The Puppy Bowl is Terrible

It’s time someone said it. The Puppy Bowl is terrible. Small dogs are not good athletes.

puppy-bowl

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and like most Americans I will watch the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks while drinking beer, eating chicken wings and yelling at the TV, often simultaneously.

I will watch the pre-game show, because I’m a fan of any TV program in which five millionaires sit around a desk and fake-laugh while veiling their mutual contempt. I will watch the commercials because some of them are more entertaining than whole movies. I will watch the halftime show in case there are nipples. But I will not watch The Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl is terrible.

The Puppy Bowl launched on Animal Planet in 2005. Like a sucker, I tune in every year expecting improvement from the puppies, but they continue to disappoint.

Animal Planet, it’s time someone said it: puppies are terrible at football.

I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start on offense. The puppies have no offensive strategy. There is no huddle. No plays are called. Is there a quarterback? No one seems to want the responsibility. Worse, the ball is often left unattended in a corner with no effort made to retrieve it. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I’m used to that. I expect more from puppies.

The defense is a joke. Most of the players seem more interested in socializing than stopping the opposing team. Defense wins championships. It’s about tenacity. It’s about the will to win. It’s about scratching and clawing and breaking the opponent before you. You cannot break an opponent’s will by sniffing his derriere, especially if he’s open to it.

What’s sad is that all of this terrible play might be prevented if the referee un-swallowed his whistle and called a foul once in a while. Every play is a laundry list of penalties – illegal formation, offsides, encroachment, clipping, holding, late hits, you name it. And I’m sorry, but Unnecessary Ruff-Ness, Illegal Use of the Paws and Illegal Retriever Down Field are not real penalties. The ref only seems to blow his whistle to call attention to when something adorable is happening.

Since when can you bite and then hump your own teammate during a game and it’s OK?!? (Outside of Oakland.)

The problem, I very much believe, is the Puppy Bowl culture. In Puppy Bowl VI, Jake the Chihuahua Pug was awarded the game’s MVP award by Animal Planet (see video) for nothing more than running around. Jake didn’t score, kick a field goal or make a goal-line stand. This teaches the impressionable puppies watching at home to value the absence of skill, teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s probably why most puppies today are so immature and most of the puppies who make it to the big game don’t know how to handle the spotlight.

What can be done? Well, we can’t ignore the Puppy Bowl. It’s too big. It’s ingrained in our popular culture. So we have to fix it.

Before these puppies are ever put on national television, they should be taught how to block, run, pass, receive and tackle as a team unit. We’ll need to start puppy football teams on college campuses or create developmental leagues where puppies learn that the gridiron is more than just a place to run around like a fool.

For the puppies who have the right stuff, the Puppy Bowl and perhaps even a roster spot on the Cleveland Browns await.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sochi Double Toilet: Explained

Why is there a double toilet at the Sochi Olympic Center? Former Olympics reporter Joe Donatelli has a few theories.

toilets-sochi
Behold one of nature’s rarest spectacles–the double toilet. This pic was snapped at the Olympic Biathalon Center in Sochi, Russia, right before the Winter Olympics.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

Big deal. So what? We’ve seen this before on “Saturday Night Live.”

No, that was the Love Toilet you’re remembering, which is an altogether different type of double toilet. Whereas the Love Toilet is romantic, the Sochi Double Toilet is functional. It’s all business–two Russian rings of Olympic Zdravstvuj.

love-toilet

A reasonable person might wonder, “How could such a thing happen? How could any professional build two toilets next to each other, thus defying all of the international laws of toilet privacy as set forth in Geneva in 1957?”

I have two theories.

To explain the first theory, I will have to share with you an unsavory experience I had while covering the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mitt Romney ran the Salt Lake City Games, and unlike Vladimir Putin, Romney enacted a sensible single-toilet policy. (Had Romney played up his public bathroom policy in 2012, I’m fairly certain he could have won the election.)

As a reporter for Scripps-Howard, I covered  a variety of events, including some skiing and snowboarding. It was while covering one of these outdoor events that I nearly lost all faith in the Olympics’ dedication to international peace through athletic competition.

Something was clearly amiss from the moment I entered the men’s room. The men’s room, as men know, is not a room where you ever want anything to go amiss. Men’s rooms should be predictable, always. There should always be toilet paper. It should always be reasonably clean. No strangers should ever talk to you, even if some of your clothes happen to be on fire. But this men’s room wasn’t predictable. It took a moment to register, because it’s not something you expect to see, but there he was–a member of the Russian press seated on the toilet with the stall door wide open.

The man made no attempt to close the door. He offered no apology. When he saw me looking at him, he looked at me like I was the jerk. I left the men’s room, walked outside and held it for three days.

When I explained this situation to some of my friends in the press, no one was surprised. Apparently–and this is the lesson to be learned here–there are nations on earth where closing a bathroom stall door is considered high-falutin’.

So that’s theory No. 1 – the double toilet is a cultural choice, an homage to Russia’s gritty, leave-the-stall-door-open style of living.

Theory No. 2 is that when any government that is routinely elected with more than 99 percent of the vote gives out billions of dollars worth of contract work, corners will be cut. For example, an ice skating venue might be built entirely out of corrugated cardboard.

One envisions a Russian contractor being told to install a certain number of toilets in a sports venue. The work orders do not specify that there should be any stall doors. So, no stall doors. Nobody on the crew objects because installing stall doors sounds like more work, and what are we? Canadian? It should shock no one if we learn in coming days of triple and quadruple Sochi toilets.

At moments such as these, and by that I mean global bathroom fixture crises, we gain insight into nations and leaders and even ourselves.

Much ado was made before the start of these Olympic Games about Vladimir Putin’s controversial views regarding homosexuality. Talking heads railed against him. Organizations protested. Our president heroically responded by kind of doing something. But perhaps we judged the Russian leader too harshly.

His words say that two men should not be naked together.

But what do his toilets say?

That is the measure by which you judge a man.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy.

UPDATE: Some nice double-toilet coverage here from the Los Angeles Times and Conan O’Brien.

UPDATE: Someone found an audience toilet in Sochi. It’s like someone is making an Olympics out of my nightmares.

audience-toilet

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Potholes for Sale

David Stern is selling people potholes. Because…America.

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Friend of The Humor Columnist David Stern–who was last seen in this space promoting the very important Balding Handbook–has found a new way to fleece the public make money doing something other than real work. Stern is the proprietor of The Pothole Store, which sells the naming rights to Chicago area potholes as well as their contents to pothole-loving citizens.

Items for sale include: Potholepourri, Chicago Pothole Snowglobe and pothole varietals such as Skokie Tokie. It’s like a deranged Etsy store for potholes.

This is the Pothole Store promise:

Our mission statement has always been simple: To provide the highest quality 100% Authentic Chicago pothole products at the lowest prices. These fourteen simple words have guided us from day one. These fourteen words have demanded that we only use the ripest and freshest crumbling asphalt from around Chicagoland. These fourteen words have been our template throughout our tireless dedication. These fourteen words have made us the largest purveyor of 100% authentic Chicago pothole products in the world.

Repeat…The World.

We humbly welcome you to The Pothole Store, where only the best pothole products are sold. All our products come with a Certificate Of Authenticity (COA) assuring that you’re only getting the very best. When you open one of our products for the first time and take in it’s rich fresh aroma, you’ll say to yourself…”That’s Good Pothole”.

The amount of work and effort Stern put into offering potholes for sale on the Internet probably could have been used to start a more useful small business, which is why I applaud his efforts.

This is “pothole expert” David Stern being interviewed on WGN about his pothole store.

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Crucial Burrito Vending Machine Opens in Los Angeles

A burrito vending machine has opened in Los Angeles. Joe Donatelli unwraps the delicious flour tortilla of this new technology.

I once purchased a giant beer from a vending machine in a Japanese national park, and I thought, “Why don’t we have this in the United States? How come when I visit a state park I have to buy my tall boys from a bait shop like a sucker? Clearly we’ve fallen behind the Japanese in the crucial technology of automated libation convenience.” I worried for my nation. If we could put a man on the moon, how come we couldn’t put a Sam Adams vending machine in Yellowstone Park?

Today, friends, I am happy to report that the United States is closing the vending machine gap.

