Book Review: ‘Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling Forever’ by Tim Hornbaker

There have been countless books that have talked about wrestling territories and their collapse due to the emerging monster that was Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. However, none of the books I’ve ever read were as good and comprehensive as this one.

I think the main reason this is the best book I’ve read on the subject is because it’s not told from one perspective or about one promotion and its own woes against the WWF juggernaut. This book just lays out the facts, tells its tales and covers every territory under the sun.

This looks into every territory, from all angles and gives a ton of info and history while moving through the late ’70s and the entire ’80s. It’s comprehensive as hell and doesn’t seem to have any bias one way or the other. It helps set this apart from the wrestling book pack, as many are written with an axe to grind or with just one version of a story.

The subject matter here is fascinating, whether one is a wrestling fan or they just like to read about businesses and industries during times of major change.

Death of the Territories was superb, well researched, well presented and honestly, it makes me wish someone would make a documentary on all of this and do it the same justice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on wrestling history. In fact, there are a lot of really good ones that have come out in recent years.

Talking Wrasslin’: All Elite Wrestling – Year One In Review

It’s been just over a year since All Elite Wrestling officially formed and close to a year since their first show, 2019’s Double or Nothing. We’re also several months into their weekly nationally broadcast show, Dynamite. So I figured I’d look at the first year of AEW and provide my thoughts, good and bad, as well as what I hope the future brings for those of us looking for a mainstream alternative to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Initially, my excitement was at an all time high after the success of the indie wrestling mega event All In, back in September of 2018. When I got wind that something bigger was happening beyond that, my excitement overflowed and I was “all in” on what this met for the future of the wrestling business.

However, right off the bat, there were decisions being made that made me question the newborn promotion’s direction and leadership.

First off, executive roles were given to wrestling talent that hadn’t proven themselves in that realm. While I was okay with Cody Rhodes being the public face of the company, due to who his father was and because he had flourished independently after leaving WWE, I was concerned as to whether or not he could effectively co-manage a brand new wrestling promotion with a lot of money pushed into it.

Additionally, when his wife and buddies were also given executive roles, I found that even more perplexing. Not because I’m hating on them but because none of them have had any experience in these sort of positions within a wrestling promotion.

Understanding that AEW wants to give more power and creative control to the on-air talent seems like a good idea in some regard but as history has shown, when active wrestlers become management, it typically leads to a shitty product and if I’m being frank, it’s not too dissimilar from some of their criticisms of other major league wrestling promotions, past and present. So even if they’ve got the best of intentions and are going to run their company differently, it still paints them into a corner. I’ll explain what I mean by that as this article rolls on.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Young Bucks but I liked a lot of Kenny Omega’s work in Japan and especially liked his matches with Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and Chris Jericho. However, there are distinct stylistic differences between Western and Eastern professional wrestling. That being said, Omega has primarily wrestled in Japan for years but he and the Bucks have been given three of the highest ranking jobs in the company. As far as I know, based off of information that’s been discussed by many over the last year, these guys have their hands deep into the creative side of the women’s and tag team divisions. I’ll also get more into this, further into the article.

The first mistake that these guys made is that they started hiring all their other buddies. This also isn’t too dissimilar to what other wrestlers given power in promotions have done in the past. And while I’m not saying that the talent they’ve hired isn’t good or bad, it feels as if they don’t care either way and they’re trying to hook all their buddies up with gigs because they either didn’t make it big in WWE or because WWE doesn’t want them. From the outside it looks like, “Hey, buds… we’re your saviors! Come on in and let’s party!”

Plus, most of the guys they’ve hired wrestle similar styles to the Bucks and Omega where everything is highspot after highspot to the point that highspots become way too commonplace and lose their meaning and their effect on the psyche of the audience. I’ll also delve into this more.

Additionally, almost all of these guys are small by wrestling standards and even if the game is changing, a roster full of guys that don’t convincingly look tough is detrimental to a product that is supposed to be about kicking ass and being badass. No one is afraid of the hipster asshole that runs the register at Chipotle.

Furthermore, typical Western audiences don’t want to watch two hours of just high-flying shenanigans that are done so much that we’re seeing a record number of spot botches on national television. Anyone can Google “AEW botch” and see a slew of videos and GIFs that make my point for me.

Now there are a lot of good things about AEW too. I generally like the product, for the most part, and it is a decent alternative to WWE. While it’s got its issues, so does the juggernaut WWE, which is why AEW got massive support to begin with.

I think that the writing that’s been on the wall for well over a decade is that Western wrestling fans want to try a new flavor other than vanilla. AEW has answered that challenge but it’s like they took vanilla and added some hot sauce to it. Point being, you’ve got to have a palate in order to be a good chef. It’s like AEW has the palate of a six year-old kid left home alone with a full fridge.

Now I don’t say that to be insulting but the product they’re putting out is just recycling the standard mainstream wrestling formula but trying to overpower it with lightning fast matches, countless highspots, more colorful language and a pretty high emphasis on comedy wrestling. While all of that stuff has its place, doing everything with the volume turned up to 11 is pretty fucking tiresome to experience.

I feel like AEW is just throwing a lot of shit on the wall to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Maybe they’re in a little over their head due to how fast they got off and running and because of the lack of experience running a wrestling promotion. It feels like there is a lack of understanding in regards to the fundamentals of what works on this hemisphere. While Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks were big in Japan, it doesn’t mean that what worked for them there is going to work for them here. I’m personally a big fan of Japanese wrestling, always have been since I was a tape trader in the ’90s, but I also know that my love of it isn’t something that most mainstream normal wrestling fans have on this continent.

It’s like they’re trying to appeal to a niche audience. The problem with that is a niche audience will always be niche and not mainstream. If you’re “in it to win it”, you’ve got to think bigger and you’ve got to produce a product that is enjoyed by the largest audience possible.

That comes down to one simple fact: you’ve got to know your audience. Right now, I don’t know if AEW does. At least not fully and not this early. That doesn’t mean that they won’t figure it out, re-work some things and fix some of these issues going forward. I certainly hope they do because more wrestling is good for everyone.

Diversity between promotions is a good thing that helps build brand identity and uniqueness. However, there can also be too much diversity and I think AEW suffers from that in trying to encompass many things, all at once. But I really hope this is just growing pains.

My point with this is that you can’t try to cover all bases by trying to appeal to every little niche simultaneously. You have to find the balance between them while, again, appealing to the widest audience possible. I think that the solution is to be something between WWE and what AEW currently is.

The best example I can give is the Attitude Era of WWE. No, not because it was edgy with a Jerry Springer atmosphere but because it allowed talent to be themselves, have some creative control and it took chances and had diversity within the content of its segments. At its height, it found a way to take the best elements of the mainstream WWE formula, mixed that with an ECW influence and also adopted some of the better elements of what was working in WCW, at the time.

WCW succeeded for awhile too because it was doing the same thing. Even though they had their own style that slightly differed from WWE, both promotions were just different sides of the same coin.

So since I’ve brought up WCW, I want to go back to my thoughts on wrestling talent being in charge, as that was ultimately a major factor in WCW’s downfall.

Back in the ’90s, when WCW was buying up WWE talent like Beanie Babies, they gave their heavy hitters too much control of their characters and too much power in booking the shows. This led to these guys only putting themselves and their buddies over while younger talent got the shaft and ultimately, jumped ship to WWE, which helped that company recover and win the war.

I know that the guys running AEW know this, as does anyone that loves wrestling and has been paying attention to the business for several years. But just because they probably don’t want to make the same mistakes doesn’t mean that they won’t. Power is one of those things that can change a person and while I assume that Cody, Omega and the Bucks have the best of intentions, who is to say what this will mean over time.

Having now watched AEW for about a year, I can actually say that it looks like they are actually trying to deliberately do the stark opposite of what the WCW stars did. Maybe that sounds good but it isn’t. So let me explain.

First, there needs to be a balance, just like with all things. All four of these execs are four of the absolute best wrestlers in this new promotion. However, they seem to be putting everyone over except themselves. I’m not sure if they are just afraid of being accused of what guys like Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan were accused of twenty years ago or because they think that they’re building up the rest of the roster at their expense. But that’s just it, it’s at their expense.

You can’t objectively look at what has happened over the last year and tell me that Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks’ stock hasn’t dropped. Omega has lost his luster and the Young Bucks should be reigning tag team champions. Instead, Omega has been booked to look like a goof and the Bucks resemble the New Rockers more than the real Rockers.

In regards to Omega, he sucks as a babyface and he was at his best with The Cleaner gimmick. But the guy is sort of awkward and can’t cut good promos, at least not from what I’ve seen. And I thought of the guy as a superstar over the last few years that he was in New Japan. But now that I think about it, I watched his top matches and never really saw him talk all that much outside of press conferences. Also, the style of cutting a promo in Japan is different.

The Young Bucks just do three million superkicks per match and take two million dives to the outside. This reflects a problem I have with modern wrestling where devastating moves that should be finishers (or setups to finishers) are used so frequently that they’ve lost their luster and their impact. It’s like when someone uses a stunner or a cutter in a match and the opponent recovers like it was a simple neckbreaker. It shows a complete lack of understanding of ring psychology and in-ring storytelling. It’s like they’re just playing WWE2K and put in a cheat code to always have finishers active.

While some refer to this as a reflection of the times, I say that modern times suck because no one has time to have a real conversation without looking at their phone every five seconds while only having the attention span to absorb information the size of a tweet. But these people are what this style of “wrestling” appeals to. This is also probably why AEW considers an Ironman Match to be just 30 minutes. That’s more like an Aluminum-Man Match.

In regards to Cody, he’s at least had a main event spotlight on him but they booked him so that he can’t ever compete for the AEW World Championship again. I think that’s a massive mistake and hopefully it is rectified through a storyline because Cody, as well as Omega, should be World Championship chasers when the time is right. In fact, Cody should be the guy to take the belt off of Chris Jericho when that time comes. But I’d keep the belt on Jericho for well over a year because the title needs to build prestige and not be used as just a prop, which has been WWE’s problem for a few decades now.

I also have major issues with how the women’s and tag divisions have been booked. I don’t care how it looks on paper but the Young Bucks, despite my opinion on them, should have been the inaugural tag champs. They were the most famous team in the promotion and they came into AEW super hot after leaving Japan and Ring of Honor. I guess since they run the division, they didn’t want to crown themselves as the kings. That was a mistake and, as I’ve already said, their stock has fallen in the last year.

Now that’s not to say that the Young Bucks can’t recover but they’ve booked themselves into a corner and frankly, I don’t give a shit about them or the division anymore. Hopefully, management finds a way to right the ship.

Looking at the women’s division, despite her in-ring ability, Riho is not believable as the champion. They put the belt on Nyla Rose, who is massive by comparison, and that’s a much better fit. However, having Nyla lose to Riho when they crowned the first women’s champ was a major mistake that hurt the division immensely. People have talked up the quality of their last match but I can’t suspend disbelief enough for it to have physically made sense in my brain. Especially, when Riho’s neckline is below the top rope and she’s skinnier than a stop sign pole.

Beyond just that, the women’s division in general has been booked atrociously with just about everyone looking weak. They’ve ruined Britt Baker, their first female signed to a contract, and they brought in Kris Stadtlander and got her over immediately, only for her to get knocked out of the picture in a matter of weeks.

In a perfect scenario, Awesome Kong should have been the inaugural champion and she should’ve run through the division until management settled on who the top young star should be. Then, only after climbing the ladder to the top, should the new champion have been crowned.

Moving on, AEW also suffers from a lack of creative. Most of the storylines aren’t interesting and the show is carried by just two rivalries. Those are the Jon Moxley v. Chris Jericho (and The Inner Circle) feud, as well as the superb work being done by MJF and Cody Rhodes in their emotional conflict.

Outside of that, nothing interests me. I’m half interested in the Pac v. Kenny Omega Aluminum-Man Match coming up but that’s just because of the physicality of what the match should be and not the actual storyline that’s been booked like a fucking afterthought.

I don’t give a crap about The Dark Order bullshit and they’ve got enough Ministry/evil goth faction ripoffs between The Dark Order, The Nightmare Collective and The Butcher, The Blade & The Bunny.

Granted, The Nightmare Collective have been abruptly cancelled but that also is another problem with creative. You don’t just cancel an angle in the middle of it and say, “Oh, we weren’t feeling that, so whatevs!” No, you find a way to creatively end it within a storyline. How am I supposed to buy into what you’re selling when you can just pull the plug on it at any second? How do I build trust with your brand and the universe you’re building?

I’m not going to really get into my issues with the comedy stuff other than to say that I don’t hate Orange Cassidy like many old school purists do. I find the schtick to be somewhat enjoyable and it has got him really over with the crowd. But this will only work for so long and the character has to adapt and evolve if he’s going to have longevity and not go down as another joke lost to the sands of time. He needs to have something push him into actually getting physical in a non-comedy way. He can still fuck around and be funny but something has to make him actually pull his fist back and haymaker the fuck out of someone. You have to show him break through the character if you ever want him to emotionally connect with the audience beyond just being the doofus sidekick in a stoner comedy.

Granted, I don’t know what he’s actually capable of beyond his limiting gimmick and I don’t have the faith in AEW creative to capitalize on him and strike while the iron is hot. The thing is, you can only tell the same joke so many times before people start scrolling their Twitter feed.

