Toronto Raptors Playoff Panic Watch: The Incredulous Game 2 Diary

By: Daniel Reynolds

Game 1 was not a great look for the Raptors. DeRozan struggled, Amir struggled, even the shot clocks struggled. I’m not sure Terrence Ross was still on the team by the end. Valanciunas threw himself around (franchise playoff record 18 rebounds), but the team turnovers were bad. And momentum? Forget about it. Heading into Game 2, it was clear the Raptors would need to show that their offense wasn’t always going to resemble a newborn deer on ice. Skittish, slippery and unsure of itself.

To assist, I made my way to Game 2. I hadn’t been to a playoff game since the 2000-01 season, during that magical second round run. I went to every playoff game that year, a personal fact of history I still revel in to this day. But I’ll spare you the details. We all remember how that went down.

Regardless, the subway southbound was buzzing, Union Station exploding. Nothing could ruin the good vibes. Until I saw him. Yes, in the scrum right outside Gate 1, was Rob Ford. I won’t lie: this was not encouraging news. To me, Ford radiates bad mojo, the wrong kind of attention. He hijacks narratives and distracts attention. The tone of the night was now ominous.

Still, with our top row seats claimed, bedecked in our Northern Uprising T-shirts, I settled in with my pal Antonio. The anthems were sung.

Game 2 begins.

We The North. And don't you forget it.

We The North. And don’t you forget it.

First Quarter

Game 2 started much the same way as Game 1, with the Raptors appearing overly jumpy and Brooklyn calmly making plays. The 8-1 opening score was not promising. The crowd was looking for a reason to cheer. And it still felt like the Nets’ collective inability to make shots was the only thing keeping the game close. Not a good sign.

Biggest takeaway from the quarter: the Jonas pump fake jumper is just not working. Seriously guy, when that ball swings to you either a) take the shot immediately, or b) make the pass. No one is leaping to block your jumper. They want you to shoot your jumper.

Like any wise fan knows, it is a marathon not a sprint. Somehow the Raptors eventually take a lead and end the quarter up two. I cheer with restraint.

Second Quarter

The game continues with more ugly shooting. The Raptors’ 3-point game is non-existent. Then, a truly disquieting sight: Landry Fields checks into the game. Has someone on the bench died? Things go from bad to worse: Rob Ford is shown on the screen. Large cheer. I worry about the fate of the team AND the city. At this point, I am largely catatonic. And the Raptors, somehow, are still winning. Not even a Garnett technical and our first Drake appearance (complete with lint roller!) can rouse me from my anxiety.

Now, bear with me here for an old man aside.

We, as a society, need to say something about the incessant music currently being played during NBA games. I understand it during breaks in play, the demands to “Make Some Noise”, the chants of DEFENSE, etc. I can even make allowances for it, perhaps, during certain in-game moments (a jump ball, a slow inbound up the court). But right now the Raptors employ an in-house DJ and actually cut to him during the game to announce that he’s there. The music drones on and on during possessions. People, we don’t need a DJ at a basketball game. We need a basketball game at a basketball game. That’s the entertainment. The soundtrack should be us.

Half Time

We convene on the concourse, and are joined by fellow contributor Dave “Game6ix” Osubronie. The discussion turns to the offense. What can be done? The Raptors are up by six but it looks and feels tenuous. A lot of rebounds and lucky plays are going our way and the Nets are just not making shots. Also, the Nets have been relentless in jumping out on the pick-and-roll to deny Lowry any kind of space. The long arms of Livingston and Johnson and the like are making it hard for him to turn the corner or make any kind of effective pass.

Meanwhile, DeRozan still hasn’t quite shown up. And Ross may as well be deceased. Bright sides: Amir is productive, Jonas is hanging tough (even with more turnovers!), and Fields hasn’t done anything embarrassing (yet). Still, I won’t lie, it got fairly gloomy. And that’s even before we notice the half-time show involving a lumpy middle aged couple magically changing clothes in the blink of an eye. Playoff basketball, everybody.

Third Quarter

In disappointing fashion, the fans are slow to return to their seats and in the new found quiet of the arena the Nets press their advantage. The lead evaporates. Lowry is T-ed up. I write this down in my (digital) notepad: “Somehow 7 minutes pass without the Raps making a noteworthy play.” That’s verbatim. I was on the edge of my seat.

As if to just make the already angry Nets even angrier, the arena people choose now to run a montage of “Brooklyn’s Most Famous Athletes.” It’s a montage of random people hurting themselves doing physical activity, like an off-Broadway version of America’s Funniest Home Videos. I swear, couple this with Rob Ford, the lint roller, Jay-Z fondue jibes and “Fuck Brooklyn” and every bit of bad karma now feels stacked against us. Remarkably, immediately after this display, Lowry gets called for a, um, “discursion” (??) penalty during some Mason Plumlee free throws. I still have no idea what that infraction is and I just spent way too much time scouring the rule book to find out. It earns Plumlee an extra free throw, which he makes.

But they rebound! No, literally. There’s an inspiring sequence of offensive rebounding that reminds me the Raps still have a mega size and athleticism advantage over the Nets. They are down by five at this point. Joe Johnson still glumly goes about his business. The giant screen plays the Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday. Now that’s more like it, arena people. In response, the Raptors successfully run a pick-and-roll for an Amir layup. The heavens rejoice. The place is ready to explode.

The Raptors respond with two straight turnovers. Nets by two heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

It bears repeating: somehow - somehow – the Raptors are only down two to start the final quarter. I don’t want to sound overly incredulous here but my goodness they are not doing themselves any favours. We are impelled to make some noise, and the overused “Seven Nation Army” beat gets played. Alan Anderson, cast off former son of the Raptors, hits a 3-pointer. I should mention that the Raptors only managed to hit two 3-pointers all game. Yikes.

The costly turnovers continue but now, oh yes, now DeRozan has come to life; he throws down a dunk, draws some fouls… and then promptly upsets the momentum by getting called for a charge (and his fifth foul). Dwane Casey continues to troll us by putting Fields back in the game. No sightings at all of Hansborough, Hayes, Salmons or Nando. Short bench. This is probably prudent.

