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Jane Wyman died at the age of 90 on September 10, 2007.

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September 10, 2016

Unless I’m traveling, I try to go on a run every day, not because I love it, not because I’m alone with my thoughts, not because I enjoy being outside, not because it’s a chance to take a break from a hectic planet. I run because I do not have a lot of time in my day and running is the simply most efficient exercise there is, burning as many calories in as short an amount of time as possible. I don’t run because I’m “a runner.” I run because I am getting older and do not want to get fat. I do it because I have to, not because I want to.

I’m up to about 30 miles a week, and to run that many miles when you don’t inherently enjoy it requires tricking your brain. The way I trick my brain is by listening to podcasts. A great podcast makes you forget you are listening to a podcast at all; it makes you feel as if you are sitting amidst a fascinating conversation with really smart people who have kindly invited you along. The best podcasts – Effectively Wild, Keepin’ It 1600, The Solid Verbal, The Starters are some of my go-tos here — get inside your head and turn the hosts into just a couple of friends you visit with once or twice a week. I find myself watching baseball, or college football, or election coverage, and thinking, “Oh, man, I can’t wait to see what Favreau and Pfeiffer have to say about this.” A great podcast follows you around even when you’re not listening to it. Whenever I’ve met Ben from Effectively Wild, or Ty or Dan from The Solid Verbal, or Skeets from The Starters in real life, it’s disorienting for a few minutes: I’ve listened to them beam thoughts straight into my brain for so many hours that it takes a while to adjust to the fact that they’re real live human beings. (I’m pretty sure I creeped them all out.) That’s the goal of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, to be honest: We want you, when you’re watching a movie, to be partly thinking, “Wonder what Will and Tim will say about this.” The point is not to agree or disagree. The point is be enveloped in the conversation: To be lost in it.

So that’s why I listen to podcasts while running. I can let the show take over my brain so I can forget I’m running at all. I can get so engrossed in a great 50-minute podcast that I didn’t even notice I was running the whole time. I highly recommend it.

(A screenshot of my current podcast subscriptions:)


Let me know if I’m missing any particularly great ones. (Or yours.)

ANYWAY. I listen to podcasts. That was a lot of throat clearing for a small, not particularly revelatory observation.

So I was running this morning listening to the Slate Political Gabfest with David Plotz, Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson, which might be the best podcast on the planet, and Plotz mentioned that his wife, accomplished author Hanna Rosin, came up with a pop culture analogy for the upcoming Presidential debates. She said that Hillary Clinton was Lisa Simpson, and Donald Trump was Bart Simpson.

This is a good analogy because it is clear and it is easy to understand. Hillary will show up to the debate completely prepared – over-prepared – and ready to dazzle everyone with her mastery of the issues. And Trump will show up not having prepared at all, slingshot in hand, making armpit noises and telling the moderator to eat his shorts. Lisa is the smart one who knows what she’s talking about. But everyone wants to talk about Bart.

But as strong as this analogy is, I have a better one, and helpfully, it’s also from “The Simpsons.”

Donald Trump is Homer Simpson. And Hillary Clinton is Frank Grimes.

It has been 20 years since Frank Grimes made his lone appearance on “The Simpsons,” in the episode “Homer’s Enemy,” but he remains perhaps my favorite Simpsons character of all time. “Homer’s Enemy”— which aired on May 4, 1997, if you can fathom that — tells the story of poor Frank, a man who was abandoned by his parents when he was four and severely injured in a silo accident at the age of 18. He overcame this adversity and a life of poverty through hard work and determination, toiling away two jobs to pay for his studies, which earn him an integrated Masters degree in physics at the age of 35. All this has remained underappreciated, even resented, by society, and Grimes is still poor, alone and living “in a single room above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley.” When Montgomery Burns sees a news story about the Grimes brilliance and determination, he hires him as an executive vice president at the Springfield Power Plant. And it’s there that he meets Homer Simpson.

Homer, of course, is a complete idiot. He’s reckless, and careless, and stupid. He’s a public health hazard at the power plant — Grimes has to smack a vial of acid that Homer was about to drink out of his hands and ends up punished for it when the beaker it was in destroys a wall — and plainly incapable of even basic everyday tasks. He’s rude, he’s self-centered and he’s so lazy that his incompetence at everything is almost irrelevant. He’s Homer Simpson.

And, of course, it all still always works out for Homer Simpson. Everything that he does is wrong, everyone has to do all his work for him, he’s barely able to write his name in the ground with a stick. Yet all his co-workers think he’s hilarious, he has a lovely family who adores him, he has even been to outer space. No matter how awful or moronic he is, it always works out for him. He can do whatever he wants, and he always gets away with it. When Grimes, who works three times as hard and does five times the work as Homer, attempts to expose Homer as stupid by entering him in a nuclear power plant model-building contest for children, he looks on aghast as Homer wins and the whole plant applauds him.

Grimes, at last, loses it, in one of the funniest scenes in “Simpsons” history. You can’t embed video in Tinyletter for some reason, so watch it here.