The last thing I’m going to harp on is AEW’s insistence of having win-loss records. This is another thing that paints them into a corner, creatively speaking. No one really cares about wins and losses, they just care about seeing great matches and having the best guys get over. But to truly get the good guys over, you have to have them overcome the bad guys. Usually, this comes with losses and misfortune, only to have them eventually get the upper hand and win the rivalry. But with also including a weekly rankings system, keeping track of wins and losses is detrimental to that, especially when you compare them to the rankings and they don’t make sense. They need to get rid of this shit fast and just focus on stories and booking proper programs and feuds. They said, early on, that AEW was going to be treated like a real sport. Well, they’ve failed in that regard and seeing a guy ranked at No. 5 with a 3-1 record behind a guy ranked No. 4 with a 0-0 record is asinine.

I know it seems like I’m taking a big shit on All Elite Wrestling but hey, I’m still watching it every week and hoping for the best. Right now, I just have to focus on the things I love about the product. Those things are mainly Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, MJF, Cody Rhodes, Pac and Hangman Page, who could be the next massive superstar in the wrestling business. All six of these guys are the absolute highpoints of every show. I’m also really excited to see what Jake Hager can do in this environment, once he gets in the ring.

Furthermore, there are probably some new faces coming in. I’m most excited for what Brodie Lee (WWE’s Luke Harper), Lance Archer, Matt Hardy and The Revival can bring to the table if they sign with AEW.

The Revival are really what the tag division needs, as they can slow the matches down and add a new flavor to the proceedings, as their in-ring style is in great contrast to teams like The Young Bucks.

As far as Lee and Archer go, they would add some real size to the roster, which is definitely needed.

Keeping up with all the behind the scenes stuff, Tony Khan, the real guy in charge, has stated that he’s had some buyer’s remorse with certain wrestlers and that AEW, at least for the moment, are primarily looking for bigger, athletic guys. That shows me that he’s aware of the criticisms and that he’s trying to plug some holes and get the promotion on track.

Also, the commentary team is solid between legends Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. I also like the recent addition of Taz. I’m still not sold on Excalibur, though. He needs to calm down a bit and focus on the action, as opposed to yelling out the name of every move just to prove he’s a human wrestling Wikipedia.

I feel like I’ve stated enough, even though I could go into greater detail on a lot of these points. The thing is, I like AEW and I want it to succeed because real competition benefits all parties involved. I want AEW to flourish and give me something to get excited about. I also want WWE to feel the heat and to start making their product better because they’ve become really fucking complacent at the top for two decades.

I hope that 2020 is the year where All Elite Wrestling finds its groove, works out a lot of its kinks and gives the fans a wrestling show that they don’t want to miss. I’d love for the Wednesday Night War to become as big of a phenomenon as the Monday Night War. The wrestling industry needs its fans to feel the passion that existed during that time. Hell, if you’re a fan and you don’t want to feel that passion again, why are you still watching?

Talking Wrasslin’: Reflecting On My Personal Experience at NWA Hard Times

*I wanted to write this and have it up last weekend but I was dealing with a loss in my family, the hustle and bustle of my trip to Atlanta (for family and to see this show) and then I had to get right back to the real job while fighting off a cold for the last few days.

Being that I have been digging the hell out of the National Wrestling Alliance’s product since Billy Corgan bought them and took over, I didn’t want to miss out on one of their marquee events, as I regretted not being able to make it up to Atlanta for Into the Fire a month ago.

Making the trip this time, I wasn’t disappointed and I plan to go back because the show and everything surrounding it was fantastic. I haven’t been to a wrestling event where the promotion hosting it seemed to care this much about their fans and providing them with a memorable experience.

Also, I haven’t quite felt this level of energy while at a wrestling show since the late ’90s when I used to go to ECW events whenever they came to the southern half of Florida.

What made this even more cool was that it didn’t just feature NWA talent but it also featured some of the guys from Ring of Honor: Marty Scurll, Flip Gordon, Matt Cross and Dan Maff.

The NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis is currently in a program with long-time friend and rival Marty Scurll, which has opened the doors for NWA to crossover with ROH (and possibly other promotions). This makes for a really exciting time in the wrestling business for fans that need alternatives to the mainstream WWE content.

Hard Times was built around a tournament for the recently resurrected NWA World Television Championship. The tournament bracket featured eight wrestlers (six from NWA and two from ROH). Well, Ken Anderson didn’t make it to the event, so his first round opponent, Tim Storm, got a bye.

