get an advance on his salary to handle several alimony payments.  Even if the leagues have identical problems, the NFL’s have made the more recent headlines.  And while we are here, Tom Brady seemed to avoid any scrutiny for knocking up his girlfriend and then leaving her for a model.  I guess it’s cool if you are Tom Brady. Perhaps because Tom Brady is a ladies’ man.  If he were Donovan McNabb he might be “shirking his responsibilities.” Or maybe not, but that is just one case. Let’s continue looking at the total body of information.

No real image problem here. Why?

Rape & Pillage

Ben Roethlisberger has turned out to be a possible serial rapist.  Even if he and Kobe did nothing wrong – what is more lacking in character from comparable stars – consensual sex in your room that goes too far, or banging drunk girls in bars while your bodyguards prevent the girl’s friends from entering?  You’re right – being black. (I am not defending Kobe, obviously).

If you'd been arrested in Georgia then we'd have a really interesting debate.

Murder Was The Case That They Gave The NFL

Murderers – Ray Lewis, Rae Carruth, Donte Stallworth (this season) – one alleged, two convicted – all NFL.  And on a related, but lesser note – Dog killing – Michael Vick, the ASPCA’s Hitler.  I don’t think it is the same level as the things above, but let’s not pretend that it did not tarnish his image and the NFL’s a little.

Male Enhancement

Performance enhancing drugs – I only know that Rashard Lewis was suspended for an over the counter (allegedly) substance.  There have been a lot more Shawne Merrimans and Bill Romanowskis in the NFL.

Two Tickets To The Gun Show

Pac Man Jones – punches strippers in the face – his entourage paralyzes a bouncer at a club with a stray bullet – he is the poster boy for bad character in sports.  Marvin Harrison – gun incident.  The worst the NBA has had – Gilbert Arenas – who turned out to be the worst practical joker (or the best if you think like me).

My favorite picture, perhaps of all time. A jerk? Yes. A criminal? Yep. As bad as Pac Man Jones or Marvin Harrison? Not even close.

So the NFL has the NBA trumped on felonies, paternity superstars, animal abuse and performance enhancement drugs, so the question is, what does the NBA have that the NFL doesn’t:

A higher percentage of black men. And those black men have lots of visible tattoos.  In the NFL the only black divas are the wide receivers, but in the NBA they are all divas, except for the occasional smart, hard working, scrappy white guys.

Give me a break.

Isn’t it clear that the 33% are either stupid or prejudiced?  This is the response I got on Facebook to that question:

So wait, nothing even resembling a majority number in a bullsh*t espn.com poll is supposed to make a statement about what people think about black people?
Travis Henry? Sheee-it Shawn Kemp invented that shit.
As far as I know, Ben Roethlisberger’s accusers aren’t fairing too well…and lastly, I actually happen to agree that football players in …
See MoreAmerica in a lot of cases are frakking animals (whte or black) and most hoopsters aren’t…buuuut football is a sport that has a much stronger team identity of hardworking guys who get paid SUBSTANTIALLY less than their NBA primadonna counterparts. This stix in the craw of the white people who might-MIGHT be responsible for this socalled 33%
 
Now I agree that the poll has no scientific merit, but I have no reason to believe that it is not an accurate snapshot of the average sports fan in America.  But the person who commentedhas always commented whenever  have made disparaging anti-Republican/Joe Lieberman comments so I am guessing his political leanings are to the right, even if not far right.  And this is instructive – look at the immediatetly defensive tone as if I was calling him out.  Some quick counters:
  • So if racism is not in a majority it is not worth calling out?
  • All People? – no just the 20,000+ average sports fans who see the NBA as a bigger image fu*k up than the NFL
  • “Hardworking team identity” – sounds like Hilary Clinton appealing to the Western PA voters in the 2008 primary
Now I am not casting any aspersions on the commenter, but I do feel the language of the debate is telling (after all he eventually agrees with part of my point that the NFL is worse than the NBA). And I understand not wanting race to be infused where it does not belong because it is such an inflammatory topic, but sometimes it has to be. For every Tawana Brawley there’s a Rodney King; for every Duke Lacrosse Team, there’s the four cops who shot Amadou Diallo.  Just because racism is damaging and touchy does not mean that it can’t be easy to see sometimes.
 
