KFC Finger Lickin' Good Deal
Lang Whitaker hasn’t been in town long, but he’s landed with Grind City Media just in time to watch Memphis Tigers’ quarterback Riley Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller try to cap their prolific careers Saturday against Iowa State with program’s first ever appearance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl game.
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Lang’s World: Ten pearls of Whitaker’s wit and wisdom on sports and beyond 12.21.17

By Lang Whitaker
Grind City Media

1. Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons knocked off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, 24-21, to move to 9-5 on the season. After getting off to a slow start, the Falcons have now won 5 of their last 6 games, including victories over the Saints, Seahawks and Cowboys. As of now, the Falcons are a playoff team, and they have a very real chance at winning the NFC South.

It was probably to be expected that the Falcons would begin this season a little out of sync, after blowing last year’s Super Bowl against the Patriots and then losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who had Matt Ryan looking like Joe Montana. Last season, the Falcons often looked unstoppable. This season, Matt Ryan has mostly regressed back to being Matt Ryan. And while Julio Jones can be transcendent, he is mostly limited by the Falcons not getting him the ball often enough. The defense has suffered through injuries, as has the run game. While it hasn’t always been pretty, the Falcons find ways to win. Which is really all you can ask for as a fan.

But you must excuse me for not buying all the way in just yet. I was there in Houston when the Falcons choked, and I am still uncomfortable thinking about it. As an Atlanta sports fan, I thought I’d been through just about everything imaginable. And then I showed up at the Super Bowl and the Falcons said, “Hold my beer.”

I suppose you could flip this around and say that there’s no possible way the Falcons could do anything worse. And then I would say that you clearly haven’t been a fan of Atlanta sports long enough. I hope the Falcons keep winning. I hope they go back to the Super Bowl and destroy Tom Brady and the Patriots and bring an end to Bill Belichick’s evil empire.

Until that happens, I am going to remain skeptical. And I hope you’ll understand if I resist buying all the way in just yet. Building a champion may take some time. But, as it turns out, mending a broken heart takes longer.

2. IKAN’T

My first mistake was letting my son select his own new bed. We were at Ikea, and I figured, you know, how much trouble could this cause? I’ve purchased and assembled items from Ikea in the past, and while some of the pieces might be a bit more difficult than others, these are products made for the mass market, designed to be put together with a minimum of trouble for customers who have varying levels of construction experience.

By no means am I an expert when it comes to building – most of my knowledge comes from hours of watching “This Old House.” For the last 17 years, I’ve lived in apartments in New York City where the buildings had in-house handymen, where we only had to place one call to get things fixed. I didn’t even own a power screwdriver/drill thingy until a few weeks ago.

I may not be the next Norm Abrams, but I am a pragmatist at heart, and I believe that any problem can be solved with the proper attention and concern and thought (and also maybe by using Google). Which is to say I am not afraid to tackle projects around the house; I just haven’t had to do them. Until now.

Eventually, my son chose a bed that looked like an MC Escher design, with interconnected ladders and drawers and doors and a bed that was elevated six feet off the ground. We got it into the car and home, where I packmuled the seven boxes into his room, and then started the assembly process.

Within five minutes, I’d chipped one of the main boards and snapped one of Ikea’s proprietary metal fasteners, which meant I had to get another one. Which meant we had to go back to Ikea – something I was actually OK with, because I’m half Swedish and I think my grandfather would appreciate us dropping some money on the homeland.

Once I got the replacement part, I went to work, cranking up some music and getting my sweat on. This was my Rocky training montage, and when I emerged on the other side of it, I knew this bed would be the greatest bed ever built, a work of art made with my own two hands where my seed could rest his head.

Ninety minutes later I found myself staring at four particle boards laid out on the floor, still on page two of the instruction pamphlet. I had attached and unattached and reattached them in various combinations, but had not been able to connect them in a way that looked anything like the line drawing in the instructions. I googled the name of the bed, and one of the first links that popped up regarding this bed was an article titled “The five hardest to assemble things from IKEA.”

Eventually, I cracked the code and got things moving, and after roughly eight hours of work I collapsed into my own bed and slept the sleep of a man who has conquered Scandinavian design armed only with an Allen wrench. My back is killing me and my hamstrings feel hamstrung, but I feel some perverse satisfaction from the work that I put in. I built a bed. I fully expect it to collapse the first time my son tries to climb the ladder. But for now, at least, I did it.

Take that, Tom Silva.

3. THIS WEEK’S FIRE TAKE

The Los Angeles Lakers retired Kobe Bryant’s number(s) this week, and it felt good to briefly reminisce over one of the best and most divisive players I’ve ever seen.

Nobody knows for sure if Kobe was the best player of his generation. I think he was certainly the greatest offensive player of his era, and probably the most versatile scorer of his era. Nobody worked harder than Kobe, and his commitment to winning and focus were legendary.

But I don’t know if any of those things mean Kobe was better than Tim Duncan, who I consider the greatest power forward to ever play the game. And if you consider Duncan a peer of Kobe (he’s two years older than KB), I think you have to consider Duncan the greatest player of that generation. Kobe was a better scorer, and if you were going to watch just one of the two do work, Kobe would most likely be the more interesting watch. But to me, Duncan was the better all-around player.


4. The King’s Kicks

Back in October, LeBron James debuted a pair of his signature LeBron 15s with the word EQUALITY stamped across the heel...

