Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sabol lists 5 worst NFL teams in history

The Los Angeles Times recently asked Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, to name the five worst teams in NFL history. Naturally, first-year expansion franchises were removed from consideration. Here's what he came up with:
1. 1972 Houston Oilers (1-13)
2. 1952 Dallas Texans (1-11)
3. 1981 Baltimore Colts (2-14)
4. 1980 New Orleans Saints (1-15), a.k.a the "Aints"
5. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-15) or 1990 New England Patriots (1-15) (to be determined, based on the results of Detroit's regular season finale at Green Bay).

Monday, December 22, 2008

RCA Dome demolition video

Yesterday at 9:35 a.m., Baltimore-based Controlled Demolition Inc. demolished the 24-year-old RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Click here to watch a video of the demolition, which includes shots from a camera inside the facility. In particular, Baltimore football fans ought to relish the opportunity to watch the RCA Dome come down.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hannity named 'Misinformer of the Year'

To his fans, Sean Hannity is a "great American." To Media Matters he is the 'Misinformer of the Year,' responsible for spreading more conservative misinformation than any other media figure in 2008. Click here to read a summary of his "unending stream of falsehoods and character attacks."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pedestrian bridge collapses in Atlanta

One construction worker has been killed and at least 17 others are hurt after a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Atlanta Botanical Gardens around 9 a.m. this morning. The workers were pouring concrete for a new canopy walk when the bridge crashed to the ground.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Palin's prank call (and why Canadians think Americans are stupid)

Yesterday, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin unwittingly took a prank phone call from a Canadian comedian posing as French President Nicolas Sarkozy. During the call, the comedian, Marc-Antoine Audette (half of the Montreal comedy duo the Masked Avengers), speaks in an exaggerated French accent and drops numerous hints that the conversation is a joke, yet Palin fails to pick up on them.

At one point during the call—which will be broadcast tomorrow on a Montreal radio station—Audette refers to Canadian singer Steph Carse as Canada's prime minister. Palin fails to correct him and even offers generic praise for Carse, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Canada's prime minister is Stephen Harper. At one point, Audette even says: "You know we have a lot in common also, because ... from my house I can see Belgium."

Perhaps the worst part, however, is that after being informed that she's been pranked and the callers are from a radio station in Montreal, you can hear Palin complaining to her advisor that it's a prank call from "a radio station in France."

Click here to listen to the audio.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Anniversary of "Keep Chopping Wood" accident

Today marks the fifth anniversary of one of the strangest sports failures in history. On this day in 2003, Jacksonville Jaguars punter Chris Hanson gashes his right leg with an ax while chopping wood in the team's locker room. The wood and the ax had been placed in the room at the behest of head coach Jack Del Rio, who was using the mantra "keep chopping wood" to inspire his players after a 0-3 start. Hanson's injury requires emergency surgery and ends his season. In June of 2002, Hanson, his wife, and former Jaguars placekicker Jaret Holmes were severely burned at Hanson's house when a fondue pot overturned.

More failures from today in history.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

McCain, Palin, AAA New York and the Bridge to Nowhere

The October 2008 issue of Car & Travel Magazine (the monthly publication of AAA New York) features interviews with both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama on "the future of America's energy policy, as well as its highways, bridges and transit systems."

Owing to the long lead time of print magazines, the telephone interviews must have been conducted months ago, before McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Which makes it all the more amusing how McCain, in his interview, obsesses about the Bridge to Nowhere, which as we now know, was originally supported by Palin.

"How can you ask Americans for more money, in the form of taxes, if you're spending $223 million for a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it?" asks McCain. And, in an earlier segment, he says, "I want to assure you that under my presidency there will be no more 'Bridges to Nowhere.' " Bet he wouldn't have focused on the Bridge to Nowhere (and pork-barrel spending in general), if he knew Palin would ultimately become his running mate.

