Guy no Logical Gibberish

My dad didn’t pronounce words correctly. It embarrassed me so much, when I was younger, that I matured into something of a wordsmith. A wordsmith, in my personal definition of the term, is not necessarily more intelligent than anyone else is. We do not have a better hold on pronunciations than anyone else does, and we don’t have a gift for spelling or proper word usage. A wordsmith is someone who focuses (see obsesses) daily on such matters. A wordsmith is also so embarrassed by past mistakes that we don’t think we’ll ever live them down. Such matters didn’t embarrass my dad at all. He didn’t care about any of it. 

Even though I put more effort into pronouncing words correctly, spelling them correctly, and using them in a proper manner, I still make errors all the time. I mispronounced a famous person’s name one day, and it was so embarrassing to me that I don’t think I’ll ever live it down. I’m sure if I asked the people hear me do it, they wouldn’t remember it, but it haunts me. I used a word that that we don’t recognize as a word in my formative years, and I used a tense of an adjective that is not considered one of the tenses for that word. I also used the word (“had”) too often, as in “if he had lived to see the day”.

People I knew and loved mocked my lexicon so often, in my youth, that I made it my life’s mission to eradicate errors. (I’ll let you know if I ever accomplish that feat.) I could handle most of the mean-spirited mockery directed at my other, numerous errors, because they meant nothing to me. The mockery directed at my lexicon concerned me, because I knew my dad’s casual disregard for the conventional rules of language, and it embarrassed me as a teenager.

They say that if we spend enough time in another part of the country, we might carry accents, and/or peculiar pronunciations for words that are otherwise indigenous to that area of the country. My dad said the word wash for most of his life, until he traveled to Tennessee. He spent one week there, and for the remaining decades of his life he said, “warsh.” Correcting that proved an insurmountable hurdle for him, as did “eckspecially”. He made up contractions, such as ‘kout’ for lookout and (‘Q’) or “kyou” for thank you. He also made various plural-sounding names singular and vice versa. McDonald’s was McDonald and Burger King was Burger Kinks. Don’t ask me how he arrived at that second (‘K’). He also said intentendo, instead of Nintendo. We could fault his hearing for some of it, but after numerous corrections, the man stubbornly maintained his fault-ridden lexicon. He subconsciously picked up on errors in usage, but he never picked up on my numerous corrections. 

Speaking of word choices, how did we arrive at the word anus to describe an organ? We have to imagine that those in charge of the language used in medical periodicals and biology textbooks continue to use the word for the expressed purpose of being unfunny. Tradition probably guides current choices, tradition and the need for consistency, but there had to be a first. When the subject of origin of a word arrives, as we will discuss later, it can be difficult to impossible to source a word. The best question we can come up with is why do we continue to use this unusual and somewhat cute name for such a repugnant organ?   

How extensive was their search for the ideal, unfunny sounding word? How many voices did they hear, pro and con, before they eliminated all others and landed on anus? “The search is over, we’ve found the ideal word to describe the organ that sounds professional and doesn’t lead to uncomfortable smirks and giggles. Going forward, we shall all refer to the organ as the anus in doctors’ offices, biology text books, and other professional settings.” No one can blame us, for etymologists say the term predates English. The word anus derives from the Latin word anus, meaning “ring”. The Latin derivative annulus means “Little ring”.

In the search for the ideal term, the first thing they had to do was rule out the other, less professional alternatives. Imagine if your doctor said, “You’re fifty years old now, it’s time to see what’s going on inside your smelly freckle.” If my doctor used such a term, in such a sensitive situation, I wouldn’t care that they were trying to add some levity to an otherwise uncomfortable situation. I would seek another doctor.

The term they decided upon sounds so unusual and cute that all humans, no matter their age, gender, or background, giggle when they hear the word. If we could remove all of the connotations the word has with otherwise repugnant biological functions, we might picture a cute, little bug if we heard the word for the first time. If the word had no connotations to our little ring, imagine if comic book writers used the word to name one of their bad guys. “Join Spider-Man, in next week’s issue, as he takes on the Anus!” There’s something so unusual and cute about the word that I don’t think it would strike fear in the reader, until we learned what her powers were.    

We giggle, because it makes us feel uncomfortable in a way we can’t explain. One explanation might involve the idea that they chose such an unusual, cute term to describe such a repugnant orifice. What better punchline is there than, “… and I ended getting it stuck in my anus.”?

There was never a board of lords assembled to determine what term we should use to refer to the inferior opening of the alimentary canal a term. As stated, the word has roots in Latin, and Old French, but the Indo-European language family that dates back to 4500 BC to 2500 BC influenced those languages. As with other words and terms, we can arrive at the first recorded use of a word, and Wikipedia states that the first recorded use of the word anus dates back to 1650-1660, but there was probably never an official decree that suggested all professionals should start using the word anus in professional settings. Anytime we try to source a word, we encounter its complicated roots through a maze of variations of language based on migrations, and subsequent regional dialects that affect different shifts in pronunciation, morphology, and vocabulary. We then encounter various efforts at reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European roots of the word to arrive at the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to source the origin of some words and terms. The one thing we can agree upon is that the modes of communication were so archaic in 1650-1660 on back that most words achieved staying power places via word of mouth, and that it just sort of caught on after that. Even with that, with some prehistoric person with some biological knowledge passing the agreed upon unusual, cute term to another, we have to ask how the word anus passed the smell test.  

The continued use of this term probably has more to do with hundreds to thousands of years of tradition and a level of consistency, as I wrote, but these professionals have a choice anytime they produce a new textbook or periodical of any sort. The question is what’s the best viable alternative? The answer is there probably aren’t any now, the term is too ingrained, but we have to wonder how many alternatives the linguists and lexicographers of yesteryear passed on, before they agreed the word anus should be the preferred choice for those in professional and scientific circles. If they hoped that their final decision might end all of the snickers, giggles, and uncomfortable smiles when the subject comes up, then I think we can all agree that they failed.

“Don’t text me during the game,” I text. “I’m taping it. I don’t want to know if it’s a good game or a bad game. I won’t even check my phone during the game, so save your, “You’re going to love this,” “Don’t bother watching,” or “Get out of your house, there’s a small Cessna heading toward your house.” I don’t know why it bothers me so much when someone texts me about a game I’m taping, but I think it has something to do with a compact I have with the game I’m watching. It seems pointless, to me, to watch an otherwise exciting 7-yard out route, on third and six, when I know the outcome. Thus, when someone texts me some hint about the outcome of the game, it frustrates me so much that I want to coat my naked body and run through the city streets, just to teach humanity a lesson. I know that I couldn’t live with that memory though, so I just avoid my phone during games.

Big Things vs. Little Things. We dream of big things, but we cannot accomplish big things without tending to all the little things that make big things possible. Before writing the Great American Novel, for example, the author has to write. That first page can be tough, but it’s not near as tough as page two. Page one is often the flurry of inspiration that led us to sit down and write. That inspiration probably struck at a relatively boring moment in our life. Page one often ends up gibberish, however, that doesn’t make it past Chekov’s Razor. Page one often ends up being deleted or tossed into the waste paper basket. Page two is often where the book begins. Starting is important, but it’s not as important as continuing.  

