Like a lot of you, I'm very saddened by the passing of George Carlin on Sunday.
Unlike a lot of you, I have reasons beyond just being a fan -- because George Carlin was my first boss.
After I graduated from college, I moved immediately to Los Angeles to begin a career in show business and promptly got a job at a toy store. I did a few quickie retail jobs before getting my first "real" job as the stage PA (production assistant) for the first season of "The George Carlin Show," a sitcom George did on Fox.
I was a gofer, basically, answering the phone for Stage 17 on the Warner Brothers lot, getting lunch for George and the cast (George liked his turkey breast to be real, not processed and thinly sliced), distributing scripts to houses all around L.A. every night and basically doing whatever they needed, whenever they needed it.
I mostly hated the job. The only positive thing about it was working with George. He was as kind and gentle a guy as you'd ever want to meet. The exact opposite of his on-stage persona, he was always happy, not angry. He was the first guy on the set every morning and the last guy to leave.
After the first day of work, he knew everyone's name and always addressed all of us by that. What you think is basic decent human behavior is a rarity among sitcom stars. Except George, who went above and beyond. And because I spent a lot of time with him, doing various errands, taking his orders, etc., he seemed to take a unique interest in me.
Two different memories stick out to me, and I'll try to get through them quickly.
That first year, one of my best friends and his girlfriend (now his wife) came out to visit me in Los Angeles. Now, I'm a grunt, right? As low as you can get. But, of course, I wanted to show off my "big Hollywood career" to my friend. So I bring them to the show, and afterward I bring them down to the stage. I had mentioned to George earlier in the day that if there was anything he needed after the show, I wanted to take care of it early so I could show my friends around after.
So it's after the show now, and I'm showing my friends the sets and what a grip does and all that when George comes up to me. "Matthew, are these your friends from back home?" I say yes and introduce them. And George gives them the big sell. "We couldn't do the show without Matthew. I consult with him every day. He's a rising star here and is only going to get bigger. We all love him." And so on and so on. George takes pictures with them, the whole deal. My friends love it and are super impressed and I'm beaming like I'm Rachael Ray with a doughnut.
The next day I thank George and tell him how cool that was. He says, "Matthew, it's my pleasure. You ever need me to take pictures or do anything like that again, just let me know." I was like, "Really?" One of my jobs every week was to bring him all the scripts and memorabilia he had to sign every week for charities, etc. I saw firsthand how many people wanted a picture with him. And I mentioned this. To which he replied something that has always stuck with me.
"I always do it. No matter what. Look, it's 30 seconds out of my life. And now those people had a good experience. And the next time my name comes up, for the rest of their lives, they'll say 'Yeah, I met Carlin once. He was nice.' I'd much rather that than a lifetime of 'Yeah, I bought all that guy's albums and then he wouldn't even sign my hat. That guy was a jerk.' Thirty seconds for a lifetime? I'll do that every time."
Not that I'm anywhere in the same universe as George, but now that I have a slight modicum of notoriety, whenever someone comes up to me and wants a picture or to talk about his team, I always do it, no matter what. And I wish a lot more athletes had George's attitude. I also go out of my way to praise anyone I work with who brings people by ESPN.
I know this isn't funny or about baseball (I'll get to both soon enough), so I appreciate your patience here as I tell you one more George Carlin story.
At the end of the year, George did two things for me. One, he wrote me a great recommendation letter to get me into the Warner Brothers Writer's Workshop; I ended up getting into it a year later and got my first writing job out of that. And what meant even more to me, he gave me a poster. The poster headline reads: "An Incomplete List of Impolite Words."
It's a long list of nicknames, euphemisms and slang for various actions of, shall we say, an adult nature and certain body parts. He gave this to me and told me of the importance of words. All words. Of challenging conventional thought, of being unafraid to speak your opinion, of it being OK to sometimes piss people off. When they are angry, he told me, it means you're probably doing something right.
I framed that poster and still have it today. It wouldn't fly in my ESPN office (more on that in a moment), but I have it displayed proudly at home.
I kept in touch with George a little while after I stopped working for him, but eventually our correspondence stopped. I always felt like I was bothering him, even if he never made me feel that way. It was all in my head, though which reminds me of one of my favorite routines George did: "A place for my stuff." And that's what this column is. A place for my stuff. I've done this before, and I'll do it again. Ten lists of 10. Random stuff.
I don't know how successfully I've followed George's advice, but I've certainly tried. And I'm a better writer, performer and person because of it.
Ten Lists of 10
List 1: Ten guys (in no particular order) having really big Junes who are available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com standard mixed leagues
Kurt Suzuki (10 percent): .367, 13 RBIs in 17 games.
Jeff Baker (37 percent): .409, 5 HR (four in his past six games).
Alexei Ramirez (30 percent): .352, 14 RBIs in 18 games.
Mark Ellis (26 percent): .308, 18 runs, 4 HR, 12 RBIs, 2 SBs.
Jason Kubel (10 percent): .340, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 15 runs.
Kenny Rogers (3 percent): 1-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 29 innings.
