Joker is Haunting Social Commentary on the Various Causes of Mass Violence

Great familiarity with The Joker character of DC Comics and particularly Batman canon in my generation means knowing that the actors who played him on the big screen were changed by it. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in 1990’s Batman led him to speak to Heath Ledger about the psychological toll that it took; Ledger’s turn, of course, has become as infamous for his post-filming death as it has become famous for his breathtaking, posthumous Oscar-winning performance. Joker is a complex character, and a fascinating one. Tapping into his psyche and donning the face paint would understandably put any performer into a strange headspace.

The first degree I earned was in Psychology and I am accordingly drawn more to the mind of a complicated persona with a warped moral compass than I am black-and-white villains or white-bread heroes. Sometime in the last decade, The Dark Knight overtook the top spot on my favorite movie of all-time list, in large part due to the performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker; its brilliance warrants its own soon-to-be-written blog entry. So, when I went to see Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the Caped Crusader’s greatest foe, I assumed I’d leave the theater comparing one to the other, contextualizing Joker and much of my opinion regarding its quality on a ranking of actor performance.

Yet, that was not the case at all. Maybe one day I’ll come back to that train of thought, but I truthfully do not upon first viewing consider Joker to be what I think it was originally intended to be. Joker is many things, but it is less an origin story for the famous Batman antagonist and more a disturbing, perhaps masterful piece of social commentary on one of modern society’s top ever-worsening problems that just so happens to use a love-to-hate comic book heel to express it.

The ease with which Arthur Fleck (aka The Joker) obtains a gun, the “seven” medications (presumably all or mostly anti-psychotic drugs) that he takes trying to feel better, the half-assed counseling that he receives and the half-assed effort he puts toward it (followed by the funding for both being cut by the government), his terrible upbringing, the brutally mean-spirited responses that he often receives from people, etc. collectively remind us of how challenging it will be to stop the trend of mass violence from disturbed individuals who have deemed human life expendable.

I have not read many interviews with director Todd Phillips to know if that was what he meant to do, but as a friend of mine whose book I helped publish is apt to say, “Sometimes artistic achievement trumps authorial intent.”

“Stunning” would be a fitting description of Joaquin Phoenix’s take on The Joker. His haunting presentation is a real artistic achievement. It paints the visual portrait of a human-being who has already been beaten down by several societal worst-case scenarios getting even further pummeled, literally and figuratively, all the way to violent madness. That does not seem fit to be tied into wider shared-universe storytelling and it will require a decided tonal shift in future Batman movies to integrate this version of The Joker into its more traditional setting of foil to the Dark Knight. No, it was a movie instead about how a person loses his value of human life whose nickname just happens to be “Joker.”

Prove It Saturday: Week 6 College Football Preview

Last week, I read an article about things that best describe extroverted-introverts like me and it perfectly fits the theme of my weekend. After 9 weeks of the #2 most stressful “adulting” activity (moving), my brain is about to explode from over-stimulation. I am, thus, taking a “me” day to prepare myself for the finals months of this decade. Attention turns to the wonderful world of college football and an abundance of my go-to escape from the world: writing. Here are a few pre Week 6 thoughts for my own enjoyment and also for that of fellow college football diehards.

My post from the pre-season about the teams most likely to end the four year-running Clemson-Alabama stranglehold on the national championship has proven prophetic to date, but of course championships aren’t won in September. Ohio State, with Justin Fields at the helm looking like another Kyler Murray in the making, looks as impressive to me against Blownout Tech as Alabama does against Cupcake State; Georgia has the best win if Notre Dame ends up being as good as I think they might be as the autumn wears on, but watch out for LSU; Joe Burrow has given the Bajou Bengals their best offense of the decade with a slew of impressive receivers, and they look scary, but forgive me if I’m not buying it until they play a team with a better defense; Oklahoma’s (nee Alabama’s) Jalen Hurts has torched my rather humbling assessment of him giving the Sooners 80% of the Mayfield-Murray standard, and has actually exceeded their statistics – Hurts probably would win my “September Heisman,” and that offense combined with an improving defense under a new coordinator (Alex Grinch) is going to be tough to beat; there again, prove it to me against a legit opponent.