The tournament itself was damn cool to watch, as I’ve always been a fan of wrestling tournaments but have never seen one live, in its entirety.

Apart from that, the show also featured other marquee match ups and there wasn’t a low point. Everything was fun, energetic, engaging and kept my, as well as the crowd’s, attention.

Sadly, due to the loss in my family mentioned earlier, I was only able to go to Hard Times and missed out on the TV tapings for the third season of NWA Power. But for the one night I did go, I bought the VIP pass because I wanted to immerse myself into the product as much as possible.

I’ve got to say, even if you do it just once, the VIP experience is well worth the price of admission.

We got let into the studio an hour earlier, which we were allowed to explore pretty freely. We also got first dibs on seats, got to touch and hold the Television Championship while taking photos with it and we also got to meet producer Dave Lagana, as well as have a Q&A session with on-air personalities Dave Marquez and Kyle Durden. On top of that, we also got treated to a pre-televised “dark match” that advanced the storyline between Eddie Kingston and “The Pope” Elijah Burke.

My biggest takeaway from this was how much the NWA personalities liked us being there and how much they seemed to enjoy shooting the shit with us all. Marquez and Durden were open, personable, held the attention of the small group and didn’t shy away from answering questions on any topic. We even got Marquez setting the record straight on what the difference was between rides and attractions at Disneyland.

After the show, my friend and I waited a few minutes for the studio to clear out a bit so we could soak the place in a bit more before leaving. What I had felt that day was pretty infectious. My friend, who had just watched the show casually up to that point, became a die hard loyalist over the course of the night. We didn’t want to leave but as we went to exit the building, we discovered some seriously badass fan service.

In the lobby of the studio, the merchandise tables weren’t just selling the merch that was displayed before the show. Now most of the tables had the wrestlers themselves there, selling all types of cool stuff. But most importantly, they were there to talk to us, hang out a bit and make us feel like we were appreciated and that we were all a part of the same wrestling family. It didn’t feel like there was an imaginary line between the show and the fans. There wasn’t a guardrail or a curtain surrounded by guards, there was just us and them and just good, jovial times where everyone was happy.

I got to talk to Kamille and the Wildcards, Allysin Kay, Thunder Rosa, Marti Belle, The Question Mark and my main dude, hands down, the “Outlandish” Zicky Dice.

All in all, this was a great experience. I’ve been to dozens, if not hundreds, of wrestling shows in my lifetime and very, very few have ever made me feel the way I did seeing this modern incarnation of the National Wrestling Alliance. I’ve been backstage at WWE, WCW, ECW, old school NWA, indie shows and Championship Wrestling from Florida tapings but my first experience going to the modern NWA was one of my all-time greatest nights as a lifelong wrestling fan. There was just this overwhelming feeling of something right and comforting in my soul.

I was already sold on the NWA and Power is the weekly wrestling show I most look forward to. But what I was feeling before Hard Times has now multiplied tenfold.

Everything that the NWA is doing, right now, is perfect. I just hope that they can win over the hearts of many more people and continue to grow. For those who are already watching NWA Power but haven’t seen any of this live and in person, you really need to make the trip to Atlanta.

With the Crockett Cup returning in April, as the next big pay-per-view event, I know that I have to make the journey, wherever it is held. They’ve already announced that this show will take place in a bigger venue, I just hope it’s at least in the southeast and in a city I can fly to or drive to easily. And by then, maybe we’ll see more ROH talent get involved or even talent from other promotions.

Retro Relapse: Pete Rose: A God Amongst Old Men

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

Pete Rose is one of the greatest players to ever play the game of baseball. He is the all-time hits leader with 4,256, as well as games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and singles (3,215). He also has 1,314 RBIs and a career batting average of .303 over 23 seasons in the majors. Then there are also his three World Series rings with the infamous “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati team of the 1970s. He also has three batting titles, one MVP, two Gold Gloves, was the Rookie of the Year and also made 17 All-Star appearances playing five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, and 1B).

The word “legend” is almost too small for Pete Rose.

The problem is that he’s banned from the sport of baseball because he bet on games during his time as a player and a manager with the Reds. Due to being banned, he cannot go into the Hall of Fame and cannot participate in any Major League Baseball activities. He’s been exiled from the sport for decades and the league has been pretty adamant about their decision.

Rose’s situation has been pretty controversial since this all went down in 1989.