An important note I heard recently that contradicts that paragraph is, we don’t have to accomplish great things to be great. By taking care of the little things in life, we can still be great. We can be a great father, mother, businessman, and student. I knew a man who accomplished great things in life, but he turned out to be something of a failure as a father. I call it the Larry Bird Complex. There’s an old saying that “those who can’t do it teach” but the flipside proves to be true too. Those who can do it, often cannot teach others how to do it. Larry Bird was a man many consider one of the greatest to play the game, but he wasn’t a very good coach. The man I knew had a personal resume loaded with so many prestigious accolades that we might have to break his life down to chapters. When they buried him, however, he found out he couldn’t take his accolades with him. Those who sat closest to his casket were his legacy, and they were confused adults who lived a life of chaos. Was that their father’s fault? It’s debatable, but he didn’t do anything to relieve them of their pain, and they were/are how the rest of us measure him. A man of accomplishment enjoys telling people about his great accomplishments, but if he failed to tend to his own yard, people will remember that more.

So, You Want to go Into Business. “My employees think I’m Daddy Warbucks,” an owner/operator of a local franchise said with a laugh. “They don’t understand how thin profit margins are.”

“Most people don’t,” I said. “I don’t for the most part. I’ve never owned my own business. Most of us think that anyone who does is in the money, especially if that business is a franchise. Most of us have no idea of the expenses involved in running a business.”

Most of us know-nothings loosely define profit as the difference between the wholesale and retail prices. We don’t consider the idea that an owner/operator uses that profit to pay employees’ wages, rent, utilities, various forms of marketing, the franchise fee, insurance, repairs, remodeling, various forms of security, and all of the other unforeseen costs associated with owning a business. Once the small business owner factors these numerous costs in, they still have to pay all of the federal, state, and local taxes and any fees associated with registering and owning a business. Some of us even begrudge the business owners who, when paying taxes, write off some of these expenses. If we deprive them of the ability to do that, then they would have little to no profit at all. After paying off all of these expenses, the middle class owner/operators still have to pay off the loan the bank gave them to open the business.

Another element of the equation that should’ve been obvious but wasn’t until I attended a “welcome to [the franchise]” meeting for potential owners of a nationwide franchise is that the individual franchisee has to purchase everything from the vowels on the sandwich board, to the floor, to the franchise chairs and napkins from the corporation. If the owner/operator’s franchise runs out of napkins, for instance, the owner/operator cannot simply run to the supermarket to purchase napkins, they have to fill their napkin holders with napkins that have the corporate logo on them. Failure to do so could result in franchise infringements penalties. To ensure individual franchises are adhering to the level of uniformity the franchise, and their customers, expect throughout the chain, the corporation hires what some call secret shoppers. The primary goal of these insects is to prove the value of their employment, so they grade the owner/operator’s franchise on everything from the significant to the seemingly irrelevant. They find things to write in their report, because they fear if they gave the corporation an (‘A+’), “no infringements found” the corporation might not hire them again. The infringements they find could lead to more penalties and other unforeseen costs for the franchisee. The corporation will also send out trainers who train the owner/operator and the incoming staff on how to do things “the corporate way”, and the franchisee then “helps” pay their salaries.

The corporate advisers, who provided us this “welcome to [the franchise]” presentation, did not provide an itemized list of the total costs of purchasing and running a franchise. I had to do my own research to find some of them. One look at this list and every potential franchisee should wonder how anyone makes any money in this business. When I emailed some leading questions regarding my findings, to the advisers, they said, “[This corporation] will help you with any costs and expenses,” they wrote using the specific name of the company. “[This corporation] wants to help you open a location in your city, and they will do whatever they have to to help you make it happen.” This was a blanket statement the corporate advisers made throughout their presentation, and it was the theme of most of their answers throughout the “welcome to [the franchise] presentation”, but they avoided providing specifics. 

“Profits in food service are so thin that I would seriously advise you consider another business,” a former owner of a mom and pop restaurant advised me. “We obviously didn’t have to pay all the franchise costs you list, and we barely made it month to month. You probably won’t make money for years, and even then you’ll probably want to consider opening two or three different locations if you want to make any real money and each of those franchises will each take their own time to turn a decent profit.”

A franchise owner/operator then wants to pay the person most responsible for opening the location. They want money for their time and headaches. “Expect to work at least 60 hours a week,” the mom and pop owner told me. “At least 60 hours. You’re the one responsible for the hiring and firing, and after a number of incidents, you’ll probably develop a greater tolerance for misbehavior and poor performance than you predict. You will put up with whatever you have to from your employees, to avoid going through the headaches involved in firing an employee, hiring a new one, and training them. Other than all of the headaches and time involved, you’ll eventually view it as an unnecessary expense. Then, you’ll have to fill in for those who call in sick, and when you finally pay yourself for all the hard work you’ve done, before taxes, you should expect to make less, per hour, than you’re making now. Most business owners, like your friend think it’s cute and funny when their employees consider them Daddy Warbucks in the beginning, but when we hear it four or five times, you can’t help but rant about how wrong they are.”

Some of us celebrate when we see a “big business” in our neighborhood close down. Some of us see that big name as a blight on our community. Some of those franchises are corporate owned, but a number of them are not. We might see it as sticking it to the man, but that man might be a man or woman who is seeking a way to feed a family of four.    

Why do flies, moths, and other insects want into our home so badly, and they want out just as badly and just as quickly? If it were nothing more than a mistake, why do they bump against the glass trying to get in? Are they just dumb? No, they’re not dumb, some argue. Okay, then why do they immediately fly to the nearest glass trying to get out shortly after getting in?

Light guides most insects at night, and the only light at night that guides them is the moon. Their internal guidance systems lead them to fly according to the light of moon, and our artificial light messes with their internal guidance system. Do they then recognize their faux pas soon after making it? If the moon explains the nighttime insects wanting in our home, how do we explain daylight flies trying to get in? Do they smell our food? When do they recognize their faux pas? Some of them might be attracted by the smell of our trash, but they rarely visit the trashcan. They usually bump to get in and turn around and bump to get out. Do they recognize their error to get in, or are they just dumb beings driven by instinct?

My Favorite Teacher of all time performed a miracle. He led me to believe the subject of Economics might be interesting. He made the subject so interesting that when I left high school, I became an Economics major. In college, I discovered how boring Economics could be in different hands. On the flipside, I considered Shakespeare so boring in high school that I found it difficult to hide my disdain for the material. In college, I found a passionate teacher who made Shakespeare sound like a genius. My takeaway, every subject is one good teacher away from being interesting.

Presumptuous Qualifiers

“If we want to understand the totality of this philosopher’s character, we must know their flaws too,” they say, “because character matters”.

“Why are we questioning her personal character here? We’re talking about her philosophy.“

“She wasn’t kind to her husband. She stepped out on him, and she didn’t treat her children well. Also, she doesn’t agree with you on [some unrelated position].” 

If we planned on dating or marrying this philosopher, an expose on her character might matter a great deal to us. If the only thing this philosopher planned on doing was giving us her personal road map for life, and we could use her message, to be a better spouse, parent, friend, and person, why does anything else matter? If a couple of bullet points from her personal life sway you to question her philosophy, then you’re probably do it wrong.   

Those who tells us about her personal flaws wants us to dismiss her philosophy. She wrote some brilliant philosophical nuggets that either broke the complex down to simple, understandable nuggets, or she provided some insight into the human condition that was so brilliant we cannot shake it. What if she wrote something that changed how we view a substantial matter in our life? How often has someone, philosopher or otherwise, achieved that? If we considered those nuggets brilliant, and we could use them to make our life a little better, shouldn’t that be the end of the conversation?

“What if she disagreed with you on [some unrelated position]?” Detractors think that if they can trip us up on some unrelated position, we might dismiss the entire cannon of her philosophical beliefs. Wrongo Bongo! We do not have a litmus test on philosophers. We are only concerned with the information we think we can use. 

Unless detractors are able to disprove her theories, I don’t care to read anything they have to write about her. The detractors can even provide substantial proof that she was a hypocrite in that she didn’t personally follow any of her beliefs, and it won’t matter to me. I’m only concerned with how I can apply her principles to my life. If she decided to violate those principles, that’s on her.

Some detractors don’t even bother trying to refute the message of a philosopher anymore. They just go straight to character assassination. It means nothing to me anymore. Prove or disprove the message, I say, and do it so well that you can convince me that you have a quality rebuttal. Her philosophical nuggets may have proved so influential in my life that her detractors might not sway me, but I will at least appreciate the elements of their approach.

This assassinate the messenger to kill the message argument is tantamount to celebrity worship. I think detractors believe we idolize the messenger in the manner they worship people. They write scathing pieces about her personal life. They explain how that information serves to undermine everything she taught. They seek to expose some personal flaws about her to taint her message. Some of us don’t care. We only seek the message. 

They also seek to insert a qualifier into everyone’s brain whenever someone discusses the brilliance of her philosophy. “She was brilliant, sure, but wasn’t she a (fill in the blank).” Who gives flying fig leaf?

The progression of the qualifier has reached a point where we place so much emphasis on the faults of the messenger that their message gets lost. If I fell prey to such matters, I would consider that so confusing. “You mean I have to do research on everyone who ever lived, and if they have one flaw I should dismiss them?” I say. “What if they could provide me some valuable insight into matters that otherwise trouble me? What if amid everything they wrote, they provided a nugget that directly applied to that troubling situation? Should I dismiss that nugget of information based on the fact that they were unkind to their children?”    

Those who control the manner in which we interpret a message often find that the best way to torpedo a message is by taking the messenger out to the public woodshed. They obviously think most listeners/readers idolize the messenger so much that if they kill the messenger, the message dies. We obviously enjoy the messenger’s presentation more than others do or we wouldn’t be reading her books, but we never idolized her so much that if you point out a relatively insignificant flaw, we’re going to trash all of her philosophical tenets. “If you thought I was that superficial, then you read me wrong.”

We might find her message informative, entertaining, or some combination of both, but the moment after she dies, the next messenger takes the baton. Dear detractors: It’s not about the messenger it’s the message.

If John Doe develops a brilliant technique on the general, agrarian practices of South Dakota, some detractors might attempt to have his technique dismissed by discussing what he wrote about the Peloponnesian Wars. Thus, if John Doe wants people to take his unique and possibly helpful ideas on agrarian practices seriously, he is now required, personally and professionally, to inform his readers of his views on the Peloponnesian Wars. Why?

Why does anyone care that John Doe has been married four times, and that he wasn’t very nice to his kids? “Because character matters.” It does matter, in general, but it doesn’t make his ideas on South Dakota agriculture any less brilliant? Those who disagree with John Doe’s ideas, expose his philandering activities in the hope that no one will follow them. If we say that we’re going to follow Doe’s ideas, and someone says, “Are you sure you want to do that? You know he cheated on his wife don’t you?” Yes, I know all that, but I don’t plan on dating him, marrying him, or having any personal relationships with him. I just think he has great ideas, and I prefer to listen to anyone who has great ideas. “They work,” I say. “Try them.”  

If we haven’t had military service, we cannot comment on anything involving the military without thoroughly informing the public of that qualifier. If we haven’t reared a child, we cannot have a philosophy on raising kids. We must cede the point that if someone poses an idea on agrarian practices in South Dakota without stepping foot in the state that person might not know enough to comment, but we shouldn’t dismiss them outright. If their outside-the-box ideas work that’s the end of the conversation. We might need some qualifiers to make informed decisions, but too many people dismiss otherwise great ideas based on a messenger’s personal resume.

If we know nothing about the qualifiers, we cower. “I didn’t know that,” we say. Okay, now that you do, what are you going to do about it? If you feel the need to incorporate the relatively insignificant information, do it, then take it out and put it back into the philosophy. Does the philosophical nugget, that helped change or fortify your beliefs, still work for you, personally? Did it enrich your life all the way up to the point that you found out that your favorite philosopher was a (fill in the blank)? If so, continue to use that nugget for all that it’s worth. If you idolized her prior to learning that bit of information, and that information led you to question the philosophical nugget that helped you in some way, then you were doing it wrong. Your superficial idolatry put you in a vulnerable position that allowed them to refute and undermine the philosophy with a couple of superficial brush strokes. So, you see that the emperor has no clothes on now, was she that enjoyable to look at with her clothes on? Drop the superficial idolatry. It doesn’t fit you anymore. You’re too old now, and your experiences in life have taught you way to much to fall for such idiocy. Seek substance.   

Great NFL Coaches: Belichick and Walsh

“The Patriots won, because they cheated,” Patriots’ haters say when asked to explain the unprecedented level of success the Patriots enjoyed between 2001 and 2018. I am not a Pats fan, but I am not a hater. I did not enjoy the long-term level of success they achieved, but I did appreciate it from afar. As much as I’d love to join the chorus of the haters, the cheating charge doesn’t explain the nine Super Bowl appearances made in the Belichick, Brady, and Kraft era. Even if they were 100% guilty of the offenses the NFL found (“And those were the times they got caught!” haters add) it doesn’t taint their six (SIX!) super bowl trophies. Even the most outspoken Pats hater has a tough time explaining how underinflated balls helped the Patriots appear in eight straight AFC Championship games between 2011 and 2018. “Tom Brady could grip the ball better,” they say. So, underinflated balls explains how the Patriots managed to achieve the only undefeated 16-game regular season, and the fact that they came one miraculous play away from beating the hottest team in football that year? During the Kraft, Brady, and Belichick era, the Patriots completed 19 consecutive winning seasons from 2001 to 2019, and they boast a .784 winning percentage against their division opponents. In Brady’s 18 seasons as a starter, the Patriots played in 50% of those Super Bowls, and they won 33% of them. Charging them with cheating might make those of us who grew tired of seeing them in the Super Bowl feel better, but somewhere deep in our heart (in an area no one will ever be able to see) we know it doesn’t explain that level of success sufficiently.

Hockey fans gave me one explanation about a decade ago. Hockey fans, not hockey insiders or analysts, but fans suggested that they thought their team had a better chance of winning in the coming year based on some of the hierarchical changes their team made in the off season. I always knew, in the back of my mind, how important everyone from the general manager down to the scouts was, but I didn’t consider how institutional they were to the long-term success of my team.

A professional team in sports have a few winning seasons here and there if they’re lucky enough to draft some key players and surround them with enough talent. They might even win a championship or two if the ball bounces the right way. If they don’t have the organizational structure of talented people throughout the hierarchy, they’re not going to win long term. As Jeff Benedict’s The Dynasty points out owners, general managers, talent scouts, and everyone in-between build a dynasty. The owner, in the case of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was a businessman who had an obvious eye for talent. He also knew that after he found and hired that talent, his job was to back away and give them enough room to succeed. Some professional sports’ owners display too much micro level management (Jerry Jones), and some are too macro (Arthur Blank). As The Dynasty points out, Coach Bill Belichick made unpopular and jaw-dropping moves throughout the dynasty years, and Kraft didn’t approve of many of them, but he allowed his hire as coach/general manager to make whatever decisions he needed to make to sustain success. Those moves, more often than not, panned out over the long term.