My College Football Play-off Foursome heading into this week is 1 Alabama, 2 Ohio State, 3 Georgia, and 4 Clemson. I have a hunch that we’re heading for the kind of controversy at season’s end that will yield an 8-team playoff sooner than TV contracts suggest.

The Most Interesting Games of Week (and thoughts)

Michigan hosts Iowa needing to right its ship quickly before a once promising season is lost to what might’ve beens. I was very much in “prove it to me” mode with the Wolverines going into 2019, and they just seem stagnant as a program. Now, Iowa comes to town undefeated and hopeful of competing with a wild-card national title contender in Wisconsin for Big Ten West supremacy. Can they match the statement win made by the Badgers against Michigan and join the conversation of barely dark-horses? Harbaugh tends to win games like this when expectations have tempered and there seems like much less to lose; so I’m going with Michigan, but I’m rooting for the Hawkeyes (I’m a quiet fan of the upper-midwest trio of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – would like to visit all three for games next decade). Hopeful that my kids will enjoy “touring.”

Oregon vs. Cal lost its luster when the Bears lost both the game and their starting quarterback, and the Ducks are hot, blowing people out to re-establish themselves as fringe contenders. That said, give Cal a week to prepare for a new QB and hope their stout defense can form an iron wall around the end zone. Feels like a likely Oregon rout to me, nevertheless.

Ohio State vs. Michigan State shouldn’t really be close, but this is the first “prove it” game for Justin Fields and the Buckeye offense. Having watched the MSU vs. Arizona State game a few weeks back (a 10-7 slugfest…and eyesore), I struggle to see the Spartans move the ball enough to allow Michigan State’s very good defense some rest, so even if Fields has trouble early against his first real competition of the season, he should get no shortage of chances to find his groove as the game advances considering the maze-and-blue-like style of poor offense thus far employed by Sparty in 2019 and Ohio State’s own nasty D. OSU rolls.

Notre Dame should be hoping for little more than quality reps for the back-ups and no more injuries to starters against Bowling Green, but I think this is the warm-up to the Fighting Irish proving they’ve got another special season in them. ND fought like crazy and nearly knocked off the ‘Dawgs two weeks ago…much was made of Georgia’s key injuries, but the Irish showed how good they were with back-ups across the offensive skill positions. Oddly, the Irish could run the table, be more complete than last year’s Playoff team, and actually get left out of the Top 4, but I’d enjoy seeing Notre Dame put the pressure on the selection committee’s openness to a narrative change.

Auburn at Florida is the game of the day. I want to see how Bo Nix handles the hostile Swamp. Trevor Lawrence obviously reminded a year ago that a great defense and some skill players can turn a true freshman quarterback into a legend, but – again here’s that word again – you gotta prove it on stages like Saturday’s. The Gators have a heck of a defense too and this could be a bowling shoe ugly game, but Auburn – which feels like the odd team out with LSU streaking and ‘Bama ascending as per usual to the top of the rankings – could legitimize its name in a more serious conversation with its SEC West peers, particularly if they emerge convincingly victorious. For whatever reason, I feel like a Florida win says less about the Gators SEC contendership and more about the pretender status of the Tigers. The narrative being so much about Auburn, I’m picking them to win on the road.

Any thoughts feel free to share. I enjoy a good sports chat.

An Ode to My First Man Cave

Watching sports is a big deal at my house. I’ve been an avid sports viewer since right around the spring and summer of 1992, when Christian Laettner’s shot and the Dream Team happened within months of each other. When we moved into the house I am currently sitting in for the final night, the first thing organized was the “man cave.” I had been looking forward to that moment since it became obvious to me in college that diehard sports fandom wasn’t just a childhood thing for me, but my great escape from the stressors of life. It has been everything I always wanted it to be, my man cave, host to some of my favorite memories over the past several years. To leave it is unquestionably bittersweet, though my second one is coming soon!

In honor of a wonderful 5 1/2 years, here are my top “first man cave” memories:

WrestleMania XXX: Pro wrestling is my oldest pastime. If it takes 10,000 hours of study to become an expert on something, then I’d surely have to be as much of an expert on pro wrestling as any non-pro wrestler can be. Most people don’t get it, focused as they often are on the pre-determined outcomes (“it’s fake”). If you told me that, I would counter that pro wrestling is the world’s most misunderstood performance art, a storytelling medium as readily capable of telling tales of betrayal, camaraderie, ultimate achievement, etc. as anything seen in books, on Broadway, in Hollywood, etc. Close those agape mouths; I’m quite serious.