Back then, he was questioned by MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Rose denied the allegations and it was dropped. Ueberroth’s successor, Bart Giamatti decided that the matter needed to be investigated further. As the facts came out, Rose continued to deny the allegations. Eventually, it was proven that he had gambled but he still refused to admit to the crime. Although in August of 1989, he voluntarily accepted a permanent place on the MLB’s ineligible list because he really didn’t have much of a choice.

For some time, the debate as to whether or not he ever bet for or against the Reds went unresolved. In the end, it was discovered that he did but it wasn’t until years later that he finally admitted to it. Long-standing MLB commissioner Bud Selig often times entertained the possibility of Rose’s reinstatement but nothing ever happened during his tenure.

Now, with a new commissioner in power, Pete Rose has applied for reinstatement.

Will he get reinstated? I doubt it. And frankly, that is a shame.

What Pete Rose did was wrong, as it went against the rules of the game. Regardless of that, there probably aren’t many players in the entire history of the sport who haven’t broken a few rules. That’s not to excuse what he did but to bring to light the harshness of the punishment and ridicule he has had to endure for decades.

Worst-case scenario, Rose directly had a negative impact on the integrity of baseball – something the purists and old school nerds hold as ultimately sacred. However, there has never been any proof that Rose deliberately sabotaged games as a player or manager in an effort to make personal profit. People can speculate on that and they have for years but Pete Rose lives in a land of innocent until proven guilty and correlation isn’t causation.

How many baseball players have gambled throughout history? That’s impossible to answer but one doesn’t have to go far to make a comparison.

Babe Ruth, considered to be the greatest baseball player of all-time by most, gambled a lot. Did he bet on baseball? And furthermore, did he bet for or against his team? No one knows for sure. But considering his questionable moral character, it does raise speculation. But as I said before, correlation isn’t causation. And the difference here, is that Rose got caught: Ruth didn’t. Or at least, people were willing to turn a blind eye to Ruth’s antics in his day. The same way they turned a blind eye to racism, drinking on the job and douchebags like Ty Cobb who would maim opposing players deliberately.

Looking at the Hall of Fame, I already wrote extensively about the lack of character many of its inductees have displayed in my monster article about PEDs (see here). I’m not going to rehash all of that but feel free to read it. The point is that there are many players who are honored and held in high regard but their highly questionable antics are worse than Pete Rose having an addiction to gambling. If anything, Rose needed help.

I get it though, it is about the integrity. But it is hard to preach integrity when most of those doing the preaching are guilty of something.

New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, when asked about Rose’s recent request to be reinstated, said, “I think the gambling rule is so fundamental to the integrity of the game that it should always stay where it is.” He also said that PED offenses were treated too harshly and that gambling was a bigger offense (article here). Manfred sounds like he’s a member of the old guard and not very progressive in regards to the changing times and evolution of the sport and the world in general. Somewhat hypocritically, when asked about the MLB’s partnership with DraftKings.com, a sports gambling site, Manfred said that fantasy sports are not the same as gambling, even if there is money involved. Yeah, okay, bro.

So why is this so important now?

Well, as stated earlier, Rose requested his reinstatement once again. Considering that there is a new commissioner of baseball, it is now the decision of that new head honcho. Additionally, this year’s All-Star Game is being hosted by the Cincinnati Reds. So what better venue and place is there to finally bring Pete Rose back into the Major League Baseball fold? And think about the press and attention it would bring to that event. People may actually take baseball a bit more seriously and respect how the sport is ran if Rob Manfred can show that it isn’t some archaic bureaucratic shit show anymore.

But more importantly than all of that, Pete Rose deserves recognition. He deserves to stand among his peers, many of whom he is better than. Considering his crime in comparison to the crimes of many of his peers, he has served his time and his debt to the sport has been paid ten fold.

If the answer is “no”, then Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball are just being uptight jackasses. And ultimately, they are denying fans what they want, denying Pete Rose what he deserves and proving that they are cherry-picking hypocrites.

Retro Relapse: Selling Out to Black Friday

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

I hate Black Friday.

Truthfully, everyone should loathe it. It is an awful day that shows commercially obsessed Americans behaving at their very worst.

You have people who camp out for a week on concrete in front of Best Buy – just to save $15 on a 12″ television set. You have insane people who will punch each other’s lights out over the last “jerk me off” Muppet doll. People get mauled, they get crushed and they get stomped to death in America’s version of the Running of the Bulls. Let’s call it the Running of the Fools.

The hysteria is only getting worse. Now stores open even earlier. In fact, some open up on Thanksgiving before people are even able to get to their second plate of gluttony. Trust the advertising, screw your family!