One thing The Dynasty does not cover (because it’s probably of no interest to anyone but the football junkie) is the plethora of talent that Belichick and co., managed to find in the late rounds of the NFL Draft and in the various groups of undrafted free agents (UDFAs) that the Patriots hired. Were they lucky? Luck is involved of course, as even the best NFL scouts have a poor batting average, but the sheer number of successful moves the Patriots made in this regard that eventually paid off is an astounding comment on their long-term success. A number of my Patriot hating friends would love to claim that the Patriots might have been the luckiest team in NFL history in this regard. For twenty years though? I heard that Tom Brady once looked around the huddle of his teammates on offense and said, “How many of us are late round picks and UDFAs?” Look at Patriots’ rosters throughout those 20 years. How many of their players on their roster were late round picks and UDFAs? Now, take that number and compare it to the rest of the NFL? The Patriots use multiple sources, both inside and outside the organization to inform their moves, but how many of those in-house advisers went off to other teams? How many of them were able to maintain that level of success picking players for other teams? Is it all about Belichick’s final say, or were Belichick and his coaches able to take those players to another level? How many of those same players went onto other teams to achieve the same level of success? How many coaches, from Belichick’s tree, went onto success with other teams?

If Belichick is such a genius, why didn’t he do it in Cleveland? What author Jeff Benedict points out in Dynasty is that Belichick couldn’t do what owner Robert Kraft did, Robert Kraft couldn’t do what Belichick did, and neither of them could do what Tom Brady did. The dynasty of the last two decades was a matter of stars aligning perfectly. If Robert Kraft didn’t buy the team, Tom Brady probably would’ve left the team after a few years, as he and Belichick didn’t see eye to eye on some matters and Kraft did everything he could to keep them together as long as possible. If Belichick remained a Browns or Jets coach, Robert Kraft’s Patriots might have won a Super Bowl or two, but six? If Brady went to another team, the Patriots might have won a Super Bowl or two, but six? Tom Brady might have won a Super Bowl on his own, but six of them? As The Dynasty points out, the Patriot dynasty was all about the stars aligning from the top down and a number of people played a role, but most of those people came and went, and the three most important players stayed for almost twenty years.     

“Bunch of cheaters is what they are,” just about every Patriots hater says anytime the subject of Patriots’ long-term, sustained success over twenty years comes up. “Right on!” is what I’d love to say before giving that feller a mean, emotional high-five. I’d love to say that the reason the Patriots always beat my team is because they cheated in big ways and small ones, but it just seems too easy.

The Patriots were accused of filming the signals of the opposing teams’ defensive coordinators. An important note here is that the general practice of filming opposing coaches wasn’t illegal, but they couldn’t do it from their sidelines.  

Another element of what we called Spygate is that the Patriots filmed the Rams’ walkthrough practice before 2002 in Super Bowl XXXVI. If you call filming a team’s walk-through practice, before a game cheating, then the Patriots allegedly cheated, but this opposing team’s walk-through practice occurred on the field, in pre-game warmups. That practice was available to everyone, and if the other team suspected the Patriots of being cheaters, why did they reveal secrets about their game plan on the field for all to see? They should suspect the Patriots of cheating. They should suspect every team of cheating and adjust accordingly. If this practice provided the Patriot’s enough information to win a game isn’t it on the opposing team to prevent the Patriots from learning their secret game plan. “It was against NFL rules for the Patriots to film that practice session.” True, but if this action led the Patriots to win even some of the games they did, then I have to wonder why my favorite team didn’t do it.

Another cheating scandal is Deflategate. Deflategate is quite simply a joke that Patriots’ that haters cling to to diminish the Patriots’ incomparable level of success. In both of these cases, the Patriots faced unprecedented scrutiny in the aftermath of the accusations, and in the case of Spygate, they went onto lose the Super Bowl thanks to a play some consider one of the best, most fluky plays in Super Bowl history. In the aftermath of Deflategate, they went onto win the Super Bowl.

The first thing Patriots’ haters and lovers, and all sports’ fans should admit is that we take some of these issues much too serious. Sports are a pastime. The literal definition implies that we are supposed to watch football to pass the time until the more serious things in life come along. The human being has been distracting themselves from the daily drama of their lives for centuries. Romans called it the bread and circus effect. As long as Romans were supplied food and entertainment, the politicians could get away with whatever they want. How many Americans know every single detail of these controversies, versus those who know similar minutiae about local, state and federal politics? With that level of apathy, how far are is America away from the fiddling politicians of Rome that some suggest led to the fall of that civilization? When I witness two grown men argue over politics to the point that they almost come to blows, I can’t help but think of The Simpsons’ kids saying, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” on a car trip.

Bill Walsh

When it comes to professional football, we consider former 49ers coach Bill Walsh a genius among geniuses. Some place him up on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest NFL coaches of all time. Bill Walsh had a long and storied career coaching in the NFL and college, and he earned many of the accolades he achieved in his career. As another coach, Bill Parcells, once said, “You are who your record says you are.” Parcells also said, “Once you win a Super Bowl, no one can ever take that away from you.” No one can take Bill Walsh’s three Super Bowl rings away from him, and no one can deny that the man won 60.9% of his regular season games. He won 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles, three NFC Championship titles, and three Super Bowls. He was NFL Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984, and in 1993, and the NFL elected him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bill Walsh headed a team while coaching the 49ers that selected some great players. A number of those players played in a number of pro bowls, and a number of them ended up in the Hall of Fame. Other than selecting Hall of Fame talent, some experts credit Walsh with developing the West Coast Offense, but he even admitted he based his system it on a system developed by Don Coryell, called “Air Coryell”. Still, Walsh took the influence, matched it to his talent on the field and won three Super Bowls and an overall winning percentage of 60.9%. Did Walsh coach those players up to the point that they were better than they were? Their winning percentage in the regular season and the post season, in a highly competitive National Conference, says yes. Walsh’s coaching tree also suggests he was a great leader. Walsh, like all great coaches, benefitted from talent, great advisers and scouts, and a whole lot of luck. 

As for the talent he/they selected, no scout can guarantee that a college player’s talent will translate to the pro game. In that vein, we can say that selecting Joe Montana was something of a gamble. Yet, Joe Montana led Notre Dame’s 1977 team to a national championship. He was hardly a jewel in the rough. Another heralded move by Walsh was the trade for Steve Young. Steve Young’s talent didn’t appear to translate well in the NFL, as he had some poor years in Tampa Bay, and various NFL insiders deemed him a bust. With that in mind, we could say that Walsh’s trade involved something of a gamble, but Young finished his college career at BYU with the most passing yards in BYU history, he finished second in Heisman votes in his senior year at BYU, and he was selected number one in the USFL draft. He was hardly “a find” by Bill Walsh.

When it came time to select what some considered a true jewel in the rough, in the 2000 draft, to succeed the recently retired Steve Young, Walsh advised the 49ers to select Giovanni Carmazzi. Bill Walsh loved Carmazzi. He said he thought, “[Carmazzi] was a lot like Steve Young, only bigger.” Prior to the Carmazzi pick, Bill Walsh rejoined the 49ers front office and encouraged the 49ers to take Carmazzi with the 65th pick. Who, in the 49ers organization, would go against Bill Walsh? With the difficult transition from college to pro, it’s unfair to put a “miss” on any person’s resume, but imagine if Walsh “spotted” a starting quarterback from a power five conference who made numerous comebacks in his collegiate career versus a quarterback who some considered extremely raw from a Division I-AA school. Imagine what “spotting” Tom Brady would’ve done to Bill Walsh’s otherwise impressive resume.