Take, for instance, this brilliant night on pro wrestling’s grandest stage, WrestleMania (the 8th most profitable event franchise in the world). ‘Mania XXX was the first big event viewed in my first man cave and the featured attraction was the story of Daniel Bryan – the modern “everyman” perceived (and otherwise) as the antithesis of what WWE wanted its marquee name to be – overcoming massive odds (again, perceived and otherwise) to be positioned with a chance to both topple an overly authoritative power regime (by defeating the corporate bully) and win the championship (by defeating two corporately chosen golden boys) in the spot that has become wrestling’s Holy Grail: the main-event of WrestleMania.

The more pro wrestling you watch, the harder it can become to get lost in the fiction. For me, a 32 year fan of the industry, the pinnacle of Bryan’s saga, which began in earnest several years prior off-camera (he was considered too small and plain-looking to even get signed by WWE), was actually the moment on Monday Night Raw a few weeks before ‘Mania when it became apparent that Bryan would face three of the Top 20 wrestlers of the WrestleMania Era, but the climactic final act culminating a story that enveloped me more than any other in my adult wrestling fandom very much stands out as one of my favorite man cave memories.

Clemson vs. Alabama, Parts 1 and 2 – As an avid college football fan, I always hope to see a dramatic national championship game close out the season, but as fellow CFB enthusiasts can attest, that does not happen as often as we’d like. I sat in my first man cave for five national title game viewings, however, and three of them were outstanding.

Honorable mention to Georgia vs. Alabama to close out the 2017 season, but Clemson vs. Alabama for the 2015 and 2016 titles, respectively, was especially memorable to me. My personal college football tour made its way to Clemson in 2014, and it was a particularly awesome stop, so I was more heavily invested in the Tigers reaching their peak and was, accordingly, all the more invested in the gut-wrenching momentum swing that gave the Crimson Tide full command of the 2015 title game. I said to myself right before a bam-bam one-two ‘Bama punch of a desperation throw to set up a field goal and a recovery of the ensuing onside kick, “I’m not sure how the Tide is going to wrestle control away here.” A minute later, they had control and never gave it up.

The rematch for the 2016 title was even better than the original, coming down to the final play of the game. Back and forth they had gone all the way; then Tide QB, Jalen Hurts, scored what could have been on any other night the game-winning touchdown very deep into the fourth quarter, but Clemson’s now legendary QB, Deshaun Watson, engineered a quick drive that ended with a TD pass to Hunter Renfrow and put the finishing touch on a game in the running for the best I’ve watched in 25 years.

One 3-1 Series Comeback Begets Another – In the 2016 NBA Playoffs, a finally healthy Oklahoma City Thunder team used its size to overwhelm the defending NBA Champion and regular season record-breaking, Golden State Warriors. When the Warriors stormed back from down three games to one in a best-of-seven series to advance to the NBA Finals for a second consecutive year, I’ll never forget the look on Kevin Durant’s face. It was the same look LeBron James had in the series that segued to his infamous “Decision.” KD psychologically crumbled, and his ensuing free agency decision – equal parts understandable for basketball reasons and deplorable for competitive reasons – now lives in infamy too.

What is fascinating about the series of events that spring is that Durant and the Thunder going up 3-1 created the perfect emotional storm. On the brink of ultimate glory, KD suffered his greatest professional failure instead. If the Warriors had defeated the LeBron’s Cavs to repeat as champions, KD logically might have used his experience to motivate him for a rematch. However, the Warriors fell apart despite their own commanding 3-1 lead in the Finals and the King capitalized, fundamentally altering Durant’s mindset. If the Warriors had won, KD couldn’t possibly join them, could he? Since they lost, though, it gave Durant an “in” to downplay his probable “he couldn’t beat them, so he joined them,” pariah status in favor of embracing a sort of basketball nirvana. The psychology of sport…I love it.

Of course, as a long-time fan of LeBron, just as memorable as the 3-1 comeback that fed right into another 3-1 comeback (and how it caused one of modern basketball’s most significant domino effects) was that the prodigal son returned to the Cavaliers team he spurned for the Heatles in the aforementioned “Decision” and one a title for Cleveland. To this point, the 2016 comeback squad represents the peak moment of LeBron’s career. I was too young to fully appreciate Michael Jordan’s all-time greatness, but I have optimized my experience of LeBron’s.

