Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Madness at the ICC

* Full Disclosure: I am an enthusiastic supporter of Charlie Baker, and I think he'll be a great Governor.  I will write more about this later, but Baker is absolutely the genuine article...and more and more people across Mass. are figuring this out, all the time.

Yesterday I got to breathe the rarefied air of Citizens' Media Group (a shadowy cast of rogues if there ever was one) while attending the City Manager's St. Patrick's Day Breakfast.

And speaking of City Managers, Acting CM Mike Geary was my bracket-buster yesterday.  He was sharp on his toes, he was personable, he was funny, and he threw jabs in real-time, referencing material from the event itself (as opposed to the scripted, stilted stuff).  He had several memorable lines, including his 'tony suburb' reference that degenerated into 'tiny sunburn' after several run-throughs, his mid-game nap near the podium, and his high-octane sticker-slapping on the city banner.  I had Mike as a 10th seed in the Midwest Regional making an exit in the round of 32, but his performance yesterday was Elite Eight-worthy, for sure.

Eileen Donoghue was an okay emcee, but slung a steady round of by-the-book jokes that simply substituted in the names of present company as the protagonists.  These are the sort of jokes that at best draw polite laughter (i.e. "Tom said he was really hungry, so he asked Espresso to cut it into 16 slices rather than 8" or "It turned out that the urine sample was Bill's, but the handwriting in the snow was Hillary's"). Taking an old bank robbery joke and just substituting in "George Ramirez" and "Kevin Murphy" is kind of like sliding into the Sweet Sixteen as a high seed and then petering out against a hungrier squad from a mid-major conference.

Mayor Rodney Elliott bombed.  His timing wasn't hot, his Photoshop wasn't inspired, and he exuded the charisma of a passport clerk in New Delhi.  His presentation was about as memorable as an 8-seed falling to a 9 in East Rutherford -- not that upsetting, and easy to forget.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, however, impressed the holy heck out of me for the second straight year.  She threw some on-the-spot Molotov Cocktails towards Mayor Murphy last year, and this year she opened with a Mike Scott screwball about how she didn't understand Elliott's inside Lowell humor, and apparently no one in the crowd did, either.  She kept at it with the jokes about the lack of laughter in the crowd, and demonstrated a general ease with the crowd that bodes well for her statewide this year.  Final Four material here.

Steve Grossman, however, flamed out almost as fast the Georgetown squad that nearly fell to Pete Carrill's Tigers in the Round of 64.  Grossman started out in way-too-serious mode with a panegyric about the delegation that led some people at the CMG table to start making sophomoric jokes about Jergens and kleenex.  He then fumbled his way though a Jesus-and-a-guy-named-Finkelstein joke with a punchline of "Lord and Taylor."  Much like an early favorite that pulls its head out of its posterior following an inspirational timeout speech, Grossman ALMOST redeemed himself with a "Charlie on the MTA" routine that coulda shoulda woulda been a poke at Baker with some new lyrics.  A couple Big Dig jokes, some jabs towards Mr. Weld, and redemption was Grossman's to have.  BUT he snatched defeat from the jaws of, well, defeat by just awkwardly singing all of Charlie on the MTA.  This is a guy whose only chance at a Regional Final will be a well-timed site visit to StubHub.

Middlesex DA Marian Ryan looked ready to take the Admiral Stockdale Award as she sat on stage. While she didn't score any funny points (though I think I caught myself chuckling at some kind of 'Reilly & Leone' joke), she was genuine and she was brief.  Let's call her a 5 seed beating a 12 and then petering out, and call it good from there.

Sheriff Peter Koutoujian started about as strong as Duke against the play-in winner at a fieldhouse in the Southeast, but screeched to an early halt following a history lesson about the Irish Potato Famine Great Starvation.  After reminding us of his Irishness, he had a Khruschev's-shoe-on-the-table moment when he reminded us that there wasn't a shortage of food on the Emerald Isle in the mid-1900s, but it was the British colonialists' unwillingness to share said bounty that caused the problem that led so many of our grandparents' grandparents to come this way.  It was sort of a band-stopped-playing-and-everyone-stopped-dancing sort of moment.

Former Swampscott Selectman Charlie Baker followed up strong.  First, he opened up with a huge bear hug for Mike Geary following the whole 'tony suburb' bit (a lead-in to why it's good that 'Charlie' goes by 'Charlie').  He then came in with a crack about the level of diversity in the room (note: self-effacing humor always goes a long way with me, but it has to be genuine in order to work...this was).  He got a bit too serious during a quick detour following an 'Inside of 128/Outside of 128' economy distinction, but then had a nice bit about working for Bill Weld and trying to understand how the guy squeezed governing in between squash games, social events, and more social events.  He also had some really classy words for Paul Cellucci, noting that Paul would be glad to see the role of prominent women on the stage.  (Oh, I'll also say here that there were several nice Paul Sheehy/Tom McKay references yesterday).  Charlie is ready to win 6 straight games and cut the nets down in the Corner Office.

Tom Golden was the Delegation's only saving grace.  First, just from a charisma/stage presence point of view, Tipa scores points right off the bat with an infectious smile, a warm tone, and some belly laughs that make you think, "I want a sip of whatever's in that guy's coffee."  He did the PowerPoint/Photoshop stuff that was the day's theme, and the most memorable shot he had was the British Royal family (Rourke as the baby and Rita as the Queen stood out the best).  He had a Mayoral portrait joke (there were a few yesterday), and he kept it relatively short.  Only Sweet 16 rep from among the Delegation here.

Keeping it relatively short is about as much as I can say about Kevin Murphy or David Nangle.  Nangle had one nice impromptu moment (he tore down the Mike Geary sticker after Geary made a reference to Nangle 'flooding the zone' with challengers to water down a primary opponent), and he cracked at himself with a Seabrook, NH line (again, self-effacing really works when it's authentic).  Murphy had some badly-done Photoshopped images, which seemed unoriginal (mostly due to the batting order, though).

Then in came Bernie Lynch as the sleeper pick. From the backcourt, he called some isolation plays...he splashed a trey in Jim Campanini's eye and ran down the court with his arm fully extended.  With a weather joke that tied Elliott's mayoralty with climate change in hell, Bernie scored again on a finger roll, untouched. He threw a final salute toward the delegation following a baseline jumper, and then ambled toward the bench during a change of possession so that Mike McDonald could get on the court.

Mike, by the way, was funnier than everyone else put together.

And then it was time to go on a 28-hour work binge.

Thankfully, this week is SIP (Sloan Innovation Period) which means I'm captive in a classroom that I can't escape (but which has afforded me the opportunity to write this summary)...So in the spirit of Thanks Patrick's Day, thank you for reading, as always.

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