Movies & TV / Columns

A Fool’s Utopia 12.13.12: Fourth and Fifteen

December 13, 2012 | Posted by Ron Martin

I’m going off the grid here. I know I’m writing in the Movies/TV section and this concerns TV – sort of. It concerns TV ratings. Combine that with the fact that 411mania no longer has a Sports section and somebody’s got to speak up for the little guy – right? Basically, I’m going to go on a tirade about the proposed elimination of the kickoff in the NFL.

First off, let me be one of the many who have already said this isn’t happening. Owners have already swatted it away for the most part. In case you haven’t heard, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has proposed eliminating the kickoff in favor of a punt. However, to keep excitement at the end of games (ala the onside kick), coaches will have the option after scoring a touchdown of punting to the other team or taking a 4th and 15 from their own 30 yard line. This will not happen — this year.

The fact that it will not get voted into rule is almost irrelevant. The fact that it was even suggested is the relevant part. Welcome to the beginning of the end. There are now cracks in the shield the NFL tries so hard to protect. Kickoffs will go away and probably sooner rather than later. It’s just a matter of finding the right replacement. Punts are fine, but then you have to deal with the 4th quarter team trailing by three who just scored a touchdown with 45 seconds to go. Kickoffs are both the most exciting play in football and the most dangerous. In the NFL’s need to show the courts that they are trying their best to protect their players (they are getting sued by about a bajillion ex-players who have issues later in life due to injuries suffered while playing football), the kickoff will be the sacrifice. We all know that’s coming, but the question is what happens after that?

The NFL is enjoying a massive sports popularity the like of which has never been seen before in America. Only Disney churns money like the NFL. With the evidence of brain damage mounting against the sport and pressuring it into rule and procedural changes, it really is only a matter of time until it falls out of favor. I never believed that when sports pundits have been claiming it for the last couple of years. I always thought that people would watch football no matter what. This suggestion of the 4th and 15 rule made me a believer. It starts with that.

When the rules get so convoluted that each season ticket holder will be mailed a 300 page booklet to explain all the new rules, people will eventually stop watching. I know my opinion of the American fanbase in general is pretty low. It’s been created by watching shows like Arrested Development get cancelled and Community struggle while Two and a Half Men soar and Everybody Loves Raymond was once a ratings powerhouse. If things get too complicated, the American viewer will turn away. The general audience wants you to do the thinking for them.

Add to that the fact that with all the new evidence suggesting brain damage, depression, etc. to football players and more and more parents aren’t going to let their kids play football. That athletic talent will be siphoned to basketball, baseball and even, dare I say, soccer.

It will take time, but the first rock has put a chink in the armor of the NFL. What was once thought impossible, I can now see happening – and in my lifetime. There will be a time when the NFL isn’t the biggest dog in the yard and biographers will look to this time period to see the beginning of the end.

1. I don’t do TV recaps anymore, but I have to give credit where it’s due. We all know that I’ve been slurping Parks and Recreation since Season Two, but the Christmas episode, “Ron and Diane” was the best episode of the season. I was a little disheartened to read a bunch of reviews that were wishy washy on the Jerry storyline. I loved it. Of course Jerry, the kind hearted office joke is married to Christie Brinkley (a lot of plastic surgery, but I’d hit it) and has three gorgeous blonde daughters and a spectacular home life. Of course everyone who makes fun of him constantly would be jealous and locked out of the party because the “Jerry filter” on their emails filtered out their invitations to the party. Of course April is secretly insanely weak. Chris and Ben back together for an episode? What is not to love about that storyline?

Of course that storyline got outshined by a storyline involving Ron Swanson and Megan Mullally flashing her crotch everywhere. That’s because Ron Swanson is the best character on TV right now. It’s been awhile since I laughed as hard as I did when Ron got all giggly at the woodshopping awards. I can’t wait for this show to come back in January – especially since I know they filmed some scenes with YOUR Indianapolis Colts. Ron Swanson and Andrew Luck on the same field? It happened. I saw pictures.

2. I’ve been getting caught up on my Pawn Stars viewing and the gang finally completed the “Corey wants to become an owner” storyline. Yes, a reality series about a pawn shop has storylines. When the four main guys go into “acting” mode it’s completely terrible. It’s so terrible, however, that it becomes entertaining. Did anyone who watches this show actually think Corey was taking a job with another pawn shop or that there was even another pawn shop in play? If Corey actually had a job interview, you don’t think the cameras would have followed him to said job interview and at least show him walking through the door of a competing pawn shop?

At this point, I don’t even know if the pawn shop can get rid of someone. It might be in their contracts that they have to keep the main four – and maybe even Olivia, who was cast more than she was hired. These four guys can’t even work in the pawn shop anymore. They only hit the floor when the filming is taking place for a number of days here and there. Otherwise, they are a distraction and the store fills up with fans instead of customers. It’ll be interesting to see what the producers come up with as an overarching “storyline” next. They’ve been go-carting and mini-golfing. I guess the only place left to take them is on a rollercoaster.

3. On the latest episode of The Zombie Reckoning Podcast, we put a film called Silent, Night, Zombie Night against the cult classic Silent Night, Deadly Night. It was mostly because this was our last show before Christmas, but it also turned out to be really good timing a (very loose) remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night was released on DVD December 4 starring Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King and Donal Logue. The movie is titled simply Silent Night. We thought we had an interview with the director of the film, Steven C Miller, but that fell through when Miller got caught up in meetings. Regardless, I purchased the film ($10 – Walmart) and I enjoyed much more than the original Silent Night, Deadly Night.

I know that I’ve made a writing career the last six years bashing remakes, but like I said this is a “loose” remake. Loose meaning, it’s pretty much a different movie with some homage scenes to the original. That’s not to say the movie didn’t have issues, because it did and some of them were directoral – but overall, it was a fun slasher horror movie. I especially dug the opening sequence and storylines involving other Santas who were not the killer. If you’re a horror movie fan, I’d recommend buying it. I’d have to break it down, but just upon initial viewing, I’d give this movie a 5.5 or 6 out of 10. Seeing as I think anything above 4 is watchable, that’s a respectable rating. I think Steven C. Miller is an up and coming director and is going to have a great career in the genre.


a. The Colts have to be in the playoffs at this point, right? Even I, the most pessimistic person in the history of the universe have to admit that. They are two games up on Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Pitt and Cincy play each other, so the Colts are three games up on one the loser of that game with three to go. I’m guessing the only reason they haven’t “clinched” yet is that they would lose tiebreakers to both the Jets and Bengals should the Colts lose out. With two games against Houston (one of which is Week 17 when Houston may not be playing for anything) and a game with Kansas City left, I think it’s unlikely they will lose out. A playoff berth for a team that I thought would have 3 or 4 wins this year? Unthinkable. I can almost be talked into the Colts having a shot at Baltimore should they meet them in the first round of the playoffs. Almost.

b. As far as fantasy goes, it wasn’t a bad week. Four leagues, two playoff appearances. It would have been three as I was sitting in third place in a 16 team league last week. Even though I scored the second highest score of the week, I got beat and two teams below me won to sneak into the playoffs. That’s alright because that’s the only league I was playing in that wasn’t worth money.

The better story happened in a league with ten teams where I was sitting fifth, but the team in third lost, so a win by me gets me into the playoffs. Going into Monday Night Football, I’m down 32 points with only Tom Brady left to play. I hate the Patriots, but I’m not stupid. I draft Tom Brady every year because if they’re going to win so many games, I’m at least going to benefit from it. If Tom Brady sucks then at least the Patriots suck and that makes me happy. When you have the luck that I do, you have to even out your odds like that. However unlikely, Brady scores me 35 points and I snatch the last playoff spot and keep my hopes of taking two hondos to my bank alive!

In my other big money league, I snuck into the playoffs as the #8 seed (out of 16) and took out the #1 seed thanks to solid play from almost everyone on my team. The problem is that I have to win in the semifinals to be in any sort of money situation. The guy I have next has every single hot player in the league. I need a Tom Brady like miracle.

c. Though I think the proposed 4th and 15 instead of a kickoff rule is insane, there is a certain part of me that wants to see a coach like Bill Belichik elect the 4th and 15 option every single time they score a touchdown. Is it really out of the realms of possibility to see the Patriots beat a team like the Jets 100-0 and the Jets get three offensive plays for the entire game? Imagine the havoc that would cause in the fantasy football world – a world worth over a billion dollars annually.