My friend Kathy—who is aware of my love of food stunts—alerted me to the existence of the Burrito Box, which is a box that sells burritos. We have one in Los Angeles, not far from where I live, at the WeHo Super Mart at the Mobil station at 8380 Santa Monica Blvd. (“WeHo,” for those of you who live outside of Los Angeles, is short for We are Hos.)

weho-super-mart

I took a drive out and investigated the burrito vending machine. I arrived around 5 PM in order to beat the dinner rush. Surely there will be a line, I thought. Anytime a nation makes a leap in burrito technology, it is cause to celebrate—and to eat burritos.

burrito-box

I walked into the WeHo Super Mart, trying to act all cool, like I wasn’t there just to see the Burrito Box. Oh, hey, Funyuns. They still make Funyuns? Whoa! What’s this!?! A Burrito Box? What is that doing here, in the same gas station convenience store where I also am?

There was no line, but as soon as I approached the machine, a gentleman of Russian decent asked me if I knew what the Burrito Box was. He had clearly heard about it, but he wasn’t ready to tangle with it just yet. He’d probably never been to Japan. “It’s a machine that sells burritos,” I told him. “It’s the future.”

He took a photo with his cell phone.

The Burrito Box touch screen offered several options including roasted potato with egg and cheese, uncured bacon with egg and cheese, chorizo sausage with egg and cheese, free-range chicken with beans and rice and shredded beef and cheese. I chose the free-range chicken because I didn’t want to eat meat from a box that had spent its life in a box. I’m pretty sure if I checked with Jamie Oliver he would have said, “Too many boxes.”

Burritos are $3, plus tax and additional toppings. I ordered sides of guacamole (75 cents) and Tabasco (65 cents). I paid $4.80 total with a credit card, and then I waited. While I waited a music video played. I cannot tell you whose video it was because all I could think was, “Is the machine making my burrito right now? Or is there a person in there folding my burrito and this is all a trick like you might see on truTV? Why is this taking so long if the burrito is pre-made? Are they (they who? I don’t know—they) putting the guacamole and Tabasco on my burrito? Make with the burrito already, burrito technology.”

It took about a minute, which was long enough for me to realize that not only is this company selling burritos, it plans to sell music companies the right to make me watch music videos while I wait for my burrito. Unless the song is called “Burritos are Great” by the Burrito Brothers, I don’t think anyone is going to pay too much attention to the music.

Finally I heard a clunk, and I reached into the machine, and I retrieved a warm burrito (in a sleeve), a package of guac and a tiny bottle of hot sauce.

burrito-box-burrito

I raced home and pulled the burrito, still warm, from its sleeve.

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burrito-box-burrito-wrapper

I set the table for dinner.

burrito-box-dinner

Yes, I drink wine with dinner from a monogrammed wine glass. I might eat burritos from a vending machine, but I’m not a savage.

The guacamole was fine. It tasted how you would expect packaged guacamole to taste. Like something that astronauts would be pumped to have with them in space. I only bought the Tabasco because I wanted the complete Burrito Box experience. If they had Cholula or Tapatio, I would have preferred that. And so would all of Los Angeles. I am looking in your direction, company that makes the Burrito Box.

The quality of the burrito? To its credit it did not give offense, which is the highest compliment one can pay to warm food that emerges from a vending machine at a gas station. It was similar to that which you would expect from the frozen food section of your local grocery store.

I enjoyed the novelty and appreciated the convenience.

Would I buy another vending machine burrito?

Probably if there was a beer vending machine involved.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy. In 2013 he covered The One Thing No One Tells You About Living in Los Angeles.

UPDATE: A commenter lamented that I did not photograph the inside of the burrito. I wish I had, too. If you’re curious, Machinima made this video documenting the entire glorious burrito vending machine experience.

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Plastic Bag Ban Blows Into Town

Humor columnist Joe Donatelli reports on Los Angeles’s plastic bag ban in grocery stores.

The people of Los Angeles love the environment, when we can see it through all the smog. Nowhere on earth will you find a better friend to the penguin, the spotted owl and the un-spayed dog. When tough environmental problems arise, we Los Angelenos drive in our cars to air conditioned buildings where we drink foreign coffee and demand solutions. It’s what makes us great.

Some cities let major issues like the environment happen to them. Not us. We’re doers. Look all around. It takes a certain sense of daring and perseverance and cocaine to read a script like “Pain and Gain” and say, “Let’s do this!”

That’s the essence of who we are.