There’s nothing like a Game 7 in sports, so to have seen two of them in back to back rounds of the same playoffs, and for those two Game 7s to have been so influential on contemporary and overall basketball history…man…let’s just say that I have a great appreciation at this stage in my life for witnessing history.

Notre Dame’s Undefeated 2018 Season – Obviously they lost to Clemson in the Semi-Finals of the College Football Playoff, but an undefeated regular season for the Irish is the closest to sports nirvana that I have reached in my lifetime to date. Watching the Irish in the 2012 BCS Title game and the 2018 Playoff, like my viewership of the 2009 NBA Finals that my Orlando Magic lost to the Lakers, was ultimately a trio of negative experiences, but the journeys leading up to them were magical. If one my teams wins the title, sports nirvana will be newly defined for me, but in the meantime, it has gotten no better for me in the last half decade than sitting in my man cave watching the Irish run the table last year.

I have a lot of good Notre Dame football memories from my first man cave – the Irish crushing USC in 2017 was probably the most cathartic ND blowout victory I can recall and last second TD throws in 2014 and 2015, the former captured in what I consider to be an iconic father-daughter photo from when Jordan was two years old (it’s framed in my office), were the unforgettable sorts – but the totality of the 12-0 run in 2018 was an example of the escalatory nature inherent to an undefeated season. At 4-0, with quality wins, the belief in a higher ceiling of achievement begins; at 8-0, belief is strong, but it’s also tough to keep the “pride before the fall” feelings at bay; from then on, within each game, the emotional peaks are steep and the valleys are deep. It’s a ride worth the drive when the final seconds tick off the 12th victory.

My daughter got into it, too. Regularly, she would ask to watch the games with me and would throw on her Irish jersey during day games. When Notre Dame narrowly escaped with a victory against Pitt, Jordan suggested that we do something special after each Irish win, so for about seven straight weeks, we did just that. There’s no expectation on my end that my kids share in these extracurricular passions of mine – they are my escapes, after all – but if they eventually find the joy in them that I do, then that’s an added bonus that I’ll greatly appreciate.

Farewell, first man cave, and thanks for the memories!

What is The Medtrix?

(Author’s Note – the following was inspired by the 1999 film, The Matrix, which the author has long found to be philosophically consistent with the American healthcare crisis)

The Medtrix is everywhere.  It is all around us; it is visible or audible in almost every room.  You can see it when you look into your cabinet, when you drive down the street, when you read a magazine, when you scroll through social media, and when you turn on your television.  You can feel it when a healthcare topic comes up, when you go to the doctor’s office, and when you pay your insurance bills.  It is the blinder that has been pulled over your eyes to keep you ignorant to a rather harsh reality…

What harsh reality?

That healthcare in America, though a highly influential and profitable system, is broken.  For multiple generations and counting, it has been imprisoned by a fundamentally flawed mindset that health is, rather than a multi-factorial personal responsibility, a state of being that can seemingly be achieved only by surrendering control to various forms of pharmaceutical medicine and its supporters. 

Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Medtrix is…you have to see it for yourself.  So, this is your chance to gain clarity on a subject that can make you feel a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit-hole.  You cannot unlearn the information about to be shared.  Figuratively, you may take the blue pill, stop reading this, and move on with your day; but you may also take the red pill, read on, and learn how deep the rabbit-hole goes.  All that is being offered here is the truth, nothing more. 

Consider the definition of health by American standards – when you are free of injury or illness or symptoms – and the means about which that definition of health is achieved – drug therapies primarily, followed by surgical procedures.  80% of all the pharmaceuticals in the entire world are consumed in the United States, despite Americans making up just 5% of the world’s population.  Doctors and researchers at the prestigious medical universities of Harvard and Johns Hopkins have attempted to make public knowledge that, in large part because we over-consume pharmaceuticals, the 3rd leading cause of death in America is medical error; and both institutions have made inferences to the accuracy of conclusions drawn by other researchers that medical error is actually the #1 cause of death in the United States.  Is it really so hard to believe?  We see and hear drug ads that warn of these dangers daily, but they rarely register.

