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The Daily News Shows Us How You Finish A Story Properly

The Daily News lets us know today about wrestler Michael Taris, who allegedly intentionally fell at a 7-Eleven in hopes of collecting damages.

After the story was turned in, an editor walked out to the newsroom and told writer William Bender he needs just one more sentence to fill the space. “Write to the line!” the editor bellowed. “And make it quick!”

I know this because that’s the only way one could possibly come to this stellar last paragraph:

Taris, who formerly wrestled for the World Wide Wrestling Alliance, now wrestles for the National Wrestling Superstars, authorities said. He also worked for Premier Escort Services as a male dancer and as a massage therapist for Massage for Men (M4M), where he went by the name “Sean.”

Now that’s the kind of article closer you could only get in the Daily News. (The Bucks County Courier Times article, you see, added one more sentence after the massage revelation: “National Wrestling Superstars promotes more than 50 family-style wrestling events throughout the year in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to the organization’s Web site.” I think family-friendly wrestling is the less honorable profession here.)

Attorney general/Internet perv detector Tom Corbett has a release on his site about it if you really need more info. And, hey, how the hell did Pennsylvania manage to get attorneygeneral.gov, anyway?

Wrestler ‘falls’ on hard times, arrested [DN]

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: Ms. Polaneczky got a letter from an incarcerated woman who says her son got a pistol from an older friend. (There’s more, but that’s the gist of it.) This column is her attempt to help the kid. All well and good.

Here’s what I don’t really get, though. After being “so floor[ed]” by the letter, she writes:

I search the woman’s criminal record and learn that she’s doing time for assault, theft, forgery and other charges. So it seems that, before the “system” failed her son, she herself did, by blowing her chance to continue parenting him.

This might sound weird: Is this really necessary? The extra information about the woman’s background is fine. But because the woman writes that “this situation shows who the system fails,” Polaneczky needs to note that she, for one, thinks the letter writer should have stayed out of jail for her son. Agreed. I don’t think anybody in America suggests that parents should immediately go out and get incarcerated upon the birth of a child.

But it’s just an aside. The column isn’t an admonition of parents who commit crimes instead of committing to their children. (Oh, that previous one was an 8.6!) I read a lot of newspaper columns, and there are a decent amount of writers who insert in these little asides in every column. That sometimes works for humor, but for serious news columns it’s almost always distracting. This isn’t a particularly egregious example, but I think that is the case here.

I’ll grant there’s a chance that, if Polaneczky hadn’t put in this line, Daily News readers would flood the lines with calls about how she let this letter writer off the hook. Actually, that sounds probable. Hmm.

Elmer Smith: Now that the state might legalize video poker machines in bars, we might be on the slippery slope to table games in casinos! Smith isn’t happy about this. Fair enough, I don’t think he’s a big fan of gambling (or at least our current corporate-controlled form of gambling in casinos here in Pennsylvania). But, actually, adding table games to casinos is a great idea.

I guess the idea is that a person can lose a lot of money in a single gamble at a table. But current slot machines offer the ability to string consecutive plays together with virtually no time wasted; a person can lose a lot of money playing the slots. Slot machines make up around 70-75 percent of a casino’s profits. Slot odds are stacked completely in the casino’s favor. The house always wins, but the house always wins at slots.

Yes, part of the reason slot machines make more money for owners is they’re cheaper to run; table games require dealers and pit bosses and more floor space. As such, there are more slot machines. But slots aren’t glamorous or fun, and the people who play them tend to spend their entertainment dollars on casino trips only on slot machines.

Table games attract customers who spend money outside the casino. Their entertainment dollars are going to things other than gambling. They can spur new construction (say, in a new hotel a casino builds in an attempt to woo these customers). From everything I’ve read and know about casinos, I think adding table games to Pennsylvania’s casinos would improve things on the whole. Adding table games to the casinos already in Pennsylvania is certainly a better idea that video poker terminals in a bunch of bars.

Dave Davies: This is getting long. Let’s just do a pullquote:

Most of my bright and informed friends who read the New York Times and listen to public radio could name the top strategists of the presidential campaigns last year, and can rattle off several Cabinet members today.

But they can’t name three members of Philadelphia City Council or their own state senator.

It took me a while to remember that Larry Farnese is my state senator. I can name all the City Council members, though. I think.

Here’s a trick if you need to just name three: Pick former mayors! There’s a good chance a son with the same name is in City Council.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: Here’s the charming story of a man who wants to trade an old Charlie Manuel (a lifetime .198 hitter) baseball card for an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Phillies game, essentially. What a heartwarming story!

Michael Smerconish: It’s 2009, which means everyone is a (pardon the term) citizen economist.

Fun With Daily News Photos

Hey, let’s take a look at the Daily News today. Let’s see, there’s this story about the trial of the guy who allegedly assaulted a Geno’s employee

Hey, wait a sec. Can we just focus on that photo?

