One Year Later

One year: It was the longest The Beatles ever went between record releases. It was the amount of time Elaine was banned from the Soup Nazi’s shop. According to the Synoptic Gospels, it was approximately the length of Jesus’ ministry. Most famously, it is the length of time it takes Earth to revolve around the sun. And now it is how long No Pun Intended has been…doing whatever it is we do here.

Yes, it was one year ago today that NPI published its initial post (as well as three others). Back then Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, and Dennis Hopper were all alive. Back then Sarah Palin was still the Governor of Alaska, David Souter was still on the Supreme Court, and Conan O’Brien was the host of The Tonight Show. Back then, Lost was still on TV, Titanic was still the highest-grossing film in American history, and Lady Gaga had only had two #1 singles. Then NPI came along and all that changed. (Of course, correlation doesn’t always mean causation.)

We declared then that our goal was “to be topical, relevant, entertaining, and, logically following from these three, interesting.” Hopefully we have succeeded more often than we have failed.

We’ve covered everything from deep dish pizza to the evolution of TV to Mariano Rivera, from The Sopranos to the Old Testament to the Food Network, from the 1999 NLCS to apologism to David Foster Wallace. We’ve ranked the Bill of Rights, the work of Bob Dylan, and everything in history. Oh, and we had some French guy discussing sports rules.

This all may seem self-congratulatory (and it is), but it’s all by way of a thank you to those have read us: A blog is only worth writing if you feel that someone is reading, and we here at NPI appreciate all our readers. It’s only with the help and encouragement of those who read us that NPI has lasted longer than Joe DiMaggio’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe, the entire series of Freaks and Geeks, and the French Revolution’s Legislative Assembly.

In all that time, here are a few of our favorite posts:


“The Most You Ever Lost on a Coin Toss: The Sense in Senseless Violence” by John S. I remember editing this post and thinking, “Wow, John is really an excellent writer.” But, besides being written superbly, this post carefully and insightfully analyzes TV and the movies to draw out an original common thread and its consequences.

“In Memoriam: David Foster Wallace” by John S. I waited to read this until I completed Infinite Jest and it almost brought me to tears. It helped me understand Wallace and Infinite Jest in a way I hadn’t before despite watching the Charlie Rose interview in full. Whether or not you’re familiar with DFW’s work, you owe it to yourself read this post for a great piece of writing.

“Joie de Vivre: Remembering the ’99 NLCS Part I and II” by Tim. Tim has a ridiculously impressive memory and is a ridiculously impressive sports journalist. Combing those two qualities for a retrospective on what he subjectively calls (and I subjectively agree) “the greatest sporting event ever staged,” results in my favorite Tim post.

“In Search of the Great College Drama” by Tim. This is a sleeper post, but one full of great elements: original idea, multiple Saved by the Bell: the College Years jokes, and a persuasive analysis of why the complexity of college is better suited for TV than high school. I’m usually impressed when a sports journalist writes a great non-sports piece (or vice-versa, for that matter), but it’s such a norm for Tim that the challenge is picking the best non-sports piece.


“Is Roger Federer The Greatest Tennis Player Ever?” by Tim. This post was one of Tim’s best breakdowns of the sports world—which is saying a lot—and was really the first thing to run on NPI that I thought was truly great. For anyone who thinks sports journalism is just about games: read this.

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and the Condensed Epic” by Tim. We spend a lot of time at NPI talking about literature, but rarely do we get as fresh a perspective on a book as talked about as Tim got on Junot Diaz’s megahit. As with all great book reviews, I felt I understood the book better after reading Tim’s take.

“Ranking the Bill of Rights, Number 1: First Amendment” by Josh. Even though I strongly disagreed with this one, I couldn’t have written my follow-up if Josh hadn’t made his case so clearly and thoroughly. When arguing with Josh it’s often frustrating how logically sound his reasoning is, and this post showcases that.

“Against Agnosticism” by Josh. Unlike the last one, this post was one where Josh and I are thoroughly simpatico. It is also Josh’s writing at its best: Taking something—in this case a line of thought—that is common yet thoroughly misguided and pointing out all the inconsistencies and problems with it.


Watching Alone” by Josh. From the title’s subtle allusion to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, “Watching Alone” is perhaps the quintessential Josh post. It takes something that is socially stigmatized, and it simply wonders “Why?” In this post, he criticizes the act of going to a movie as a social activity, and for good reason. Posts like this illustrate the way Josh thinks: always inquisitive, always logical, and never willing to accept “Because” as an answer in itself.

Height Matters” by Josh. What I usually find most interesting about Josh’s writing is how he applies a fresh perspective (and almost always supplies a fresh insight) to something I long ago stopped considering for myself. Hence, he started a category called “Stuck in a Poor Equilibrium” and has basically carried another entitled “Social Norms.” His post on height, however, struck me as especially intriguing because it was Josh himself considering something more on my level–that is, not being taller than the average (note: Josh is two inches taller than the average; I am exactly average). Plus, this gave us what is almost certainly my favorite comment the blog has ever inspired, courtesy of Zach.

“John’s Especially Vague and Pusillanimous Predictions for Super Bowl XLIV” by John S. We’ve all tried at various points to be funny over the course of the last year, but I don’t think any of us succeeded as well as John did here. I read the initial draft of his “vague and pusillanimous predictions” on my Blackberry in a Church parking lot having locked myself out of my car. Needless to say, it was quite the pick-me-up, foiling my own carefully constructed predictions and providing lines such as “At some point during the broadcast, Jim Nantz will ask Phil Simms if he would ‘go for it here’” that seem so innocuous but still crack me up anyway.