5. It’s the Christmas season, boys and girls. During Black Friday, I picked up Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales for $4. What’s Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales, you ask? Over the years, there has been much messing around with A Charlie Brown Christmas in order to get more commercials in. The networks who aired it even started editing parts of the special out in order to keep it at a half hour run time. That didn’t go over well. The networks then decided to make A Charlie Brown Christmas a full hour presentation. Seeing as the actual special ran 35 minutes, the networks needed about 18 more minutes of Charlie Brown. At first, they filled the time with a retrospective on the special by Whoopi Goldberg. They then replaced Whoopi with Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales is about what you would expect from a Charlie Brown Christmas special made in 2002 with little input from Charles Schultz. That’s to say, it’s pretty terrible. There are a number of “segments” highlighting each character. That made it a lot easier to take out segments if they were pressed for time. Snoopy, Linus, Sally, Lucy and Charlie Brown all have segments. None are worth writing home about. This is on par with the Mayflower Voyage special. If you love Charlie Brown characters who sound completely different than they should and superficial storylines that make no sense, then this might be the special for you!

The DVD also has the Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown special from 1983 that deals with Linus and Lucy moving away from the gang. That’s an episode for a RETRO in another column.



What, now extinct, Disney World attraction did Tim Curry do voice work for?

ANSWER: Alien Encounter (now Stitch’s Great Escape). He played SIR.

Big ups to RON420 (again, this could be me in my 20s time travelling to the future, but I don’t remember this – then again, I don’t remember a lot about my 20s) for the correct answer!


A Charlie Brown Christmas is the second longest running TV special in the United States. What is the first?


The video above has nothing to do with RETRO this week. It’s just a Christmas music video from the 80s. The story I am going to tell today is also from the 80s, but there is no video evidence. In fact there is no picture evidence. It has been handed down from generations to generations. This is an oral history. This is also the first time I’ve ever told it, so that crap about it being handed down from generations to generations was all a lie. Yeah, I sometimes lie.

The year was – eh, I don’t really remember the year. I was very young. I also did a lot of drugs in my 20s so my memory is pretty shoddy. I use this excuse a lot to cover up my own screw ups. I was somewhere between six to nine years old, so the times frame would be 1983-1985. It was about a week before Christmas. I want to say I was with my mom at K-mart. For those of you under thirty years old, K-Mart and Zayres were the big stores at the time. Wal-Mart either was non-existant or hadn’t made its mark nationally yet.

I’m standing with my mom in the checkout line and an old guy approaches me. Thinking I’m going to be abducted, I try to hide behind my mom, but the guy is persistent. And old. I’m talking he probably is no longer living old. The store was way more decked out for Christmas than stores are today. Either that’s true or the nostalgia factor has kicked up the Christmas ambience quite a bit. The guy asks me “You know why Santa only has seven reindeer to pull his sleigh this Christmas?”

I think about this because I want to surprise this guy with the right answer. Is one of the reindeer sick? Were we counting Rudolph? If so, did that mean two of the reindeer were married and expecting? Perhaps one forgot how to fly. I didn’t get a chance to try out any of these answers because before I could attempt to spit something out, the guy says, “Because Comet has to stay home and clean the sink!” I swear he did a “Ho Ho Ho!” afterwards, but again, that may just be my memory adding things that didn’t happen for the purposes of a better story.

It was weird. It might have been the worst joke ever told. Before the punchline reached my ears from his lips, he disappeared never to be seen again – if he was there at all. Say what you want about the guy and his cheesy reindeer joke, but I’ve never forgotten it. Here it is almost thirty years later and I’m passing the joke on to the rest of you. For many years I thought that guy was a weird creeper, but now I realize he was a guy who was in the Christmas groove. I don’t think I would do that, but honestly, I’ve done lots of weird things under the guise of “at least I gave someone a story to tell for the day.” Any similar Christmas stories out there?

23 Years Ago Today

December 13, 1989

#1 Single

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel

#1 Album

Girl You Know It’s True by Milli Vanilli

#1 Movie

The War of the Roses

I must leave you now.


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Ron Martin

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