Greg Maddux (40 percent): 1.73 ERA in 26 innings.
Kyle Lohse (40 percent): 4-0 with a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings.
Seth McClung (2 percent): 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 19 strikeouts and only six walks in 24 2/3 innings pitched.
Scott Baker (5 percent): 2.63 ERA, 20 strikeouts and only five walks in 24 innings.
List 2: Ten players I don't think are flukes or sell-high guys
Rich Harden (health)
Bobby Crosby (health)
List 3 (in honor of George Carlin): Ten things I can't say (or write) at ESPN
How much money I make. I am insanely overpaid. At least, I thought I was. Then I heard what other people make. Ahem. I am insanely underpaid.
The obvious hot-button issues: Politics, race, religion, sexuality and, of course, any team that isn't the Yankees or Red Sox.
Anything in which I discuss how handsome I am, how amazingly brilliant I am or my amazing, rock-hard abs. Journalistic integrity prevents us from knowingly printing lies.
Media criticism: Since we are a media outlet ourselves, it's very much a conflict of interest to comment on other announcers, broadcasts, etc. This has been quite the lifesaver, honestly, as it prevents fellow employees from writing things like: "I can't believe we let that guy on the air. He sucks."
WWWT: "What Would Walt Think?" I'm surprised at how many people are not aware that ESPN is owned by the family-friendly Disney Corporation. As a result, discussions of things that are not family- (or Walt-) friendly are strongly discouraged. From the obvious, like sex and violence to the more obscure, like sex and violence involving cartoon mice.
Anything regarding other ESPN employees. This has turned out to be quite the lifesaver, honestly, as it prevents fellow columnists from writing: "I can't believe we let that guy write for us. He sucks."
The opening to Monday's Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast (you'll have to listen to understand what I'm talking about).
Anything that mentions companies or brands in a negative light. Look, there's a reason you can watch, listen, download and read so much amazing content for free. It's supported by advertising. And every advertiser is either a current or future advertiser here at ESPN. Luckily, this protocol rarely hampers someone like myself who deals in a lot of pop culture and everyday life. It's like I was saying at a name-brand restaurant the other day as I washed down my great meal with a refreshing icy cold carbonated cola. "Mr(s). X, my friend, that's a cool-looking portable music player. Did you get that at the reasonably priced electronics store we both like? And Mr(s). X said to me, "Yes, I use it to listen to a daily podcast of a popular personality in the world of entertainment." Then we both high-fived, knowing that details were for losers!
Anything involving dating or romance with fellow ESPN employees. This one has turned out to be a real lifesaver, as it prevents women from writing stuff like: "I can't believe I went out with that guy. He sucks."
Um, anything resembling the original version of this list.
List 4: Ten guys who are doing OK now but were terrible after the All-Star break last year
Kevin Youkilis (.238)
Lyle Overbay (.225)
Jason Varitek (.225)
Vernon Wells (.234)
Justin Morneau (.243)
Jeremy Guthrie (5.03)
Scott Olsen (6.63)
Mike Mussina (5.72)
Ben Sheets (5.68)
John Maine (5.53)
List 5: Ten hitters who are struggling right now but were great last year after the All-Star break
Carl Crawford (.358, 27 steals)
Cody Ross (.350 average, 8 home runs in just 120 at-bats)
Robinson Cano (.343, 13 home runs, 53 RBIs)
Miguel Cabrera (.315-16-58)
Jim Thome (.273-21-52)
Eric Byrnes (33 steals, 50 runs)
Garret Anderson (.305-13-65)
Jeff Kent (.337-10-38)
Vladimir Guerrero (.323-13-50)
Dustin Pedroia (.317, 52 runs)
List 6: Ten pitchers who were great last year after the All-Star break
Fausto Carmona (9-4, 2.26 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
A.J. Burnett (5-2, 3.01 ERA, 1.09 WHIP )
Erik Bedard (6-1, 2.69, 1.01 WHIP)
Bronson Arroyo (6-6, 3.55 ERA)
Dustin McGowan (7-6, 3.67 ERA, 87 strikeouts)
Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.84 ERA)
Brandon Webb (10-4, 2.56 ERA -- almost a run lower than pre-break)
Heath Bell (21 holds, 2.30 ERA)
Micah Owings (3-4, 3.72, 1.06 WHIP)
Aaron Cook (3-1, 2.42 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
List 7: Ten answers from readers to questions I have asked
Kyle (Philadelphia), regarding Anne Hathaway and Megan Fox: "Here's the key: When both have sunglasses on, Megan Fox is hotter. It completes her bad-girl look, while Anne looks a bit pale with her glasses on. Without sunglasses, it's definitely Anne. Megan Fox has some droopy eyes, and she's one of those girls who just isn't as hot when takes off the sunglasses."
Kenyon (Grand Rapids, Mich.), referring to my June 6 column: "Would I fight that chick MMA fighter [Gina Carano] for a date? Definitely, but the date would have to be first. Also, the fight would have to be videotaped so that after I get knocked out, I could watch it again and again to remember the horrid nature of such a beating from a sweet pretty little thing."
