A Competitor’s Guide to Existence: Meditations on Pete Carroll’s Win Forever Philosophy

January 8th, 2014 by Damon

A Competitor’s Guide to Existence: Meditations on Pete Carroll’s Win Forever Philosophy

Buy the book! Kindle version Amazon! Epub & pdf via Paypal! Only 99 cents!

“Damon Agnos’ A Competitor’s Guide to Existence, hot off the e-presses, plumbs the cavernous depths of The Win Forever Pyramid’s maxims until the book and its readers emerge out the other side of the earth, changed and bettered by their shared journey.”-McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

So you want to win forever? Pete Carroll’s got the book for you. It’s called Win Forever. This is the book that goes with that book. 

A Competitor’s Guide to Existence examines Carroll’s philosophy in the context of the works of great thinkers like Descartes, Kant, Cantor, and Gandhi. It explores the surprising cosmological implications of Win Forever before providing a number of practical applications–jokes, arts and crafts projects, and more–to assist you in your everyday competition. 

The wide-ranging, scholarly text is complemented by Scott Pendergraft’s highly competitive illustrations and diagrams. 

A Competitor’s Guide to Existence is essential reading for every competitor.

Available for the Kindle at Amazon and in epub and pdf formats here. Only 99 cents!

New Macadamia Charles: Top-Shelf Talent

January 8th, 2014 by Damon

Macadamia Charles, Basketball P.I., in Top-Shelf Talent

Cover art by the talented J.O. Applegate.

Mac is back, this time in Los Angeles, where he must solve a most unsavory crime, a different sort of NBA tanking. Lamar Odom is the victim, but who is the culprit? Guest appearances by Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Scott Disick and more. Check it out!

Dwane Casey at the Bat

October 30th, 2013 by Damon

One hundred twenty-five years ago, Ernest Thayer wrote the famous poem Casey at the Bat, immortalizing the mighty Casey’s failure in the clutch. Earlier this year, in a softball game with the Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey had an opportunity to redeem the Casey name:

Dwane Casey at the Bat

Dwane Casey at the Bat

The outlook wasn’t good for the Raptors Ten that day;
The score was twelve to eight, and with little left to play,
Michael Jordan’s Charlotte’s Bobcats held the upper softball hand;
“Raptors, keep your chins up,” Coach Dwane Casey did command.

T’was the bottom of the seventh, in a seven inning game;
The title of league champion the Bobcats could soon claim;
Lounging in his denim shorts, Jordan chomped a cookie,
And gave the stare of death to the tall, Lithuanian rookie.

The first pitch skittered past the cleated feet of Valunciunas;
“Dance, Big Man,” yelled one loud fan, “Come on — Tommy Tune us!”
Weights had made him broader, but this Jonas brother still
Had not had much diamond time; he grounded to the hill.

Daye popped out to second and the Raps had one out left;
In softball as in hoops, their trophy shelf bereft;
But plucky Terrence Ross legged out an infield hit,
And turned and said to Casey, “Raptors never quit!”

Gray did club a double, scoring fleety Ross,
And in the on-deck circle, Rudy Gay did floss,
In the lit’ral sense, that is; there was food by his incisor,
Dwane Casey rolled his eyes beneath his golfer’s visor.

Gay deftly worked the count and on the sixth pitch earned a walk;
Michael’d seen enough; he said, “Kid, give me the rock!
Hit the showers, Josh McRoberts—a real closer’s here!”
The hot sun glinted brightly off the hoop in MJ’s ear.

One more up ‘til Casey, the Raptors faithful knew;
T’would be much warmer comfort, if the outs they’d left were two,
But the outs were only one, and the force-outs at three bases;
Johnson stopped outside the box to double-knot his laces.

He weakly hit a single; MJ looked disgusted;
Cheers came from the Raptors fans for the hitter they most trusted;
His bat, it was aluminum; his constitution steel;
His will was made of iron; his visor a bright teal.

Dwane Casey dug his back foot in and returned MJ’s glare;
When it came to the dramatic, Dwane Casey had a flair;
But the first pitch rainbowed by him, and the umpire called, “Strike One!”
Silently the Raptors feared their title hopes were done.

Casey smiled to reassure them, He was mighty; it was true,
But Jordan’s second offering was declared, “Stee-rike Two!”
With velociraptors on the ropes, with Jurassic nearly Dark,
Dwane aimed the fat end of his bat toward the far end of the park.

That third pitch hung forever, like a crop that won’t get ripe,
And Casey puffed his cheeks as he swung his gleaming pipe;
That ping did sing for miles, those who heard it say,
And that little red-laced pearl did forever fly away.

As he crossed the plate, Dwane said, “Let that be a lesson
To those who doubt and hate, to those who seek to lessen
The legacy of Caseys, maligned by weak and wack;
Today we’ve seen the truth – Mighty Casey just struck back.”