That is how it must feel to be Hillary Clinton this election. Unlike Donald Trump, she:

*** Is intelligent.
*** Is obsessed with facts and research and preparation.
*** Has made some minor ethical mistakes (that strike me as unfortunate but not to be entirely unexpected from three decades of public life) but has never, say, bribed a judge, praised dictatorships, attacked a Gold Star family, been accused of rape, threatened to ban an entire religion from the country, once … well, you know, there’s about a million things, here’s a helpful database.
*** Is vivisected by the press for inconsistencies and infractions that aren’t are infinitesimal compared to her opponent.
*** Has committed here entire life to public service.
*** Has dealt with a philandering spouse who embarrassed her in the most public, awful fashion imaginable but still is seen by many women as worse than a man who has cheated on multiple wives and once said “you have to treat women like shit.”

And what does she get for it? She gets Matt Lauer spending 10 minutes of national television time lambasting her for a minor email mistake – albeit one she hasn’t been as upfront about as even supporters would like – while, when Lauer interviews Trump, he doesn’t even challenge obvious, upfront, right-in-Lauer’s-face lies. She gets people wondering if she’s dying every time she coughs, while Trump has been stuffing his face with KFC for 60 years. She gets a poll that says voters find her less trustworthy than Trump even though the guy literally doesn’t pay his vendors, which, as a regular freelancer, makes me think he’s maybe the worst person in the world. She does what you’re supposed to. He does the opposite. She gets all the grief. And he gets whatever he wants.

Why? BECAUSE I’M HOMER SIMPSON.


(Two important flaws in my analogy: Hillary Clinton is a woman, which means it’s about 30 times harder for her than it would be for Frank Grimes, and Homer Simpson is not, in fact, an asshole.)

I don’t know how this race is going to end. I still think Hillary is going to win, and win handily. The alternative seems terrifying, honestly, regardless of one’s individual politics. Hillary has all the advantages, from the electoral college to demographic trends to an actual get-out-the-vote ground game. (Rather than Trump’s active rejection of one.) It’s difficult to fathom a world in which people would choose him.

I’m saying you’re what’s wrong with America, Simpson. You coast through life, you do as little as possible, and you leech off of decent, hardworking people like me. If you lived in any other country in the world, you’d have starved to death long ago. You’re a fraud, a total fraud.

But yeah, I dunno. It wasn’t fair, but: Nobody liked Frank Grimes. Homer Simpson pees on the seat and gets a promotion. The world is not always what it should be. I can’t imagine how infuriating this race must be for Hillary Clinton. By the end, Frank Grimes was twitching with rage. Frank Grimes was right about Homer, right about everything. It didn’t do him a lick of good. He ended up electrocuted, buried, eulogized and forgotten. Homer falls asleep at his funeral. Everybody cracks up. And on and on we go. Hopefully.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)

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  1. By Staying Silent, Roger Goodell and the NFL Won, New York Magazine. Trump must be in my head this week, because this piece makes a strong argument, I think, that the Trump strategy of charging forward, truth be damned, is the only strategy that works anymore. Especially if you’re the NFL.
  2. Snarking on Broadcasters Is a Sport Within a Sport. But Everybody Loves Vin Scully, Los Angeles Times. I have no idea why the LA Times asked me – a Midwestern transplant to NYC and the South who loves the Cardinals – to write their Vin Scully tribute, but I was very honored and tried to do the man right.
  3. Broncos Take Aim at Cam Newton’s Head in NFL Return, Sports On Earth. Yeah, that was sort of uncomfortable to watch.
  4. A Streaming Guide for All 42 Tom Hanks Films, Vulture. Tom Hanks has made a ton of movies. Most common complaints: The Money Pit too low, Forrest Gump too high.
  5. “Sully:” A Really Great Guy, a Decent Sort of Fellow, The New Republic. This movie was made for your parents, they’re gonna love it. You might too.
  6. 140 Bold Predictions for the 2016 NFL Season, Sports On Earth. I wouldn’t have used the word “bold,” but the “140” part is definitely true.
  7. Need an NFL Team to Root For? Try These Five, Sports On Earth. Shameless Bills clickbait.
  8. The NFC West Is the Seahawks’ Division to Lose, Sports On Earth. They’re finally over.
  9. Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Contenders?, AZ Sports 360. I wrote out the answers to this interview, so it counts, I guess?
  10. We Have a Winner For Best Throwback Jersey, Sports On Earth. The Astros. Saved you a click.

As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:

Grierson & Leitch, previewing the Toronto Film Festival and discussing “Twelve Monkeys” and “Escape From New York.”

The Will Leitch Experience, previewing the NFL season with Andrea Hangst (AFC) and Jason B. Hirschhorn (NFC).

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, recapping last week’s win over North Carolina and previewing this week’s game against Nichols State.

Culture Caucus, no show this week. Coming back very soon, I promise.

And I remind everyone to watch “Pro Football Now” every week at Sports Illustrated. I’ll be on the show every week with Nate Burleson, Maggie Gray and Andrew Perloff. Look, a picture:



Oh, right as I send this: “The Simpsons” are bringing back Frank Grimes for the Halloween episode this year. Poor bastard. Have a great weekend everyone. Go Dawgs. Go Illini.


Best,
Will

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