Funny too how the interview(s) are prefaced by the following disclaimer: "The candidates' positions on energy and transportation issues may have been modified since this interview."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Millen out as Detroit Lions president/CEO

In a long overdue move, Matt Millen has been ousted from his job as president and CEO of the NFL's Detroit Lions. Over the course of seven-plus years, Millen took a mediocre franchise and turned it into the league's worst team, compiling a hideous 31-84 record during his tenure. His wife, Patty Millen, reportedly told ESPN's Chris Mortensen: "We're fine. In the world's view, this may look like failure. It's been a hard road, football-wise, but we've gotten a lot of eternal blessings. We'll move forward. I told him, 'You're out of football prison now' and we have a greater purpose."

Friday, September 05, 2008

U.S. Post Office says it meant 1-800-STAMP, not 1-800-TRAMP

No doubt this will become a This Day in Failure entry: This past Wednesday it was first reported that a U.S. Post Office carrier card that invites customers to buy duck stamps includes an 800 number for an "Intimate Connections" sex line, one that tempts callers to "talk only to the girls that turn you on," for $1.99 a minute. The card transposes two numbers, so instead of listing 1-800-782-6724 (or 1-800-STAMP24), it lists 1-800-872-6724 (1-800TRAMP24). The Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the program, reports that it printed approximately 3.5 million duck stamps attached to cards with the incorrect number.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This Bud's For EU

"Budweiser: The Great Belgian Lager." Doesn't exactly have a nice ring to it, does it? With the sale of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. to Belgian brewing giant InBev, I wonder if some Americans will stop drinking Budweiser, Bud Light and all other Anheuser-Busch products. I'm sure an organized protest (not to mention a boycott Web site), is already in the works.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Custer: Still Standing

June 25 marks the 132nd anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. More than a century later, Custer's Last Stand remains one of the most memorable failures in American history. To mark the anniversary, "Custerphiles" from around the country will, as they do each year, descend on eastern Montana to re-enact the battle — at several different locations, no less. (The mock massacres will take place on the weekend of June 27-29, to accommodate 21st century obligations like work and family).

It shouldn't surprise you that no one at Failure is available to travel to Montana next weekend, and we imagine you won't be going either. But you can still get a flavor of what will take place by reading Still Standing, Failure's recent piece on the enduring legacy of George Armstrong Custer. An equally compelling option is to read our companion interview with Steve Alexander, who considers himself the country's pre-eminent "Custer living historian." There's no doubt in my mind that Alexander will be on hand for Little Bighorn week, not to mention at least one re-enactment. After all, he lives for it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

$1 million offered for proof of Bigfoot

Great marketing ploy on the part of both binocular manufacturer Bushnell and Field and Stream magazine. Lots of free publicity and no one can ever collect the prize. The scary thing is that as of this posting 45 percent(!) of AOL users polled think Bigfoot is real (with 40 percent saying "no" and 15 percent saying "I'm not sure").

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Poetic justice?

Today's AP Wire features a story highlighting the fact that more than two dozen youngsters who trashed Robert Frost's former home have been ordered to take classes in which they study his poetry as part of their punishment. Last December 28, a large group of teenagers broke into Frost's place, had a beer party and completely trashed the place, causing approximately $10,000 in property damage. Now many of them are making good by going to classes in which they read poems like "The Road Not Taken" and other Frost classics.

"I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people's property in the future and would also learn something from the experience," prosecutor John Quinn told AP reporter John Curran.

On the surface, this punishment seems especially apropos. But in the bigger picture, the exposure this AP story receives will only help perpetuate the idea that reading poetry equates with punishment, hardly the message that poetry loves want broadcasted all over the country.

Monday, June 02, 2008

You Want Fries With That...? (book review)


Prioleau Alexander isn’t the first white-collar worker to abandon a lucrative career, try his hand at a succession of minimum wage jobs, and then write a book about the experience. But unlike most of his progenitors, Alexander’s goal isn’t to enlighten readers or make a political argument; he’s just trying to be funny.

A former advertising agency executive, the forty-something Alexander spends the better part of a year delivering pizzas, scooping ice cream, flipping burgers and cleaning up construction sites. He aspires to work for a big-box retailer, but fails to land an “associate” position at either of the big-box stores to which he applies.