Macadamia Charles, Basketball P.I. in Turn of the Screw

October 7th, 2013 by Damon

Macadamia Charles in Turn of the Screw

Mac is back, this time in Milwaukee in 1997, investigating the vandalization of a DJ Screw mixtape. Art by the awesome J.O. Applegate.

Franzen’s First Draft

September 22nd, 2013 by Damon

Sunny D Purple Stuff

Below is the first draft of Jonathan Franzen’s much-discussed recent essay in The Guardian. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the final version before reading the first draft.

Jonathan Franzen: What’s Wrong with the Modern World

Klaus Kinski was a German actor and a central figure in mid- to late-twentieth century cinema. Although he probably would have hated the Internet, Kinski is quite popular in that space today, more than twenty years after his death. If you perform a Google search for Klaus Kinski, you get many pages of results.

The thing about Kinski is that he was something of a prescient, pre-Internet troll, profane and incisive. If you read his sentences more than once, you’ll find that they have a lot to say to us in our own media-saturated, technology-crazed, apocalypse-haunted historical moment.

“Words. Words today block meanings. Words are losing their value these days. People don’t communicate what they mean. If someone tells me ‘This coffee is genius,’ what does that mean? This is shit. If this coffee is genius, then what does ‘genius’ mean anymore? I don’t believe in words anymore. ‘Have a coke and a smile.’ I have a coke and it hurts my stomach. I become sick.”

(Footnote: I’m reminded of how I felt upon being informed that The Corrections had been selected by Oprah’s Book Club.)

Kinski’s discussion of the popular beverages of his day and the devaluation of words provides insight not only into the devaluation of words via our current arms race of Silicon Valley hyperbole, but also into the popular beverages of our day.

Beginning sometime in the 1980s, a young man who had worked up a thirst playing touch football or hating everything about a world that had granted him privilege and comforton an historic scale had but two options to quench his thirst: Sunny D, and the purple stuff.

Sunny D (the D is for “Delight” and not “Destruction of literary culture” but thanks anyway, Mr. Bezos) was the “cool” drink. In the commercials, the athletic, eternally cheerful adolescents—always wearing bright, solid-colored clothing, as if to deny the dark heart of our present condition—shove aside not just the purple stuff but also the orange juice whence Sunny D came.

In her wisdom, in anticipation of collective teenage thirst, the mother of the house has stocked the refrigerator with Sunny D. But she has also purchased the purple stuff. Why? We never hear her talk. Does anyone even realize she’s German? And why didn’t I have sex with her, when I had the chance, in Munich? I was so angry about my decision, I almost threw an old German lady in front of a train. Fahrvergnugen, you old hag.

“Fuck you!”
-Telegraph to Frederico Fellini

The purple stuff was my poison, even as a young man. Once, when I was in my 20s, I invited my friends to play football at a nearby park. Afterward, I brought them to my apartment. The refrigerator contained a bottle of Sunny D and a bottle of purple stuff. I opened the former in front of them and poured it down the drain, every last drop.

Imagine my disappointment at learning that Salman Rushdie owns a microwave. 

“The jungle is life itself. A thousand times more alive than anything you’ve ever seen. We didn’t go there to be a part of it. We invaded it. We shaved the jungle and made a stinking camp in the middle of it. Radios blaring. It was disgusting.”

Of course, Sunny D is nothing like the healthy, natural product its commercials suggest. It is a soft drink, made orange by high doses of added coloring. In 1999, in a case of life imitating Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a young girl in Great Britain turned orange after drinking too much Sunny D.

Meanwhile, the purple stuff has since been co-opted by rappers from Houston, who make it from cough syrup and soda. I don’t care for their music or their dental jewelry or their brightly painted cars, but their beverage suits me nicely. When I review my work at the end of the week and invariably hate myself and the society about which I write, I find the codeine a welcome anodyne.

My life is the Falling Down of American letters.

“The German government writes me that it has awarded me the supreme distinction for an actor: the Gold Film Ribbon. What gall! Who gave those shitheads the right to award me anything? Did it never occur to them that there might be somebody who doesn’t want their shit? What filthy arrogance to award me - me, of all people! - a prize! What does this prize mean, anyway? Is it a reward? For what? For my pains, sufferings, despair, tears? A prize for every hell, every dying, every resurrection? Prizes for death and life? Prizes for passion, for hate and love? And how did you shitheads intend to hand me the prize? As a gift? As a favour, like those tasteless hosts that the pope distributes like fast food? I’ll kick you! Or do I come submissive, whimpering? I’ll kick you again!”

I am reminded again of Oprah. Her confounded Book Club. The Tupperware Party vulgarity of it all.

I should have bedded her when I had the chance.

Win Forever

September 22nd, 2013 by Damon

This essay originally appeared in The Classical before the Seahawks/49ers game last week. I’ve expanded it into much more in A Competitor’s Guide to Existence: Meditations on Pete Carroll’s Win Forever Philosophy.

