The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest television show ever

•December 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

"Adjourn your asses."

The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later

A look back at “Middle Ground,” the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest show in television history

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“…nothing I can do to change y’all minds…”

My parents had Kennedy.

I had Stringer Bell.

Granted, John Kennedy was an international figure, and real, and my parents experienced his death when it happened. And Stringer was local, and fake, and I didn’t watch Season 3 until three years after it aired.

Didn’t matter. Stringer’s death, silly as it sounds, was a “Where were you when?” for me.

I was at my parents’ with them and my brother, the four of us locked into the fates of nearly 40 characters over 10 hours of storytelling. And really, by the time Stringer was facing Omar’s shotgun to the east and Mouzone’s pistol to the west, we’d had almost 36 hours of this story.

That elongated buildup and knowledge of history is what makes Season 3 my favorite of the five. And that makes “Middle Ground” — that season’s penultimate, and finest, episode — the greatest 60 minutes in the show’s history.

I first saw it in 2007. But the night TV fans went to bed stunned by the death of this fictional drug dealer was Dec. 12, 2004 — 10 years ago today.

There’s a lot to like about “Middle Ground.” Let’s start at the beginning. The previous episode, “Reformation,” opens with the return of Brother Mouzone and closes with Mouzone and his assistant Lamar kidnapping Omar’s boyfriend Dante. I won’t even chop into that backstory, only to say that its strength and depth allows Omar to be one of the stars of “Middle Ground” despite having only two scenes, the first and the last.

That first scene is one of several that anchor the episode, the season and the series. By my count, there are nine.

Continue reading ‘The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest television show ever’

Lovie Smith’s final lesson

•November 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Lovie Smith had a different relationship with players than with media and fans. The way it should be. (photo: AP)

Lovie Smith had a different relationship with players than with media and fans. The way it should be. (photo: AP)

Lovie Smith’s final lesson: reflections on a Bears head coach

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

I didn’t know how beloved Lovie Smith was until he was gone.

On Dec. 31, 2012, the day after the final Bears game of 2012, the day Lovie Smith was fired, emotion flowed from the locker room at Halas Hall. Charles Tillman told the Sun-Times he was “shocked” to hear that Lovie was gone. Brian Urlacher told ESPN 1000 that “We’re all mad right now. We just lost our head coach.”

Devin Hester memorably stood at his locker that day and told reporters that he was considering retirement. Though he tweeted the next day that Lovie’s firing did not cause his retirement talk, Hester’s locker room comments made it clear how he felt about the only NFL head coach he’d ever played for. Continue reading ‘Lovie Smith’s final lesson’

Jan. 14, 2011: Imagine me and you, I do…

•September 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

From November 2010 to May 2011, I wrote for a site called “The Sports Blog Network,” a sports website launched by Chris Reed. The site folded, as websites do, and at some point in the past year (maybe longer?) the content was removed.

I loved the work I did there and appreciated the opportunity Chris gave me (thanks man!) so I am reposting all of those stories on ReadJack.

***

Imagine me and you, I do…

Originally published on Sports Blog Network January 14, 2011

Rivals don't shake hands. Rivals gotta hug! (pause) Oh wait, rivals shake hands.

Rivals don’t shake hands. Rivals gotta hug! (pause) Oh wait, rivals shake hands.

“Yeah but, just imagine it,” Ricky said in the second quarter of the Packers-Eagles wild card game. “Bears. Packers. NFC Championship.” The Packers had just scored their second touchdown of the game, and possessed a stout 14-0 lead over Philadelphia, the two and a half point home favorite and employer of the NFL’s hottest commodity of 2010, Michael Vick.

“No. Let’s not start revving ourselves up for that,” I said. “Two quarters and two games to go. Lots can happen.”

But he’s right: an NFC championship game at Soldier Field between the Bears and the Packers, regardless of outcome, immediately becomes the greatest Bears-Packers game of my life, and of my father’s life, and probably of all-time, because who really goes around talking about the 1941 NFL divisional tiebreaker anymore? Continue reading ‘Jan. 14, 2011: Imagine me and you, I do…’

Dec. 31, 2010: I’m bringing chicken back

•September 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

From November 2010 to May 2011, I wrote for a site called “The Sports Blog Network,” a sports website launched by Chris Reed. The site folded, as websites do, and at some point in the past year (maybe longer?) the content was removed.

I loved the work I did there and appreciated the opportunity Chris gave me (thanks man!) so I am reposting all of those stories on ReadJack.

***

I’m bringing chicken back

Originally published on Sports Blog Network December 31, 2010

Johnny Knox, the comet.

Johnny Knox, the comet.

Christmas 2010 will live in my mind for a few reasons, only one of them upsetting. First the good: It was my first proper Christmas, the first time I woke in a home on Christmas morning with Christmas presents beneath a tree – a Christmas tree – surrounded by a family that gathers in the living room to exchange gifts, to tell stories, to laugh and love and hug. I have attended Christmas parties before, even on Christmas, but never gone wire-to-wire with Christmas celebration, wiping sleep from my eyes and closing my eyes to sleep.