To be fair to Walsh, many judged Brady almost comically lacking in athletic ability. He was the prototypical definition of a drop back, stay in the pocket quarterback and many believed the game was “now” so fast and the quality of offensive lineman was dropping so precipitously that every NFL now needed a quarterback with Steve Young’s athleticism. Walsh’s thought process probably accounted for that on both players when he encouraged the 49ers to select Giovanni Carmazzi with the 65th pick. (Giovanni Carmazzi never played a down in a regular season game.) Not that it matters, but the Brady family were 49ers’ season ticket holders for 24 years prior to the 2000 draft, and Tom Brady was a die-hard Montana, then Young fan, and the Bradys were hurt when the 49ers did not select the local boy from San Mateo. Brady was, at the very least, a hometown kid gone good in the California area. We have to imagine that his athletic accomplishments at Michigan put Tom Brady’s name in the 49ers draft room, and we can only guess that Walsh tired of the “Tom Brady conversation”.

Imagine if this genius among geniuses saw something most people missed in Brady, and his recommendations involved the 49ers going from Montana, as the starting quarterback, to Young, and then to Brady. Imagine if Brady accomplished half of what he did in New England for the 49ers organization. Those of us who loathed the 49ers in the 80’s and 90’s wouldn’t be able to tolerate the “genius among geniuses” discussions. This article wouldn’t be possible, because there would be no denying that Walsh was an unqualified genius.  Had the Patriots not selected Brady, we can only guess that Brady loved the 49ers organization so much that he may have accepted just about any undrafted free agent contract from the 49ers.

A Simpson’s Fraudster

“Don’t bring unnecessary attention to yourself,” they say, “It’s the cardinal rule of all fraudsters.”

“But it’s human nature to call attention to ourselves,” we say. “Some of the more honest, dishonest people might even say that the whole reason they started deceiving people in the first place was to garner some attention from a parent or an authority figure they craved.”   

“Fair enough,” they reply, “but if we decide to steal other people’s money, and we want to get away with it, we’ll have to keep a low profile that might be considered unnatural in that frame.”

Some might say that their primary goal of fraudsters is to find new and different ways to steal your money, but they know if they get too greedy, they will get caught. Anyone who has worked fraud cases will tell anyone interested that the job is all about dollar figures. Most cases that don’t achieve a certain dollar figure doesn’t even hit their queues. As with everything else in life, working in fraud departments is all about the money. How much money can we save for the customer and the company. Thus, if a fraudster is able to keep their ambition, and greed, in check, they might be able to get away with it for a time.  Keeping a low profile, in most cases, is more important to the fraudster than a high dollar figure. Fraudsters know that if the law catches up to them not only will they probably go to jail, but the law enforcement officials will also take that money away from them, so most fraudsters primary goal is try to keep their schemes simple, small, and manageable. Those who investigate fraud for a living will agree that most acts of fraud are not near as complicated or ingenious as we might think. In this cat and mouse game, fraudsters use a number of methods to avoid detection, but the number one rule, the cardinal rule for all fraudsters is “Don’t bring unnecessary attention to yourself.”

With that cardinal rule in mind, a hotel provides an ideal climate for a fraudster seeking anonymity. The best hotel employees greet each guest with a hearty, “Hello!” when they check into their hotel. They might even strike up a casual, fun conversation with the guest, “You’re from Michigan? Go Blue!” The best hotel employees do whatever they have to do to make that guest feel welcome and special. Yet, if those Michiganders ran into that same friendly employee, hours later, even the best hotel employees probably won’t even remember them. The average hotel employee sees so many faces in one day that most guests get lost in a sea of faces. Unless guests make themselves known, and this can require some effort on their part, most hotel employees wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a police lineup. With that level of anonymity, a fraudster can engage in a number of acts of fraud undetected, unless they bring unnecessary attention to themselves.

When a nondescript, mousy guest named Tim Heidingsfelder, checked into our hotel, he did not fall prey to this very human need to draw attention to himself. His characteristics didn’t draw anyone’s attention either. He was late 40’s/early 50’s single man of average appearance, and he wasn’t particularly charismatic. Tim Heidingsfelder had the type of characteristics that most fraudsters could only dream of having, in that he could get lost in just about any sea of faces. We didn’t notice him, in other words, but more important to Tim Heidingsfelder, the attractive, young women at the front desk didn’t notice him either.

There was nothing noteworthy or remarkable about him, and Tim Heidingsfelder probably regarded this as a mixed blessing. As a fraudster who planned to live the high life and buy the most expensive items he could with other people’s money, he didn’t want people to notice him. As a lonely late 40’s/early 50’s single man, however, he probably looked back at the attractive, young women behind the desk who didn’t notice him with some chagrin.

Tim Heidingsfelder wasn’t an outgoing type either, but from what I heard, he wasn’t a quiet, loner. (I only had one interaction with him, as I’ll note below.) No one noticed Tim Heidingsfelder in the course of that day, and his daily routine allowed him to remain as anonymous as every other guest in our hotel. Throughout his elongated stay, however, Tim Heidingsfelder couldn’t help noticing how attractive the young women working behind the front desk were every time he passed. Regardless, the cardinal rule of fraud, the very human, and male, need to have young, attractive women notice him was just gnawing at him.

Tim Heidingsfelder was not a traveling businessman, but he was apparently just as lonely as one, and this otherwise unmemorable man needed to try to make one of these young women behind the front desk laugh. Based solely on his appearance, we can only guess that this man probably had few opportunities to do so in life. Therefore, when he stopped by the front desk for whatever reason he dreamed up, Tim Heidingsfelder didn’t just stop to say hello, he didn’t just pick up a fax, or engage in the various business-related conversations that occur between hotel employees and guests. Tim Heidingsfelder stopped to chat. He stopped to shoot the stuff with some of these attractive, young women. He stopped to get to know them, so they could know him.

The best looking young woman at the front desk of the hotel also happened to be the friendliest. Her name is not Cheri, but for the purpose of clarity, we’ll call her Cheri. Cheri was so attractive and so skilled at engaging in friendly conversations with guests that she quickly became a favorite among the hotel’s businessmen and other frequent guests. They focused all of their attention on her whenever they stopped at the hotel to chat. After a few chats, Tim Heidingsfelder asked the other front desk employees asked where Cheri was one day. When they told him that she had the day off, he was visibly disappointed.

As with most of the lonely, traveling businessmen who stayed at our hotel, Tim found Cheri delightful, and it probably excited him when he made her laugh. He probably didn’t fully acknowledge that the hotel paid her and everyone else employed at the front desk, to laugh at guests’ jokes. Some of the guests Cheri talked to on a daily basis were genuinely funny. Some of the times, she laughed politely to fill the void after their punchlines, and some of the times, she laughed because it was good customer service to let guests think they were funny. Cheri had a gift for making all of her laughs sound the same. Tim Heidingsfelder enjoyed this so much that he pursued the extent of their professional relationship. He probably didn’t have designs on establishing a relationship with her beyond professional, but after a couple of conversations with Cheri, he did everything he could to impress her.

