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Red Skelton died at the age of 84 on September 17, 1997.

September 17, 2016

There’s a bit of a lawn sign battle going on on my street. About a month ago, my next-door neighbor put up a Clinton/Kaine 16 sign. It has set off a series of chain reactions.

Even though it’s difficult to argue this Presidential election season has been anything other than a nightmare — a friend who voted against Obama twice told me, “do you think we can just keep him?” — I’ll confess a little bit of excitement that, for the first time in my life, I’m voting in a swing state. I turned 18 in 1993, so I’ve voted in five Presidential elections. Here are the margins in the states I lived in for each of those elections (person I voted for in bold):

1996 (Illinois): Clinton 54.3, Dole 36.4, Perot 8
2000 (New York): Gore 60.2, Bush 35.2
2004 (New York): Kerry 58.3, Bush 40.0
2008 (New York): Obama 62.9, McCain 36.0
2012 (New York): Obama 63.3, Romney 35.1

So yeah: None of those were close. (If you’re wondering about primary votes: 1996, Clinton; 2000 Bradley, 2004 Edwards — the worst vote I’ve ever cast and hopefully ever will — 2008 Obama, 2012 Obama, 2016 Clinton.) But Georgia has a chance to be close this year. I don’t think Hillary Clinton can win it — FiveThirtyEight only gives her a 21 percent chance — but it’s certainly the most contested state I’ve ever lived in for one of these. FiveThirtyEight sees it as 48.8 Trump, 43.6 Clinton, and demographic shifts in the state have many observers believing Georgia will be fully blue in the next two decades. That it’s being contested at all tells you a lot about the state’s ongoing evolution, and it tells you a lot about Donald Trump. Georgia has only voted Democratic once since 1980 (1992), and frankly, I’m surprised it was blue even that recently. Point is, though: This year, it’s actually sort of a race.

And in a college town like the one I live in, that means serious business. After my neighbor put up her Hillary sign, the next day, the family across the street put up one. Then, a few houses down, up went a Trump sign. Then my neighbor’s went missing; according to one of those neighborhood listservs that exist mostly to terrify mothers that everybody’s gonna get lice, someone has been out stealing Clinton signs from various Five Points houses. No matter: You’re seeing Hillary signs everywhere around these parts now. Our house is in fact surrounded by them. There’s a couple Trump signs here or there, all of which have sprouted up since this arms race began, but on the whole: My block looks like Brooklyn South these days.

Obviously, I have no problem with this, considering my previously mentioned stance of “legitimately terrified that if Trump wins it will be an extinction level event for our form of government.” But I still don’t want a lawn sign up. Maybe it’s the years of living in New York and never so much as meeting one’s neighbors — in one apartment, I slept roughly 15 feet of drywall away from a woman for about two years and never once learned her name — but I find something, I dunno, untoward about such public displays of one’s personality and beliefs. It feels like an invasion. A while back, some civic-minded person put a sign in our lawn supporting an upcoming charity Fun Run in the neighborhood. It was an unalloyed good, for society, for our friends and neighbors, for my family personally. But I wanted it out. It made me uneasy. I felt like it was shouting in someone’s face.

I don’t understand this impulse, particularly because, well, I sort of make my living by expressing my opinions. I’ve never been shy about my political beliefs either, though I do believe I’m able to separate them from my journalistic work. (Of course, every journalist thinks that.) Back during my book tour in 2008, I wore an Obama shirt to every reading.

(And a jacket, like a doof.)

But I dunno. The Great Five Points Lawn Sign Conflict of 2016 is not a war I want to be a part of. I can blame it on it being journalistically unprofessional to have a lawn sign endorsing a candidate at my house — and it would be — but the fact is, I’m mostly embarrassed of my opinions. I don’t trust them. I mean, just because I have an opinion doesn’t mean I’m right. With my work, it’s different: I want you to have to opt in to see my opinion. If you’ve clicked on something I’ve written, that’s implicit permission; you buy a ticket, you ride the ride. But driving by my house? Or meeting me at a party? Or just running into me in the supermarket? I just don’t want to be a bother. You shouldn’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to.

So yeah, sorry: No Clinton/Kaine signs for me, even though at this point ours is one of the only houses on the block that doesn’t have one, save for the stray Trump stragglers. I’d rather people not even know what kind of car I have.

That said: You try to steal one of my neighbors’ Hillary signs, I’m gonna whack you upside the brain with a polo mallet. If you see something, say something.

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.)

1. This Could Be the End of an Incredible Cardinals Run, Sports On Earth. St. Louis is 1-4 at the worst possible time since I wrote this. It’s a hard time. We’re all just trying to make it through.

2. “Snowden:” Make Oliver Stone Mad Again, The New Republic. A total bummer of a movie, but writing about Oliver Stone is always a gas. Seeing JFK at the Cinema 1-2-3 in Mattoon right after I turned 16 years old remains one of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had in a theater.

3. NFL Impatience Already Working Against DePodesta, Browns, Sports On Earth. One advantage of doing Pro Football Now each week is having ready-made NFL column ideas every Thursday. Fancy that: A TV show giving one writing ideas.

4. The No Fun League Continues to Make Little Sense, Sports On Earth. Contains many touchdown celebration videos.

5. “Blair Witch:” This Time With Drones, The New Republic. Didn’t quite nail this one. I might love the original too much. (Seriously, that movie scared this piss out of me back in 1999.)

6. When Will Each Team Clinch a Postseason Spot? Sports On Earth. Not included: THE CARDINALS.

7. A Home Playoff Game? It Doesn’t Get Much Better, Sports On Earth. Features Tommy Pham homering off Jon Lester in last year’s NLDS, a.k.a. The Last Moment of the Cardinals Dynasty.

8. Who’s the Best World Series Champion of All Time? Sports On Earth. A new bracket, and probably the most fun one we’ve done yet.

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, chatting about “Sully,” “Body Heat” and, on special request from one Alexa Stevenson, “Teen Witch.”

The Will Leitch Experience, back with Alyson Footer.

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, recapping last week’s awful win over Nicholls and previewing this week’s game against Missouri.

Culture Caucus, we taped one on Friday! It’s back next week! Finally!

Also, watch Pro Football Now right here.

OK, time to drive this boat out of here.


Ah, the Rabun Gap: Best place in America to dump a body. Have a great weekend, everyone. Don’t steal anyone’s lawn signs.