I also indulged my first taste of homemade fried chicken, another highlight of the weekend. I was in Indianapolis, spending the holiday with my girlfriend’s family, and I am happy to report that they are a lovely and delightful bunch, that we got along splendid, and that I was the only celebrant of the season other than Mr. Sawyer to eat chicken back. Continue reading ‘Dec. 31, 2010: I’m bringing chicken back’

Dec. 7, 2010: #nolongerhappywithuglywins

•September 1, 2014 • 1 Comment

From November 2010 to May 2011, I wrote for a site called “The Sports Blog Network,” a sports website launched by Chris Reed. The site folded, as websites do, and at some point in the past year (maybe longer?) the content was removed.

I loved the work I did there and appreciated the opportunity Chris gave me (thanks man!) so I am reposting all of those stories on ReadJack.

***

#nolongerhappywithuglywins

Originally published on Sports Blog Network December 7, 2010

Tom Brady and the Patriots brutalized the Bears in December 2010.

On Dec. 7, 2010, the Patriots were five days away from brutalizing the Bears in the snow. We just didn’t know it yet.

If, on February 6, 2011, Tom Brady is hoisting his fourth Super Bowl trophy after brutalizing our Chicago Bears on national television, I will look back at Week 13 of this 2010 NFL season and say, “Ah ha! Shoulda known.”

And frankly, I don’t care what happens between these two clubs next week. Our beloved Bears may even pull out the very W that blesses their season with the Lombardian Right to just keep winning, a blessing that might even carry them all the way to The Big Game.

These 2010 Bears have some of that 2005 Bears underdog in them, but these Patriots have a lot of that 2001 Pats underdog in them. Even more frightening, they possess the high-powered assault capabilities of their 2007 selves.

That’s what we saw last night when the Pats invited their old pals the Jets to their backyard for a game of high-stakes keep-away. Continue reading ‘Dec. 7, 2010: #nolongerhappywithuglywins’

Dec. 3, 2010: A Cub to the last

•September 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

From November 2010 to May 2011, I wrote for a site called “The Sports Blog Network,” a sports website launched by Chris Reed. The site folded, as websites do, and at some point in the past year (maybe longer?) the content was removed.

I loved the work I did there and appreciated the opportunity Chris gave me (thanks man!) so I am reposting all of those stories on ReadJack.

***

A Cub to the last

Originally published on Sports Blog Network December 3, 2010

I never understood the bru-ha-ha over Ron Santo’s heel click.

Three cheers for #10.

Three cheers for #10.

It is, when you think about it, the most benign of celebrations. When I think of heel clicks, I think of Bugs Bunny cartoons and old men bowling. If Derrek Lee or Paul Konerko let loose the occasional heel click, we’d chuckle and call them “old-timey.” If Dorothy had jumped while trying to return to Kansas, and if, instead of being a young girl on her way home, she was a third baseman for the 75-44 Chicago Cubs in the summer of ’69, the baseball press would have chalked her up as a gloater and suggested she stay in Oz until she learns some manners.

Santo was the embodiment of that ’69 club. As my dad tells it, the 1969 Chicago Cubs were a rollicking good show, deft and powerful, afraid of no one. The same, he tells me, could be said of Santo.

Fitting then that it was Santo’s heel click that baseball pundits pegged as the karmic catalyst for their fateful collapse, and that of all the players who could have been waiting on-deck when fans at Shea Stadium released a black cat upon the field, that it was Santo who watched this curs-ed kitten prance on by…

The heel click and the black cat. The saddest single season of a possibly cursed, definitely bummed out franchise, and when the memories of ’69 flood back, we think of Ronnie. Continue reading ‘Dec. 3, 2010: A Cub to the last’

Dec. 1, 2010: Dancing days for the Chicago Bulls

•September 1, 2014 • 1 Comment

From November 2010 to May 2011, I wrote for a site called “The Sports Blog Network,” a sports website launched by Chris Reed. The site folded, as websites do, and at some point in the past year (maybe longer?) the content was removed.

I loved the work I did there and appreciated the opportunity Chris gave me (thanks man!) so I am reposting all of those stories on ReadJack.

***

Dancing days for the Chicago Bulls

Originally published on Sports Blog Network December 1, 2010

When the Bulls stormed Phoenix in November 2010 and beat the Suns in double OT, Bulls fans could knew this team was special.

When the Bulls stormed Phoenix in November 2010 and beat the Suns in double OT, Bulls fans could knew this team was special.

In just a few minutes, the Chicago Bulls will take floor at the United Center to, I presume, the greatest of heroes’ welcomes bestowed on a Bulls team since Game 5 of the 1998 Finals, or, at least, Game 6 of the Celtics series.

That is because, for the first time since those ring-bearing Bulls of Jordan and Pippen, Jackson and Rodman, the Red and Black have run the annual circus trip gauntlet and secured more wins than losses.

Defeated the two should-be gimmes on the docket – Houston and Sacramento – and toppled the Mavericks of Nowitzki and the Suns of Nash. Lost to the L’s best team by seven, to its hottest by nine, and to one of its most talented by one.

That last came with their best player and the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer on the pine with a sore neck. No matter – if not for a just-signed, ice cold D-Leaguer bricking a pair of foul shots with 12 seconds to play, the Bulls of Rose and Noah and Thibs and Lu would have banged out that win too. Continue reading ‘Dec. 1, 2010: Dancing days for the Chicago Bulls’

 
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