“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
LOS ANGELES – The four teams competing in the College Football Playoff combined to have 21 players selected in the 2016 NFL draft. (Alabama alone had 10 players and Georgia just one.) This year, it’s likely that total number will be even higher, as Georgia will have a large uptick in overall prospects. Who are the top players from the four playoff teams that you’ll be seeing on Sundays? Yahoo Sports polled a half-dozen NFL scouts and executives to compile a Top 10* list of the best prospects for this NFL draft that you’ll see in the CFP.
1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB Alabama – Scouts view Fitzpatrick as one of the safest picks in the draft, and it would be a surprise if he’s not among the top 10 players chosen. Can Fitzpatrick leap FSU safety Derwin James and be the first defensive back off the board? The guess here is yes. His value includes the versatility of playing corner, nickel and safety.
2. Roquan Smith, LB Georgia – There will be an interesting debate between Smith and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans as the top linebacker in this draft class. Smith is more dynamic than Evans, as he’s freakish sideline-to-sideline. Here’s the potential hiccup – his measurements will be important, as there’s questions about his true height. If he ends up being only 5-foot-11, he doesn’t fit in some NFL prototypes.
3. Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson – Announced himself as a prospect after winning the Defensive MVP of last season’s Fiesta Bowl in a College Football Playoff shutout of Ohio State (3 TFLs). Ferrell is twitchy, unusually fast for his size (6-foot-5, 260 pounds). A knock will be lack of experience, as he’s only a redshirt sophomore. Ferrell’s production this season has been spotty, as he had just two sacks over the first six games. (He finished with 8.5, buoyed by a 3.5-sack showing in Clemson’s loss to Syracuse.)
4. Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama – This is an anomalously poor year for wide receivers, and there’s little doubt Ridley will be the first one picked. While Ridley projects high in a lot of early mock drafts, his modest size – 6-foot-1, 190 pounds – may give some teams pause.
6. Rashaan Evans LB Alabama – At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, he appears to be the latest bruiser in a lineage of linebackers that includes Reuben Foster, Reggie Ragland and C.J. Mosley. His versatility will be a plus, as a scout notes: “Teams have seen him do a little bit of everything.”
It is time, finally, to tell the story of “The Bag of Shame.” This happened long ago, when I was very single, living alone, and dreading Christmas. Anxiety for me is a baseline state, but the prospect of Christmas used to induce a special panic — an apprehension of extreme loneliness — together with an impulse to alleviate it. That year, a man I had been dating — or, rather, sleeping with from time-to-time — invited me to accompany him on a ski vacation for the holiday week. It was a surprising invitation. We saw each other only occasionally, and strictly on a booty-call basis. He was amusing, but no one with what I would have called Long Term Potential. We were not close. I had not met his family, nor he mine. Nevertheless, as a single person, a Jewish person with zero Christmas heritage, and a person easily irritated by the suffocating requirements of seasonal cheer, it seemed like an okay alternative to what I had planned — which was nothing. I said yes. When I told my friend S, she — who knew Booty Call Man — asked me what I was thinking.
“It’s something to do,” I answered, trying to sound flippant, like an adventuress.
“You could go to the movies,” she said, a phrase that has resonated down the ages. Even now, whenever I am on the brink of a decision that may cost me, in time or money or self-respect, I pose the hypothetical to myself: Would it be better to go to the movies right now?
I tell the story of “The Bag of Shame” now as a gift to my younger, single friends who live alone. Nothing makes a single person feel more single, and more anxious, and more anxious about being single, than a holiday that perpetuates a whole lot of myths about family togetherness at a moment when togetherness is not an option. For more than a decade, starting in my later 20s, I lived alone, and during that time was more or less constantly worried that my single status would be never-ending, and worse: that it signaled some kind of factory defect in me. In my world at the time, the existential question of aloneness was a constant preoccupation — for me, for my friends, for my mother (especially) — its drumbeat accompanying all our activities and conversation, like the hum of an old refrigerator in a small apartment.
And that was then. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, the number of people under 35 who are “un-partnered” has risen to 61 percent from 56 percent over the past decade. Aloneness and loneliness are not the same thing, but one begets the other: the former U.S. Surgeon General has called loneliness the public health crisis of our time. And the experience of loneliness today is qualitatively different from when I was young. Back then, the universe I inhabited was prosperous, stable: the corporation I worked for matched my 401K. Today, millennials’ solitude exists against a backdrop of massive political and environmental and financial disruptions that can be accessed through Twitter at any time of day. Their anxiety may be neurotic, in other words, but at the same time it’s understandable, even rational.
Booty Call Man and I had an awkward time out West. We had previously spent a fair amount of time in bars, but never face-to-face at a restaurant with cloth napkins in our laps and never, certainly, navigating the intrinsic awkwardness of a hotel room. Plus, I’m not much of a skier, and we had to negotiate that should-we-ski-together-or-separately dynamic, but without any of the goodwill or history that real couples have. Our sojourn was a performance of coupledom begotten by a mutual fear of seasonal loneliness, and so it was also sad. Still, compared to a long weekend inventing “projects” in my apartment, I might have preferred it, if it hadn’t ended how it did.
Hey, kittens, you did it: It’s almost 2018 and you have most of your hair left. 2017 made good on the promise of 2016 and has been an absolute nonstop barrage of mind-bending plot twists, lies, and mea culpas in politics, Hollywood, and the media. Late night has emerged as an ever-increasing functionary arm of the Fourth Estate, dedicated to parsing the daily news, while also standing in for a mood or an ideology. The year brought a new crop of hosts entering the political comedy ecosystem, including Robin Thede at The Rundown, Sarah Silverman with an optimistic I Love You, America, Anthony Atamanuik doing his Trump impersonation on The President Show, and Jordan Klepper with The Opposition.
Of the established network hosts, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers found comfortable grooves delivering nightly political news bulletins, while Jimmy Fallon and James Corden still had difficulty pivoting to politics. Then there’s Samantha Bee, born in the outrage cycle of 2016 and staying the course, and John Oliver sticking to his enlightening and witty deep dives. Still, it has become harder and harder for a late-night host to cut through the noise and find something original to say, and curiously, it was the former host of the The Man Show,Jimmy Kimmel, who emerged as the voice of sanity during insane times when he defended the Affordable Care Act from the GOP’s attempts to repeal it. Here’s our list of the best and brightest moments of late night, which, yes, happened this year.
Conan Creepily Drives Tom Cruise Around
So many comedians are driving celebrities around these days that Conan decided to get in on the action by driving Tom Cruise around London. But instead of doing carpool karaoke or talking about comedy with some coffee, Conan just decides to concentrate on making good lane changes and telling Tom Cruise to save his hilarious stories for another show. Yes, we’ve hit the moment when anti-comedy is the comedy.
Kevin James Is a Master Klutz
As my colleague Jesse Fox likes to say, Jimmy Fallon is not a wartime comedian. After the head-pat felt around the world, Fallon has steadily tried to include jabs against Donald Trump into the diet of The Tonight Show for his show’s survival. But really, The Tonight Show is at its best when it’s doing pure fun, like when Sarah Paulson unleashes a wheel of impressions or this face-off between Fallon and Kevin James where they try to out-klutz each other. Physical comedy is hard!
Robin Thede on the Russians
Robin Thede became the first black woman to host a late-night show with The Rundown on BET. With that historical milestone out of the way, Thede delivered this excellent piece looking at Russian attempts to manipulate black American sentiment while finding a distinct style that satirizes the self-seriousness of investigative journalism while actually doing some good investigative journalism.
Samantha Bee Takes on Weinstein’s Sad Penis
Samantha Bee held a marquee event this year hosting an alternative White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but lost a little steam when it became clear that the actual proceedings would turn into its own alt-version after the job fell to Hasan Minhaj, who acquitted himself admirably. (Immigrants get the job done.) Her most memorable moment would come a little later, during the spate of sexual-assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She makes the point that this isn’t a partisan issue (Weinstein was a high-profile donor for the Democrats), but rather, a dicks-in-power issue.
More Best of 2017
John Oliver on Confederate Monuments
Last Week Tonight, which won its second consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series this year, keeps up the good work: John Oliver is thorough without being pedantic, principled without feeling moralistic, and always, always funny. This year he’s covered a wide range of issues from net neutrality to the corporate consolidation of local news to the belief that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are “moderating influences” on Trump. But this piece on Confederate monuments is an excellent dissection of both white southerners’ desire to erase slavery from history while weaponizing statues (Fun fact: the biggest spikes happened during Reconstruction and the civilrights era!).
Jennifer Lawrence Interviews Kim Kardashian West
Celebrities interviewing celebrities can turn into tedious circle jerks, but Jennifer Lawrence is the Kardashian superfan perfectly suited to talk to Kim. She has her Jennifer Lawrence-ness dialed up, and it works to show a thoughtful, mature side of Kim Kardashian you rarely see on late night.
Tina Fey Stress-Eats Sheet Cake
It was hard to keep up with all of the bad things that happened this year, let alone figure out how to fight them. Tina Fey appeared on Weekend Update to show the boys just how she was coping with the news that neo-Nazis held violent rallies at her alma mater, the University of Virginia … terribly! She pointed out the stark difference between government treatment of protesters at Standing Rock and the white militiamen at Charlottesville while consuming an entire sheet cake. Let us all eat cake, goddamnit.
Amber Ruffin Says What
Late Night writer Amber Ruffin has been popping up in segments alongside Seth Meyers for a while now, including the excellent “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” but this solo segment, “Amber Says What,” has become the best showcase for her comedy so far. Whether it was questioning Blake Shelton’s status as the sexiest man alive, making fun of Jared Kushner’s voice, or reclaiming her time, Amber Ruffin covers the parts of pop culture Twitter loves most while exploring the multitude of the ways you can say What.
Jimmy Kimmel on Health Care
It all started when Jimmy Kimmel told an emotional story of how his infant son Billy had to have the first of multiple heart surgeries to survive. Even then, Kimmel related it back to a simple and democratic idea that all Americans, regardless of income, should have access to good, affordable health care. So when the GOP pushed to repeal Obamacare, the former host of The Man Show became the startling and passionate voice of populism on late night. When Kimmel said “this is not my area of expertise,” it wasn’t Jon Stewart–like demurring. It felt like a genuine attempt to understand what was going on. Best of all, Kimmel wasn’t afraid to throw down and call people liars, including one Republican senator, Bill Cassidy, to whom he posed the question, “Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your G-O-Penis out?”
Tiffany Haddish and Her Swamp Tour
Where would 2017 be without Tiffany Haddish? Somewhere deep in the bowels of a lonely Louisiana swamp, no doubt. She was everywhere right when we needed her, first in a standout, Oscar-worthy performance in Girls Trip, and then Def Comedy Jam 25, Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” music video, SNL, and Taylor Swift’s dinner table. Her best moment on the couch though was her first: this anecdote where she tells Jimmy Kimmel about the time she took Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour. Girls Trip had yet to open in theaters, but it was clear that a star had been born.
2017, what a hell of a year. It was a year that seemed to last an eternity, yet pass by like a car crash. And through it all, countless people — and things — spent the year unwittingly vying for the title of the biggest villain on the internet. With many worthy nominees, it’s going to be a tight race: Twitter is nominated for doubling the character limit for double the harassment; Equifax is in the running for its monumental data breach that involved an unbelievable chronology of mismanagement, and Ajit Pai has emerged as a strong favorite thanks to his success in defeating net neutrality. Who will win? Place your bets — using your preferred volatile cryptocurrency — and watch.
Tor Ekland “steps up for the thankless shit,” says a fellow lawyer, “just because people need help.”
Over soggy scrambled eggs at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky, Tor Ekeland is doing his best to cheer up Deric Lostutter, a 30-year-old hacker who is about to be sentenced to federal prison. “It’s terrifying,” Lostutter says.
“It is what it is,” replies Ekeland, a fast-talking 48-year-old lawyer who sports a neatly trimmed beard and a crisp blue suit for this morning’s hearing. “You’re going to know what your future is going to be after today. You know what I mean?”
Some four years earlier, Lostutter, a member of the hacker collective Anonymous, went after local authorities in Steubenville, Ohio, who he believed were covering up the rape of an unconscious 16-year-old girl by high school football players. He and another man hacked into the team’s fan site and posted a video in which Lostutter, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, threatened to dox the players and local officials (post their private information online) if they didn’t apologize to the girl. The hack and its aftermath helped rebrand Anonymous as a force for legitimate activism. Not only were the rapists convicted, but an investigation led to the convictions of three school employees (on charges ranging from allowing underage drinking to obstructing official business). Lostutter pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent and violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
After breakfast, Ekeland accompanied Lostutter to the courthouse, where a judge sentenced him to 24 months in prison—the maximum allowed under the plea deal and, despite Ekeland’s efforts, a year more than one of the Steubenville rapists had received. The prosecutor claimed the sentence would send a message that “hacks will be taken seriously as crimes, not as pranks or publicity stunts.” After the hearing, Ekeland countered that the sentence was really about “the DOJ being scared of the power of social media to organize social protests.”
Ekeland can sometimes come off a bit radical considering he used to be a corporate attorney in Manhattan. But six years ago he traded his fat paycheck for a not-so-lucrative private practice. Now he’s one of a handful of defense lawyers who specialize in computer crimes. “I’m much happier,” says Ekeland, who shows up at our first meeting in jeans and a black T-shirt. The corporate gig was boring, he explains—”it made me an alcoholic”—and he rarely saw a courtroom. When he first arrived in New York City prior to law school, he was involved in experimental theater, and it was the theatrical aspects of the court that prompted him to study law. Litigating “is super stressful,” he says. “I love it, though.”