Ahh, excellent. First middle finger in the Daily News since that Gray’s Ferry protest photo back in the late 90s? My records of “bird flips in Daily News” are spotty at best, so I don’t know. Whoever’s giving the middle finger in this photo, though, I salute you.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Jhn Baer: Pennsylvania’s legislature has more staffers than anywhere else in country. Woo-hoo, we’re number one!

Jill Porter: “But my math is simple: The more guns in circulation, the more that find their way to the dregs of society who casually assassinate cops.” You going to look that up, Ms. Porter, or maybe cite something, or… no, you’re just going to go with your gut and not bother to find out if it’s true or not? Okay, fine, but it might be nice to have some facts to back up your opinion and… oh, nevermind.

More importantly: How the hell is that math?!

Today In Typos

Reader Chris sends in this awesome screenshot, from today’s Daily News. And, yeah, I’d say it matters a decent amount:

021709poopmatters.png

This is oddly prescient considering Morrissey is shit.

New indie releases feature Morrissey, M. Ward & more [Daily News/PopMatters.com]

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: It’s a profile of a man with this part-time job: Making t-shirts in memory of police officers killed in the line of duty. Oof, not the most fun thing in the world.

Elmer Smith: And here’s another column about the police officer who died late last week. The kid was only 25 and had a pregnant wife; very sad.

Fatimah Ali: And, hey, a domestic violence column! Boy, it’s a trifecta of fun today. Fatimah Ali doesn’t even really write anything hilarious today, even, though she does plug her own forthcoming memoir and mention a book called, “How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved.”

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Stu Bykofsky: Like everything else in Philadelphia, the collection of money from tickets from red light cameras — coming to City Hall soon! — is done incompetently.

(Be sure to read the comments on this one, which currently mention the lack of cleanliness in the city, and suspended Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero.)

John Baer: Arlen Specter hired Joe Torsella’s wife, and Torsella hired Specter’s wife. (This is just like how Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, etc.) And now they’re going to run against each other for a Senate seat! John Baer thinks this will lead to a kinder, gentler campaign, which it will — until the parties realize a Senate seat is on the line and they break out the attack ads.

Deborah Leavy: Oh, man, the honeymoon is over for Barack Obama! As it should be, he’s been president for almost a month. But, yes, everyone is super annoying and partisan and oh, no, the world is going to end.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Stu Bykofsky: Stu, who I believe covers the “cute ‘n’ cuddly” beat for the paper, writes about the local SPCA chief, who resigned Wednesday. He also notes the SPCA, which just recently got the animal control contract from the city, hired a spokesman from the “high-profile Bellevue Communications Group” to answer questions about the resignation. Good use of money there, fellas!

Elmer Smith: I am always up for a column making fun of the number of commissions the mayor puts together to pretend to address problems. (Street was a big fan of commissions, too.) I particularly liked this part of Smith’s column today, “We created a whole category that could be called ‘commissions to appease the often overlooked.’ You had your Mayor’s Commission on Native Americans, the Mayor’s Commission on Latino Affairs and the Mayor’s Commission on Women, not to be confused with the Mayor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities.” Do you think there’s a Mayor’s Commission on Native Americans in Cleveland, and do you think they spend all their time on Chief Wahoo?

Jill Porter: On the witness stand yesterday, Vince Fumo did not look all-powerful, since he’s facing a (de facto) life sentence if he’s convicted. Porter also writes, “I like Fumo and respect the government.” The former? Certainly defensible, I suppose. The latter? No way, especially in Pennsylvania.

Christine Flowers: This is a column comparing different Italian operas to Vince Fumo’s life. But wait, Flowers writes! “Ironically, though, the opera that most closely tracks the destiny of South Philly Vince isn’t even Italian.” Move over, Alanis. Somebody has used ironic in a way worse than you did.

‘DN’ Columnist: Why Aren’t We Rioting In The Streets Over A-Rod?

021209banarod.jpg

Daily News fitness columnist Kimberly Garrison isn’t part of the Abridged Daily News Columnists, but maybe I should add her if this is what she’s writing regularly. Today, she tackles steroid use in baseball. As you probably know — as even President Obama was asked about it at his first press conference — Sports Illustrated revealed Saturday that Alex Rodriguez (the best or second-best player in baseball) tested positive for steroids in 2003.

Garrison’s column starts off pretty normal, actually: “OH NO, SAY it ain’t so! Not another ugly confession of steroid use in professional sports.” It goes on:

New York Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, one of the best players in Major League Baseball, just admitted what many have long suspected, that he has used “enhancement drugs.”

Um, no, a lot of people didn’t think he was a juicer. That’s what certain people are so angry about: They thought he had a chance to break the home run record of the guy they don’t like (Barry Bonds) and they thought he wouldn’t be on steroids or HGH (or whatever thing we don’t know about yet) when he did it.

The column actually gets good, then, for a few paragraphs, despite the pointless mention of Bernie Madoff. Garrison writes about how winning at all costs is something our culture condones and that we shouldn’t be surprised when athletes use steroids. (I don’t know why she’s surprised in her lead. Maybe she learned some new information between the first and ninth paragraphs.)