Brain Dead and Made of Money” by John S. One of our first dozen or so posts on the blog, John’s peering through a Phish concert at hippie culture and the infiltration of capitalism hinted a bit at NPI’s potential. It was the kind of piece I would bookmark in a magazine or link to on Monday Medley, doing much more showing than telling. It was simple and understated in making its point. And, I love it when people rip on John for that T-shirt.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dan on June 1, 2010 at 7:23 AM

    Really? Each of you pick two posts each by the other authors? And you couldn’t select any of your own? What is this, kindergarten?

    For a blog that takes its rankings very seriously, I expected better …

    [Also, congratulations.]


  2. Posted by Jake on June 1, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    I haven’t done the necessary groundwork to come up with a list of true favorites, but I thought I’d pick one post from each author that sticks out in my memory as a great read. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that none of these are my favorites…but that’s really just a testament to the week-to-week quality of this blog. (I don’t know how to embed links on a comment, so you’ll have to deal with the URLs.)

    1. From Tim: Unabated to the QB, Week 5: How Bad Is JaMarcus Russell?

    “JaMarcus Russell is so bad that he managed to have a worse day than Derek 2-for-17 Anderson even though it was his best day of the season. Do you understand this? JaMarcus Russell’s best game was worse than Derek Anderson’s 2-for-17 day.”

    Tim responded to the title question in a hilarious but also completely necessary way. His insistent, almost desperate tone was the perfect comedic complement to the carefully selected arsenal of evidence that made a very casual NFL fan such as myself actually start to marvel at how something like JaMarcus Russell’s career could even be possible. Anyone who reads Tim’s work is accustomed to a tasteful sprinkling of wit, usually encased in parentheses or in an asterisked aside, but on that day humor itself was the entree and it hit the spot. This stands out in my head as one of the few times I read a post and laughed out loud pretty much all the way throughout (even in the intermittent parts that weren’t about JaMarcus Russell). This piece also shows why Tim is a great sportswriter: the slew of pointed references, the periodic flash food of memories, and the conversational, self-aware prose are all underscored by a deep, evident passion.

    2. From John S: The Myth of Clutch

    “But people don’t want to look at these numbers; fans look at the clusters and convince themselves that they MUST mean something.”

    Ok, so this idea has been done before, but has it been done enough? It’s an especially relevant dismantling of something that virtually every sports fan, regardless of his (hell, I’ll even say “or her”) level of enthusiasm has encountered. It’s one of the go-to contributions of people who don’t know what else to say about a player–and forgetting for a moment that most people who describe someone as clutch, if prompted, couldn’t provide nearly enough “evidence” to support that claim, John S takes these types to task for lazy methodology and pre-conceived conclusions. And yet, at the same time, he clarifies the issue through his characteristic “cultural” lens to explain why we still believe in this myth and what it is that we’re actually observing. The fact that I enjoyed this post despite my thoroughly passive relationship to baseball speaks to the quality of the writing. John S doesn’t shy away from unpopular positions or intellectually difficult questions, and here he transcends those challenges not by forming an intelligent opinion but by uncovering a truth, and thereby does a great service to his readers.

    3. From Josh: Intentionality and Apologism (or In Defense of Apologism)

    “Apologism tends to result in the opposite of the Intentionality Effect; apologists tend to under-ascribe intentionality to morally bad behaviors or, at least, claim that the behaviors are not that bad.”

    Josh has the uncanny ability to overwhelm his readers in an underwhelming fashion. By that I mean that his rigorous methodology–from establishing clear definitions to drawing incisive (and even provocative) inferences to making precise, deliberate qualifications–is enveloped in such a seamless, seemingly “obvious” progression that you often have no choice but to agree with him in the end. To me, the chief merit of Josh’s writing is style, and while I particularly enjoyed the content of this post, I was more impressed by the straight-forward prose and the soft, give-and-take persuasiveness of the argument. But we can all assume that Josh did well in whatever college writing class he took–I don’t mean to simply patronize him here. My praise is that the soundness of his writing allowed him to genuinely entertain his readers with a question that he himself both defined and answered, easily but not because it was an easy task; this is what gives him a uniquely expressive voice.


  3. You Girondists! You didn’t even tell me you were doing this! I’ve been here from the start! I wrote before Tim!

    Was it because you knew I would pick out your worst posts in an obvious attempt at self-aggrandizement? Or because you feared excerpting Pierre’s refined pieces would make yours wallow in comparison?

    In either case and in the spirit of self-congratulation by my, ahem, colleagues, I shall now point out the best NPI has been able to produce, regardless of author.

    “Words Ain’t Got No Owners, Only Users” by Pierre Menard
    “To think, analyze, and invent are not anomalous acts,” Pierre wrote, although he now qualifies that, at times, this blog presents them as so. And yet I am relegated to sports rules duty the rest of the time…

    “The AutoTyer” by Pierre Menard
    As far as my various posts on sports rules, as much as I want to once again point out the absurdity of top-seed Roger Federer falling to fifth-seed Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals of today’s French Open, I have a special fondness for my first post, penned a year ago this date. The institution of the AutoTyer is, of course, the one thing that would make me watch this year’s NBA Finals.


  4. Posted by Wey on June 1, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    That comment by Zach was a trip…Can’t believe I missed that the first time around…Probably a good call not responding to him…though I would have perhaps found it too tempting


  5. Posted by james Schneider on June 3, 2010 at 9:18 PM

    …and the best monday medley was the Oscar one.


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