While the rejections deflate Alexander’s ego, his sense of humor remains unaffected, at least until each of the individual jobs begin to drive him crazy. In the case of the ice cream “shoppe” this moment occurs around the time he hits “five-thousand pinks”—the five-thousanth time a customer asks for a pink-spoon sample. One day, “going pink” may have the same meaning as “going postal,” he quips half-jokingly.

In the end, however, Alexander turns serious, noting that since completing the book and returning to the white-collar world (as a freelance media planner) he makes it a point to say “thank you” and “have a nice day” to all low-wage earners. But Alexander seems to reserve the most sympathy for pizza deliverymen: “To avoid having a freakin’ pizza smashed into your freakin’ face by an enraged Pizza Man, make sure you have the freakin’ numbers of your freakin’ address on your freakin’ home,” he advises. How’s that for words to live by?

* The above book review isn't up to Failure magazine standards, so we killed it. But to avoid a total loss we decided to make it available on our blog, where our standards are obviously lower. Click here to read some of our more "successful" reviews.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Another construction crane collapse in NYC

A construction crane collapsed this morning on New York's Upper East Side (at E. 91st and 1st Ave.), smashing into an apartment building before crashing onto the street. As of now, one fatality has been reported. This is Manhattan's second deadly crane accident in two-and-a-half months.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quantum Hoops and the Caltech Beavers men's basketball team

Seasons Change covers the story of the California Institute of Technology's men's basketball team, nationally recognized for its 23-year (and counting) losing streak.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Won't Get Fooled Again?

From today's editor's column in Failure magazine: Brace yourselves, Democratic supporters. The American populace appears poised to elect another Republican — Arizona Sen. John McCain — as our next president, this in spite of the public's strong dissatisfaction with the direction of the country.

Of course, if Americans want to go with John McCain as president, that's their prerogative. But one can make the argument that the American people will be getting a McCain that is much different than the one they are bargaining for. Recall that George W. Bush was packaged and presented to Americans as a "uniter," a compassionate conservative, and someone who could relate to the average American. (Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans would characterize Bush as a "divider" and a man completely out of touch with the problems faced by ordinary Americans.)

Now consider McCain, typically defined by the media as a "maverick" and a straight talker, an affable "moderate" Republican who is sometimes at odds with his own party. But this is, at best, a woefully incomplete characterization of McCain.

For starters, the media has somehow overlooked McCain's notoriously bad temper, which remains unknown to most Americans outside Arizona. In a March 2000 article entitled "Free Ride," Pat Murphy of the Arizona Republic wrote: "If McCain were to become president, Americans would wake up to more than a commander-in-chief with a prickly temperament and a low boiling point. McCain is a man who carries get-even grudges. He cannot endure criticism. He threatens. He controls by fear. He's consumed by self-importance…."

Meanwhile, Americans also don't seem to be aware that McCain makes it a habit of making vicious, insensitive comments (about everyone from Chelsea Clinton to Vietnamese people) that get little or no play in the national media. Some might argue that we should give him a pass for making disparaging, racist remarks about the Vietnamese; after all, he did spend five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. But at the very least this would seem to be relevant in terms of his fitness for the presidency, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs.

And speaking of foreign policy, McCain might be no more capable of understanding and handling foreign affairs than president Bush. In 2006, speaking about the sectarian violence in Iraq, McCain said, "One of the things I would do if I were president would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, "Stop the bullshit.' " Not exactly the measured analysis one should expect from the president of the United States.

Never mind the fact that not long ago that McCain responded to a question about Iran by singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of "Barbara Ann," an unsettling display conveniently overlooked by the major media.

It should be interesting to see if the national press continues to soft-pedal McCain once the Democratic presidential candidate is selected and the race becomes a one-on-one affair. Will McCain's foreign policy positions come back to haunt him? Will he say something so inappropriate that it is impossible for the media to ignore? Will he be exposed as being further "right" than is commonly assumed?