“I’m a writer for The Simpsons,” Tim told her. “The Simpsons creators sent me to your city to scout it as a probable location for a future episode.” To Tim, this probably seemed like such a harmless lie. It wasn’t such a grandiose lie that she would fact check him, he probably figured, but it was big enough to impress her. He probably figured that it was a Goldilocks lie that didn’t violate the cardinal rule of all fraudsters. Yet, the lie would eventually prove to be a depth charge that once detonated would expose everything he planned.

Was the lie something he dreamed up when he made the hotel reservation? It wasn’t unusual that a guest failed to affiliate with their company on their account, but Tim wasn’t officially affiliated with Fox on his account, or The Simpsons on his account. Did Tim Heidingsfelder plan this ruse as the reason for his stay at the hotel, or did he make it up on the fly to impress Cheri? Again, we don’t know, but if it was the former, we could say that he impulsively outed himself in a way that might cause fellow fraudsters to shake their heads in dismay. If it was the former, and Tim Heidingsfelder spent any time planning to use it to impress Cheri, he didn’t spend enough time accounting for all of the Q & A’s that might follow. Regardless, why he chose that particular lie, it would prove to systematically unravel the house of lies he built.     

Tim Heidingsfelder did accomplish his initial and shortsighted goal of impressing Cheri however. When I arrived at work the next day, she was all a twitter about it. “Did you know we have a celebrity in the hotel today,” she said artfully spooling out the information she had. “I know you’re a fan of The Simpsons, and I know you’re a writer,” she told me. “Well, we just happen to have a guest who is a both a writer and a writer for that show.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“His name is Tim Heidingsfelder,” Cheri said. She told me that he was at the hotel on an elongated stay to scout our city as a probable location for a future episode.

“You’re kidding me?” I said. “That is so cool.” I thought about how cool it would be to meet him. I thought about how cool it would be to see our city depicted in the cartoon, and I thought about how cool it would be to talk to a paid writer to learn from his path to success.

When I finally met Tim Heidingsfelder days later, he didn’t appear to be a writer, but I wondered what does a writer look like? Do they all look like James Joyce, professorial and bespectacled with patches on their elbows? Tim Heidingsfelder didn’t look that way, but either did Ernest Hemingway. I was not the least bit suspicious in other words. I talked with Tim Heidingsfelder with a co-worker standing by my side listening. He unsuccessfully hid his laughter while two writer nerds talk about the craft.

“This is just so cool meeting you,” I said, “and I love what you plan on doing for our fair city.” The man was cordial and apparently as impressed with me as I was with him. Throughout our introductory conversation, I told him that I was a writer and a huge fan of The Simpsons. “As a writer, I always pay attention to the credits that list the writers of the show,” I said proudly, “and I don’t remember ever seeing your name.” I said this as a writer attempting to show some collegial respect. I was not, in any way, attempting to call him out or put Tim Heidingsfelder on the spot.  

“Well,” Tim said. “You probably pay attention to the opening credits. Right? Well, I’m what you call an uncredited writer. I have yet to have one of my episodes aired,” he said with some chagrin.

“Shows, like The Simpsons,” he furthered, “have a number of staff writers, and most of us have never had one of our episodes picked up.” That was a great answer, because I read and watched a number of “behind the scenes” and “the making of …” stories about my favorite TV shows. I knew about writers’ rooms and head writers, and it wasn’t much of a leap for me to believe that most writers on staff didn’t receive front line accreditation. I figured that if I really wanted to find his name, I could look at the long list of names that appear at the end of the show. I never did. I was never that interested.

While Tim and I talked about the general craft of writing, I could tell he wasn’t as into our conversation as I was. I figured that was the natural order of things. I figured he was one of the lucky few that someone paid to write, and I wasn’t. I also figured that by the time I met him, he had been a paid writer for so long that it was no longer special to him. Tim Heidingsfelder gave me no reason, at this point in our conversation, to suspect that he was anything less, or anything more than a writer for The Simpsons.

I did want to impress this man, however, and I thought I was making a decent impression, but I wanted that knockout blow that would create a substantial impression. I wanted some little nugget of information that would prove I was a big fan to him. I searched for that while I asked him what he thought was the best joke he submitted, and he said, “Oh, there have been so many. It’s hard to pick one.” I asked him what it was like to be in a writing room, and I thought of a couple other nerdy, fanboy questions, but I couldn’t come up with that one big question that would blow him away. After a few of these exchanges, it hit me. I had a question that would knock his socks off and prove that I wasn’t just another fan, but someone who had some true knowledge of the show on which he worked. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was holding onto a question that would accidentally reveal Tim Heidingsfelder’s legacy of fraud for what it was. The moment after it dawned on me, I couldn’t wait to ask it, as Tim continued to answer my previous question in a congenial manner. The moment he finished, I launched into that knockout question.

“Do you know Conan O’Brien?” I asked him. “Do you know him personally, or have you worked with him in any capacity?”

I don’t remember if he said anything to that, but I do remember him backing away to the elevator. I didn’t think there was anything suspicious about that at the time. He was a guest at our hotel, and he had to take the elevator to get to his room. I thought he was signaling that his interest in our conversation was beginning to wane, or he had to get back to his room for a phone call or what have you. This happened on a daily basis. With the benefit of hindsight, I now remember how uncomfortable that question made him. I remember how his face turned three sheets of red in the aftermath of that question, but it meant little to nothing to me at the time.

My co-worker, who had been listening to this conversation throughout, noted the uncomfortable silence between Tim and I following that question and he capitalized on what he assumed was my naiveté.

“Conan O’Brien? He’s a talk show host, on another network,” my co-worker said. “What do you think all Hollywood people know each other?” He was laughing at me. He thoroughly enjoyed the moment.

“No,” I said looking Tim in the eye, seeking to impress the man further. I had an expectant smile on my face. “Not many people know this, but Conan used to be a writer for The Simpsons.”

Unbeknownst to either of us, this innocent question spelled out two warnings every fraudster and potential fraudster. Don’t mess with nerdy fanboys. They know things that 99.9% of the population doesn’t. A fraudster might think they’ve worked hard to prepare themselves for every scenario, but the minute they run into that nerdy fanboy their best course of action is to simply walk away. They might build a mental algorithm to prepare for any scenarios that might come their way. They might even sit down and write out an algorithm out to prepare for anything and everything that might expose them, but nerdy fanboys will trip you up in some way you least suspect. As the most gifted fraudster would probably tell a novice, or any interested party, a fraudster cannot prepare for any and every situation. “You just have to learn to roll with the punches, but if there’s one thing you learn today it is this, don’t create your own situations to unwind. Don’t create your own spider webs. Just walk away.”  

Tim Heidingsfelder could’ve said something as simple as, “No, Conan O’Brien and I never worked together,” or “No, we never crossed paths.” He could’ve said something simple as, “I don’t know what years he worked on the show, but I never had the opportunity to work with him.” It wouldn’t have taken much to throw me off a trail I wasn’t on in other words. I thought I was in the vulnerable position, trying to impress a man I never met before. If he characterized my question as one coming from a nerdy fan boy, I would’ve slinked off with my tail between my legs, but he didn’t know enough about The Simpsons, or his lie, to throw me off a trail I wasn’t on. Knowing everything I know now, I think The Simpson’s character Nelson Muntz might say, “Haw Haw!” as Tim Heidingsfelder all but sprinted away from me.

