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2017’s must-see games

I get it. Your life is crowded. Between romance and responsibilities, recitals and referendums, revenue and rent, there are not enough hours in the day. Especially not for the distractive force of a 17-week NFL slate consisting of 256 regular season games. Lucky for you, Uncle Malcolm has no life outside of writing books and watching football. Below is a list of weekly must-see games and storylines from the 2017 schedule that will keep you pigskin fluent at both the water cooler and the watering hole…

Week 1 – 9/11 NO @ Min – Adrian Peterson returns to face his old team and their vaunted defense in the stadium hosting this year’s Super Bowl. Reality TV at its finest.
Week 2 – 9/17 GB @ ATL – ARod & Company were run out of the building in last year’s NFC title game beatdown. But this is a new building, ATL’s home opener in their shiny new stadium.
Week 3 – 9/24 NYG @ PHI – Perennial bad blood division game. I know you’ve seen the movie Invincible with Mark Wahlberg. Old Bears WR duo Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery now on opposing sidelines.
Week 4 – 10/1 NO @ MIA (London) – An early measuring stick game for my beloved fish. If you want to know if your defense is any good, Drew Brees can help you find out quickly.
Week 5 – 10/8 BAL @ OAK – Love these West Coast matinee games. If you’re a gambler, take the over. Guaranteed shoot-out.
Week 6 – 10/15 PIT @ KC – Revenge factor: KC fired PIT’s OC Todd Haley a few years back. Big Ben seems to relish making them pay (see last year’s blow-out). But this one is in Arrowhead. Tough crowd.
Week 7 – 10/22 ATL @ NE – Remember last year’s Super Bowl? Nuff said.
Week 8 – 10/29 HOU @ SEA – If you’re into pitchers duels, circle your calendar. Two of the league’s most physical defenses battle it out.
Week 9 – 11/5 OAK @ MIA – The second in a trilogy of consecutive prime time Miami games. I can’t remember the last time the Dolphins played on Sunday night. This one could exceed 1,000 yards of offense.
Week 10 – 11/12 NE @ DEN – One of the best rivalries in recent memory. But whether it’s an instant classic or a blow-out depends on Denver’s QB situation.
Week 11 – 11/20 ATL @ SEA – Refs botched last year’s regular season game, ATL got revenge when it counted. Looking forward to Julio Jones vs. Richard Sherman Part III.
Week 12 – 11/26 GB @ PIT – Two of the best QBs of this era square off in prime time. This one has “last possession” written all over it.
Week 13 – 11/30 WAS @ DAL – A rematch of last year’s Thanksgiving Day track meet. Who will win the NFC East? Probably a 4-team photo finish.
Week 14 – 12/11 NE @ MIA (Note: ALL Dolphins games are must-see TV to me) – Can the Fish whup AFC East bullies and Super Bowl champs on Monday night? I hope this is for the division title.
Week 15 – 12/17 NE @ PIT – Has Big Ben ever beaten Tom Brady? Doesn’t seem like it. Home field advantage in the playoffs will be on the line here.
Week 16 – 12/24 SEA @ DAL – Unstoppable force vs. immovable object? Two things are for sure: On this Christmas Eve match-up, Dallas will be #1 rushing and Seattle will be #1 vs. the run.
Week 17 – 12/31 KC @ DEN – Swiss army knife Tyreek Hill had a coming out party during last year’s mile-high thriller. Denver’s defense should be less hospitable this time around. Especially with a division title at stake.

And there you have it, 2017’s must-see games, week by week. If I left your team off the list, it’s probably because they suck. But look on the bright side: We are all tied for #1 until the season starts. GO DOLPHINS!

In the tradition of Fyodor

Naked, shoulder-to-shoulder, and five at a time we stood in the bathroom, awaiting orders.

“Lift your top lip, bottom lip, tongue up, bend forward at the waist, run your fingers through your hair, stand up, lift your penis and penis only, penis and nutsack, turn around, bend over and spread ’em, cough twice, right foot, left foot, next five!”

We were then herded into the dayroom like cattle, 75 of us in all. I found a spot on the floor to wait out the storm. As soon as I sat down, the old man to my immediate left removed his dentures and began to blow the trapped food from between his false teeth.

“Honey, you is disgusting,” said the sissy to my right, while covering his “breasts.”

I had to smile. In spite of the nauseating heat, the persistent flies, the cacophony of smells and my aforementioned neighbors, a sort of calm gratitude washed over me. But the soothing voice in my head was more Dostoyevsky than Gandhi, more David Mitchell than Lao Tsu, more Donna Tartt than Siddhartha. The voice said, “Dude, this is definitely going in the next book.”

Prison is my internet. Here there are carnies, junkies, boosters, charlatans, doctors, athletes, psychics, preachers, bullies, dope cooks, gigolos, sociopaths, card sharps, gangsters, killers, coyotes, refugees… Any lifestyle I want to research is somewhere on the yard. Guaranteed. The same goes for experience: strip searches, beatings, gassings, riots, solitary confinement, naked fear, transcendent love, seething racism, unexpected kindness, stabbings, overdoses, undiagnosed mental illness, it’s all here. Every day. These are the stories I tell.

As the shakedown commenced in the living area, as bunks were tossed and lockers dumped, the momentary gratitude was swallowed by a familiar paranoia. I know that most of the men crammed in the dayroom with me were worried about their knives, naked flicks, dope, buck (homemade wine), altered radios, contraband bowls and gambling paraphernalia. My mind was somewhere else. I was sweating my manuscript.

Like Ezra James, the protagonist in my latest novel, On the Shoulders of Giants, I’ve lost my share of pages in shakedowns. Precious sentences and paragraphs gone forever, drenched in tobacco spit, ripped to pieces, swept from the dorm in a pile of soiled linen and rotten fruit. Crushing.

I wonder if other incarcerated writers went through this. Did Cervantes have to stash his draft of Don Quixote when the guards made their rounds? Surely Dostoyevsky had some close calls during his years in Siberia. Oscar Wilde, Henry David Thoreau, E. E. Cummings. Not to throw my hat in the ring with these masters of the craft, but I can at least say I write in their tradition. If confinement can be considered a tradition. (Condition?)

As for the manuscript, when I returned to my bunk, post-shakedown, I was relieved to find it under my mat. A little bent up and crumpled but still in tact. It’s called Sticks and Stones, available this fall on Amazon.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky