Ilan Mochari
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BlogMarch, 2008
Hillary Clinton forgets Holden Caulfield; Steve Slaton, steal of the NFL draft

The Boston Globe is now home to an essay shallower than a Carrie Bradshaw missive. On February 17, book editor Kate Darnton criticized the Boston Celtics dancers. She bemoaned that "porn takes over the paint" whenever the dancers take the floor:

Sometimes it seems like sex has crept into everything in American society, from deodorant commercials to presidential politics. That's because we're a consumer society and if there's one thing that marketers know for sure, it's that sex sells.

Still, porn has its place, and that's not on the parquet of the Garden. You would think that having the turnaround team with the best record in the NBA would be enough for the Celtics. Personally, I wish Kevin Garnett's dunks weren't competing with Courtney's curves for my attention.

Of course, I wrote a letter to the editor, which the Globe published February 24:

If Darnton wants to lament that "sex sells," she can begin her protest with the Globe's editors. There were important articles on Sunday's Op-ed page, but which one got previewed on the front page? It was Darnton's deconstruction of the Celtics Dancers. Never mind the editorial about President Bush's retreat on cleaner coal or Joan Vennochi's column on House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi's maneuvers with the state budget.

I can't fault Darnton if she's offended by the Celtics dancers. How she feels is how she feels. But why must the Globe resort to this dreck on a Sunday? Pakistan and Russia and Cuba are in transition. Massachusetts is drowning in red ink because of its bullshit health-insurance mandate. I'm not saying Op/Ed pages should mimic a boring issue of The Economist . But if you're going to publish a light piece on matters local or sexual, I'd appreciate some humor or brains behind it.

I want more articles like Elinor Lipman's February 18 editorial: A stirring critique of MSNBC for its knee-jerk suspension of David Shuster.

Shuster, you recall, got punished February 9 for his phrasing (two days earlier) that Hillary Clinton's campaign had "pimped out" Chelsea Clinton in an attempt to lure super-delegates. Mother Hillary got all offended – "I am a mom first and a candidate second," she told Eloise Harper of ABC News.

And yet – as Lipman suggests – anyone under the age of 50 knows "pimped out" has become a euphemism for "selling out."

Moreover, anyone who's read Catcher in the Rye knows hooker metaphors are nothing new to America's lexicon of lost integrity. Catcher was published in 1951. On page one the main character calls his brother D.B. a "prostitute":

He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was "The Secret Goldfish." It was about this little kid that wouldn't let anybody look at his goldfish because he'd bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he's out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me (p. 1-2).

Again, this was written in 1951. Was it controversial? Sure. But for the past few decades, it's been required reading at high schools across the country. Yet Hillary became a crybaby over "pimped out." Worse, MSNBC apologized one thousand times and suspended Shuster, as if he'd endorsed the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.

* * *

The NFL draft is upon us, and KFFL has published my evaluation of University of Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey. More good news: My February 5 assessment of Mike Smith, the new Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons, was picked up by both Yahoo! Sports and MSN/Fox Sports. Coming soon will be my analysis of the new additions to the Jacksonville Jaguars receiving corps, Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson.

Ariel Zinsky, the hero of my first novel, Zinsky the Obscure , is the publisher of an annual NFL draft Guide and monthly newsletter. Though the novel isn't strictly autobiographical, I can't pretend I don't love the NFL draft myself. My brother, Dov, also a draft nut, recently requested my top three quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Here, in edited form, is the breakdown I sent him:

Receivers: DeSean Jackson from Cal is the no-brainer best player. His strong combine showing (4.35 in the 40-yard dash) only confirmed the breakaway speed he displayed in countless Pac 10 games. I don't care about his lean frame (172 pounds) or if he's not a legit 6-0. He's the only elite receiving talent in the class.

No. 2 is Devin Thomas from Michigan State , who ran a respectable 40-yard dash (4.4) and actually produced in college (79 catches, 1,260 yards, eight touchdowns). No. 3 is a combine guy: The other Jackson, Dexter.  Yes, he's got "slot receiver" written all over him, since he's 5-9 and 179. But he's so fast (4.37 in the 40-yard dash), and I saw him kick ass against Michigan in a real game. This was a game that Appalachian State actually won, 34-32; Jackson had three catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. So I believe he's a ballplayer, not just a combine freak.

Running backs: I still like Steve Slaton from West Virginia the best. No, he didn't dominate at the combine. But his 2006 season remains a thing of beauty. You can't fake these numbers: 1,744 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 248 carries – 7.0 yards per carry. That's so dominant, it makes me believe the only explanation for his 2007 drop-off is injury or misuse. You've seen his highlights, so you know what I'm talking about. Plus, it wasn't like he sucked at the combine. He represented in the vertical jump (33.5 inches) and by all counts he didn't run slow enough to hurt his stock. One more thing: How many times did Slaton fumble in his three-year college career? The answer is none.

My No. 2 running back is Darren McFadden from Arkansas. His athleticism is measurably off the charts, and he had a great statistical season: 325 carries, 1,830 yards, 16 touchdowns. He also played big in their biggest game, the 50-48 win over LSU: 32 carries, 206 yards, three touchdowns. So, I like McFadden, and if I had the draft pick myself, I'd be hard pressed not to take McFadden ahead of Slaton, whose junior year slump makes him a risky first-round selection.

My No. 3 running back is Ray Rice. I was so impressed with what he did at Rutgers this year: 380 carries, 2,012 yards, 24 touchdowns. Plus, Rice changes directions quickly: He dominated everyone in the three-cone drill, including McFadden, posting an amazing time of 6.65. I also think Brian Leonard's success at the pro level bodes well for Rice. I was tempted to go with Oregon's Jonathan Stewart at No. 3, because he aced the combine (4.48 in the 40-yard dash) and had a solid senior season (1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns on 280 carries). Stewart returns kicks too. He's easily my No. 4 running back. But I give Rice the edge because Stewart is injury prone.

Quarterbacks: I'm not crazy about Matt Ryan from Boston College. He throws too many interceptions. Sure, he has prototypical size, brains, and arm strength. Sure, I think he can be a Matt Hasselbeck-level pro. But I'll rank Brian Brohm of Louisville ahead of him. Brohm simply had a better college career, based on numbers and highlights. Ryan's senior years stats were 4,507 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. He also completed 388 of 654 passes, for 59.3 percent. Brohm's numbers were 4,024 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. But Brohm connected on 308 of 473 passes, good for 65.1 percent. So, any way you slice it, Brohm had better stats. Brohm also kicked ass at the combine – he's more mobile than Ryan, and it's not even close. Now, I'm not saying Brohm is going to be a superb NFL player. But he'll be better than, say, Jason Campbell of the Washington Redskins.

My No. 3 quarterback is Josh Johnson of the University of San Diego. His combine performance was staggering. And Johnson also had a terrific college career: He threw 113 touchdowns versus only 15 interceptions. He completed 68 percent of his passes (724 of 1,065). And he led his team to a 30-4 record. It was at a small school, yes, but we've seen McNair and Culpepper and Romo overcome that. And let's face it: If Tarvaris Jackson can earn a starting job, so could Johnson. I'd be shocked if Johnson is not picked in the second or third round. His upside is way ahead of the Chad Henne's of the world. I also like that Johnson was coached by Jim Harbaugh in college.



Ilan Mochari is a novelist and journalist living in the Boston area. His fiction has been honored by Glimmer Train. He is a former staff writer for Inc magazine, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO magazine. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.

 
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Ilan Mochari