For all those who think basketball is a game that only comes down to the last two minutes, I suggest an analysis of this final quarter. What basketball actually is, is a game of moments and momentum. The trends set in this game (for the Raptors: lucky breaks, rebounding advantage, shaky offense; for the Nets: stout play calling, poor shot making, lack of front court size) are notions that develop and change as the game moves along. Suddenly, not immediately, you find yourself in the fourth quarter and wonder if these concepts will matter. Will the trends remain? Will something upset the balance of narrative?

DeMar DeRozan would like to win this basketball game. Sorry, Joe.

DeMar DeRozan would like to win this basketball game. Sorry, Joe.

Out of a time out, there is a bunch of standing around, some hopeless dribbling and then Greivis Vasquez throws up an awkward prayer that barely qualifies as a shot. It misses. The narrative holds fast. That’s, um, the beauty of basketball. Paul Pierce proceeds to stab Toronto in the heart with a timely 3-point play. I want to die. BUT THEN.

DeRozan checks back in. He’s got five fouls but he is ready to buck some goddamn trends. Two straight jumpers later I’m wondering if we can elect him mayor of the city. The arena people play “YMCA”. I’d complain but the Raptors are SOMEHOW up by 4. I don’t know how we got here. 2:10 left.

The final two minutes really beggar belief. I poured over my notes trying to make sense of what happened. Remember what I said earlier about trends and narrative? Sometimes – and this is where basketball is fun – the whole script gets flipped. We end up with a key Landry Fields steal, a soul crushing 3-point play by Pierce, and some serious questioning of the existence of God by me. Then, just then, when despair is ready to kill a nascent spirit, when the Raptors are clinging to a two point lead with less than 30 seconds to go, is when basketball will kiss you on the forehead and send you happily into your future. Pierce misses two wide open 3-pointers. Amir gets a dunk on an out-of-bounds play (the first in what feels like an eternity). And the Raptors win 100-95.

We didn’t cheer for the pizza but the confetti was probably a bit much. The series is tied 1-1. See you in Brooklyn.

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Mad Men Monday Recap – ‘A Day’s Work’

By: Daniel Reynolds

Heading into the first half of the final season, the Same Page welcomes you each week to the Mad Men Monday Recap. A show as deep as this one needs some diverse commentary so jump in and enjoy our irreverent breakdown of each episode. 

Mad-men-title-card

What’s Happening on Madison Avenue?

It is worth taking a minute to discuss what happened in each episode. If you’re looking for some straight talk on what we just saw on Mad Men, read this section (and then read the other sections because, why not).

The episode begins with a montage of Don Draper and all the new ways he spends his days in Manhattan. Don sleeps in late (past noon), he watches TV (The Little Rascals), he monitors his drinking. He has complete control over this realm of his life, such as it is. As Don reveals at a lunch later, he is still under contract – a contract which includes a non-compete clause – and he is still getting paid. That side of his life, the professional, has been taken out of his hands. All Don can do now is decide when to get dressed. He’ll put on a full suit just to answer the door. But the TV beckons. For a man who has done so much to seize control of his destiny, Don seems acutely powerless.

Don’s actions – and rough history – led him to the place he now finds himself. But so much of “A Day’s Work” relies on the use of power and the turns of fortune. Don can still attempt to control his appearance; he’ll dress to greet Dawn at the door (who is keeping him up-to-date on SC&P news), have lunch with potential new employers, and then bring out his stern voice to talk with his daughter. But a cockroach roams through his apartment and Sally will later wander into his former office to ask questions. Don’s fate is still out of his hands.

The office is a tizzy this week. Lou doesn’t like having to deal with Don’s daughter (“I don’t care what her name is!”) Jim cattily refers to Draper as their collective ex-wife. But things get more complicated than that. Old rivalries, between Jim and Roger, Roger and Pete, and the rift between Peggy and Ted loom. The old power plays jockey for position. Peggy mistakes roses addressed to her secretary Shirley, as flowers from dear Teddy. She turns over these feelings in her mind; anger, petulance, tears. She can hide behind her office door, but even Ginsberg is letting loose with zingers at her expense (and he probably knows a thing or two about “masturbating gloomily.”) But it is Valentine’s Day and Peggy won’t be embarrassed, so the secretary must be moved. An early conversation between Shirley and Dawn reminded me of something from a Greek play, the foreground characters laughing at the actions of the Gods. The humour is a relief until the Gods point their fingers in your direction. Lou can’t work with Dawn, Peggy jettisons Shirley, Bert tiptoes the race line and decides it best if the front desk had a little less colour. Oh, Bert. The Gods are fickle indeed.

Things aren’t any easier on the west coast as Pete strives to land his next whale of an account. There are times I think that Pete will always only ever be a relentless jerk, but damn if he doesn’t at least attempt to handle business. Still, fortune does not always smile on young Campbell. Sometimes he makes his own bed, and ends up on the outs with his family, socked on his ass in the office. Other times he ends up with a dream life, a woman telling him he is “such a big deal”. Pete doesn’t get to land his whale, though. The petty office politics rear up, Jim Cutler turns Burt against Roger, Bob Benson’s name is invoked like Beetlejuice (though he doesn’t actually appear) and the spectre of General Motors, the real whale, is mentioned. Pete’s real estate babe reminds him that sometimes acts of God happen. Teddy, newly minted realist, advises him to just cash the checks. They are all going to die one day. Pete probably wishes he had the power to stop that from happening, too.

Peggy’s lashing out at her secretary creates a random chance for Joan to become an actual accounts lady, the job she’s coveted for awhile now. Joan deserves the position, but isn’t it funny how these things work sometimes? Joan has struggled to be acknowledged as a powerful person within the SC&P offices – despite knowing where most of the bodies are buried – and her next step in the climb to the top is awarded almost by Jim’s whimsy. Jim worries about having Roger as an adversary, but brings Roger’s biggest ally further into the inner circle. The tides of office influence continue to ebb and flow; Roger’s resigned sigh in Joan’s direction almost blows the S off the wall.