Joe (Boston), about the aforementioned Carano: "Yes, yes, yes and yes. Come up with whatever you want involving Gina Carano, and the answer is yes. I'll run through the Eliminator on "American Gladiators" if it means she's in the "Conquer" ring at the end of it."
Bill (Mesa, Ariz.): "I'd fight her but go down as soon as we touched gloves."
Alex (Atlanta), responding to the "candy bar" issue I raised in the same June 6 column: "I'm not one for the crazy conspiracy theories, but if every single person in a stadium all started eating candy bars at the same time, and it wasn't "Free Candy Bar Day" at the ballpark, it probably would lead me to suspicion about alien mind control or communism."
Greg (N.Y.), on the mock dinner I talked about in the June 6 column: "I worked on a prank reality show, and when we would do a prank in a restaurant, we would get all our friends to come and get free dinners that the production company would pay for. I imagine it was similar to this in that these people were told they would come get a free dinner in this restaurant, and in fact did not have to pay. In that sense, I could see why they would applaud. As for that meal coming from a fast-food place, personally, I would be a little disappointed because I would've liked my free meal to be something that was actually expensive.
Nestor Toro (Gurnee, Ill.), to my inquiry about the "tattooed girl": Blanca Soto is the girl in the Yellow Book commercial about the tattoo removal. She's a former Miss Mexico World. Do yourself a favor and Google Images that one. Wawawooey!
Tal (Long Island, N.Y.) Here is a thought about the tattoo commercial: What if she ends up marrying another Mike? Then she would have removed a tattoo for no reason. Until she knew she wasn't marrying someone named Mike, the tattoo had value!
Sean (Sacramento, Calif.): I love all your stuff, TMR. And as I was reading the Wall Street Journal article about you, it dawned on me: I have maybe seen "Crocodile Dundee" in L.A. more than any person alive. I worked at a retail store while I was attending college and we played DVDs on the TVs we sold. I maybe saw Dundee in L.A. 3-4 times a day/5 times a week (played constantly on a loop) for about two years. That amounts to between 1,500-2,000 times. So know that your great writing was seen 1,500 times, minimum. Also, can't wait for the "Life of the TMR" movie you must be writing about your dating life. Keep up the great work.
Doug (Las Vegas): Hey, Berry! (I call you Berry.) I just wanted you to see a full 25-man roster my fantasy baseball partner put together about three weeks ago on our league web page. It's an all-Jewish roster, which I thought might appeal to you.
Pitchers: Sandy Koufax (Dodgers), Dave Roberts (Astros), Ken Holtzman (Cubs), Joe Horlen (White Sox), Erskine Mayer (Phillies), Barney Pelty (Browns), Scott Radinsky (White Sox), Larry Sherry (Dodgers) and Steve Stone (Orioles).
Catchers: Mike Lieberthal (Phillies), Brad Ausmus (Astros) and Steve Yeager (Dodgers).
Infielders: Hank Greenberg (Tigers), Ian Kinsler (Rangers), Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox), Al Rosen (Indians), Mike Epstein (Senators), Lou Boudreau (Indians) and Buddy Myer (Senators)
Outfielders: Ryan Braun (Brewers), Shawn Green (Dodgers), Sid Gordon (Giants), Phil Weintraub (Giants), Gabe Kapler (Brewers) and Benny Kauff (Giants). And, no, Rod Carew didn't actually convert (though his wife was Jewish).
List 8: Ten surprising stats
Over his past two weeks (14 games through Sunday), Jay Bruce had just one home run, one RBI and was hitting .167. Told you to sell high.
In nine games at home this year, Manny Parra of the Brewers is 5-0 with a 2.75 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 52.1 innings.
John Lannan of the Nationals has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts. His ERA over that period is 2.91.
Over his past seven games, Brandon Webb is 2-4 with a 4.64 ERA. His ERA over his past three games is 8.22.
Since May 1, among players with a minimum of 100 at bats, only Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman and Alex Rodriguez are hitting better than the Rangers' Ramon Vazquez (.356 in 132 at bats).
In the past month, only three players in the National League (Chipper, James Loney and Prince Fielder) have hit for a higher batting average than Jody Gerut of the Padres. He's hitting .333 and has 15 runs in 26 games.
In seven home starts this season, Nick Blackburn is 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA. He has a 26-8 strikeout/walk ratio in 45 innings. In eight road starts, Blackburn is 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA.
Jake Peavy's ERA on the road this year is 5.61.
Since May 1, only three players in the American League have stolen more bases than Jason Bartlett of the Rays. (He has 13.)
You think it's a pitchers' park, but only two stadiums average more home runs allowed than Detroit's Comerica Park, as our Ballpark Factors page displays.
List 9: Ten players I do think are flukes and would see if I could get full value for.
List 10: Ten people this world is now a lesser place without
Fred (Mr.) Rogers
John Lennon (and George Harrison, for that matter)
Wendie Jo Sperber
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. If you are already a member of Insider, you can upgrade for even more of a discount.