Most fraudsters are smooth talkers, and we think that a late 40’s/early 50’s fraudster should know when to push and when to pull out of a conversation. We think that every fraudster, but particularly a seasoned fraudster should know how important it is to say something, some of the times. Some of the times, we have to fill the blank before others do. Some of the times, it’s just as important to leave the blank alone, to allow the other party, or parties, to fill in the blank for them, as my co-worker did when he attempted to portray me as a Simpson’s nerd who knew more about the show than the actual writer.

Fraudsters learn the art of deception at a very young age, to fool those people who know and loved them most. Trainers teach potential salesmen this in training classes. Trainers tell them to try to sell the product to their intimate friends and family first. “Not only are they great potential customers,” trainers say, “but the interaction allows you to work on your pitch.” Fraudsters follow the same methodology, as they try to see if they can fool their good friends, their aunt Gladys, or their own mother first. Doing this, is an excellent way to practice the art of deception to see if they have any talent for it.

As a former liar, I often wonder what separates those who lied, stole and deceived a lot in their preteen years and those who continue to do so well into their adult years. Lying, stealing and deceiving those who loved me most almost felt like a rite of passage, but I hated it when they caught me. Anyone who lies, cheats, and steals is going to get caught, and they’re going to experience some level of shame and embarrassment when they do. The embarrassment and shame that followed prove almost painful to me. My closest friends and family members stopped trusting me. They labeled me a liar and a thief, and the only way I found to avoid that was to stop lying and stealing. It sounds so simple, and it is, but some people enjoy deceiving people so much that they keep doing it. Perhaps I’m approaching this from an autobiographical stance, but I believe the dividing line happens right there. Do they care? What do they do about it? It seems to me that a fraudster needs to develop some sort of mechanism that permits them to avoid caring about what their loved ones think of them, and once they clear that hurdle, they will feel free to lie and steal from total strangers.  

Those who discover they have some talent for deception, but find that can’t go on knowing what others might think of them, use whatever talent they have in ways that are more productive. They might use that knowledge or talent to catch other fraudsters and liars for law enforcement, or they might go to work for a fraud department in a fortune 500 company. They might even become magicians, actors, or writers. These three crafts call for a mutually agreed upon level of lying and deception. Those who cannot find a way to channel their gifts productively continue to deceive people, and they find that like a great wine, or a great bottle of scotch, they get better with age.

Tim Heidingsfelder’s best course of action would’ve been to offer one of the replies I offered above combined with a compliment for my knowledge. The reason I write the latter is that I felt he wasn’t sufficiently impressed with my knowledge. I worried that our conversation exposed me as nothing by a fanboy nerd. I felt like a fool, and I wanted to make it up to Tim, or recover my pride, but every time I entered the foyer of the hotel, Tim flew to the elevators. The man stayed in our hotel for so long, and he did this to me so often that the pattern of his quick exits began to bother me. Some of them, like the one that happened below, were so exaggerated that I considered them noteworthy.

“Why does he always do that?” I asked Brian, the front desk manager at the hotel. Just prior to that question, Brian was speaking with Tim Heidingsfelder. The moment Tim spotted me coming to the front desk he flew off in the other direction.

“Because you’re a nerdy fanboy, and no one wants to talk to nerdy fanboys,” Brian said. That was a great answer, as Brian unknowingly put the onus back on me.

“Ok, but I thought he and I had a great conversation a while back,” I said, “and I was beyond polite to the man. I was a nerdy fanboy, and I think he would enjoy talking about how jealous I am of him, but every time I walk into the room, he runs away.”

“And you think that’s suspicious?” Brian asked.

“It’s odd,” I said. “That’s all I’m saying. It’s odd.”

“Does everyone have to love you?” Brian said. “Maybe he just doesn’t enjoy talking to you.”

“Fair enough,” I said, “but you know me, I don’t have to be involved in every conversation. As you once said, I’m kind of a quiet guy, and when I walked up to this desk, I had no plans of saying anything. I was just going to stand here and let you two talk. If I was rude, or an overbearing person, perhaps I could see it, but this guy jets like I have a communicable disease any time I enter the room?”

Brian did not begin investigating Tim Heidingsfelder that day, but he did not view the man with the least bit of suspicion before our conversation. Soon after it, he began investigating the man’s account activity. I planted the seeds of suspicion, in other words, but Brian did all of the investigative work. He dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s to find Tim Heidingsfelder’s alleged criminal activity. Brian examined the credit card history on Tim Heidingsfelder’s account history, and he found that Tim Heidingsfelder switched credit cards a number of times. That, in and of itself, was no reason to call in the cavalry. Guests, particularly business travelers, regularly put a number of business cards on their account. At times, and for a variety of reasons, those cards max out. This is particularly the case with extended stays such as Tim Heidingsfelder’s. The company furnishes their business travelers with a number of cards, and some of the times the businessman even puts his personal card on the account and the company reimburses him. Long story short, a guest switching cards in the middle of a stay is no reason to investigate on their account. When Brian analyzed Tim Heidingsfelder’s account, he found that a number of the previous credit cards placed on his account were declared stolen.  

I entered work one day to see Tim Heidingsfelder sitting in Brian’s office. The local police soon followed and frog marched Tim off in handcuffs, and I sensed the script flip from a Simpson’s episode to one of Scooby Doo as I watched the police walk him off in handcuffs. I waited for a “And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling nerdy fanboys” exit, but it never arrived.    

The police later informed us that Tim Heidingsfelder was a pseudonym, and they managed to find his real name. They informed us that two other states wanted him on credit card fraud.

“Don’t bring unnecessary attention to yourself,” is the cardinal rule of all fraudsters, and if Tim Heidingsfelder was able to abide by the cardinal rule he probably could’ve engaged in fraudulent activity for years, perhaps decades. If he continued to cross his T’s and dot his I’s, he probably could’ve continued the luxurious lifestyle he created for himself in his extended stay at our hotel on other people’s dime. He wasn’t living small, so he probably would’ve tripped up sooner rather than later, but who’s to say it couldn’t have increased exponentially in the years that followed. We can only guess how long, and how much more luxurious living Tim Heidingsfelder could’ve avoided falling prey to the desire, some might say need, to have someone notice him for an average of five minutes a day. 

Naughty Appeal vs. Been There, Done That

I get just about every dirty, naughty joke I hear now. I’m passed the point where I needed to claw my way through that mental maze and swing from vine to vine to understand the naughty jokes adults tell. I get it and I don’t. I get almost every dirty joke I hear now, but I don’t understand their almost universal and evergreen appeal. 

Naughty humor might still have the same appeal to me if my demand continued to outweighed the supply, but I’ve reached the “been there, done that” threshold. Young people are nowhere near this threshold, of course, and if their parents forbid it, it still has the naughty. I see that, but for the mature adult, naughtiness is no longer in short supply. It involves little more than moving a mouse and clicking. 

The “I get it” reward is strong among the young. Especially the “You don’t get it? I do!” reward. This reward probably dates back to young cave dwellers trying to find something naughty in cave paintings. We can see the reward of “Getting it” on their faces. The “I get it” smile is broad and wide, and they try to hide it from the adults around them. The reward for getting naughty humor is especially precious when their peers “Don’t get it”. How long does this sometimes subtle, sometimes overt reward last? Is it universal and evergreen?

We all have biological functions, and the need to explore other bodily functions on a perpetual basis, and some of them are quite funny when framed strategically, but how many body function jokes do we have to hear before they no longer stimulate the naughty neurons? I concede that I’ve probably watched so many movies that my naughty stimulators are all dried up, but I’ve “been there, done that” for so long that it takes a pretty ingenious presentation for me to laugh at naughty humor now.    