Sally, of course, is now a teenager. She is seizing all the power that she can. Her friends plot a shopping trip through Greenwich Village in lieu of attending a funeral. But as seems like is always the case, Sally ends up drawn back into Don’s orbit and apartment, the two evenly matched adversaries both attempting to keep secrets from each other. It’s a series of happenstance moments that reunite father and daughter for the day; a lost purse, a confusing run to the office, a needed excuse letter. Sally tells Don to “just tell the truth.” It’s a powerful idea, but Sally doesn’t yet understand that being honest is how Don ended up alone in his apartment in the first place. Undeterred, she tries a different tact: “I love you.” Take that, Don. The Gods may laugh at Sally’s plans, but I think she’d stare back and warn them to back off.

The Symbolism Rankings

Enjoy, with minimal comment, the weekly rankings for whatever symbolism Matthew Weiner has heavily stacked into each Mad Men episode. A show set in the world of advertising is only as good as its symbolism, right?

1) Cockroach

2) Red Roses

3) Moving Boxes

4) Excuse Letter

Back in the Day

Remember the 1960s? Mad Men really values its sense of place. To that end, here’s where we make mention of whatever anachronistic or historical element popped up this week.

Right up front I’ll say it: conference calls are the worst. You are stuck sitting with coworkers staring at a phone in the middle of the table. Sometimes the connection isn’t strong, or the person (or persons) on the other end is rambling on and on. You have to constantly raise your voice to make sure the transmission is still clear. And that’s now, today, with current technology and connectivity across nations that truly is marvelous. Seriously, I dread conference calls.

So, I can’t imagine what these coast to coast calls were like in 1969. And judging from this week’s conference call disaster, I can tell I don’t want to know. Where do we begin? Let’s see:

- shaky connection that drops in and out at inopportune times? CHECK.

- technically unskilled secretaries who seem mystified by the conference call’s operation? CHECK.

- old men present who wish things would go back to the way they used to be? CHECK.

- surreptitious communication happening on one end that it is not relayed to the other end? CHECK.

- an eventual and abrupt disconnection that leaves all parties dissatisfied? CHECK.

As the volume of voices continued to increase and the fidelity of the connection went into decline, I just wanted it all to end. I say once more, conference calls, then and now, are the worst.

Still, it was reassuring to see that Roger, at the very least, will always have the technology on hand to hang up on Pete Campbell the proper way.

This Week in Ken! (Cosgrove. Accounts.)

As the most likeable guy in the entire series, Ken Cosgrove deserves his chance to shine. Here’s where we discuss what everyone’s favourite earnest moonlighting sci-fi writer was doing or not doing on the last episode.

No Ken this week, and you know what, I feel fine with that. Last week’s Ken was not a good look. He’s got one eye, he’s short tempered, he has no help. When I originally envisioned this section as a cheery look at the happiest member of the Mad Men cast, I never thought we’d end up here, hoping that Ken will maybe be able to take the week off and find some peace.

Fortunately, there is a solution. This week saw the return of the one, the only, the real Pete Campbell.

Yes sir, Pete is back to complaining about his lack of credit, his dearth of respect, his inability to wear the big pants. He looks around, at the sunshine and orange groves, and wonders what will be the next thing to work for. As he points out, there are only two offices in the whole LA satellite agency and Ted’s is only slightly bigger than his own. So, really, what’s the point? What should Pete strive for? I think if we’re all being honest, we’ve all been there with Pete, shaking our fists madly at the universe, bemoaning the hands of fate that turn against us. You may even be able to talk yourself into believing that Pete has a point. Dammit, why shouldn’t he get some credit? Why does he always have to get the short end of the stick?

Then you remember that no one really likes Pete. They want Ken.

Know Your Role

Since so much of Mad Men is predicated on minute character interactions, here’s where we discuss the top conflicts that happen in each week’s episode and decide on a winner.

Since the end of last season’s finale, I had been waiting for the return to the ongoing dance that is the Sally and Don Mutual Revelation Society. With Sally’s return this season, we jump right back into her ongoing maturation as a teenager and get to marvel at how lucky it was to find Kiernan Shipka for the role.

At first, Don is gradually piecing together the lies Sally is telling him about what she is doing in the city. Sure, he’ll write her a note, but he demands to know the truth. Of course, Sally has other plans. You can’t help but be impressed at how Sally leverages her new found understanding of her father into power over him. When Sally fights with Betty, it is two petty teenage girls squabbling; with Don, Sally is pulled into the adult world, an equal.

Don, as his is way, attempts to lie and deflect or at least shield Sally from the truth. He doesn’t like that she had to go to a funeral, to see death that up close (looking yellow and bewigged). Don still wants to protect his daughter from the realities of a grown up life. In his own misguided way, it is sweet. Don tries to bribe her with dinner, ice cream, the illicit temptation of a dine-and-dash. Sally sees through it (almost; she still asks for a Coke).

It’s funny. Sally learned to deceive by studying her father. Don tries to yell at her in the car, he tries to use that voice that has bent so many to his will in the past. Sally does not yield. She knows now about all of it: the house that Don grew up in, the apartment where “that woman” lives, the lies told to Betty and Megan, and now too, the truth about the once invincible job situation. And as I mentioned up top, it is Sally alone who can still knock Don back with words. Her quick “I love you” as she gets out of the car may as well have been the knockout blow. Don is speechless.

Winner: Sally. Sally always wins.

Actual Advertising

Between the drinking, the social commentary and the drinking, sometimes the people of Madison Avenue actually do some work on advertisements. Here is where we sit in the seat of the client, trying to figure out what the hell these ad guys are talking about.

I’ll be honest, the machinations of the Chevy, GM and west coast car dealerships intrigue is actually, well, not particularly intriguing. I don’t know how those account guys do it. I think we can all agree that outside of the boozy lunches (where have those gone anyway?), the account side of the advertising agency doesn’t hold up against creative. Accounts men are grappling with office politics, conflicts of interest, and the whims and demands of the broader marketplace. Sure, the creative side has to deal with whims too. Clients never seem to like any new idea at first until they’ve had their input, gotten in their say. But the account men are dealing with the hard facts, the business. And that’s just at the bottom of the totem pole. At the top, there are the tedious partners meetings. Things do not improve.

Here’s what I could discern: Pete lands a big west coast car dealership account which is part of the Chevy/GM operation, but one that appears to run autonomously. Jim thinks they should run the new account through their main connect in Detroit, which means Bob Benson gets involved. Jim believes that is how things have always been done in the advertising world. Roger, surprisingly, defends Pete’s right (or demand?) to claim the account as his own. He may still just not like Bob. Not many people do. Ultimately, the account gets re-routed through to Detroit, Pete loses his big haul, Roger feels powerless, Jim gets adversarial and Bert nods calmly. I’m glad we worked all that out.

I miss the episodes with the creative ad pitches.

Peggy would like to know what's going on. (Or she would like flowers.)

Peggy would like to know what’s going on. (Or she would like flowers.)

Next Episode Predictions

This is where we watch the totally opaque preview for next week’s episode and make wild guesses as to what will happen next.

I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane. I will not dog pile on Harry Crane.

“This is a very enviable bit of PR.”

Oh shut up, Harry. You will never be cool.

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A Very Important and Scientific Ranking of Elaine’s Boyfriends on ‘Seinfeld’ – Part 2

By: Stefania Mellace

Last week, we began our countdown of the top 40 of Elaine’s boyfriends on Seinfeld. There were ups, downs, and, of course, questions – who will be number 1 on the list? Where will David Puddy fall? Without further ado, here is the list of the top 20 sponge-worthy men that Elaine dates on Seinfeld.

Check out Part 1 of this very important and scientific ranking over HERE.

Seinfeld

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Bobcobb20) Bob Cobb (“The Maestro”):  Bob wants Elaine (and everyone) to call him “Maestro”, his self-appointed nickname. If George can’t give himself the nickname “T-Bone”, why does Bob get to give himself his own nickname? It’s not right. Bob and Elaine seem to have common interests (i.e. classical music, vacation destinations), but common interests don’t automatically signify compatibility. It also really bugs me that Bob doesn’t want Jerry to rent a house in Tuscany. People who don’t want anyone to share in their happiness and people who “one-up” others are the worst. Bob loses a ton of points in the personality category. Other than that, he is nice to Elaine, which is a lot more than the most of the previous men, so Bob makes it into the top 20.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.77

316px-David_lukner19) David Lukner (“The Wait Out”):  Do I find David Lukner attractive? Of course I do. Do I think he’s sponge-worthy? Absolutely. Elaine is “there for” David after Beth dumps him, with the hope that she will eventually just be “there.” There is always risk involved when you deal with the loser (or winner) of a relationship that just ended, and in the end David’s baggage is too heavy. David scores well in the looks category (Cary Elwes is a good-looking man), but loses points in the personality and fidelity categories. I guess Elaine could do a lot better than him.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   6.86

Odenkirk18) Ben (“Abstinence”):  Elaine supports Ben when he’s studying for his exam by being a selfless, patient girlfriend (“No! Hypokalemia, not metabolic acidosis. Duh!”) In a similar fashion as Veronica Vaughan in Billy Madison, Elaine stops having sex with Ben so that he can concentrate and pass. This appears to be a self-sacrificing act, but Elaine is actually doing it to fulfill her dream of marrying a doctor. She’s gone after this dream many times – there is the tonsil doctor in “The Heart Attack” episode and the “breathtaking” guy in “The Hamptons.” Of course, when Ben passes his exam he dumps Elaine to chase the true dream of becoming a doctor – dumping whomever you’re with and finding someone better. In dating and in life, when you get to the top, you shouldn’t forget the people who helped you get there. As such, Ben scores low points in the compassion and fidelity categories. I wanted to give Ben a better score just because of my love of Breaking Bad, but I couldn’t cheat the scientific process.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.07

bizarro jerry17) Kevin (“The Soul Mate”):  Bizarro Jerry and Elaine originally connect because they both desire a barren, sterile existence that ends when they die. Kevin is the male equivalent of Lena Smalls – he is reliable, considerate, and he and his friends do good things and read. Elaine tries to fit in with his group, but she is only able to pretend to be someone that she isn’t for so long. Relationships can only work when both parties are free to be themselves. The only category in which Kevin loses points is in the “gaga” category because Elaine openly admits that she isn’t gaga for him. That, and his lack of depravity, land Kevin in spot 17.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.18

Aaron16) Aaron (“The Raincoats”):  Aaron is a tad askew. Not only is he a close-talker, but he’s also certifiably nice. He is a thirty-five year old man who takes a complete stranger’s parents out to make sure they are enjoying themselves in New York City. It’s sad because all he is really doing is being nice, but there’s something to be said about someone who is this nice. Since we don’t know (or understand) Aaron’s motivations, he scores poorly in some of the categories. He also gets a low score for cleanliness because it can’t be hygienic to speak directly into another person’s mouth. Still, Aaron is a nice guy and falls just shy of the top 15.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.36

Carl couch15) Carl (“The Couch”):  Elaine is excited about Carl – she’s in love and believes that this is “it.” He’s good-looking (David James Elliott has a bit of a Jon Hamm thing going on), real, honest, unpretentious, and he doesn’t play games. People say that they hate playing games, but a little push-and-pull is an important part of keeping things interesting, especially in the early stages of a relationship. A married friend of mine told me that the secret to his successful marriage is that he and his wife take turns chasing and flirting with and each other. Games or no games, Carl’s values aren’t aligned with Elaine’s, and having similar values is a key component of a strong foundation. Poor Carl doesn’t get a high enough score and Elaine doesn’t get any of those Paccino’s pizzas.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.47

Mimbo14) Tony (“The Stall”):  Hunky, pretty-boy Tony is a “mimbo.” Tony is exciting, charismatic, and probably a lot of fun, but he scores low in the intelligence category. Elaine tries to convince Jerry that she’d be going out with him no matter what he looks like, but it’s clearly not true. Jerry points out that men are expected to be superficial and women aren’t, which doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I know of plenty of superficial women – there are tons of them taking “selfies” in their underwear and sending them to popular websites (for some reason). George ends up having more of a non-sexual crush on Tony than Elaine does. After Tony is injured rock-climbing, Elaine has an epiphany: even if he is a hideous freak, maybe she can learn to love him and in some final irony, learn what love really is. She doesn’t.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.58