Bottom line: It is perfectly reasonable for Americans to prefer McCain over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But let's hope they do so for the right reasons. Much as was the case with George W. Bush, it seems the American people are being sold a candidate who is not what he seems. And Americans seem more than willing to buy.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Isiah Thomas' failed tenure ends

Today Isiah Thomas was removed as head coach of the NBA's New York Knicks after compiling a 56-108 record over the course of two seasons. Of course, Thomas' tenure was preceded by the disastrous one-year reign of Larry Brown, who finished 23-59 with the Knicks two seasons ago.

Don Imus: Barack Obama "almost a bigger pussy" than Hillary Clinton

It has only been a year since Don Imus was fired by CBS and MSNBC for referring to members of the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos." But if recent comments made on his recently re-launched program (syndicated on ABC Radio) are any indication, Imus is starting to feel untouchable again. During the April 17 edition of Imus in the Morning, Imus asserted that Sen. Barack Obama is "almost a bigger pussy than" Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Commenting on the April 16 Democratic debate, here's what Imus had to say, verbatim:

Imus: Stephanopoulos I thought was great, and the debate was fine. I thought Senator Obama was on the defensive most of the night. But they're both sissy boys or sissy girls, or whatever. Because they talk big when they're out on the campaign trail, wolfing on each other.

[co-host] McCord: But then ...

Imus: And then when they show up at the debate, they fold up like a couple of cheap lawn chairs. I mean, I don't understand that. And he's almost a bigger pussy than she is.

Video clip, courtesy of Media Matters:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain fails to answer political courage test

Only a handful of media outlets have reported the following political development: Last week Project Vote Smart (PVS), a nonpartisan voter education organization, kicked Republican presidential candidate John McCain off its "Founding Board" for his failure to answer and return its Political Courage Test, which asks candidates about what policies they support on a wide range of issues. PVS rules prohibit any non-respondent from serving on its board.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Forgiving Bill Buckner

File this in the category of never say never: Earlier today former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park prior to Boston's home opener versus the (winless) Detroit Tigers. For two decades Buckner had been vilified by Boston fans who were unable to forgive him for his game-ending error in game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets.

Math students correctly predicted NCAA tourney winner

Congrats to the two College of Charleston seniors - Neil Goodson and Colin Stephenson - who correctly predicted the winner of the NCAA tournament (Kansas Jayhawks) using computer models developed for their Operations Research class. Prior to the beginning of the tourney Goodson and Stephenson analyzed all 65 teams using models that took into account factors that included wins and losses, point differential and margin of victory. For what it's worth, the duo correctly identified two of the four teams that ultimately reached the tournament semifinals; their Final Four included Kansas, North Carolina, Texas and Duke.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"Things Fall Apart" 50th anniversary

On Feb. 12 Anchor Books will publish a 50th anniversary edition of "Things Fall Apart" by legendary Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. There's no denying the book's continued social importance, as it remains required reading in countless high school and college English courses.

Back in the spring of 2001 I had the opportunity to interview Chinua Achebe at his home in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Among other things, we discussed the success of "Things Fall Apart" and his (then) most recent work, "Home and Exile."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Am I hallucinating? The GOP is selling pink elephants

Today I was forwarded an email that asks GOP supporters to donate to the Republican Party, and in exchange for a contribution of $35 or more one gets to "Meet Maxine," a pink elephant "plush toy" that is "the newest member of the Republican National Committee." Click here to see Maxine.

In part, the pitch reads as follows: "Embroidered with the official logo of the RNC, Maxine proudly shows off her allegiance to the Republican Party's principles of lower taxes, a strong national defense, limited government and personal responsibility. Maxine is a wonderful plush toy available for a limited time to our most loyal supporters...."

Never mind the fact that pink elephants are strongly associated with drunken hallucinations. Or the fact that the GOP typically shies away from the color pink. Maybe this is an attempt to appeal to the more repressed members of the Party? Anyone care to weigh in on this?