Then it gets super-awesome, super-quick:

On the flip side, quitters never win, but cheaters certainly seem to. There rarely seems to be real pubic outrage at these athletes. The public doesn’t demand refunds on their season tickets. There are no demonstrations or protests about athletes who cheat.

* * *

Update, 4:32 p.m.: Oh, my God. I totally missed this, but a friend pointed it out. Can we print that one sentence again, in bold? Yes we can!

There rarely seems to be real pubic outrage at these athletes.

Ugh, this is what I get for trying to write something serious-ish. I totally miss that Kimberly Garrison is upset about a lack of pubic outrage toward A-Rod. Maybe she wants us to piss on him?

* * *

Yes! Where are the public demonstrations over A-Rod’s steroid use from 2001-2003?! Why aren’t we asking Barack Obama about this? (Oh, wait, we did.) And, hey, what do you know, somebody has sued MLB over players using steroids! And, gee, what’s this, people booed Bonds throughout his last couple years in the majors!

To the contrary, public demand for athletic performance has never been higher. One might assume that, as long as people have their superstars to worship, they could care less how these athletes achieved their astounding feats.

Most sports fans I know are tired of moralizing over steroids. They may hate steroids, they may think every single steroid user should be banned from baseball forever. But they just don’t want to hear the same people writing the same columns every single time another pro athlete tests positive for ‘roids.

The bottom line? As long as there are no significant consequences, steroid use and abuse will remain rampant. The potential for glory, glamour and gold far outweighs the risks. There is just too much money to be made for athletes to perform without doping.

Sadly, this has serious ramifications for our children. Many American teens take steroids - easily found online - to improve their appearance or athletic performance.

How can parents, ethics and education impress our youth when superstar cheaters get a free pass?

Youth: Traditionally impressed by ethics.

Let’s go through this: According to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey (it’s not perfect, but it’s what we got), less than 2 percent of 12th graders used steroids. (There’s a .pdf of some charts here.) Numbers were under 1 percent for 8th and 10th graders. Is that too high of a number still? Um, sure. But in what world does “less than 2 percent” equal “many”? And, hey, what do you know, around 90 percent of teens disapprove of using steroids once or twice! I’m actually pretty enthused after reading those numbers. They’re way “better” than I expected.

The main reasons kids use steroids are, not so shockingly, the same reasons adults use them: To look better, to help athletic performance in order to win games, because of mental issues (muscle dysmorphia). And some people just love taking risks! (I took some of the above info from the section titled “The ‘Role-Model’ Claim” this page about steroids in baseball; it also references a study that said “teens whose role models were sports figures were less likely to have used substances in the past week than teens who had other role models.”)

On the whole, obviously, it’s better for pro athletes to not take steroids or smoke pot on camera or drink beer during Prohibition (sorry, Babe Ruth!). I would guess, sure, there are some kids who have decided to use steroids because they saw Barry Bonds hit long homers. Dumb kids, though. Who would want to be like Barry Bonds, though? Everyone hates him!

A-Rod, too, is being vilified by everyone from Duke sports information director Dick Vitale to… hell, everyone. Pick any column from that second link, a Google News search. Everyone hates A-Rod. People want to take his name off the field he paid for. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says he’s going to make Hank Aaron the home run king again. (Not that Aaron is free of steroid speculation!) What more does Kimberly Garrison want?

Oh. A suspension, probably, or maybe a ban from baseball. That will somehow keep the kiddies off the steroids. Okay, fair enough. Let’s see:

Honestly, I question if sports officials really want to put an end to doping in pro sports. If they’re serious, why not treat steroid offenders like Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback who was vilified for engaging in dogfighting?

Until steroid use carries that kind of stigma, I suspect we’ll continue to hear bad news about professional athletes we thought we could look up to.

Yes! Throw A-Rod in jail! Hell, throw him to the lions! Or maybe make him play for the Detroit Lions, that would be worse. I should note Garrison is not the only person calling for A-Rod to be thrown in jail. I guess that’s what she’s calling for, right? Perhaps she will explain it in her final sentence:

Readers, what do you think?

This is, really, the last paragraph of the column. Incredible. What is it, a blog post?

I don’t really expect the Daily News fitness columnist to deliver insightful social commentary. (I’d say she should focus on fitness. She seems pretty awesome at that, actually. If she wanted to do an A-Rod column, she could write about the dangers of steroid use in developing bodies. But that’s just me.) But what’s amazing about this column is half of it is actually quite good: She gets that people use steroids because of things like American culture, innate human desire or allure of beauty or riches.

Then she wonders why A-Rod isn’t being burned at the stake in the center of New Yankee Stadium.

Sigh. And people wonder why guys like me (who consume far too much media for their own good) end up liking guys like Barry Bonds and A-Rod just to spite people. Well, maybe that says more about me than anybody else. Sighs all around, then.

Original photo by racoles used under a Creative Commons license