Kurt nonbald13) Kurt (“The Little Jerry”):  Elaine can’t understand why Kurt shaves his head when he has a beautiful head of hair (“That’s like using a wheelchair for the fun of it!”) I disagree with her assessment of the importance of a man’s hair to women – some men look good bald. Kurt proposes to Elaine when he starts going bald because George advises him to, “Live, dammit. Live! Every precious moment as if this was the last year of your life.” Kurt scores highly in all of the categories, except personality because of his lack of confidence. That – and the fact that he ends up in jail – keep Kurt out of the top 10.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.63

joel rifkin12) Joel Rifkin (“The Masseuse”):  Joel is a gentleman. He’s good looking, he’s a good shaver and he hasn’t thrown up in eight years. The problem with Joel is that he has the same name as a serial killer who strangled his female victims to death. Elaine and Joel take turns coming up with a new, suitable replacement name for Joel, but they can’t agree on one. It’s ironic that one of the names that Elaine suggests is O.J. (she is reading a football magazine at the time) because this episode took place just a few weeks before O.J.’s ex-wife was murdered. While it doesn’t work out with Joel Rifkin, it’s possible that things could have worked out better with Remy or Ellis Rifkin. Joel scores well in most categories, except the “gaga” category, as “gaga” is too close to the sound someone makes when they’re being strangled.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.68

250px-Russell11) Russell Dalrymple (“The Pilot”):  Russell becomes fixated on Elaine the moment she crosses his “field of vision.” He goes on one date with her and two months later, still can’t get over her (she’s just too charming). When Russell begs Elaine for another shot, she tells him that she doesn’t like that he works in network television because he’s “part of the problem.” Russell leaves his job as the President of NBC to work for Greenpeace so that Elaine will respect him and ends up lost at sea. I agree that you have to respect what your significant other does for a living (“You’re a cashier!”), but more importantly, you can’t force something if it’s just not there. Poor Russell has decent scores in all of the categories but doesn’t quite make the top 10.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   7.77

Scott sponge10) Billy (“The Sponge”):  Billy is the original “sponge-worthy” guy. He and Elaine go out several times and they have a good rapport. He owns a very profitable electronics distributing firm, he eats well, he exercises, has immaculate blood tests and he claims that he is good in the bedroom (A+ for his morning stamina). He is even willing to trim his sideburns and clean his tub for Elaine, which is a great sign (tub is love). There is nothing wrong with Billy and the only reason it doesn’t work is because of bad timing. He comes into Elaine’s life right when the sponges go off the market, which forces Elaine to re-evaluate her whole screening process in an effort to conserve them. As ridiculous as this situation seems, timing really is important. Sometimes timing is the only thing that keeps two compatible people apart (poor timing is the root of 90% of every “the one that got away” story). Billy scores well in all categories and starts off the top 10.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.03

300px-Reston9) Dr. Reston (“The Watch”):  Elaine doesn’t like being with Dr.Reston. She tries to break up with him, but he has a mental hold on her because he knows too much about her. Too many people in unhappy relationships stay together for reasons like this – they know each other too well or for too long or they are in too deep with each other’s family. Ultimately, you have to pay attention to whether or not you’re actually happy and try to silence any outside noise. Dr.Reston scores well in the compassion and intelligence categories, as he cares about his patients and is Elaine’s “svengali.” It’s a shame Elaine doesn’t make this one work – her dream of marrying a doctor could have been fulfilled.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.08

robert_mailhouse8) Robert (“The Beard”):  Robert needs a “beard” in order to appease his conservative boss, and Elaine plays the part well. Robert is incredible – gorgeous, successful, dresses well, likes shopping – but he’s also gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Robert is a “starting shortstop” on his “team” and although Elaine is able to convert him for short period of time, he switches back because he is most comfortable with his own “equipment.” While I applaud Elaine’s efforts, in the end, you have to accept your significant other for who they are and not try to change them. Robert scores well in all the categories and lands at number 8.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.19

ned7) Ned Isakoff (“The Race”):  Elaine thinks it’s so cool that Ned is a communist and even brags about it. Unlike with Robert, the only thing that she tries to change about Ned is his bland, drab, olive-coloured clothing (“Can’t you at least look like a successful Communist?”) Ultimately, she gets him blacklisted at Hop Sing’s and the relationship ends there. I think this one didn’t work out because Elaine is pretty selfish and careless (I love her anyway) and not because Ned is a “commie.” Ned scores well in the intelligence category because he is well-read (and well-red) and in the other categories, so he takes the number 7 spot.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.59

250px-Hal26) Hal Kitzmiller (“The Nap”):  Hal’s got a great last name – it should have worked out based on the last name alone. Elaine is offended when Hal sends her a customized mattress because she thinks it means that he is expecting a “roll in the supportive hay.” It turns out that he just wants her to have the comfort and support that she deserves. He easily fixes things by complimenting her about her height and weight, which is a good move. I think everyone knows how much women love compliments, especially sincere ones about height and weight. He is a little jealous/worried about Elaine and Kramer and asks Kramer if he’s been in her bed, but a little jealousy can be a good thing (moderation is key here). Overall, Hal scores well in all categories but we never find out why it doesn’t work out.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.69

whatley5) Tim Whatley (“The Label Maker”):  The biggest problem with Tim is that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man – he re-gifts, he de-gifts, and then he uses an upstairs invite as a springboard to a Super Bowl sex romp. Also, Tim is a dirtbag – he has Penthouse magazines in his waiting area and he and his hygienist take advantage of Jerry when he is unconscious in the dentist’s chair. While it’s a good thing to have a little “man on the streets, freak in the sheets”, Tim is pushing it. He and Elaine do end up in love with each other somehow, but we don’t know why it doesn’t work out. Tim is intelligent (even though he’s just a doctor who failed out of med school) and scores high in the sense of humour category because he converts to Judaism just for the jokes. Tim is actually a pretty good match for Elaine, so he lands at number 5. For the record, Walter White probably would have been number 1.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   8.88