I honestly believe there is no way to say that the NBA has a bigger image problem than the NFL without being prejudiced or stupid.  Image is made by headlines and superstars.  The NBA has almost all black superstars.  The NFL has several white superstars and they are basically the front men for the band that is the NFL (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre).  Now the negative headlines are overwhelmingly with the NFL, but the well known white faces are overwhelmingly with the NFL as well (sorry Dirk Nowtizki and Steve Nash).  And apparently for 33% of sports fans (I’m willing to make that extrapolation, even though the poll does not probably reach more low income, non-computer having sports fans) the faces trump the crimes.
And if you asked me, is 33% of America at least a little racist, I’d probably answer yes, so the poll only shocked me because I thought sports fans would see beyond that in greater numbers.  But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – after all I sat next to a white  guy at a Steeler game last year who called an opposing team’s player a Nig*ger, all while wearing the jersey of a nig*er named Santonio Holmes.  I’d hate to see that guy at a basketball game, but I’m pretty sure how he would answer that ESPN poll. 
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Big Ben, Michael Wilbon & Why I Have To…

It is has been an up and down month in sports for me.  First there was my NCAA bracket and having to root for Duke.  Well, Duke made the Finals and all I need was for them to lose for me to win $1400 and 1st place in my pool or, if they won, they could still help me by scoring a lot of points which would have earned me over $100 and 3rd place in my pool.  Instead Duke, in classic Another-Reason-For-Me-To-Hate-Duke-Basketball form managed to win AND score just enough points to win a WNBA playoff game, causing me to lose the 3rd place tiebreaker and walk away with no money and the pain of a Duke Championship.

Baseball season has also started, with my usual apathy for Goldman Sachs, a/k/a The Wall Street Bombers, a/k/a The New York Yankees.  I’m sure by August I will care again, but right now I just get annoyed at all the people waxing nostalgic about the opening of baseball season like it’s still a team of neighborhood boys made good. 

Then the Utah Jazz caused me great joy and frustration.  My favorite team since the age of 7 provided me with the greatest live sporting event I’ve ever attended with a thrilling 140-139 OT victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Kevin Durant of the Thunder had 45 points, but the Jazz won with  just over one second left.  Then, in classic fashion, the Jazz proceeded to lose their season finale (thanks in part to the sensitive, free agent contract-conscious, former Duke Blue Devil Carlos Boozer’s abdominal strain – never trust a Duke Blue Devil) going from a cozy 3 seed at home against the maligned Trailblazers and a second round match-up with the paper tigers known as the Dallas Mavericks, to a 5 seed on the road with match-ups against their two toughest opponents (if they win in the 1st round) Denver Nuggets and then the Los Angeles Lakers).  The Lakers’ Lamar Odom might as well call the Jazz Khloe he fu-ks them so shamelessly.

But all these highs and lows have taken a backseat to the biggest story affecting a team that I am a fan of – The Pittsburgh Steelers.  Their star quarterback, two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger, and soon-to-be-played-by Peter Stormare in a Lifetime movie has turned out to be at best, a man with a rich frat boy’s sense of entitlement or at worse, a serial rapist.  It of course brings to mind Kobe Bryant, who I think was the last comparable athlete, to be charged with a sex cime of this magnitude.

At best - a rich frat boy sense of entitlement. At worst - a rapist. Either way - not a fan.

Now the Kobe Bryant case seemed to go much farther through the legal system than the Roethlisberger case has.  The rumors around the Kobe case were that he attempted to and may have successfully forced a back door slam dunk on the woman in Denver.  Now I have only met one woman who reacted with good humor (disturbing on many levels when pondered) at unexpected anal penetration, but this is not the time to re-hash my routine, so even considering that the woman went to Kobe’s room of her own free will, her back door is her back door and no is still supposed to mean no.