The USA also ranks #1 worldwide in unnecessary surgeries.  In fact, a quarter of the spending on healthcare in America has been deemed unnecessary – unwarranted labs and diagnostic imaging included.  Of all the industrialized nations, the United States grossly outspends its peers, with nearly 20% of the gross domestic product dedicated to pharmaceuticals and surgeries; dollars spent on so-termed “alternatives to medicine,” for reference, is 0.001% of the $10,379 average per person spent on drugs and surgery.  Yet, while we spend far more than the other industrialized countries, we rank last among them in outcomes.  The truth, it seems, is not without a sense of irony; we spend more money than everyone else to be sicker than everyone else. 

“Health” insurance premiums being so high are both a by-product of the above and fuel to sustain it.  Whereas once it was used to protect against the financial burdens of hospitalization, it has in modern times been heavily over-utilized for situations that are mostly inappropriate.  The third party payer trend has created a dynamic in which premiums organically keep rising.  After all, the law of insurance states that the greater the likelihood of grim circumstances, then the more money it will cost to purchase insurance against them.  Free your mind, walk through the door; insurance is most affordable when fewer claims are being filed, but if the majority of health issues are designated as “in need of a conventional doctor’s pharmaceutical recommendations” and if those physician-recommended drugs are only affordable through insurance, then premiums cannot decrease. 

What is the Medtrix?  Control.  The Medtrix is a system of diagnosing and treating symptoms and disease masquerading as something it is not by attaching words like “health” and “wellness” to its literature and social lexicon; it has tragically convinced the population, including most doctors, that health is an instantly-gratifying proposition that requires little to no personal effort, stimulating reliance on its methods and its methods alone.  We have adopted rules and regulations perfectly suited for the Medtrix that are built not on being healthy, but rather on addressing the various symptoms that stem from being unhealthy; and the insurance industry that supports it is no more about health than life insurance is about life. 

Many who are reading this already knew something about the Medtrix.  What you knew, perhaps you could not have explained, but you felt it.  You have likely felt it ever since the first time that you questioned the teachings of conventional medicine; that there is something wrong with American healthcare.  You may not have known how to fully contextualize it, but the feeling had been there, like a splinter in your mind, at odds with simple logic and basic laws such as cause and effect.  Some of you have even attempted to speak out against the flaws of the system and encountered great and at times torrid resistance from those so inured and so hopelessly dependent on the system that they would fight for it even in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence.

To you and the others in the process of getting unplugged, if you will, from the Medtrix, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.  The information shared today is not a reflection of how the story of American healthcare is going to end; rather, it sets the stage for how the story of American healthcare is going to begin.  The grassroots movement away from the pharmaceutical philosophy is going to continue to exemplify that health can be achieved without its methods, to empower people with proper education on healthy lifestyles, to prioritize drugs and surgery as the last resort instead of the only option, and to only use third party payers for emergencies, as is the case with all other insurance types.  We can change American healthcare.  Where we go from here is a choice left to you.

Thinking good things for you, as always,

-Dr. Chad

The Art of Racing in the Rain, and the Book to Movie Challenge

Transitioning a popular book to the theater screen is a fascinating challenge. One of the fun facts I learned while dabbling in the book publishing industry was that the number of pages in a book is typically a good indicator for the number of minutes it would take the average person to read it. The mean number of words read per minute is about 300, which is also the average number of words on a book page. So, with a book like The Art of Racing in the Rain, the endearing story of a dog’s relationship with his human family, told from the perspective of the dog, the task of making it into a movie is rooted in translating essentially a 5 ½ hour read into a 2 hour watch.

For something like Jurassic Park, the task is made easier by the book being such a ready-made cinematic experience, but it becomes more arduous trying to capture the emotional backbone of a story like that in Art of Racing. Being a film about a dog, there is a natural aesthetic hook for any dog lover – from the cuteness of the puppy phase to the thoughtful canine expressions once the pup has shifted into the part of its life that defines the phrase “man’s best friend” – but the book was masterful at capturing an answer to the great question that runs through any dog owner’s mind throughout their furry friend’s life, “What would he/she say if capable of talking?” You cannot help but wonder about it, during the joyous moments to the “potty” training to the addition of kids to the dynamic to opening presents on Christmas and through anything and everything in between them and the heart-wrenching final moment; that is the essence of the book. The drama is in the details in prose, and replicating it with less dialogue and more visuals one could argue is a futile exercise. Art of Racing does its best, and its best was good enough for me and my wife.