200px-John_Germaine4) John Germaine (“The Rye”):  Elaine thinks John is totally sponge-worthy and is “gaga” over him (he’s a saxophone player and she fantasizes about his writing a song about her). The problem with John is that he doesn’t like to do “everything” even though… well, she’s there. Jerry makes a big, sudden move when he tells John’s bandmate that Elaine and John are “hot and heavy.” Elaine loses control over the relationship (or “hand” as George would call it) and convinces him to add a “new number” to his repertoire. It’s John’s unbridled enthusiasm in this area that leads to his ultimate downfall with Elaine. As such, John stays at number 4 on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   9.16

250px-Hernandez3) Keith Hernandez (“The Boyfriend”):  Elaine and Keith have major chemistry, probably more than with any of the guys she dates on the show. Their pun-filled banter is really funny and cute – everyone wishes that they could have chemistry like this (it’s once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky). Jerry is jealous of both of them and describes them as “a perfect match, they go together like one of those brother-sister couples that look alike.” Elaine ends up dumping Keith because he smokes before they could even have “milk” and “cookies.” Elaine could have gotten over the smoking, but it didn’t work out for them (or for Jerry and Keith either), as they both broke up with him at the same time. Keith gets top points all around and is a near-perfect match for Elaine (and for Jerry). For these reasons, Keith is second-runner up on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   9.59

Puddy2) David Puddy (“The Face Painter”):  Puddy is Elaine’s longest-lasting relationship and definitely her funniest. He doesn’t score high in the intelligence category, but he stops painting his face for her, he keeps getting back together with her whenever she wants to, and he dates her despite his being a germaphobe. They drive each other crazy, but they care for each other and they are together right until the end… well, right until she tells him not to wait for her and he says, “Alright” in true Puddy fashion. Puddy is actually willing to put up with Elaine’s craziness, and there is nothing that a woman wants (or needs) more than that. Puddy is great overall and is a close runner-up on this list.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   9.64

jfkjr1) John F. Kennedy Jr. (“The Contest”):  John F. Kennedy Jun-ya! In the 90s, John John lived and worked in Tribeca and was often seen around Manhattan playing Frisbee in Central Park, working out at the gym and biking around the city. It is brilliant that Seinfeld was able to incorporate him into the show (there are many references to the Kennedys throughout the Seinfeld series).  John John is described as someone who was charitable, intelligent, kind and adventurous. Despite his family name, he sought and treasured privacy and wanted to be treated as a regular New Yorker instead of as a celebrity (which is a lot more than can be said about any of those revolting Kardashians).

Although we never see him on the screen, we know that John John works out in Elaine’s aerobics class, they split a cab, and he asks about her “situation” afterwards. When he stops by Elaine’s building (which is actually Jerry’s building) to say hello, Elaine misses him and he ends up with Marla. In a later episode, we see John John and Marla watching the “Jerry” pilot together in bed. In the end, Elaine’s missed opportunity with the Prince of Camelot is a not only a microcosm of the Seinfeld series as a whole, but also of life in general – to be happy, you have to learn to enjoy the good moments in life as they happen instead of waiting for a fairy tale ending that may never come.

Sponge-Worthy Score:   10.00

 

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Your NBA Playoffs TV Guide: What to Watch and What to Avoid

By: Daniel Reynolds

There are eight NBA playoff series starting this weekend. There are also a veritable mountain of sites that are currently working through the various permutations and predictions that the first round entails. I have a different angle. For the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, let’s forget the predictions. I’m telling you why you should watch or not watch any given series. Now, shoot.

Miami and Indiana: the only Eastern conference teams that most people are talking about.

Miami and Indiana: the only Eastern conference teams that most people are talking about.

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE

Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)

Reason to Watch: Primarily, you can watch the ongoing Indiana disaster show. For the last few months of the season Indiana has been on a dramatic death march into the playoffs. First they signed Andrew Bynum, noted team chemistry savant, and then traded Danny Granger, oft-injured folk hero, for Evan Turner, a player most in Indiana probably wish would get injured. They started losing more games than they won, started airing grievances in public and managed to sort of accidentally win the Conference as Miami continued to rest and ease into the playoffs like an old man getting into a bath. Phew.

Or, watch the series to see Atlanta’s Pero Antic do his thang.

Reason to Avoid: The obvious reason is right there in the two team’s records. Indiana won a decisive 56 games this year while playing some earth-crushing defense. Meanwhile, the 38-win Hawks almost lost out on a playoff spot to the Knicks. The 2013-14 New York Knicks. Let that sink in for a second. This is not a particularly good Hawks team. And I can say that without even mentioning that Elton Brand figures prominently in their rotation. Watch at your own risk.

Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7)

Reason to Watch: As a fan of professional basketball, you should probably watch the Miami Heat just on principle alone. When they are firing, the basketball they play is truly magnificent. The ball snaps around the court, 3s are rained down with impunity, and there are usually a few thunderous dunks. Plus, those Chris Bosh faces, man. Yes, as a basketball fan in 2014, it is important to remember that we still live in Lebron’s world.

On the flip side of that beautiful coin is the Charlotte Bobcats. They are not a beautiful team, being as they are comprised mostly of men who can’t shoot the basketball particularly well (Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson). But there is a certain anger to be found in a team ignored (believe me, I’m a Raptors fan). With Al Jefferson going about his methodical destruction of everything within ten feet of the hoop, and a roster that ranks among the top 10 on defense, the Bobcats are playing to have their true identity acknowledged on the biggest stage. They must know they can’t actually win it all, which means – stay with me here – they can’t really lose. This one may be worth checking out.

Reason to Avoid: Quite simply, Miami eats up teams that are this one-dimensional. The Heat are fearsome along the perimeter when they want to be, and the idea of having to focus on only one clear cut offensive option (Jefferson) for four games must fill their minds with glee. I can see the Bobcats maybe making a few games interesting, grinding down the Heat for as long as they can. But at this stage of the game, beautiful basketball or not, Lebron is inevitable. This is a coasting 4-0 series victory.