Americans watch football, stuff their faces and then shout for glee over every commercial that shows some insane Black Friday deal that you can only get if you drop your turkey right that second and rush out the door to beat the other psychos that sold out their family for a couple fifty cent pillow shams and a $30 phablet that can shit out espresso.

I hate you people; you are the absolute worst and I don’t shed a tear when I hear about your kind getting squished to death trying to grab a limited edition toaster designed by Beyoncé.

I have always refused to participate. Not because I don’t believe in capitalism, but because I believe in what Thanksgiving represents – enjoying time with those I care about and celebrating that time together and eating a fuck ton of food until I hate myself and then go on to eat even more.

Hell, I couldn’t participate in Black Friday if I tried, because I embrace Thanksgiving like a goddamned champion and because of that, don’t plan to move for at least 48-to-72 hours. Additionally, it forces my family and I to have to spend time together because we are all sprawled out all over the house like hibernating bears moaning loudly like cold winos with an empty bottle.

If any of us were to participate in Black Friday, we would lose this annual tradition and quality time with one another. In turn, we would be transformed to serial murderers trying to collect a bunch of pointless trophies we don’t need while throwing away money on them because someone else will acquire the pointless trophies if we don’t.

It’s like the whole point of Black Friday is to be able to say to your neighbors and friends, “Hey, look at me! I’ve got all this shit! I’m fucking broke but I’ve got the most shit! Haha! And I’m glad my children saw me kill a woman to get this Hello Kitty branded thimble! You’re all fucking losers! Ha!”

So after years of refusing to participate in this annual Purge event, I stepped outside of my house because I had to acquire something. No, not a pointless trophy and not just some shit. I had to acquire a four pack of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout.

I sold my soul to the commerce gods, I am aware of this. The payoff was worth it, however.

The thing is, what I sought wasn’t some super HD smart goggles or a smartphone that can make a sub or a limited release doll with a light-up asshole or a special edition hobo-scented candle. What I wanted to get was the very best stout that America has to offer. It is actually something that enhances and enriches life, as opposed to something that just drains it away.

This beer only comes out once a year and in very limited quantities. I hate that they tie it to Black Friday but since it is a Budweiser owned product, the fingers of evil are touching this majestic brew. Unfortunately for me, I could not deny myself the experience of drinking this annual release even though it is on Black Friday.

Reflecting on my decision and having now drank this year’s version of the beer, Bourbon County Stout not only lives up to the hype, it far exceeds it. I actually went into this with the utmost skepticism. I anticipated it being very good but I didn’t anticipate it being a five-star beer.

I’ve had many great stouts in my day but this one takes the cake.

There is a lot going on with this stout. There are slight nuances of barley, roasted grains, chocolate, molasses, vanilla, caramel, fig and charred wood. It is jet black with a thin khaki-colored head, as well as a thick and somewhat creamy body. It also packs a nice punch with its alcohol level but is still smooth as hell and not bitey.

It cost me around $24 for the four pack and even though I’m a bit broke this week, it was a wise purchase. This time next year, I am going to have some extra money set aside so that I can buy their other limited edition beers that also come out on Black Friday.

Now I don’t expect Budweiser to do anything not evil but if they cared about families and the real spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, they should release the Bourbon County beers before the holiday, not the day after. I would much rather stock up on as much as I could get and then share it with my appreciative family members and friends over our epic Thanksgiving dinner. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy this on the biggest day of the year to celebrate gluttonous behavior?

In fact, savoring this brew might make people slow down on Thanksgiving and savor their food more. Maybe they wouldn’t get as full so fast and they would eat less and thus, not hate themselves after going comatose in the third quarter of the Cowboys game.

If acquiring Bourbon County’s beers ever becomes as insane of a task as going to Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I won’t do it. The fact that I was able to walk into ABC Liquor and grab a four pack within ten minutes, made this Black Friday experience okay. If this beer generates psycho levels of hysteria and people will try to kill me for a place in line, I won’t be in that line.

The moral of the story is that people are often times stupid and crazy. This stout was worth taking the risk of having to traverse through a sea of psychos. Luckily for me, psychos don’t like good beer or at least the psychos in my town don’t have good palates.

Retro Relapse: Business Assholes, Volume 3: Time Wasters

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

It is time for the third installment of my business series. In part one, I talked about chronic interrupters. In part two, I talked about respect. This round, I am going to discuss time wasters.

Also, this isn’t just advice on how to behave in business, it is advice on how to behave in life because usually bad traits in one, carry over into the other.