Yet, anytime I introduce comedic material to a friend of mine, he asks, “Is it safe humor?” I originally thought he was referring to the politically correct dividing line. He wasn’t, and he clarified his position. He’s forty something, and he still wants/needs his innuendo and the worst swear words we can imagine for the comedic material to achieve some sort of mental stimulation. He won’t watch material he deems “too safe”. He alludes to the idea that “safe” material is condescending. He prefers the risqué, and the provocative, and he defines those adjectives in swear words and innuendo.

“Why is that still so important to you?” I asked him. “I honestly don’t get it.” To clarify my position in this discussion, he and I passed middle age some years ago, and he and I have watched all the same shows and movies. Whereas my well is dry, his is still seeking greater fertilization in this arena. He has no idea why, but he still wants him a whole lot of naughty.

I cherished the naughty, back when it was a limited commodity for me. I, like all my relatively sheltered grade school era friends, worshipped at the altar of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Cheech and Chong. Some of us could quote large chunks of dialog from the movie Porky’s verbatim. Porky’s was the ultimate taboo movie for those of us of a certain age, because it had naughty dialog, exposed female breasts, and had a risqué scene with a wolf-howling woman. We talked about the unedited scene in Grease where Danny gets racked, and we talked about the unedited swear words in the song Greased Lightning the next day. If you didn’t “get it”, you were consigned to an inescapable outsider status among the cool kids.

The cool kids could tell anyone interested how many swear words a movie contained, and how many exposed female breasts there were. The coolest kid had a mental spreadsheet count on (‘F’) words, (‘S’) words, and exposed female breasts in whatever movie you mentioned. You name the actress, and he could tell you the movie(s) that contained her revelations. I met another who could do that in high school. He compiled a VHS tape of moments when famous females exposed their breast. He was so obsessed with compiling the tape that he could tell you the moment of exposure down to the second of the movie. He knew them so well, because he would watch the movie once on HBO, and he would then memorize the time of the exposure down to the second. There were times when his memory would fail him, however, so he began writing them down, but he said that writing them down helped crystallize the moment in his memory so well that he rarely had to consult his log when the movie repeated, usually hours later on HBO. He would watch the movie again with his thumb on the record button, as that scene neared. He did this so often that we could rarely stump him on such scenes. “[That actress] exposes her breasts at the 32:22 mark of [that movie],” he said with specifics.

If you were one of the few unfortunates who only saw the made for television version of Stripes and Airplane, you knew the FOMO (fear of missing out) acronym at a very young age, before anyone coined it. “You missed the best parts,” our friends would tell us, or, “You have to see the unedited version, it has seven (‘F’) words, two (‘S’) words, and it actually has an ‘MF’ in it. Seriously, it occurs after the barista in the movie says, (“Fill in the blank”) and before the scene where they show the topless astronaut hanging her laundry.”

I didn’t remember how focused we were on that mental clicker of swear words in our youth, until my nephew began this accounting process in his younger years. You name the movie, and my nephew can recite for you how many (‘F’s) and (‘S’s) the movie contains. When Dr. Johnny Fever, on WKRP in Cincinnati, mocked a priest for attempting to censor his playlist, we thought that was so cool. “Uh, oh! There’s a naughty word!” Fever said, mocking the priest. When George Carlin was asked why he swears so much in his otherwise intelligent, observational humor, he said, “It’s excellent punctuation.” Comedians suggest they’ve tried it out on the road. They say they tried the same joke with and without any swear words, at different locations, and they determined that Carlin was correct. A punchline just doesn’t land the same without proper punctuation without a swear word. Carlin’s statement asks the rhetorical question is it his fault or ours for swear words in comedic presentations?

My Uncle Clark’s good friend Jim introduced us to this world without borders when we were pre-teens. Our parents had no idea we were watching naughty movies at Jim’s house, and that made it extra naughty. Naughty is an ever changing and relative term, of course, as what we deemed naughty in our era is relatively tame now, but some of the movies we watched at his house were the peak of naughty for us. Jim “didn’t see anything wrong with the kids hearing swear words,” he said. “They’re going to hear them anyway. They’re eventually going to see a woman’s breasts. They’ll see people smoke pot, and everything else these movies provide. I don’t see the harm.” He would swear  around us so often that we learned how to swear. We learned how to inflect, how to time swear words, and how to properly punctuate a joke with a strategically placed swear word from him. He taught us how to avoid sounding like a little kid learning how to cuss for the first time. He also taught us how to talk about carnal relations with women. He wasn’t afraid to provide explicit detail. This guy was so cool and so funny, and not just adult funny. This guy was genuinely (‘F’)ing hilarious to us. He treated us like adults, and we worshiped him for it. He wasn’t a stick in the mud, like my dad.

I am that stick in the mud now. I am that dad. I’ve stopped cussing, because one of my other friends said that the (‘F’) words was one of his kid’s first five words. I don’t know if he was proud or ashamed of it, but he thought it was “(‘F’)ing hilarious”. I wouldn’t enjoy that, and on one plane, it is about morality, but it also has something to do with class.

“You cussed a lot in your teens and 20’s,” my friends say. “In Europe, kids drink and swear like a sailor, and it doesn’t affect them in the least. In fact, I’d say most of them are more sophisticated and worldly than most puritanical American children.”

“I don’t care if I’m a hypocrite,” I say in response, “and I’m not particularly concerned with how other parents raise their children, as I’m no authority on the matter, but what you sway doesn’t sway me one iota.”

My “been there, done that” reactions are so strong that even when the kid goes to bed, I don’t enjoy the excessive need for punctuation, and I often see it as just that in others’ attempts to be humorous. It has nothing to do with morality for me, personally, once the kid goes to bed. It’s more a “been there, done that” reaction I have to it now. I no longer have a clicker. I hear (‘F’) words now, and they go in one ear and out the other. This cycle started soon after I was able to rent any movie I wanted. I was on my own, and I able to choose every naughty, dirty movie I could find. Back then, I avoided humor that was too safe, but the supply eventually reached my demand, until I saturated the market and I “been there done that”. I demanded naughty, risqué material, and it was in short supply for much of my life. Then it wasn’t, and it wasn’t for my forty-something friend either. If I put this supply vs. demand qualifier to our discussion, I’m sure he would concede that the supply met his demand a long time ago, yet he still needs material he deems relatively “unsafe”.

In this long-since passed era, the supply was so low that we met our demand by standing close enough to a drive-in theater to see, but not hear, the scene everyone was talking about. That era has passed for many of us, as we now have more than enough supply at the tips of our fingers, yet the demand for such demand obviously remains strong among my peers?

Can a joke be funny without pre-pubescent and pubescent need for punctuation? Yes, if it’s creative. Yet, even incredibly ingenious jokes need punctuation. To my mind, the most ingenious learn how to punctuate without such punctuation, and that’s not about morality. It’s about ingenuity and creativity. Music has the same “been there done that” quality for me. I’m not going to join the pack and slam the heavy metal era for its lack of soul, and for all of its hedonistic plays for fame, but it had its place in my life. Some of those bands produced some quality music, but that time has passed for me. When I’m feeling nostalgic, I might click on an old heavy metal song here and there, but I’ve “been there done that”. I can’t make it all the way through any of those songs now. The need for nostalgia is not that great for me, as that music provides little-to-no value to me anymore. The elements in swearing, innuendo, and nudity in humor provide little-to-no value to comedy anymore to me either.