43 million families in the United States have dogs. That target audience would get this movie; others likely (and predictably) would not. Like with Marley & Me, it would have been hard to mess it up for the target demographic. Enzo the dog, voiced by Kevin Costner, certainly anchors the film, but the cast, particularly Denny, the owner (Milo Ventimiglia of This Is Us), and the ensemble featuring his wife, daughter, and in-laws does well to compliment the inherent canine-appreciation with a range of human psychological components. By the end of the movie, I felt triumph for Denny and Enzo…and, of course, I cried.

LSU’s Offense Steps Out of the Dark Ages and Into Prime-time

Listen to the podcast HERE

Welcome, college football fans. At this point in the season, it gets no better than a big non-conference game between teams ranked in the Top 10 that lives up to the hype. On this efficient 18-minute podcast, I commentate on the coaching narratives, including Tom Herman’s aggressiveness perhaps getting the best of him as much as it also contributed to the at times exhilarating drama of this match-up; I also spend a good amount of time gushing over Joe Burrow and the LSU receiving corps while simultaneously recovering from the shock of seeing the Tigers new offense move the ball so easily through the air (and with such pace), as that wound up being the real story of the game; plus, I’m both an admitted hyperbolizer and a proud over-speculator, but I try to tone it down while drawing conclusions about what this game will mean to each team moving forward.

Listen to the podcast HERE

PSA: Avoid Sugar When Fighting Illness

My son started coughing last weekend. That’s OK. He is 4 years old and his immune system is still very much developing. That said, my daughter’s friend brought a special treat (cookie cake) to a play date at our house and, even though it upset my son, I wouldn’t let him partake. On Labor Day, we gathered with friends for a float (down the river) trip and special treats (cookies) were offered. I managed to keep my son away from those too. By Tuesday morning, the cough was on its way out.

The refined sugar found in candy, cookies, cake, etc. suppresses the immune system and generally decreases the normal functioning of the very well oiled machine that is the human body. So, when already exhibiting signs – like coughing – that your immune system is fighting a stronger opponent, then one of the best supports you can provide your body is to avoid the various things that slow down immune response, like special treats.

Unfortunately, when I picked up my son from pre-school on Wednesday, I learned that he had consumed two chocolate doughnuts in honor of a classmate’s birthday. His teacher told me that his nose had been running. It was a safe assumption that the elimination of his cough – or, more importantly, the underlying agent causing it – was no longer imminent. Sure enough, the cough continued and got worse. Two days later, he had a brownie and some cheese puffs (not so sugary, but loaded with its own destructive materials) at pre-school for another birthday party. Unsurprisingly, his cough is actually peaking one week after it started instead of going away.

I certainly don’t blame anyone for this, but this is a prime example of the battle for health that we face, ladies and gentlemen. Kids are sicker today that at any point in the last 50 years. Let that sink in and then ask the obvious question, “Why?”

Many things shape our terrible American health system, but one of the least talked about dynamics is the simple lack of education on how to stay healthy. “Sugar feeds infection” is not common knowledge; it should be. Nutritional education is virtually non-existent.

Ideally, it would be written into the by-laws of every school that if a child was showing overt signs of fighting illness, then they shouldn’t be allowed to have sugary snacks, regardless of the occasion; the few minutes of being upset is well worth a healthier kid first of all, but there is also the domino effect to consider – if the immune system of one child is suppressed, then the infection gets stronger and more likely to effect other kids who are simultaneously suppressing their immune systems with the special treats (this is one of the primary ways that infection spreads, by the way). Frankly, as a parent, I’d like to be informed of the junk food my child is set to consume so that I can give my consent for it and help them prepare for it by counteracting it with constructive, nutritional foods before and after. Until health education improves, those things won’t happen.

On the bright side, just as sugar fuels infection, watching my kids stay sicker for longer fuels my fire to ramp up the educational process and further stimulate long overdue change in healthcare. So, here’s a call to action to parents, teachers, grandparents, etc.: let’s reverse the trend of today’s kids being the first in modern history to be sicker than the generation before theirs, and let’s start by recognizing simple things like “sugar feeds infection.”