One thing I am a big fan of is productivity, whether in business or in life. You can’t move forward in the best way possible if you don’t master productivity and even more importantly, time management. Today in business, this concept seems lost, at least in my dealings with people in my industry – an industry that is struggling, which should push people towards being on the ball. It doesn’t, for the most part. However, I’m going to send a shout out to those few who actually hustle and run hard with that ball.

I’ve always been a firm believer in being punctual. In fact, I consider being on time as being fifteen minutes early. That’s just me but it is a good rule to live buy for several reasons. One, you make sure that you are actually there on time and depending upon what you need to be on time for, you can get a head start. Two, it is a show of respect to those you need to be on time for, whether it is a job interview, a business meeting, a movie or just meeting a friend for a drink. Three, it shows that you are a responsible adult in control of yourself and respectful of others and the task at hand. Four, it’s just fucking courteous.

Lack of respect for punctuality is a big pet peeve of mine. Chronically late people piss me off. The reason being, is what they tell me by their behavior is that they have no respect for me or my time, they are unreliable and a mess of a person, they don’t take anything seriously and they’re self-absorbed. In my daily work life, I see plenty of people who are regularly late. Management does nothing to combat this other than bitch amongst themselves and ultimately, the bad habits continue. Where I work is lead by very passive aggressive administrators but that is a topic for another article.

The thing is, even if these chronically late people are good workers otherwise, if I were to one day start my own company and they came to me for a job, I would have no interest in hiring them. You should be ready to work and ready to go from the moment you clock in, on time mind you. Unforeseen things happen from time to time and that is understandable. Tardiness of that sort can also be corrected by calling or sending a text stating that you’re going to be a few minutes late. The problem is, this should not be a daily or even a weekly occurrence. As an adult, people should know how long they need to get ready in the morning and how long it takes to get from home to work. I think I learned how to tell time in the first grade, just sayin’.

Other time killers are having too many meetings, unorganized meetings or meetings with people who don’t need to be there. I tend to often times find myself in meetings that encompass all three of these bad factors.

Unorganized meetings tend to run a hell of a lot longer than they need to be because people usually go in not knowing what to expect, are poorly prepared for the questions they will be asked and when everyone is all over the map in an unorganized way, you spend most of your time trying to create a sense of order where there is none. Have you ever been asked for your whole department to come to the conference room without being told why, only to be stuck in a clusterfuck of confusion because there wasn’t any insight as to what you would be discussing or a proper heads up of the meeting so you could have some prep time? It’s nice to know what is expected of you and to have all your ducks in a row before getting abruptly ripped away from your work to go under fire.

As far as meetings with people who don’t need to be there, I also experience this all too commonly. Many times, I go into a meeting and all the bosses are there. If it is a meeting about sales numbers, why does the head of shipping or the head of marketing need to be involved? If it is a meeting of new concepts for advertising and branding, why does the head accountant need to be there? If you are not discussing a matter that calls for the immediate input of someone outside the sphere of discussion, they don’t need to be there. If you determine you need them, call them in briefly or email them after. In these situations, often times you are bombarded with the two cents of someone who isn’t really qualified to speak on the matter. This doesn’t mean that outside input isn’t appreciated, as it can be valuable, but you don’t need the entire company wasting hours in a meeting regarding one department, who could be in and out of there in twenty minutes with a clear plan otherwise. Also, it is hard to develop a clear plan when over a dozen people are shouting ideas over one another (I talked about this in my article on respect – linked at the top).

The problem with having too many meetings, is that at some point, you need to stop talking and work. Nothing gets done without action and if you don’t have proper time to execute all the stuff you’ve talked about, what’s the point really? All these types of meetings are time wasters and the antithesis of productivity.

Now if you have management that practices any or all of the time wasting violations mentioned above, you have yourselves a real problem. I’ve always been a strong advocate for leading by example. If you do these things from the top of the ladder, you can damn sure expect it to trickle down and assumedly get worse the further down you go. Owners and managers are responsible for the type of culture they create in their company. If the culture is bad, they need to assess what they are doing and how it is being perceived by those they manage. If they fail to recognize that the culture is bad, they won’t stay in business very long and most likely, the good employees will move on because they don’t want to be continually subjected to their company’s culture of bullshit.

Speaking as a guy who has been upper management, middle management and the lowest guy on the totem pole, I know how the relationships between employer and employee work. I know what connects and what doesn’t and I know how bad habits from the top can poison the bottom of the well.

In the end, don’t we all want to succeed and have prosperous lives? The key to that is productivity. The killer of productivity is wasting time. And of course, I say all this to help.