But Ben Roethlisberger does not even have that benefit (which of course raises the possibility that this is an incident representative of that time honored tradition in America which is the only crime worse than raping a white woman is being black and raping a white woman – not looking to address that here).  He seems to have, in the very least, acted aggressively and inappropriately towards this young woman and with the assistance of security guards.  I am not as troubled by the allegation that his security guards prevented her friends from getting to the alleged victim, because let’s face it – rock stars and athletes have had sex in all sorts of places and she could have been consenting to sex in a VIP lounge with a famous athlete.  Of course, she could have also been raped, which would make the bodyguards unknowing (or knowing) accomplices.

If this were a one time incident, the benefit of the doubt would be with Roethlisberger, but he has been accused of sexual assaults before.  Normally I don’t condone prostitution, but in Ben’s case it is better than the alternative.  Roethlisberger, in the very least, is placing himself in unsavory and compromising positions and deserves to be suspended by the league.  The Steelers have already said they will be suspending him because the organization, maybe worth a billion, still operates with a family business mentality and that is commendable.  It is even more troubling when you consider some of the “offended” fan base of the Steelers (after all, at Heinz Field last year was where I heard Joshua Cribbs of the Cleveland Brown get called a “Nigger” by a white Steeler fan and no one seemed to bat an eye). (Click below link for that Heinz Field tale)

https://jlcauvin.com/?p=1212

So if that fan base is troubled, you know Big Ben is in big trouble.

But as I was saying before, Roethlisberger has a few options to sex crimes – he could have girlfriends in every city, so that he has variety, but with women he can trust a little better than strangers at a bar.  He could hire prostitutes.  Let’s face facts – these high end services cater to men like him and convicted of using a prostitute is a preferred alternative to even the social stigma of being acquitted of serial rape.  Or he could have a meeting with Derek Jeter and forge a discreet vaginal domination mentorship where he learns how to have successful sexual relations without crimes by him or extortion by her being committed.

But with these options available to a man of Roethlisberger’s stature, as well as previous incidents that should have been warnings, one must wonder, perhaps this is what Roethlisberger wants.  Rape after all is a crime of power, not sex.  So if Ben, given his competitive success, is into power and domination, then sexual gratification would not satisfy this lust.  Michael Jordan exhibited his OCD level competitiveness through excessive gambling, Tiger Woods through excessive relations with menstruating waitresses and perhaps Ben really is a man whose drive for success has a criminal and vile manifestation away from the playing field.  I am not a psychologist, but it makes sense to me. 

I think the Steelers’ reaction has been appropriate, especially if they decide to trade Big Ben.  Even if Roethlisberger is innocent of all charges, he is obviously conducting himself in an embarrassing fashion and that alone gives the Steelers and the NFL a right to punish him to protect their corporate image.  But rape is in my opinion the worst crime there is, but perhaps that is why condemnation is coming more cautiously.  I am still surprised that allegations (and subsequent criminal conviction) of abuse of dogs by Michael Vick seemed to generate more outrage than Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged sexual assaults on women. 

And on a side note, as a fan of Pardon The Interruption on ESPN, I have also found Michael Wilbon’s defense of Ben Roethlisberger reprehensible.  I am a big fan of PTI and a big fan of Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser.  But it seems Wilbon, unlike the curmudgeon Kornheiser, has spent too much time cultivating a hybrid existence of serious journalist and Ahmad Rashad-buddy relationships with superstar athletes that he now sees fit to defend, or at least omit criticism, of athletes he favors.  Tiger Woods is a glaring example.  Gilbert Arenas was another to a much lesser extent, but Wilbon’s Roethlisberger commentary has been awful.  He said flat out that he does not think Roethlisberger should be suspended.   He is clearly a Big Ben fan and that is fine, but the lack of a criminal conviction cannot be the only acceptable standard for allowing a player to continue business as usual.  And Wilbon scoffing at Roethlisberger’s loss of a beef jerky endorsement at the end of a show this week was equally insensitive.

Michael Wilbon's commentary has been a huge disappointment during the Roethlisberger coverage.

All in all, it seems like it will be impossible for me to don a Roethlisberger jersey again.  To be fair I do have a Karl Malone jersey and he has not always been a model citizen, but he is a far cry from serial rapist (not to mention my inspiration for pursuing basketball).  And even if Ben is innocent of all criminal liability I’d still rather be associated with a black, redneck power forward than a jerk with a rich frat boy sense of entitlement.

I think I've retired this jersey. And not in a good way.