Earlier this week, James donned these shoes again for the Cavs’ game in Washington D.C. And as he explained after the game, it was no coincidence he wore them in D.C.

We all know where we are right now, and we know who is at the helm here. Us as Americans, no matter the skin color, no matter the race, no matter who you are, I think we all have to understand that having equal rights and being able to stand for something and speak for something and keeping the conversation going [is important].
Obviously, I've been very outspoken and well-spoken about the situation that's going on at the helm here, and we're not going to let one person dictate us, us as Americans, how beautiful and how powerful we are as a people. Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and women, black or white or Hispanic. It doesn't matter your race, whatever the case may be, this is a beautiful country, and we're never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are.
-- Lebron James

5. Carolina Gold

Earlier this week, Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson stuck a giant FOR SALE sign in the grass outside Bank of America Stadium. This wasn’t altogether a business decision, but considering Richardson paid $206 million to buy into the NFL in 1999, and business experts currently valuing the franchise at over $2 billion, Richardson stands to make a nice profit.

The question now becomes, from where will that profit come? Almost immediately after it became public that the Panthers were for sale, Sean “Diddy” Combs tweeted his interest in buying the team. Considering how well Richardson’s investment has paid off, it seems to reason that Diddy won’t be the last person who wants in.

Who will ultimately become the next owner of the Panthers? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ve put together a short list of people with ties to Charlotte or North Carolina that I’d like to see in the running...

  1. Barack Obama and George W. Bush -- How about a bipartisan ownership group led by two former Presidents, one of which has experience running a sports franchise (President Bush used to be part of the Texas Rangers ownership group), and another who is a huge sports fan and has publicly mused about owning a team one day?
  2. Michael Jordan -- The majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets grew up in North Carolina and will forever be royalty in the state.
  3. The Four Horsemen -- OK, so Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard are not from North Carolina, but Arn Anderson and Ric Flair sure are. Maybe they could also bring in Charlotte native Ricky Steamboat for more local ties. Whooooo!
  4. Steph Curry and Chris Paul -- Two Carolina natives who still have strong ties to the state.
  5. Zach Galifianakis -- Born in North Carolina, the comedian/actor still owns a farm there and would likely bring much-needed levity to NFL ownership meetings.

6. Remote Control

If you watch as much television as I do, you spend hours of time with your remote control in hand. Now, I may not be an elite athlete when it comes to, you know, sports or anything that requires actual athleticism. But I will put my ability and agility with my cable box remote control up against anyone. I can use either hand. I can use the remote without looking at it. I can even use the remote properly when the TV is turned off to control my cable box. If for some reason the Olympics ever expand to include a Remote Control Usage category, I’m marking myself as an early favorite.

7. The Toilet Robbers

At some point Tuesday, someone broke into the home of Charlie Villanueva and apparently stole a few appliances. Or maybe all of his appliances? Either way, when Villanueva arrived home and found his belongings had been wiped clean, he took to social media.


And the really crappy part? They not only stole his appliances, they also stole Charlie’s toilet. Yes, his toilet.

Judging by his posts on social media, Villanueva was really having a tough time digesting this news.

As time progressed, CV took to Twitter more and more to express his disbelief.

If you ask me, this whole situation really stinks.

8. Animal Takeover

This week we launch a new running item, Animal Takeover. My friend Sekou Smith and I used to constantly post these types of stories on Facebook, but I’m going to start using these here because of #content.

This week, let’s examine the giant penguin! Penguins are odd birds, shaped like bowling pins and ground-bound but the giant penguin was almost six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds! The fact that it went extinct is the most reassuring thing about it.

9. Back To Work

Every once in a while we hear about a new TV show or a movie that immediately sounds like a terrible idea. This week, news broke about a possible return to TV of “The Office,” NBC’s remake of the BBC’s show, which examined the lives of people who work in a small office. The NBC version of the show had its ups and downs but, on the whole, was a fun and entertaining ride. “The Office” debuted on NBC in 2005 and aired for eight years, ending in 2013. Since “The Office“ went off the air, it’s been available basically anywhere (in syndication and streaming) for those who care enough to seek it out.

And now they want to bring it back – a whole four years after it went off the air. The Olympics have been gone longer than “The Office,” but I guess we better bring it back! What’s funny is that since I started this job and went from working at home to working in an office, I’ve thought about “The Office” frequently, and how well the show nailed so many aspects of the minutiae of being in an office space all day long. So as a concept, I can see why a show about an office resonates with a large audience.

But what made “The Office” so great was the characters, which as countless other television shows have proved is almost impossible to get right. Maybe this new version of “The Office” will work, maybe it won’t. I just hope it doesn’t tarnish the memory of “The Office” that we all enjoyed so much.

10. Go Forth With Song

One great thing about living in the Central Time Zone is that Saturday Night Live starts a full hour earlier. Now I can tune in to the start at 10:30, and I’m still mostly awake for the closing at midnight, when you get to see which cast members hug the host. All that said, I fell asleep last week just before the Foo Fighters performed their second song, and I wish I’d watched it live because it’s pretty awesome. (Oh and GCM synergy alert: The Foo Fighters are performing here in Memphis in May.) I’ll definitely stay awake for that one. In the meantime, here’s the Foo Fighters performing a metal version of “Linus and Lucy” that you never knew you needed.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.