 

“After all I had been through, I was still searching for the exact vision and philosophy that would ensure my future success. As hard as it is to admit, I needed those challenges and some adversity to bring forth my truths, soon to be revealed.”

You are forgiven if you mistook the above excerpt, with its messianic overtones and comically stilted language, for Kenny Powers dialogue. It’s actually from Pete Carroll’s Win Forever, his 2011 memoir-cum-treatise on competition. The truths to be revealed: Pete Carroll is a competitor. He Always Competes. He is in relentless pursuit of a competitive edge. His goal: to Win Forever.

This Sunday, Pete Carroll will turn 62, making him fairly ancient for an NFL head coach, a position that demands months of sleepless nights and the flexibility to keep pace with the league’s rapid cycles of innovation. Yet Carroll stalks the sideline with unparalleled vigor, chomping his gum and hugging his dudes. He bucks conventional wisdom with quarterbacks built like cornerbacks and vice versa, and celebrates each big play as though it’s his first.

This Sunday, as he turns 62, Carroll will coach his Seahawks against their division rivals, the 49ers, in a battle of two of the teams most favored to win the Super Bowl. Whether his young Seahawks can go all the way is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain: Pete Carroll is going to compete.

What exactly does that mean? You could read his book for several hundred entertaining pages on the subject. However, like his role model in dynastic coaching success, John Wooden, Carroll has neatly compressed his thoughts on how to win into a pyramid:

 

Win Forever

 

To be precise, what Carroll and Wooden have given us are triangles, not pyramids. There is nothing inherently three-dimensional about the presentation of their hierarchies of values. But in the pyramid, they have seized an architecture of grandeur, and, especially in Carroll’s case, one can see why: It’s fair to say that any Pharaoh worth his khat was Always Competing, and if provisions in sarcophagi are any indication, Ancient Egypt’s monarchs surely intended to Win Forever.

At first glance, the words in Carroll’s pyramid may not entirely make sense. At second glance, the impression remains. Try drawing a Venn diagram of “It’s all about the ball” and “Everything counts.”

However, the great sports motivators often traffic in cryptic exhortations and baffling bromides. Pat Riley claimed he regularly texted Dwyane Wade with the acronym B.I.W., for Best In World, only he’d vary the font sizes of each of the letters between small, medium, and large. When Wade asked about the meaning of the shifts in font size, Riley said only, “Someday, I’ll tell you.”

Perhaps a madman’s intensity is the key that unlocks their wisdom. Perhaps what Riley and Carroll are selling is less their philosophies than their insane commitment to those philosophies. The medium is the message. It’s not hucksterism if you never break character. Riley once held his head in a bucket of ice water to show his Miami Heat players that they must want to win as much as they want to breathe. Carroll demands his entire organization be “all in” and proves his own dedication with an enthusiasm so unrelenting and grotesque that his biopic will have to star Jim Carrey. If his players are using Adderall, it may be just to keep up.

Whatever his secret, Carroll dominated college football for a decade and now, as a sexagenarian leading an NFL team stacked with elite players on rookie contracts, appears poised for another great run. It makes me wonder, could Pete Carroll actually Win Forever? And what would that even look like?

I’d no sooner ask Pete Carroll how long is forever than I’d ask Morrisey how soon is now. It’s a foolish student who spits the koan back at the master.

Mascots and T-Shirt Cannons: Macadamia Charles in Mow Down Philly

September 18th, 2013 by Damon

Macadamia Charles Basketball P.I. Mow Down Philly

I’m a little late with the link here, but the newest Macadamia Charles mystery is up at The Classical. This one features Dr. Jack Ramsay, Charles Barkley, mascots, and a hijacked t-shirt cannon. Art, as always, by the excellent J.O. Applegate.

Bordeaux Patrol: Mac Charles, Maloofs, Suge Knight, and Some Wine

August 12th, 2013 by Damon

Bordeaux Patrol

The Brothers Maloof, incorrigible playboys, find that someone has raided their wine cellar in their last days as owners of the Sacramento Kings.

Facing the prospect of a displeased Suge Knight, Macadamia Charles must find the culprit–and the wine. 

Art, as always, by the peerless J.O. Applegate.

Check it out!

Darko, Sheed, Pigeons, and More: Macadamia Charles Goes to Detroit

July 23rd, 2013 by Damon

Macadamia Charles Basketball P.I. Gangster Prankster Cover

Art by J.O. Applegate 

My newest Macadamia Charles, Basketball P.I. story is up at The Classical. Check it out!

Introducing Macadamia Charles, Basketball P.I.

July 18th, 2013 by Damon

macsotd.png

Amazing artwork by J.O. Applegate 

David Stern’s first NBA Draft didn’t exactly go as he’d planned. It seems someone stole his gold pinky ring. Macadamia Charles is on the case in Steal of the Draft.

Stay tuned for 30 more Macadamia Charles stories — one for each NBA team!