A hopeful (totally real) future.

A hopeful (totally real) future.

Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

Reason to Watch: The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs! The Raptors are in the playoffs!

Reason to Avoid: If you’ll allow me my homer moment here, I don’t want to watch the Raptors lose in the first round. I’m having 2007 flashbacks. A city would be crushed, a nation in mourning. I don’t even want to think about this, a world where Joe Johnson’s impassive face and Deron Williams’ stupid haircut get to move on to the second round. I apologize for the brevity of this section as a whole. Let’s just move on.

Chicago Bulls (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5)

Reason to Watch: Now, here’s a study in contrast. The Bulls spent most of the year relying on whatever offense they could squeeze out of Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson; D.J. Augustin was seen as a key shooter for them (D.J. Augustin!!!). If not for the transcendent play of Joakim Noah, who definitely is worth watching, and the maniacal coaching of Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls should have been in rebuild mode (with the Derrick Rose injury and the trade of Luol Deng, it seemed like that was the plan). Somehow, they are the 4-seed. There identity is just that firmly entrenched. They refuse to lose. This is remarkable in its own way.

The Wizards, meanwhile, constantly appear to be playing above their head. Their character is still somewhat in flux: How important is Nene? Do we trust Marcin Gortat? Is Bradley Beal the answer? Can we decide whether or not John Wall is a good shooter? Watch this series for the hopeful answers to these questions, the inevitable cavalcade of Wall highlights, oh and maybe a Gortat/Noah fist fight.

Reason to Avoid: I don’t know, are you excited for this series? The Bulls play some remarkably ugly basketball; they have to in order to survive. The Wizards have some hugely talented players (Wall and Beal chief among them) but you just never quite know what you’re going to get. It’s a combination that will inspire some 78-74 scores just as likely as a 114-91 tally. I just feel like it’s going to be that kind of series, e.g. a sloppy, weird one.

Jose Calderon attempting defense. (Sorry, Jose)

Jose Calderon attempting defense. (Sorry, Jose)

THE WESTERN CONFERENCE

San Antonio (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)

Reason to Watch: Ah yes, we meet again, my old friends. In the Dirk Nowitzki era, the Spurs and the Mavs have met five times. The 15-year series stands at 3-2 for San Antonio. That’s a nice bit of historical perspective. Both teams have had their successes against each other. And let’s not forget the songs they still sing in Dallas about that vaunted 2010-11 team, the one that won the championship. They’ll always have that, won’t they? Sorry if this is sounding quaint. I’ll explain.

The thing is, the Spurs are on a road of vengeance. You know that scene in Gladiator when Maximus takes of his helmet and reveals all to the Emperor? Think of the first three rounds of the playoffs as everything that happens before that. The Spurs want revenge on Miami and I’d be lying if I said it will not be entertaining to watch them chew up all the teams that get in their way. No way - no way - does even this delightful Dallas team (Vince Carter excepted) become anything other than a speed bump for the unstoppable chariot that is the Spurs.

Reason to Avoid: I suppose I could go with the “Spurs are boring” adage, but that is definitely incorrect. It is true that Manu doesn’t play in quite the same eye-popping way as he once did, and that Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli lack a certain je ne sais quoi, and dammit I don’t know how many more times I can watch Tony Parker calmly obliterate another point guard (sorry in advance Calderon). The Mavericks are canny, but the Spurs are out for blood. This may be a “massacre of childhood dreams”-type of series.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Reason to Watch: I want the Memphis Grizzlies to succeed. There, I said it. There is something so lovable about a team in 2014 that plays true inside-out basketball, has no reliable 3-point shooters (except maybe the undead Mike Miller) and lives and dies by its patented – with T-shirts and everything – grit n’ grind mentality. They’ve earned that nickname, by the way. It ain’t always pretty (unless Marc Gasol is throwing some mind-bending passes), but you gotta love it.

The case for always watching the Thunder in the playoffs is easy: Kevin Durant is a basketball magician. The case for watching this particular series with the Thunder: Russell Westbrook is a basketball demolition expert. Combine those two with this irascible Grizzlies crew and you’ve got yourself something special.

Reason to Avoid: At this point, it is impossible to be a basketball fan and not want, desire, yearn, to watch the aforementioned Durant (ask Seattle how the yearning truly feels). And if you don’t like the current iteration of Z-Bo, spirit warrior, then there is something wrong with you. Avoid this series if you have more pressing life matters to attend to. Otherwise, there is no excuse.

Paul and Curry: best of friends.

Paul and Curry: best of friends.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

Reason to Watch: Let’s be honest: the Western Conference playoffs are loaded this year. Case in point, look at all the names involved here: Paul, Griffin, Curry, Thompson, Jordan, Bogut, Crawford, Iguodala, Granger, O’Neal, Lee, Big Baby, Turkoglu. I mean, shit, this series reads as a who’s who of the NBA in the last decade (or decade plus, if we are indeed counting Jermaine O’Neal). Toss all those players into the playoff blender, give them two games (at least) played in the pressure cooker that it Oracle Arena, and you have a scintillating playoff series.

Reason to Avoid: You hate the following: cool jerseys, heat checks, J.J. Redick (OK, fair enough), basketball, fun, life. Get out.

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)

Reason to Watch: This has the potential to be a real wild west gun fight of a series. The Rockets are like that rec league team filled with gunners that can win any game at any time or completely shoot themselves in the foot. And the Blazers are like that rec league team that, um, is also filled with wild gunners that can win or lose on a whim. Not just that, this series also has: the presence of the insane Patrick Beverley, the love-to-hate Dwight Howard, the sublime (nut-puncher) Nicolas Batum, the unkillable Mo Williams, the beard of James Harden, the ghost of Bill Walton, and more. Basketball is so fun sometimes.