On January 1, the city of Los Angeles’s plastic bag ban took effect. The ban makes it illegal for grocery stores to distribute plastic bags to customers. If you’re keeping track, the list of things it is now illegal to do in Los Angeles includes murder, assault and giving elderly people who purchase oranges a thin plastic bag to carry them home. Let this be a lesson to scofflaws everywhere. If we can’t nail you on the murder charges, we will get you when you successfully open up a large supermarket chain and give people polyethylene reusable bags at no cost.

Can you feel the net closing, LA gang leaders?

Shoppers in Los Angeles now face limited bagging options.

They can bring bags from home.

They can pay 10 cents for a paper bag.

They can carry their groceries in their arms.

Or they can—as one friend witnessed—put all of their groceries in a grocery cart and wheel the grocery cart home. I advise against this final option. It is, technically, stealing, and after a few weeks you end up with a messy pile of grocery carts next to your refrigerator.

I went to Ralph’s grocery store this week to investigate Los Angeles’s bag ban and to buy some pork cutlets.

As I pulled into a parking space, I looked in the entrance of the store and saw a woman scrambling to pick up all of her groceries, which I assumed (incorrectly) had slipped out of a bag. Clearly unwilling to pay 10 cents for a paper bag, she was carrying them by hand. She then dropped them again in the middle of the parking lot. I would describe the look on her face as frazzled. She drove away in a Prius.

Inside the store all of the plastic bags had been removed from the bagging area. Only empty bag racks and some paper bags remained, like you would imagine in a zombie movie where panicking looters preferred plastic over paper.

plastic-bag-ban

The checkout lines at Ralph’s always move quickly, so I didn’t mind getting in line behind a woman with a full cart. She unloaded her groceries with her phone tucked between her shoulder and her ear, never once breaking conversation. I noticed she did not bring any reusable bags with her. Cashiers and baggers no longer ask, “Paper or plastic?” Now they ask, “Do you want to buy paper bags for 10 cents a bag?” This caused the woman to pull the phone away from her ear for a moment.

“What?”

The cashier explained that plastic bags were no longer allowed, and that if she wanted bags, she’d have to buy paper bags for 10 cents a bag. The woman, clearly overjoyed at the prospect of a future with cleaner oceans and tidier streets, told the cashier, “Whatever.”

Paper it was.

“Someone came prepared,” the cashier said as I placed my six reusable shopping bags on the checkout belt.

“Unlike some people, I read the news,” I said while extending my arm outward and subtly pointing at the woman on the phone as she walked out of the store.

“Nobody knows about the law yet. When they find out, they think it’s store policy,” said the cashier, who was clearly not happy that the store was being dissed by customers for a city law.

“Are people buying paper bags?” I asked.

“Quite a few,” the cashier said.

“Do you want a free reusable bag?” the cashier asked.

“Please. We use them in our house, unlike some people,” I said, and the cashier knew who I was talking about because of all of the subtle pointing I had been doing.

From this week forward, there will be fewer plastic bags in Los Angeles.

It remains to be seen whether or not the bag ban will help the environment. Any time you disrupt the delicate ecosystem of bags and stores in a city, there are bound to be unintended consequences.

Los Angeles City Council members who voted for the ban say the bags often end up on city streets and in the ocean, where they pose a threat to fish and wildlife. But did LA City Council think this all the way through? Reusable bags must be washed (which requires burning fossil fuels) in water (which is in short supply) that contains soap chemicals (which of course contain chemicals). A non-biodegradable plastic bag buried in a landfill, meanwhile, emits no greenhouse gases, and they give the aliens who find earth 11 billion years from now something neat to look at. Paper bags in landfills, meanwhile, emit methane, which will certainly drive away aliens and their much-needed Andromedan tourist dollars.

And then there’s Los Angeles’s real environmental problem, the one city council and the mayor and the city fathers are too chicken to tackle: dog poop. In a city filled with environmentalists, too few people are concerned with how much poop is in their immediate environments. People outside of LA imagine coming here and being able to see movie stars all over our city, and their vision of Los Angeles is absolutely correct when you replace the words “movie stars” with “canine excrement.”

What will happen now that there are fewer bags?

We stand at the dawn of either a great civic cleansing or a great civic poopening.

The future is in our hands.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy. In 2013 he covered The One Thing No One Tells You About Living in Los Angeles.

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