Which Teams Could Break Parity in College Football Out of Purgatory?

Approaching the more traditional start to the college football season, a look at the legitimate threats to make the playoff and particularly to win it all reveals a distinct lack of long-term intrigue, with Alabama vs. Clemson capping the season for the fourth time in five years feeling Warriors-Cavs in the NBA Finals-levels of inevitable.

In essence, parity is in purgatory as it pertains to college football right now. Since 1980, six occasions have seen a team either win two national titles in a row, win twice in three years, or win three titles in four years. Four of the six instances have happened in the last decade or so, and Clemson and Alabama have traded the ‘chip back and forth since 2015.

If you’re a fan of the Tigers or Crimson Tide, then good for you; enjoy the life-enhancing success of your teams. As for the rest of us, part of the fun continues to be watching and waiting for the next team – hopefully ours – to reach their level. Here are four teams that could break the Dabo-Saban monotony:

Georgia – Clearly the most likely to break through in 2019 after getting so close to knocking off ‘Bama in the last two seasons. Kirby Smart is right there. He has the experienced and very talented quarterback in Jake Fromm, some elite skill players, and cultural momentum (losses of players and coaches but a firmly entrenched system) on defense. Add an SEC still re-developing the usual cadre of top flight teams and a visit to Athens by their toughest non-conference opponent, Notre Dame, and it’s very possible that Georgia will get its shot at the title. Unfortunately, it looks like they would have to face Alabama possibly twice (SEC Title and CFP) and beat Clemson (NC game) to win it. The vibe is that it is Clemson and ‘Bama, then Georgia, and then a few steps back to everyone else.

Ohio State – Justin Fields was the top quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class for Georgia, then transferred to OSU. Expectations are high. The Buckeyes are breaking in new head coach, Ryan Day, who took over for the legendary Urban Meyer (igniter of the current dynasty-heavy decade-ish by winning two of three national titles in 2006 and 2008 at Florida), but they remain the Big 10 favorites to me until I see someone take their crown (I’m selling Michigan stock). Don’t forget that they have been among the Top 5 teams in the country for the vast majority of the decade. It feels like a long-shot for them to win it all, but it’s definitely no long-shot for them to make the playoff. Programs as loaded with talent as they are often handle coaching changes well for a season or two, even if the new guy can’t hack it long-term.

Oklahoma – To crack the Saban code in the 2010s, teams have typically needed both a really good defense and a game-changing quarterback; and now there is the Dabo code to crack too. The Sooners were historically bad on defense last year and way too much hope is being put in Alex Grinch’s new scheme given that it is his first season in Norman, and to expect Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts to replicate even 80% of the production from back-to-back Heisman trophy winners is unrealistic. OU is a little bit over-hyped in the pre-season if you ask me, but they have been to three out of the last four playoffs and belief within the program likely burns bright until distinguished by repetitive losing – a proposition that also does not seem realistic. Stories like Hurts facing his old team and an old, familiar foe in Clemson for a chance to win it all are too awesome not to want to see.

Washington – I distinctly recall the 2014 season narrative being that the Big 10 was not going to put a team in the playoff, and that the conference was weak. Ohio State promptly emerged down the stretch and won the national championship. What have enthusiasts heard for the past nine months in 2019? “The Pac 12 is no good.” Well, the Huskies are the class of the conference right now and former quarterback Jake Browning regressed after his breakout 2016 during which he led UW to the playoff. Chris Peterson is an excellent coach and now he has former Georgia #1 recruit, Jacob Eason (a Washington state native), to quarterback his offense. If Eason lives up to past hype and the Huskies continue their defensive track record, the bad losses from the last two seasons might get replaced with big wins. It’s not at all inconceivable that they finish 13-0 heading into the playoff.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which team outside of Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia is most likely to win the 2019 College Football National Championship?

Miami vs. Florida Entertainingly Fumbles and False Starts the 150th College Football Season

If you watched Miami vs Florida start week 0 of the 150th college football season in an entertaining, mistake-filled, back-and-forth momentum pendulum of a game, then from one long-time CFB enthusiast to another, here’s a conversation-starting, quick-hitting breakdown of the pre-game thoughts, in-game takeaways, and post-game questions.

Click HERE to listen to the 15-minute podcast