Reason to Avoid: I suppose purists will be heard decrying the almost comical lack of attention paid by James Harden to the notion of defense. But that’s all I got. This is a tough one to talk down since both the Blazers and Rockets have been involved in some highly entertaining games this season. They both play an up-tempo style that involves a lot of exciting 3-point shooting and fast movement, they both feature thrilling superstar calibre players (Harden and Aldridge, first among them), and both will have crazy playoff crowds. Hmmm, Houston might shoot a lot of free throws? That’s boring, right? I got nothing.

It’s the NBA playoffs and it starts on Saturday.

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Skating on Black Ice: An NHL Playoff Q&A

By: Chris Dagonas

The NHL’s playoffs start Wednesday night and we here at the Same Page are both: a) Canadian, and b) sports fans. In addition to the melting snow and short glimpses of summer weather, this is an exciting time of year for us.

Even without the perennially disappointing Maple Leafs, this year’s playoffs offer plenty of interesting questions.

WHAT IS THIS NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT? 

So, the NHL went to two divisions in each conference this year. In the Eastern Conference, we have the Metropolitan division and the Atlantic division. In the West, we have the Pacific and the Central.

Each division sends at least three teams to the playoffs, and they all end up in the same bracket. The fourth spot in each bracket is a wild-card team, which could come from either division, depending on points.

There is no more 1-vs-8, 2-vs-7, etc. Instead, there are two brackets of 1-vs-4 and 2-vs-3. In theory, this should lead to more interesting first-round series.

This year, as it happens, the Eastern Conference did not have any crossover teams, as four teams from each division qualified. In the West, however, we have five teams from the Central division, while only three from the Pacific qualified. So that means that the Dallas Stars, despite being a central team, are in the Pacific bracket against the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks.

Last season's champion Blackhawks will be tough to beat again this spring

Last season’s champion Blackhawks will be tough to beat again this spring

WHICH FAVOURITE WILL MAKE AN EARLY EXIT?

It happens every season: a highly-seeded team falls in the first or second round to some upstart with a hot goalie. With the new playoff format, and based on recent history vis-a-vis Western Conference dominance, the team most likely to fall early will be coming from the West, and most likely the Central division. Chicago, St.Louis and Colorado all have more than 105 regular-season points, and one of those three will have to be knocked out in the first round. The Blues and Blackhawks will meet in Round 1, and with the returns of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Hawks will be at full strength with a more talented team. Sorry, St. Louis, but you’ll be, ahem, singing the Blues after round one.

In the East, I see a lot of hope for the favourites. The only series where I might be convinced of a lower seed going through is Montreal-Tampa Bay, where the Canadiens hold the upper-hand in goaltending, defense, and secondary scoring. Of course, the Lightning feature the world’s second-best player in Steven Stamkos, so you can never really count them out entirely. Ryan Malone may not be at his best, though. Here’s why.

WHAT IS SOMETHING I DON’T REALIZE THAT I SHOULD REALIZE?

The Los Angeles Kings are the best puck-possession team in the league. They have also given up the fewest goals of any team. You should realize that the Los Angeles Kings are a very well-run hockey team, and I will not be surprised if they make another long run toward the Cup.

The St. Louis Blues have lost six games in a row entering the post-season. That should qualify as foreshadowing, about as dreary as Sigur Ros in a Game Of Thrones episode.

You should realize that the Boston Bruins are really, very good. They stayed healthy all season, and finished with the most wins in the East, as well as the fewest goals allowed. Patrice Bergeron exploded to become one of the league’s best centres, and their goal difference was +84, twice as high as the second-ranked team in that category. As good as the Blackhawks were during their Cup run last season, the Bruins have been almost that good this year.

Jonathan Quick and the Kings will make life difficult for opposing forwards

Jonathan Quick and the Kings will make life difficult for opposing forwards

WHICH SERIES ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR?

Great question. Watchability is a huge factor in making the playoffs interesting, especially when your team is already on the golf course. (I’ll always love you, Toronto Maple Leafs, but my gawd that was an atrocious March/April.)

In the West, the opening round series I’m most excited about is the San Jose Sharks vs. the Los Angeles Kings. I’ve already written glowingly about the Kings, but the Sharks have been getting shit done out in California for almost a decade now. But they have hit major bumps in the playoffs, and time is running out on the Thornton-Marleau incarnation of these Sharks. They’re still a very talented team, though, and if I can stay up late enough, I’d love to watch as many of these games as I can.

Chicago-St. Louis could also be a classic, but I just don’t have a lot of confidence in St.Louis right now. Meanwhile, Chicago will be flying high with the returns of Kane and Toews. This will more likely go down as a sweep, or almost-sweep, for the Blackhawks. I hope I’m wrong on that, though.

On the East coast, I’m jazzed to see the Bruins and Red Wings do battle in the kind of old-school, rough-and-tumble style that Don Cherry and people of his ilk love, except without all the ridiculous fighting. Because fighting in hockey is pointless and stupid. Great players, big hits, and battles for the puck. That’s good ol’ playoff hockey! (Picture me with a Black Ice in my hand as I say that, obviously.)

Is this the toughest image you could find?

Is this the toughest image you could find?

That’s not to mention the Rangers and Flyers, who have hated each other since the 1970′s, and will continue to do so as this series goes on. Claude Giroux has been on a tear for most of the season, and will be looking to make up for lost time after missing out on the playoffs entirely last year. The Rangers are lead by breakout star Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan, as well as veterans Brad Richards and Rick Nash, and have three reliable scoring lines. I predict a high-scoring series, and one that seems destined for seven games.

HOW ABOUT A BRACKET SHOWING YOUR PICKS, YOU COWARD?

Sure thing:

The West breaks down thusly

The West breaks down thusly, in my humble opinion.

Remember, I’m the guy who picked Michigan State to win the NCAA basketball tournament, so, you know, grain of salt and all that.

I take no responsibility for my picks. Any money lost is your own fault.

I take no responsibility for my picks. Any money lost is your own fault.

As the playoffs progress, I will return periodically with my thoughts, observations, and apologies for bad predictions. I also reserve the right to tinker with the above brackets as needed for the Conference finals.

Beer me a Black Ice. Pass me the Triscuits. Shut the hell up.

It’s playoff season.

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